USAA Credit Card Review

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If you or a family member serves in the military, there’s a good chance you are familiar with USAA, the financial services company offering everything from auto insurance to bank accounts. They offer a number of different credit cards. In this review we will take a look at the pros and cons associated with them.

Part 1: Cash-Back Credit Cards

Due to its flexibility, many people seem to prefer cash back, so let’s start with the USAA credit card offers for this category. Unfortunately their cash back program has a major drawback…
USAA cash rewards table

As you can see from the above table, you start out by earning less than 0.5 percent cash back. Only yearly spending above $10,000 will be earning 1 percent or more (and the amount below never will). Most other mainstream cash-back cards offer at least 1 percent back on all purchases.

All of the cards from USAA that offer cash rewards use the aforementioned tiered system:

  • USAA Visa
  • USAA American Express

While the benefits differ slightly between them, their rewards all operate the same way:

  • You earn “up to” 1.25 percent cash back on all purchases, without any cap on the amount that can be earned. The version from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) also earns double cash back at gas stations and grocery stores.
  • You can redeem any amount of your cash back in increments of $1
  • None of these versions has an annual fee.

A possible drawback for these cards is that (with the exception of the American Express version), they don’t offer any higher reward categories. Depending on your spending patterns, you may want to compare other cash-back card options.

The APRs on all of USAA’s offers can be low if you have good credit. When it comes to benefits, they provide a variety of purchase and travel protections that you’d expect from other similar cards.

Verdict? The USAA cash back credit card program is not very attractive with this tiered rewards structure. These days you should expect at least 1 percent on all your spending from the start, if not more. Therefore, the application only makes sense if it is the other benefits you are after instead.

Part 2: Cards With Reward Points

The USAA Rewards Visa Signature and USAA Rewards American Express cards offer points for the USAA Rewards program. The USAA Military Affiliate cards do as well. The Affiliate cards are available for 16 different military associations such as Air Force Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wounded Warrior Project and others.

Here’s how the USAA Rewards program works:

  • You earn 1 point per dollar spent. The American Express and Military Affiliate versions give double points on gas and groceries.
  • No cap to the number of points that can be earned
  • Points can be redeem for cash back, as well as the other usual options credit cards offer these days: merchandise, gift cards, travel, charitable donations

USAA cash back programHow much are the points worth? Well that depends on how you redeem them.

If you do it at lower tiers you usually won’t get a good deal in terms of point value.

The table on the right shows the cash rebate option and as you can see, it takes 20,000 points to get the full 1 cent value per point. If you go below that, your value per point goes down. If you use your points for charitable donations it’s the same $200 threshold for maximum value. For other redemption options, your value will vary based on what you redeem for and how many points you redeem at a time.

Verdict? If rewards are what you’re after, these cards aren’t the best deal out there. There are credit cards with higher travel rewards on the market. However, if you want the other USAA credit card benefits then one of theirs might still make sense.

Part 3: Active duty benefits

Perhaps the most noteworthy benefits come for active military. If you are deployed you get three major perks (a) special interest rate on eligible credit card balances, (b) new finance charges during deployment will be rebated, and (c) no foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside of the country.

Part 4: Low rates and credit building

The USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa – Offers a low rate with qualifying credit and no annual fee. Those considered less creditworthy may still be stuck with a rate as high as the 20s though, according to the fine print on the application. This card offers no rewards.

USAA Secured Credit Card – This is for folks who can’t qualify for a regular credit card, but still want a card to build credit. The USAA secured card charges a $35 annual fee which is reasonable. There’s a Visa and American Express version of the USAA secured card. You can learn more about how secured credit cards work here.

Verdict? Neither of these cards come with rewards, but that’s okay, because if you carry a balance or are trying to rebuild credit, rewards should be the last thing on your mind. If you have great credit and can get the lowest-tier APR on the USAA Rate Advantage card, then it’s a deal. The secured credit cards from USAA are also a good value for what they offer.

This review was written or last updated Jan. 2017

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.

I have usaa for 9 years and and my experience with them is simple the card works for what i mees it for. I just got another card from them the way i see it is like this. Good credit management is key im not sure wht peiple owe. A few thousand on cards when they get in that whole its there stupidity. So far usaa credit cards and banking have worked for me

I told USAA I was traveling to Brazil and they still cancelled my card. I am a over 30 year member with USAA but the service has been terrible in last 10

Looks like most of the complainers here either fail to understand the real cause of their problem, or have an overinflated sense of entitlement from USAA, and/or are not on the higher end of the credit spectrum. Nor is it likely their complaints will actually discourage other vets from joining USAA.

