The best USAA credit cards

5d ago

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If you are a USAA member, you know it offers competitive pricing for many of its financial services.  For example, my husband and I haven’t found other car insurance, personal property insurance or renter’s insurance policies that offered a better value than what we could get through USAA.

But, what about USAA credit cards? Today, I take a closer look at these cards to determine whether they can compare to the top travel rewards credit cards and cash-back credit cards on the market.

 

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Best USAA credit cards for 2020

  • USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card: Best for travel rewards
  • USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card: Best for travel rewards on a Visa
  • Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card: Best for cash-back rewards
  • Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card: Best for flat-rate cash-back rewards
  • USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card: Best for low APR rates
  • USAA Military Affiliate American Express® Card: Best for supporting a military charity while earning rewards
  • USAA Military Affiliate Visa Signature® Card: Best for supporting a military charity while earning flat-rate rewards

To start our analysis, here’s a comparison of the best USAA credit cards currently available.

Comparing the best USAA credit cards

Credit card Best for Rewards rate Annual fee
USAA Rewards American Express Card Travel rewards 3x points on dining out

2x points on gas and groceries

1x points on all other purchases

$0
USAA Rewards Visa Signature Card Travel rewards on a Visa 2x points on gas and dining out

1x points on all other purchases

$0
Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card Cash-back rewards 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in combined gas station and military base purchases yearly

2% cash back on your first $3,000 in grocery purchases yearly

1% cash back on all other purchases

$0
Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card Flat-rate cash-back rewards Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases $0
USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card Low APR rates None $0
USAA Military Affiliate American Express Card Supporting a military charity while earning rewards 2x points on gas and groceries

1x points on all other purchases

$0
USAA Military Affiliate Visa Signature Card Supporting a military charity while earning flat-rate rewards 1x points on every purchase $0

The information for the USAA cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

In This Post

Who is eligible for a USAA credit card?

You must be a member of USAA to use USAA’s insurance and banking products and services, including credit cards. USAA membership is free and USAA’s website states that the following people can become a member:

  • Active duty, guard or reserve: Individuals who are currently serving in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, National Guard and Reserves
  • Veterans: Those who have retired or separated from the U.S. military with an honorable discharge
  • Eligible family: Widows, widowers and un-remarried former spouses of USAA members who joined USAA before or during the marriage and individuals whose parents joined USAA
  • Cadets and midshipmen: Cadets and midshipmen at U.S. service academies or affiliated academy preparatory schools, in advanced ROTC or on ROTC scholarship, plus officer candidates within 24 months of commissioning

Related reading: The best travel perks and discounts for members of the military

More details on the best USAA credit cards

Let’s take a look at the details of each of these USAA credit cards and offers, including rewards rates, bonuses and fees.

USAA Rewards American Express Card: Best for travel rewards

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Why this is the best for travel rewards: You’ll earn three USAA rewards points per dollar spent when dining out and 2x points on gas and groceries.

Current bonus: 2,500 bonus points after your first purchase

Rewards rate: 3x points on dining out; 2x points on gas and groceries; 1x points on everything else

Annual fee: None

Is this card worth it? The points you earn can be redeemed:

  • Toward the purchase of an airline ticket
  • For available merchandise and gift cards
  • For cash credited to your account or deposited to your USAA checking or savings account
  • For a donation to a participating charity
  • Toward the purchase of a cruise ticket

However, USAA is not transparent regarding the value of the rewards points earned by this card. Instead, the issuer notes:

The value of each Reward Point may vary depending on the type of reward benefit you select when you redeem your Reward Points. Reward Points may have a greater redemption value (and be worth more) for certain reward benefits.

So, it’s impossible to compare this card against other travel rewards credit cards or cash-back rewards credit cards because the value of USAA rewards points is unclear until you are a cardholder and can access the USAA Rewards Service Center.

Related reading: Best no-annual-fee credit cards for international travel

USAA Rewards Visa Signature Card: Best for travel rewards on a Visa

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Why this is the best for travel rewards on a Visa: You’ll earn two USAA rewards points per dollar spent on gas and dining out.

Current bonus: 2,500 bonus points after your first purchase

Rewards rate: 2x points on gas and dining out; 1x points on everything else

Annual fee: None

Is this card worth it? The USAA Rewards Visa Signature Card may be a decent option if you’re looking to earn USAA  rewards points and want a Visa credit card instead of an American Express card. But I have the same issue with this card as I did with the USAA Rewards American Express Card: USAA gives no information on the value of USAA rewards points.

Related reading: Everything you need to know about Visa Signature card benefits

Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card: Best for cash-back rewards

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Why this is the best for cash-back rewards: You’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $3,000 in combined gas station and military base purchases each year, plus 2% cash back on up to $3,000 in grocery purchases each year.

Current bonus: None

Rewards rate: 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in combined gas station and military base purchases yearly; 2% cash back on your first $3,000 in grocery purchases yearly; 1% cash back on all other purchases

Annual fee: None

Is this card worth it? The Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card may easily be worth having, especially if you make purchases on a military base and prefer earning cash back. If you spend $3,000 in combined gas station and military base purchases each year, you’ll earn $150 cash back on this spending alone. Redeeming cash back is straightforward and can be done at any time as long as you redeem in increments of $1.

