Full Review of USAA Preferred Cash Rewards
Easy-to-understand rewards structure
Rewards redeemable almost any time
Travel benefits with no annual fee
Only available to USAA members
Better cash-back rates available
- Easy-to-Understand Rewards Structure: The USAA Preferred Cash Rewards credit card offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on all qualifying purchases. There are no bonus or rotating categories to keep track of and no rewards caps, as with some other rewards credit cards.
- Rewards Redeemable Almost Anytime: You can redeem your cash back as soon as your balance hits $1. Some other cards require you to earn at least $25 before you can start redeeming your rewards.
- Travel Benefits with no Annual Fee: This card offers a few travel benefits not usually found on no annual fee cash back credit cards, including trip cancellation or interruption coverage.
- Only Available to USAA Members: Unfortunately, USAA products are only available to USAA members or those that are eligible to and become members. USAA caters to the military and their families. Those on active duty, Guard, Reserves, certain veterans, cadets, and midshipmen may be eligible for USAA membership. For those that qualify, USAA membership is free.
- No Bonus: This credit card doesn't come with a bonus offer. Many cash back credit cards without annual fees do offer at least small bonuses.
- Better Cash-Back Rates Available: Earning 1.5% cash back on all purchases is better than not earning rewards at all. However, some credit cards offer even more cash back on every purchase, even if there is no annual fee.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
Prefers uncomplicated rewards with single rate for all spending
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Primarily responsible for household grocery and other major purchases
The USAA Preferred Cash Rewards credit card is, first and foremost, for qualifying USAA members (or those eligible to become members) who have good to excellent credit. In particular, this card is a good fit for those who already use USAA financial accounts and products, and want to keep all of their financial dealings under the same roof. And, of course, to possess a cash back credit card at the same time.
Rewards Earning Details
You'll earn 1.5% cash back on every qualifying purchase you put on your USAA Preferred Cash Rewards credit card. You can earn unlimited rewards as long as your account is open and in good standing.
Qualifying purchases are defined as all purchases less any credits, returns or other adjustments that are not payments. Balance transfers, cash advances, ATM cash disbursements, money transfers, truck stop transactions, gaming transactions, tax payments, finance charges, fees and purchases of other cash equivalents do not count as purchases that earn cash back.
Rewards Redemption Details
Redeeming the cash back you earn is simple. You can redeem your cash back in any amount that ends in a full dollar, beginning at just $1. To redeem your rewards, you have to either access the USAA Rewards Service Center online or call 1-800-980-8722. You can redeem your rewards as a statement credit or directly into your USAA checking or savings account.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
To maximize your rewards with this card, put all qualifying purchases on it—you can use the card anywhere Visa is accepted. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every single purchase with no limits. To get the most value for your rewards, redeem them to your USAA checking or savings account. If you redeem them as a statement credit, it could conceivably reduce your overall qualifying purchases on your statement for that period, which may result in earning less cash back. (Cash back is usually calculated based on net purchases, which is purchases minus returns and credits. By having it put in a bank account, it doesn't hit the credit card statement at all and there is no risk of reducing the cash back you earn.)
Unfortunately, there are no bonus rewards categories or alternative redemption options for this card that can give you even more value for the rewards you earn. That said, the simple nature of this product’s rewards program can be alluring to those that don’t want to deal with complex earning and redemption structures.
USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Outstanding Benefits
- Baggage delay reimbursement: Up to $100 per day for up to three days for the purchase of essential items if your baggage is delayed or misdirected for more than four hours.
- Trip cancellation and interruption: Reimbursement of up to $1,500 per covered person for non-refundable passenger fare for airline, cruise line, railroad or other common carrier charges if a loss results in cancellation or interruption of your travel arrangements.
- Auto rental collision damage waiver (secondary to other insurance)
- Concierge for travel information and assistance, entertainment planning and more
- Extended warranty
- Travel accident insurance
- Travel and emergency assistance services
USAA scored an 866 on J.D. Power's 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. Technically, USAA isn’t officially included in Power’s rankings, because it does not meet the study award criteria. If it did, though, its score would have beaten out every other national issuer's.
USAA offers a mobile app that allows you to call or chat with customer service representatives for any questions you may have. Outside of the app, you can contact USAA anytime by calling 1-800-531-8722. If you’re a member, you can send secure messages or open a live chat 24/7 once you’re logged in to your account, as well.
If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, this card offers a couple of benefits that can help. Its identity theft resolution services can help you replace your card and place a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus. Representatives can also help you dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports due to fraud as well as certain other services at no charge.
Another benefit, called personal identity theft, can reimburse you up to $1,000 for certain covered expenses you incur to restore your identity related to a covered stolen identity event. It even includes lost wages for time away from work premises for certain activities.
USAA allows you to easily block your card online or through the USAA app. When blocked, no one can use your card, but previous pending transactions will still go through. Future recurring transactions will be declined, though.
If you lose or damage your card, you can get a replacement in seven to 10 business days via regular mail. Expedited mail costs $8 and takes two to three business days. Next day mail takes one to two business days and costs $14.
USAA also offers chip and PIN functionality, so you can use your card at chip and PIN kiosks overseas without any issues.
Hidden Fees to Watch Out For
This card's fees are fairly standard for a cash back credit card. If you plan to transfer a balance, watch out for the 3% balance transfer fee, though. Some other cards offer introductory periods with no balance transfer fees.
One nice perk hidden in the fees section of this card is it waives the cash advance fee of 3% if you transfer the funds electronically to a USAA deposit account.
Because it’s only available to USAA members and those that qualify to become and actually become USAA members, the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards credit card is, obviously, limited. But for those eligible, it has its points. It offers unlimited 1.5% cash back as long as your account is open and in good standing—a benefit that’s as simple and straightforward as can be.
Also, this card doesn't charge an annual fee and does offer a variety of benefits that aren't easily found without an annual fee.
Finally, active duty military personnel, or those that move often, may prefer to keep all of their banking/financial dealings with USAA. In that case, this card is a solid contender for an easy-to-use (and understand) cash back credit card.
Otherwise, better options exist. Plenty of credit cards offer higher cash back earning rates, either as a permanent fixture or on special, rotating categories. For example, Citibank’s Double Cash Mastercard offers 1% + 1% rewards—unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% when you pay for those purchases. The Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card earns unlimited 2% cash back on purchases. Both of these are annual fee-free, too.
In short, if you're willing to shop around at other banks or card issuers, you’ll find other no annual fee cash back credit cards offering more lucrative rewards with a similar level of ease as this card does.