As a USAA member for 33 years, USAA was the first to trust me and give me a much needed cash loan when no one else would. For that I am still grateful. Since then USAA has been outstanding and given me their top tier credit offers.

The one time in 1985 I had a major dispute with USAA customer service that was not properly resolved after bumping my complaint up a couple of levels of management, I took a wild shot and sent a letter to the Vice President of USAA banking. Imagine my surprise when not only did I get a response, but it was completely in my favor.

Since then I have never had a problem with USAA. Their service and reputation are strong enough that I do not need to seek other banks or credit cards for any reason. Only exceptions are I have taken the 0% financing offers from auto manufacturers that USAA will admit they are not competitive with. But then no other banks can compete against such offers either.

I applied for USAA AMEX. I was assured by the lying sack sales rep that I would get 0% until 2017 on ALL PURCHASES. Balance transfer was not mentioned & I am not interested in balance transfer. The 0% interest until 2017 was an outright LIE. Double points for gas and groceries is an outright LIE. There website is impossible for doing thing like online bill pay. Paying of the lying sacks and cutting up the card. Telling every veteran I know to avoid USAA. They lie like the Obama Whitehouse.

Very disappointed USAA member

I’m just done closing my $25,000 credit limit credit card with USAA, they just don’t honor their offers .
Card holder be aware. You ARE only good until good until you need them.
21 years a member paying for all my insurance needs with no claims and they refused to pay a $10 TEN dollars rewards that I accepted on line using my credit card. You can do better than that!!!!

USAA balance transfer is a rip off. They will charge you interest on all purchases from the day you purchase to the day you pay it back if you have any remaining balance on your transfer…even if your non transfer balance is paid in full every month. That card is going in the drawer until the transfer is paid then I will close it out. Live and learn…

Re: USAA Holiday Gift offer for spending $2500 on my USAA MasterCard between November 15, 2013 and January 15, 2014. I met the requirements and was directed to choose a merchant gift card. I chose to receive a TARGET GIFT CARD, but to date have not received it.

Three months ago, I would have told you how wonderful the USAA World mastercard was. In effect, it was one of only two cards currently available to US cardholders which was a true chip and pin card. Last year I used it several times in Europe (it’s not my favorite card because of the 1% foreign transaction fee and I have cards which have no ftf) but it functioned the way chip and pin cards were supposed to i.e. I was asked to enter my pin for every transaction. I have other cards which claim to be chip and pin cards but are really chip and signature cards at perssonneled point of sales terminals.

Well for a variety of reasons, I had to replace the card. When I went to Walmart to check it out (Walmart is the one retailer in the USA that has turned on its emv chip readers), O was mpt asled fpr a [om/ As the purchase was under $50 it simply said no signature required. In any event this turned on the alarm bells.

After a series of csr’s who had no idea what I was talking about or who blamed Walmart, I wa finally able to get somebody who admitted USAA had dropped the chip and pin priority card verification method but was not only offering chip and signature preferred cards. She could not give me a reason for this idiotic decision.

So those of you who got your USAA mastercard before April of this year and think you have a true chipp and pin card, be aware that when the card expires, its replacement will be another dumb American chip and signature card which in some cases may still leave you up the creek without a paddle at some European merchants who refuse to process transactions without a pin and when the pos terminal starts spitting out a receipt to sign, tell you tough luck and void the transaction. You have been warned.

I would be curious for the author to look at the latest offer from USAA with their Cashback Rewards Plus American Express. No annual fee; 5% back on gas, 2% on grocery ($3,000 cap on both per year), and 1% everything else (no limit). I agree that the previous offers from USAA were lacking but they seem to have stepped up with this one. After running the numbers, this one seems to work best for me so I’ll likely sign up; added bonus of not having to deal with one of the scumbag banks.

usaa is the worst credit card I’ve ever had I pad my bill in full every month my wife passed away on nov 23 14 imoved to Nevada usaa cut off my credit card I asked why no one has given me an answer I tried to pay off my remaining balance 1759.83 on my statement thew only give me the first four numbers and last four numbers they will not give me my complete number I cut up my credit card when they cut me off I also canceled my insurance with them

Sounds to me that you were trying to pull a fast one over on USAA and now you’re mad you got caught

I have both the USAA World MC and USAA AMEX, if you’re trying to maximize your rewards benefits there are better cards (I have just signed up for the BCP after receiving meager cash back for gas and groceries with my USAA AMEX).