Related reading: The best cash-back credit cards for each bonus category

Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card: Best for flat-rate cash-back rewards

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Why this is the best for flat-rate cash-back rewards: You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, which means you never have to worry about how much you’ll earn on a particular purchase.

Current bonus: None

Rewards rate: 1.5% cash back on all purchases

Annual fee: None

Is this card worth it? If you’re looking for simplicity and want a USAA credit card, the Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card is the one for you. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases while getting access to all of the benefits that come with a USAA credit card. As with the Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card, redeeming cash back is straightforward and can be done at any time as long as you redeem in increments of $1.

Related reading: The best cash-back credit cards

USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card: Best for low APR rates

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Why this is the best for low APR rates: This card offers the lowest APR rates available on currently available USAA credit cards.

Current bonus: None

Rewards rate: No rewards are offered on this card.

Annual fee: None

Is this card worth it? If you are carrying a balance on your credit card — which we don’t recommend if at all possible — the USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card may allow you to pay less interest. It features variable APR rates of 6.90% to 23.90% based on your creditworthiness.

Related reading: Are you paying enough attention to your credit card’s APR?

USAA Military Affiliate American Express Card: Best for donating to charity while earning rewards

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Why this is the best for supporting a military charity while earning rewards: You’ll earn 2x points on gas and groceries as well as 1x points on everything else while supporting a military affiliate charity.

Current bonus: 2,500 points after your first purchase

Rewards rate: 2x points on gas and groceries; 1x points on everything else

Annual fee: None

Is this card worth it? The USAA Military Affiliate American Express Card is similar to the USAA Rewards American Express Card, just with fewer rewards and support to a military charity of your choice. However, in reading publicly available material about the card, I was unable to determine how much support is provided to the charity of your choice. So, in the absence of this information, I’d recommend simply earning rewards on a different card and then making a monetary donation to the charity of your choice.

Related reading: Best credit cards to use for charitable donations

USAA Military Affiliate Visa Signature Card: Best for donating to charity while earning flat-rate rewards

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Why this is the best for supporting a military charity while earning flat-rate rewards: You’ll earn 1x points on all purchases while also supporting a military charity of your choice.

Current bonus: 2,500 points after your first purchase

Rewards rate: 1x points on all purchases

Annual fee: None

Is this card worth it? The USAA Military Affiliate Visa Signature Card is similar to the USAA Rewards Visa Signature Card, just with fewer rewards and support to a military charity of your choice. As with the USAA Military Affiliate American Express Card, no information is publically available as to how much support is provided to the charity you choose. So, I’d recommend signing up for a card with higher rewards and then making a monetary donation to the charity of your choice.

Related reading: 14 ways to give back during the coronavirus outbreak

How we chose the best USAA credit cards

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

USAA currently only offers seven credit cards to its members, so I included all seven cards in this guide. There is no one best USAA credit card. In fact, each of these seven cards could be the best USAA credit card for a particular consumer. Which card is best for you depends on what type of rewards you want to earn, what spending categories you use most frequently, whether you need a low APR and whether you want to give up some rewards in exchange for supporting a charity of your choice.

Related reading: The best credit cards for active-duty military

What benefits are offered on USAA credit cards?

USAA credit cards provide an impressive slate of benefits, especially considering that all of the USAA credit cards currently available don’t charge any annual fees. You can see the full guide to benefits online, but here is a quick summary of the benefits.

Auto rental collision damage waiver

When you use your USAA credit card or its associated rewards to reserve and pay for your rental car, you can get up to 31 days of protection for physical damage, theft, reasonable and customary towing and loss-of-use charges. You’ll automatically be covered as long as you decline the collision damage waiver coverage offered by the rental agency and you’re listed as the primary renter on the rental contract. Coverage is secondary when renting in your country of residence and primary when renting outside your country of residence.

Related reading: Best credit cards for rental car coverage

Trip cancellation and interruption

You’re covered for up to $1,500 per covered person for nonrefundable prepaid passenger fare when you buy at least part of your fare with your card or its associated rewards and your travel is interrupted or canceled due to a covered reason. Covered reasons include an illness or accident affecting you or another family member that prevents you from traveling or a change in military orders. Covered people include you, your spouse and dependent children.

Related reading: The best credit cards that offer trip cancellation and interruption coverage

Baggage delay reimbursement

If your checked baggage is delayed on a common carrier trip, you may be reimbursed for essential items you buy while your baggage is delayed for four or more hours. Covered items include toiletries, clothing and device chargers. To be eligible, you must pay for at least part of your passenger fare with your credit card or its associated rewards and report delayed baggage to your travel supplier. You, your spouse and your dependent children may each be reimbursed up to $100 a day for up to three days.

Related reading: Which credit cards cover baggage delays?

