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Credit Card Reviews

USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card: Rewards With Extra Military Benefits

USAA Bank focuses on providing financial services and products to military members and their families. The USAA® Rewards American Express® Card is one of these products: a rewards card that doesn't have an annual fee and offers a potentially low interest rate—and even lower rates for active-duty service members.

Customer service contact info for USAA
1 (800) 531-8722
USAA
9800 Fredericksburg
San Antonio, TX 78288
ProsCons
Bonus points on dining, gas and grocery purchasesSmall intro bonus offer
Special interest rate for active-duty service membersUSAA membership required
No annual fee or foreign transaction fees

Experian Review

The USAA® Rewards American Express® Card is a rewards card that doesn't have an annual fee—a great combination for many people. Its potentially low interest rates and benefits for military members could make it a good option if you tend to carry a balance. As a rewards card, however, it doesn't hold up to the competition.

A Rewards Card for Military Members

You'll need to join USAA bank before you can apply for the USAA® Rewards American Express® Card. To qualify, you'll need to share your Social Security number and qualify based your, or a family member's, military ties.

Membership is open to:

  • Current active-duty, guard or reserve members of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps or Navy.
  • Qualified cadets and midshipmen.
  • Veterans who were discharged honorably.
  • Family members of USAA members, including spouses, siblings and children (and their spouses).

Once you're a member, you can apply for a credit card from USAA, as well as other financial products and services available to members.

Get Points for Dining, Gas and Groceries

Using the USAA® Rewards American Express® Card, you can earn:

  • 3 points per dollar spent dining out
  • 2 points per dollar spent on gas and groceries
  • 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else

The groceries category includes supermarkets and neighborhood grocery stores, but doesn't cover discount stores (such as Walmart) or warehouse clubs (such as Costco or Sam's Club).

The rewards categories align with many people's everyday shopping needs, and 2 to 3 points per dollar spent is a decent rate. But unless you primarily eat out, you may be better off with a cash back card that offers 2% on every purchase—such as the Citi® Double Cash Card.

You can also receive 2,500 bonus points (worth about $25) after you make your first purchase with the USAA® Rewards American Express® Card. But again, that's a small offer compared with other cash back and rewards cards, even those without an annual fee.

With many cards, you can earn an intro bonus worth $150 to $200—or sometimes much more—after you meet a minimum spend requirement during your first few months with the card.

Once you've accrued points with your USAA® Rewards American Express® Card, you can redeem them for:

  • Cash
  • Airline travel
  • Cruises
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards
  • Charity donations

Point values vary depending on your redemption choice. You'll get 1 cent per point for cash rewards, which you can receive as a credit to your card balance or deposit into a USAA checking or savings account.

Redeeming points for gift cards is a less valuable option because it takes 3,500 points to get a $25 gift card. However, if you book travel through USAA, you may be able to book a round-trip flight that costs $500 or less with 30,000 points.

Low Interest With Excellent Credit

While it's best to pay your credit card bill in full when possible, many people occasionally revolve a balance. Your card's annual percentage rate (APR) affects how much interest you'll pay on card purchases you don't pay off right away.

Like with many credit cards, your initial APR with the USAA® Rewards American Express® Card varies depending on your creditworthiness and may then rise or fall depending on changes in the prime rate. This card offers a mixed bag, because its APR range starts far below the average credit card APR, but can go much higher than the average credit card APR.

If you've got excellent credit and think you'll qualify for the card's low APR, this card could be a solid option, particularly if you'll likely carry a balance from month to month. But if you have poor credit and think you may revolve a balance, a low interest card might be best.

Active-duty service members may qualify for an even lower interest rate. These cardholders are eligible for a 4% APR on charges made before they began active duty. (This benefit also applies to other loans and policies from USAA.) However, you must request the rate to get it, and you must do so within 180 days of completing active duty.

Unlike many other credit cards, the USAA® Rewards American Express® Card charges the same interest rate for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers. And it doesn't charge a high penalty APR if you're late with a payment (but late payment fees can still apply).

Military Member Benefits

As a bank focused on military members, USAA offers a few special benefits to this group, including insurance coverage and discounts that align with military members' lifestyles and needs. In addition, you can choose from 16 card designs that highlight various military affiliations.

Cardholder Benefits: Travel, Purchase and Identity Protections

The USAA® Rewards American Express® Card offers a range of travel, purchase and identity protection benefits, including:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption coverage for up to $1,500 per person
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Baggage delay reimbursement for up to $100 a day
  • Extended warranties on eligible purchases
  • Free identity theft resolution assistance
  • Personal identity theft expense reimbursements for up to $1,000

USAA also has a mobile app you can use to manage your account, check your balance, redeem rewards, add travel notifications and report your card lost or stolen.

Additional Info

Purchase APR: 11.90% - 27.90% VariableGrace period: 25 days
Transfer APR: 11.90% - 27.90% VariableAnnual fee: $0
Cash advance APR: 11.90% - 27.90% VariableBalance transfer fee: 3%
Minimum interest charge: NoneCash advance fee: 3%
Foreign transaction fee: None
Late payment fee: Up to $35
Returned payment fee: Up to $35

Authorized-User Policy

You can add an authorized user to your card—including non-USAA members. The authorized user will receive a card and can make purchases, balance transfers and cash advances with their card.

The authorized user's purchases will accrue rewards points, but only the primary cardholder can redeem those points. Also, although the authorized user can make payments, the primary cardholder is legally responsible for paying the bill for all the purchases that were made on the primary and authorized user cards.

Is This Card Right for You?

The USAA® Rewards American Express® Card could be a good fit for military members who can benefit from the lower interest rate or USAA members who want to keep their credit cards and bank accounts under the same roof. The card's rewards are also appealing, especially considering you won't pay an annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

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