Full Review of USAA Rewards American Express Card
Decent rewards on dining
USAA customer service is well-regarded
Multiple options for redeeming rewards
You must be from a military family to qualify
Rewards value is unclear at best
Small one-time offer, even for a no-annual-fee card
- Minimal Fees: The USAA Rewards American Express card is light on fees and charges. It charges no 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 that are charged are on the modest side. Unlike with many cards, the cash advance and balance-transfer fees have no minimums, and instead simply charge a flat 3% of the transaction amount, regardless of the amount—which is a plus if you’re advancing or transferring smaller amounts.
- USAA Customer Service is Well-Regarded: USAA has a strong track record for customer service. 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 the scores for Discover and American Express.
- Earn the One-Time Offer With a Single Purchase: While its value is unspecified, the bonus with this card is easily obtained. While other cards may require you to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to earn a one-time offer, it requires only a single purchase to earn the 2,500-point bonus of the USAA Rewards American Express card.
- Multiple Options for Redeeming Rewards: Cash-back cards often limit your redemption options to a check, statement credit, or direct deposit. This card offers many other redemption choices, including airline travel, cruise travel, merchandise, gift cards, cash back and more.
- You Must Be From a Military Family to Qualify: This card is only available to current USAA members and those that can become USAA members. You can become a USAA member if you fall into one of the following categories:
- Active duty, National Guard and Reserve officer and enlisted personnel
- Former spouses and adult children of USAA members
- Officer candidates in commissioning programs
- Rewards Value Is Unclear At Best: The highest rewards earning rate on this card is 3 points per dollar spent, and that is only for those made at restaurants. USAA does not identify the value of its point rewards. Other sources, though, have suggested it is low—no more than a cent per point, and sometimes less. If that is the case, this card falls short of the many that offer 2% (or even 1.5%) cash back on all purchases, and sometimes higher rates in certain categories such as gas or dining.
- Small One-Time Offer, Even For a No-Annual-Fee Card: The value of this card’s one-time offer of 2,500 points is not clear. However, there’s reason to believe it could be worth no more than $25 or so. That’s far below the bonus values for many other cards, including some with no annual fee that offer bonuses worth $100 or more.
This Card is Best For
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
The USAA Rewards American Express card is best suited to military families who want a card with many options for redeeming point rewards. It’s also a potentially good fit for such families seeking decent, if hardly outstanding, rewards on dining out through a card that charges no annual fee and doesn’t limit the points you can earn at that rate.
USAA Rewards American Express Card Bonus
This card offers a one-time offer of 2,500 points after you make your first purchase with the card. Worth no more than about $25, by some estimates, this bonus falls well short of those offered by some other rewards cards with no annual fee. That said, it’s a plus to be able to earn the bonus with your first purchase, rather than having to spend thousands of dollars, as many cards require.
Rewards Earning Details
The USAA Rewards American Express card allows you to earn 3 points per dollar spent on dining purchases as well as 2 points per dollar spent on gas and groceries. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Dining purchases are considered those made at merchants who primarily sell food to consumers, such as restaurants and fast food restaurants; other dining options such as supermarket deli counters or convenience stores may not qualify. Groceries include purchases at stores that primarily sell food, and exclude discount stores, wholesale stores, and warehouse clubs such as Walmart, Costco, and Sam’s Club. Gas purchases are considered those made at merchants who primarily sell gasoline to consumers, which means that truck stop transactions are not eligible for the bonus rate.
As long as your account remains in good standing, you can earn unlimited rewards points on all qualifying purchases. As with most cards, if your account is found to be violating the terms of the credit card rewards program, has suspected fraud or is in default, your ability to earn or redeem points may be limited or prevented. If you decide to ever proactively close your account, you can redeem your points for 90 calendar days from the date your account is closed, but you must call 800-980-8722 to do so.
Rewards Redemption Details
You can redeem your rewards points for travel, merchandise, gift cards, cash rewards, or charitable contributions. You can do so by logging in to your USAA account and visiting the USAA Rewards Service Center or calling 800-980-8722. If you want to redeem your points for a cruise, you have to call 800-571-4208.
The value of your reward points varies based on the reward you choose, as it does for most points cards. Unfortunately, USAA does not provide insight into the value of their rewards points to non-members but are generally assessed to be valued at a penny a point for most redemption options.
All redemption options other than cruise travel rewards can be redeemed by calling 800-980-8722 or visiting the USAA Rewards Service Center on USAA.com. Cruise travel rewards must be booked by calling 800-571-4208.If your account is in default or you are delinquent, you can only redeem your reward points for an account credit by calling 800-980-8722.Transferring PointsAs long as your account is open and in good standing, you or any cardholder may transfer the points earned with the account to any other cardholder with a USAA Rewards credit card. It appears that no transfers are possible to other loyalty programs.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
To rapidly get value from this card immediately make a purchase to earn the 2,500 point one-time offer. Then put all dining purchases on this card to earn 3 points per dollar spent on those purchases, the card’s highest rate. You should also consider using the card for gas and groceries, as purchases in those categories earn 2 points per dollar spent. And, then put all other purchases on the card to earn 1 point per dollar if you don’t have another card that earns more for non-bonused spending categories.
When redeeming rewards, make sure to consider all redemption options to find the highest value at the time you redeem your rewards. You’ll need to call USAA for this information, since it is not provided online. Be aware that redemption values may change without notice at any time, so it always pays to make sure you’re getting the highest value before you redeem your points.
USAA Rewards American Express Card’s Outstanding Benefits
- Baggage-delay reimbursement: As long as you pay for your passenger fare with your credit card, you can get reimbursed up to $100 per day for up to 3 days for essentials, such as clothing and toiletries, should your checked baggage be delayed for four or more hours.
- Coverage for trip cancellation and interruption: If you pay for your non-refundable prepaid passenger fare with your card, you’re covered for up to $1,500 per person if your travel is canceled or interrupted for a covered reason.
- Secondary auto-rental collision damage waiver
- Concierge services for reservations and concert tickets
- Extended-warranty protection
- Travel-accident insurance
- Travel and emergency assistance
USAA 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, which the company claims are all industry-leading security measures.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, USAA has the standard benefits that should be able to help. Identity-theft resolution services can help you place fraud alerts, dispute incorrect information on your credit reports, get replacement cards, and more. The personal-identity-theft benefit can help reimburse you for up to $1,000 in covered expenses to help you restore your identity after a covered stolen identity event, too.
The USAA Rewards American Express card is potentially very inexpensive to carry; there’s no annual fee, penalty APR, minimum interest charge, or foreign transaction fees. Some competing credit cards have one or more of these fees. While point values are hard to glean, it seems also to offer respectable rewards on dining purchases. And its redemption options are varied. Otherwise, though, this card is at best unremarkable. Most potential applicants for this card would be better served by choosing a card with no annual fee that offers significant cash-back on all purchases. One candidate is the Citi Double Cash card, with which you earn 1% on all purchases when you use the card, then an additional 1% when you make payment.