Extended warranty protection

Woman in cafe shopping online with laptop. Photo by filadendron/Getty Images
(Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)

Extended warranty protection doubles the period of warranty coverage for up to one additional year on original eligible warranties of three years or less. Coverage is limited to the original price of the purchased item less shipping and handling, up to a maximum of $15,000 per claim and a maximum of $50,000 per account.

This protection applies to purchases made both inside and outside the U.S. But items must have a valid original manufacturer’s U.S. repair warranty of three years or less, a store-purchased dealer warranty or an assembler warranty. To have protection, you must have used your card or its associated rewards to pay for at least part of the purchase.

Related reading: Best credit cards for extended warranties

No foreign transaction fees

None of the USAA credit cards charge foreign transaction fees when you use your card for purchases outside the U.S.

Related reading: Best cards with no foreign transaction fees

4% APR rate on debt incurred before active military duty

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act stipulates that qualifying military service members pay no more than 6% APR on credit card and other loan debt incurred before qualifying military service. But, if you have a balance on your USAA account at the time you enter active military duty, you can get 4% APR on that existing balance for the remainder of your qualifying period of active duty.

Related reading: The top no-annual-fee credit cards with a 0% intro APR

Travel accident insurance

When you purchase a common carrier fare in full or in part with your USAA card or its associated rewards, you, your spouse and your dependent children may be eligible to receive coverage for loss of life, limb, hearing, speech or sight that occurs related to this common carrier travel. This coverage may provide up to $500,000 depending on the loss.

Related reading: What’s covered by credit card travel accident and emergency evacuation insurance?

Travel and emergency assistance

If you experience an illness or emergency while away from home you can call the benefits center for help. The benefits center may be able to provide medical and legal referrals, prescription assistance, travel planning and other services. But, you’ll be responsible for any costs related to these services.

Related reading: 3 crucial mistakes to avoid if you have a medical emergency abroad

Concierge services

The concierge service associated with USAA credit cards can assist when you’re making restaurant, hotel, entertainment or travel plans.

Related reading: TPG Lounge poll: What’s the toughest credit card concierge request you’ve made?

Identity theft resolution services

Identity theft resolution services work with you if you’re a victim of identity theft. Best of all, there’s no additional cost.

Related reading: The difference between credit card fraud and identity theft

Personal identity theft

The personal identity theft benefit may provide reimbursement for covered expenses that you incur while restoring your identity. This benefit may provide reimbursement up to $1,000. You must reside in the U.S. or Canada to take advantage of this benefit.

Related reading: 5 steps to take when your personal information is compromised

Frequently asked questions about USAA credit cards

Returning soldier greeting girlfriend in airport. (Photo by Mark Edward Atkinson/Tracey Lee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Edward Atkinson/Tracey Lee/Getty Images)

Which USAA credit card is easiest to get?

USAA isn’t currently offering cards designed for members with bad or poor credit. Currently, the USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card will likely be the easiest card to be approved for since it doesn’t offer rewards and it advertises a low APR rate.

Related reading: The best secured credit cards for building or repairing credit

What credit score do you need for a USAA credit card?

It’s unclear what type of credit score is needed for these other cards.

Related reading: 6 things to do to improve your credit

Is a USAA credit card worth it?

All seven USAA credit cards currently available have no annual fee. So, assuming you pay your statement balance in full each month and use your credit card responsibly, using a USAA credit card should be better than using a debit card or cash.

Related reading: Why you should get (and keep) a no-annual-fee credit card

The benefits provided by the USAA cards are solid, especially considering none of the cards charge an annual fee. But, the rewards rates on these cards aren’t necessarily best-in-class. For example, the no-annual-fee Citi® Double Cash Card earns 2% cash back on all purchases — divided into 1% cash back when you buy and 1% cash back as you pay — compared to the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card’s 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

The information for the Citi Double Cash card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Another aspect to consider is that some issuers waive annual fees for active-duty military. This means you may be able to get excellent benefits and rewards at no cost when you apply for some of the top travel rewards credit cards.

Related reading: Why the Amex Platinum card is best for active-duty military

Does USAA offer credit cards?

USAA currently lists seven credit cards on its website. USAA members can apply for these cards after signing into their account.

Related reading: The best Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits for active-duty military

Will USAA automatically increase your credit limit?

USAA offers automatic credit limit increases on USAA Rewards, Cash Rewards, Cashback Rewards, Rate Advantage and military affiliate credit cards. However, you can opt out of automatic credit limit increases by going to “My Accounts,” selecting your credit card account and then going to the Account Services menu at the bottom of the page and selecting “Stop Automatically Increasing My Credit Limit” in the “Services” column.

You can also request a credit limit increase online if you have a USAA Rewards, Cash Rewards, Cashback Rewards, Rate Advantage or military affiliate credit card.

Related reading: What happens if you go over your credit limit?

Bottom line

USAA currently offers seven credit cards, each with no annual fee and useful travel, shopping and identity theft benefits. If you are a USAA member, these cards are worth considering — especially if you don’t have strong enough credit to be approved for the best cash back credit cards and top travel rewards credit cards.

Featured photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
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Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.