Credit Cards Credit Card Reviews

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card Review

overall rating
3.4

We publish unbiased product reviews; our opinions are our own and are not influenced by payment we receive from our advertising partners. Learn more about how we review products and read our advertiser disclosure for how we make money.

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express earns 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, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. It doesn’t charge an annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or penalty APR.

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

overall rating
3.4
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
On USAA Savings Bank's Secured Site.
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 11.9% - 25.9% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Balance Transfer Fee 3% of the amount of each transfer.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
how this card stacks up
When compared among all rewards cards in our database:
Rewards
Benefits
Low Fees
Security/Customer Experience
Low Interest
worst best

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card is not one of our top-rated cash back credit cards. You can review our list of the best cash back credit cards for what we think are better options.

Full Review of USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express

Pros
  • Bonus cash-back categories for frequent expenses

  • Low threshold for redeeming cash back

  • Minimal fees

  • Decent travel and purchase benefits

  • USAA customer service is exceptional

Cons
  • Amounts eligible for bonus cash back are lower than average spending

  • No one-time offer

  • Must be from a military family to apply

Pros Explained

  • Bonus Cash-Back Categories for Frequent Expenses: This card offers bonus cash back categories—gas and military-base purchases as well as groceries—on which most cardholders likely spend a significant amount. That isn’t the case with some other cards that reward you best for more infrequent spending, such as travel.
  • Low Threshold for Redeeming Cash Back: You need to accumulate only $1.00 in cash back rewards to start redeeming them. By contrast, some other cards require you to build up at least $25 in rewards before you can begin redemption. This flexibility gives you faster access to cashback as you earn it.
  • Minimal Fees: The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card doesn’t charge an annual fee, foreign transaction fees or penalty APRs. USAA also waives the cash advance fee when transferring funds electronically to a USAA deposit account. Additionally, fees they do charge are on the modest side. For instance, they only charge a flat percentage fee on balance transfers and cash advances and don’t charge a minimum fee such as $5 or $10.
  • Decent Travel and Purchase Benefits: For a card with no annual fee, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express provides a fine array of travel and purchase benefits. Features include insurance coverage for rental cars, trip cancellation and interruption, and baggage delays, along with extended-warranty protection on products you buy with the card.USAA Customer Service is ExceptionalWhile it’s rare to contact customer service for a credit card, you’re often in some distress when you do, having lost a card or had it stolen. That makes outstanding responsiveness and competence all the more important in a credit-card issuer. Since its offerings are limited to a certain population, USAA isn’t included in the rankings of J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. If it were, though, it would top the list, with a J.D. Power score of 866 out of a possible 1,000—even higher than those for Discover and American Express.

Cons Explained

  • Low Spending Limits for Bonus Cash-Back Rewards: If you’re a typical American family, you could well spend more than the $3,000 annual limit for the two bonus categories with this card: gas and military-base purchases, and groceries. American households spent an average of $2,109 on gas in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even if spending has dropped a bit since then, that leaves little room for spending on military bases, which can be heavy in military families. And the average household spending on food for home was $4,464, or about 50% more than this card’s limit for the best rewards on groceries spending.Spending in excess of these limits still earns cash back, but only at a 1% rate rather than the bonus 5% one.
  • No One-Time Offer: Most cash back credit cards offer a one-time offer to entice would-be applicants to sign up for it. This card offers no such incentive.
  • Must Be From a Military Family to Apply: To apply for this credit card, you must be a USAA member or become a USAA member. Only the following people can qualify for USAA membership:
    • Active duty, National Guard and Reserve officer and enlisted personnel
    • Officer candidates in commissioning programs
    • Former spouses and adult children of USAA members

This Card is Best For

  • Avatar for Cash Back Strategist Persona
    Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
    Cash Back Strategist
  • Avatar for Annual Fee Averse Persona
    Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
    Annual Fee Averse
  • Avatar for Head of Household Persona
    Primarily responsible for household grocery and other major purchases
    Head of Household
  • Avatar for Driver/Commuter Persona
    Incurs gasoline or other commuting expenses each month
    Driver/Commuter

First and foremost, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express is for military families who want to enjoy bonus cash back rates for spending on gas and military bases. Up to a limit of $3,000 a year in spending, those purchases earn 5% in cash back, a rate that’s very hard to beat. Off the base, or after you reach the spending limit for those 5% purchases, it’s also a good card you can use for groceries. Food purchases will earn you 2% in cash back, a rate that bests most cash back cards that offer a flat rate on all purchases, though some cards that have tiered rewards offer more cash back for supermarket spending.  