However, there’s a few benefits such as concierge services, flight insurance, accident insurance on rentals, free roadside assistance, and extended purchase insurance that USAA offers on these cards that may sway judgment. I don’t make use of any of these items in the years I have had the cards, but it does make for a good safety net.

The really poor job USAA did was that the reward systems are tiered, an example is if you spend $12,000 you’re actually touching 3 different tiers and the cash back is different for reach one – which is confusing and actually misleading. (for the MC between 0 and 5000 you only get .45%!!!!)

One positive is that you can have all your services under one account – so I can pay my credit card balances and see what I have in my account at the same time, give me an idea of my net balances. But I don’t think it’s worth the 200+ dollars I lose in cash rebates.

I should add that the AMEX card for gas/groceries gives your 1% additional to the tiered system. So if you spend 5000 on gas/groceries you will get 1.45% instead of the .45%.

Usaa has the worse point system ever. You pretty much need to put your entire life on credit card to see any rewards from it. I have friends with other cards that earn air mile tickets every year… With usaa it takes a few years. If you are looking for a credit card that offers rewards DO NOT use USAA!!

I have talked to at least 6 different “customer representatives” and spent hours trying to establish a method for on line payment. hours of holding for transfers. passed from one rep to another. when I asked for a supervisor, I was put on hold for about 15 minutes before being cut off completely. now I am waiting for an invoice so I will know where to mail my cut up card– along with my suggestion of where they can put it!!!!!

It takes USAA at least a week to process any credit card payments. I submitted a payment 10 days ago that has still not been processed. Everything else about the company is nice, except for the fact that I have to wait a week to use my money.

Do NOT trust USAA if you travel! They talk about service but don’t deliver. Never believe what they say. Despite the fact that we notified the credit card department that we were traveling to specific countries in Europe and having its assurance we would be able to charge and obtain cash advances in those countries, when the time came to use the credit card in those countries the charge was denied. That caused us a great hassle. Fortunately, the merchant allowed us to call USAA and the initial operator confirmed that we recored our travel but “Security” denied any charges and transferred us to Security, which said there was no record of our travel. Thus Security called their fellow employees liars. Security subsequently realized their error and activated the card and apologized. But they caused us a great deal of time and anxiety. As usual the bank looks out for itself rather than the customer. So don’t believe this crap they say about how they know what it is to serve. All they want is to serve themselves. When we we needed them to come through they didn’t. We really dislike this organization is its hypocrisy.

The USAA credit cards is a honor to have. No annual fee . Reps are willing and educated to aid you. Many credit card companies need to get couching from USAA.

“couching”? ERRR UMMM

Careful. Their ‘cash rewards’ are misleading. I have four credit cards. I just signed up for the USAA card this past year due to the lower APR and ‘cash rewards’. The ‘cash rewards’ are not cash at all, they are a credit posted to your account. With my three other cards, I get REAL cash back, not a credit. I get a check in the mail made payable to me to do with as I please. A credit on my bill is money already spent. I’m looking for another card now I’m so pissed.

USAA has no fees. None. Good luck finding that with other cards. In order to get the best reward buildup you have to put everything on the card. Everything. Once you do that the cash builds up fairly quick. I have been averaging over $33 a month in cash back for years. No fees and have never had a problem. All cards are different. You have to find one that works for you. If you travel a lot, go get a card designed for travel.

I actually love the USAA card. It’s great for traveling abroad as the foreign transaction fees are waived when traveling outside of the US. Those fees can add up pretty quickly and this card has saved me money in that area.


what card are you using that waives the foreign transaction fees. Only USAA card I know of that does that is the Active Duty one if you are DEPLOYED overseas. I don’t know of another they offer which does this…

You actually get 2x the points when you use your card on gasoline or groceries. We use that in most of our expenses anyways.

One thing that you neglected to mention as a benefit to USAA members is the member mall ( It is possible to shop through the member mall and get 2 or more points on purchases for every dollar spent. I just booked travel to Vegas for next year and got 2 points per dollar, so my ~$1000 trip got me 2000 points.

I compared the points-based AMEX that I have through USAA with their cash rewards card and found that while I do prefer cash as a reward, the points card would end up earning me a lot more back.

Also, don’t forget that if you’re carrying a balance, these meager percentages back are worthless when you’re paying 9.9% or higher! Pay your bill in full! 🙂