Reviews USAA Rewards American Express card review

USAA Rewards American Express card review

Published: August 15, 2017
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Ratings Policy
No Annual Fee Rating:
2.3 rating
2.3 rating
2.3 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.4
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.2
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 3.0

In a nutshell:

The rewards program is less than inspiring, but for no annual fee, the USAA Rewards American Express card gives cardholders pretty good travel benefits, including no foreign transaction fees.

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Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 on gas and grocery store purchases
  • 1:1 on general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
2,500 points after your first purchase

Annual Fee
$0

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$189

APR
10.9-26.9% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • No limit on the number of points you can earn
  • Redeem points for cash, gift cards, merchandise, travel or military donations
  • No blackout dates
  • Points don’t expire

Cons

  • Must go through USAA to redeem points for travel
  • Can’t transfer points to other loyalty programs

Other Notable Features: No foreign-transaction fee, free concierge services, car rental insurance, extended warranty, special deployment rates, military campaign rebates, deployment assistance, price protection, travel assistance, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Rewards Rating:
2.4 rating
2.4 rating
2.4 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.7
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.4
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 3.0

In a nutshell:

The USAA Rewards American Express card offers a fair amount of points on gas and grocery store purchases, but beware of its APR, which can run very high.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 on gas and grocery store purchases
  • 1:1 on general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
2,500 points after your first purchase

Annual Fee
$0

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$189

APR
10.9-26.9% (variable))

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • No limit on the number of points you can earn
  • Redeem points for cash, gift cards, merchandise, travel or military donations
  • No blackout dates
  • Points don’t expire

Cons

  • Must go through USAA to redeem points for travel
  • Can’t transfer points to other loyalty programs

Other Notable Features: No foreign-transaction fee, free concierge services, car rental insurance, extended warranty, special deployment rates, military campaign rebates, deployment assistance, price protection, travel assistance, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Travel Rating:
2.3 rating
2.3 rating
2.3 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.5
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.9
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 3.0

In a nutshell:

The USAA Rewards American Express card is one of the best cards around for active-duty service members, but its mediocre rewards program and high APR for cardholders with less-than-perfect credit limit its appeal.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 on gas and grocery store purchases
  • 1:1 on general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
2,500 points after your first purchase

Annual Fee
$0

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$189

APR
10.9-26.9% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • No limit on the number of points you can earn
  • Redeem points for cash, gift cards, merchandise, travel or military donations
  • No blackout dates
  • Points don’t expire

Cons

  • Must go through USAA to redeem points for travel
  • Can’t transfer points to other loyalty programs

Other Notable Features: No foreign-transaction fee, free concierge services, car rental insurance, extended warranty, special deployment rates, military campaign rebates, deployment assistance, price protection, travel assistance, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance

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If you’re a member of the military who is looking for a reliable card to use for everyday purchases, the USAA Rewards American Express card is an ideal choice – especially if you’re currently on active duty or plan to go overseas. It offers some of the best military benefits and protections you can get, making it a smart card to have on hand if you serve overseas. It also offers twice the points on gas and grocery store purchases, making it easy to rack up points on everyday purchases.

Cardholders who aren’t military service members, though, won’t get nearly as much out of it. The card’s so-so rewards program isn’t as impressive as many of its competitors, and its maximum APR for cardholders with lower scores is way above average for a travel card.

Run-of-the-mill rewards
For cardholders who spend a lot on gas and groceries, the USAA Rewards American Express card is appealing. It offers two points for every dollar spent on gas and groceries, and one point per dollar spent on everything else. Depending on how you redeem them, USAA’s rewards points are only worth a maximum of a penny each, though, which is typical for a run-of-the-mill rewards card, but significantly less valuable than many competitors. On some travel purchases, USAA’s points are worth even less.

By contrast, many travel rewards cards offer at least three points or more on certain purchases, and some even offer points valued at a minimum of 2 cents or more. The USAA Rewards card does offer 2,500 bonus points after your first purchases, but the bonus is only worth about $25.

Few limits on redemption
On the plus side, USAA does have one of the more flexible rewards programs on the market – you won’t have to go too far out of your way to redeem earnings. There’s no limit on the number of points you can earn, so if you have a big family to feed and spend a lot on groceries and cash, you can take home a significant amount.

Points don’t expire, so you also don’t have to rush to redeem them. There are no travel blackout dates, so you can travel whenever you want. Like most card issuers, USAA does make you go through the bank to redeem your points for travel, so you may not get as much value out of your tickets. It also doesn’t let you transfer points to other travel rewards programs.

High APR for some
The biggest drawback to the USAA Rewards American Express card, though, is its high APR for cardholders with less-than-perfect credit. The card’s minimum APR of 10.9 percent is one of the lowest rates available for a rewards credit card, making it an attractive choice for cardholders with excellent credit. However, the card’s range of potential APRs is so wide, it’s hard to tell how low a rate you’ll actually get. Cardholders whose credit scores are just high enough to qualify for the card may be offered an APR as high as 26.9 percent, which is dangerously high for a credit card and way above average for a travel card. The average rewards  card, for example, charges an average interest rate of just 16.06 percent. Even the average subprime card charges a lower maximum rate.  

Excellent military-centric benefits
Despite its troublingly high interest rate for certain cardholders, the USAA Rewards American Express card may still be a good choice if you’re an active-duty service member – even if you have less-than-perfect credit. For active-duty service members, this pro-military card offers some of the best protections you can get on a credit card. Such protections include a 4 percent APR on new and current debt when you’re deployed overseas and when you receive a permanent change of station, and a rebate on interest when you’re awarded a qualifying medal.

In addition, USAA offers a number of premium travel benefits, such as car rental and travel accident insurance. It also doesn’t charge a foreign-transaction fee, which is a big draw for families spending extended time overseas.

Reasons to get it:

  • You’re a member of the military and will benefit from the card’s protections and benefits.
  • You spend a lot on gas and groceries and so will get a lot of value out of the card’s bonuses.
  • You have excellent and are confident you will qualify for the card’s lowest interest rate.

How to use it:

  • To get the most benefit from this card, use it for all gas and grocery store purchases.
  • Consider adding your spouse or another family member as an authorized user in order to earn additional rewards from their everyday purchases.
  • Contact USAA within six months of when you return from deployment or when you return from a campaign for which you received a medal in order to take advantage of benefits.
  • To be eligible for travel insurance, use your card for all travel purchases.

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