It’s also a card for such families who may lack other cards that provide such useful and cost-saving travel benefits as the absence of foreign-transaction fees and insurance for rental cars, baggage delays, and travel accidents.

Rewards Earning Details

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card offers 5% on the first $3,000 of qualifying gas and military-base purchases each calendar year. This does not include truck-stop transactions but does include other merchants defined as primarily selling gasoline to consumers. Military-base purchases include those made at commissaries, exchanges, and shoppettes. 

You’ll earn 2% cash back on the first $3,000 of grocery purchases each calendar year. This typically includes neighborhood grocery stores and supermarkets. Food bought at discount stores, wholesale stores, and warehouse clubs, such as Walmart, Costco, and Sam’s Club, do not qualify. 

You can also earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. If you voluntarily close your account while it is in good standing, you have 90 calendar days to call 800-980-8722 to redeem any remaining cash back on your account.

Rewards Redemption Details

You can begin to redeem cash back once you have earned at least $1.00 in rewards, and then continue to do so in increments as low as $1.00. You may redeem cash back by calling 800-980-8722 or by visiting the USAA Rewards Service Center online after you log in to your online account.

Cash back can be redeemed as long as your account is open, in good standing and you’re not in violation of the USAA credit card agreement. If your account is delinquent, not in good standing or you are violating the USAA credit card agreement, you can only redeem your cash back as a credit to your account by calling 800-980-8722.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

Making the most of this card is simple enough. It begins with putting all gas and military-base purchases and those at supermarkets on the card until you reach the $3,000 spending limit for 5% bonus rewards in each of those two categories. Once you reach this limit, you could continue putting purchases on this card to earn unlimited 1% cash back, but other cards offer higher cash back rates on all other purchases.

You can redeem your cash back as you earn it as long as you’ve accumulated at least $1.00 in rewards. Alternatively, you can save your rewards until you wish to cash out at a higher amount in $1.00 increments.

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card’s Outstanding Benefits

  • Baggage-delay reimbursement: If you pay for your passenger fare with your card and your checked baggage is delayed four or more hours, you can be reimbursed up to $100 per day for up to 3 days to purchase essential items such as toiletries, device chargers and clothing.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption coverage: Get coverage of up to $1,500 per covered person if you purchase non-refundable prepaid passenger fare with your card and your travel is canceled or interrupted for a covered reason.

Standard Benefits

  • Auto-rental collision damage waiver
  • Concierge services for restaurant or travel reservations as well as concert tickets
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Travel-accident coverage
  • Travel and emergency assistance

Cardholder Experience

USAA, the issuer of the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card, received a score of 866 out of a possible 1,000 in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. Despite this being the highest score in the survey, by 24 points, USAA was not included in the rankings because its availability is restricted to a certain population, in this case military families. 

You can contact USAA at 800-531-8722 or manage your account by using USAA’s iOS or Android apps. You can also send a secure message or chat with a representative online after logging in to your USAA account.

Security Features

USAA offers biometrics, Quick Logon, CyberCode text, and computer recognition. USAA claims these are industry-leading security measures. 

The bank also offers identity theft resolution services to help victims of identity theft place fraud alerts, get replacement cards and more. USAA provides reimbursement of up to $1,000 for covered expenses to help restore your identity after a covered stolen identity event, as well.

Our Verdict

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express offers USAA members the opportunity to earn outstanding 5% cash back rewards on gas and military-base purchases. The next-best rewards rate, of 2% on groceries, is also solid. The $3,000 annual spending limit in both of those rewards categories should accommodate most of your needs, but possibly not all. The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express offers only a modest 1% on all purchases outside of those bonus-rewards purchases. 

You may, then, want to pair the card with another that offers relatively high rewards on all purchases. One candidate is the Citi Double Cash, with which you earn 1% on all purchases when you use the card, then an additional 1% when you make payment.

Apply Now
For USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
on USAA Savings Bank's Secured Site.
Compare This Card
See how this card compares to similar cards
CURRENT CARD
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
overall rating
3.4
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 11.9% - 25.9% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Investopedia Credit Card Rating Methodology
Investopedia is committed to delivering the best credit card recommendations in the industry. We’ll tell you when a card is good, we’ll tell you when a card is bad, and we’ll only call a card the best if we would recommend it to our friends or family members.
Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.