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
Bonus cash-back categories for frequent expenses
Low threshold for redeeming cash back
Decent travel and purchase benefits
USAA customer service is exceptional
Amounts eligible for bonus cash back are lower than average spending
No one-time offer
Must be from a military family to apply
- 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.
- 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
Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Primarily responsible for household grocery and other major purchases
Incurs gasoline or other commuting expenses each month
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.