Reviews USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card review
USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card review

USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card review

Published: September 6, 2017
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Ratings Policy
Cash Back Rating:
0 rating
0 rating
0 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.4
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.0
Rewards Flexibility: 3.3
Features: 4.0

In a nutshell:

The USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card offers a low APR for cardholders with excellent credit and significant military benefits, but its complicated tiered rewards scheme leaves cardholders with just the bare minimum in cash. This offer is no longer available.

Rewards Rate
0.45-1.5% on general purchases, depending on how much you spend

Sign-up Bonus
None

Annual Fee
$0

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$159

APR
10.65- 26.65% (variable)

Pros

  • Rewards don’t expire
  • No limit on amount of cash you can earn
  • Redeem as statement credit or deposit into a USAA checking or savings account

Cons

  • Tiered rewards program is complicated and requires a large amount of spending to earn the maximum amount back.
  • Can’t redeem cash for gift cards, merchandise or travel

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee, concierge service, car rental insurance, identity theft solutions, extended warranty, price protection, travel assistance, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, special rates for deployment and active duty military, rebate on finance charges during military campaigns

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This offer is no longer available. For the latest offers, see our reviews section.

Unless you’re an exceptionally heavy spender, you won’t get much cash out of this unusually complicated rewards card. The USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card allots earnings based on how much you spend; but even moderate to heavy spenders are awarded just a small amount of cash. Cardholders who only use their cards occasionally — or who typically charge less than $1,000 a month — fare especially poorly with this low earning cash back card.

The USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card does offer a very low interest rate to cardholders with excellent credit; so if you can qualify for the card’s lowest available interest rate, you may want to use it for charges that you plan to carry over. It also offers a number of important benefits for active duty service members, including an exceptionally low rate during deployment.

Confusing tiered rewards
The biggest downside to the USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card is its complicated tiered rewards system, which penalizes cardholders for using their cards prudently. Unlike most credit cards that typically award the same amount of cash back from day one, the USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card gradually increases how much you earn based on how much you spend. So if you only use your card occasionally, you’ll take home just the bare minimum in rewards. For example, the first $5,000 in general purchases that cardholders charge are awarded just 0.45 percent cash back – less than half the usual amount that credit cards award. Meanwhile, gas and grocery purchases earn just 1.45 percent cash back.

Modest benefits for moderate to heavy spenders
Moderate to heavy spenders are also awarded a relatively small amount. For example, the next $5,000 that cardholders spend (after passing the first $5,000 threshold) earns just 0.85 percent cash back (while gas and grocery purchases earn 1.85 percent). After that, if cardholders spend up to $7,000 more on general purchases, they will be awarded a paltry 1 percent cash back on purchases, while gas and grocery purchases are awarded 2 percent cash back. The vast majority of credit cards, by contrast, offer at least 1 percent cash back starting on day one. Despite advertisements touting the cash rewards card’s higher cash back rates, cardholders don’t actually earn the advertised 1.25 percent cash back rate on general purchases and 2.25 percent cash back on gas and groceries until they’ve spent at least $17,000 – and even then, the higher rate doesn’t kick in until cardholders have passed the $17,000 threshold.

A wide range of potential APRs
The relatively stingy rewards rate is disappointing given that the USAA Cash Rewards Visa has positioned itself as a good option for cardholders looking for more affordable rewards. But for some cardholders, the relatively low rewards rate won’t matter if they can qualify for the USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card’s minimum APR of 10.65 percent. The USAA card’s minimum available APR is lower than the APRs offered by plain vanilla cards that don’t offer rewards. So it could be a good pick for cardholders who need to carry a balance. However, cardholders with lower scores will need to be more careful. They could get hit with a much higher rate. The USAA card charges a maximum APR of 26.65 percent, which is exceptionally high for carrying a balance.

Discounts for active duty service members
In addition to its lower APR for cardholders with excellent credit, the USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card sets itself apart from other cash back cards by offering a robust set of benefits for military service members. For example, cardholders who are on active duty are given a 4 percent APR on new and current debt. They also qualify for a rebate on interest when they’re awarded certain medals. In addition, cardholders who are sent to live and work abroad don’t have to worry about paying an extra fee from overseas; the USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature card waives foreign transaction fees.

Reasons to get it:

  • You want a low rate card with some rewards and can qualify for the USAA card’s lowest available interest rate.
  • You’re a member of the military and want to take advantage of the USAA card’s protections.
  • You plan to charge at least $17,000 a year.

How to use it:

  • Use your card for all or most of your purchases in order to receive the maximum amount of cash.
  • Try to pay your purchases off in full – especially if you’re awarded one of the card’s higher rates.
  • If you’re a military service member on active duty, contact USAA within 6 months of your return from deployment in order to receive your military discounts.

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