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USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Amex Card Review

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Amex Card Review

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Jul 20, 2018. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Who the card is best for

If you’re a military member or eligible family member looking for a cashback program that rewards military-base purchases as well as gas and supermarket spending, the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card can be a good choice. In addition to a cashback program, this card has a wide range of benefits that suit frequent travelers. However, if you want a travel card or a different type of cashback card, there are plenty of options.

Rewards breakdown

Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Here are examples of qualifying purchases in each category:

  • Military base: purchases made at businesses that primarily sell goods and/or services on U.S. military bases (i.e. commissaries, exchanges and shoppettes)
  • Gas: purchases made at businesses that primarily sell gas to consumers (i.e. Shell and Exxon stations)
  • Grocery: purchases made at businesses that primarily sell non-wholesale groceries to consumers (i.e. supermarkets and neighborhood grocery stores)*

*Note: Grocery purchases made at discount stores, wholesale stores and warehouse clubs are not included in the grocery category. That means grocery purchases at Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club are excluded.

You can redeem cash back as a statement credit or deposit into your USAA® checking or savings account. The minimum redemption amount is $1. Beware that cash back redeemed as a statement credit doesn’t count as payment toward your minimum amount due. Refer to the terms and conditions of the rewards program for more detail.

Where this card stands out in its category

Low minimum redemption amount. You can conveniently redeem cash back starting at $1. Other rewards programs often have $25 minimum redemption amounts.

Wide range of travel benefits. When you use your card to book travel, you can receive coverage for various issues that may arise, including delayed baggage, referrals for medical or legal services and damage to a rental vehicle. Terms apply. Check out the additional card benefits section below for more details on these benefits. This card also has no foreign transaction fee, so feel free to use it outside the U.S. without worrying about incurring the typical 3% fee charged by some other cards.

USAA provides all eligible credit cardholders with military interest rate benefits. If you’re an active duty military member and are deployed while your account is in good standing, you may receive a reduced interest rate of 4%. Purchases made before and after active duty may be covered if you qualify. This is a helpful feature that can save you from racking up high interest charges while you serve, and is a better rate than the 6% provided by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Find out more about this benefit here.

Where this card falls short in its category

Overall, the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card is a comprehensive card that has no major flaws. But, if we had to settle on a potential drawback, it would be the limits to gas, military base and supermarket purchases. Purchases exceeding $3,000 on combined gas and military purchases and $3,000 on supermarket purchases earn unlimited 1% cash back, as do all other purchases — but you can find cards that offer more than 1% on all purchases. However, other cards may not offer the same benefits.

Additional card benefits

The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card has several added perks:

  • Rental car insurance*: When you rent an eligible vehicle for 31 consecutive days or less, you may be covered for damage or theft, reasonable loss of use charges and towing charges.
  • Travel accident insurance*: Pay for your trip with your card and you may receive coverage for accidental death or dismemberment up to a maximum of $500,000.
  • Baggage delay insurance*: Use your card to pay for your trip fare, and if your baggage is delayed more than four hours, you may be reimbursed for incidentals up to $100 a day for three days.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance*: When you pay for travel on a common carrier (such as an airplane or train) and cancel travel or cut your trip short due to covered situations like accidental injury or physical illness, you may be reimbursed up to $1,500.
  • Travel assistance services*: Receive referrals for emergency medical assistance and legal issues when you travel 100 miles or more from home.
  • Road assist service*: If your car breaks down during a trip in the 50 states or D.C., call 888-884-6643 for services like gas delivery, tire changes and towing.

*Terms apply. Refer to your Guide to Benefits for more detail.

You can take advantage of these benefits by calling 888-884-6643.

Compare it with the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

If you want a flat-rate cashback card, the USAA® Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card is a good alternative.

While the cashback program provided by the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card is great for gas, grocery and military-base purchases, some people may have spending habits that don’t fit those categories, or they may want a simpler cashback card. That’s where the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card card comes in. It’s a flat-rate card and you can earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no limits or category restrictions. That’s a decent rate, and you don’t have any caps to worry about.

However, if you spend in the categories mentioned earlier, the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card is a good option — Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Here’s an example that may help you decide which card you should choose:

  • Erica spends $3,000 a year on combined gas and military-base purchases
  • John spends $3,000 a year on restaurants and travel
  • They both spend $1,500 a year at supermarkets
Cash back earned each year with the…
USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Erica $180 cash back $67.50 cash back
John $60 cash back $67.50 cash back

In summary, Erica would be better off with the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card because she’ll earn $112.50 more in cash back compared with the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card. John would be better with the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card since he’ll earn $7.50 more in cash back compared with the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card.

For more detail on the two cards, here’s a breakdown of their key features:

USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular Purchase APR 13.40% - 27.40% Variable 13.40% - 27.40% Variable
Rewards Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no limits or category restrictions.
Foreign Transaction Fee None None

Bottom line

Military members and their eligible family members who spend on gas and at military bases and supermarkets save a lot of money with the cashback program provided by the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card. Plus, the lack of foreign transaction fees and travel benefits are a great way to save when traveling abroad.


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