USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card Review
Why trust us? Investor.com has no financial relationship with any of the credit card providers whose products we analyze and review. Our opinions are based solely on data and our own extensive independent research — that means unbiased guidance for consumers. Rewards cards in our cashback credit card calculator are listed in descending order according to how much money they pay out annually based on the inputs.
A 5% rewards rate is cashback Valhalla. But getting it with this card requires the moon and sun and your life and spending choices to be precisely aligned.
The rewards structure of the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card makes it appealing to a very specific customer: one with a military connection (to qualify for USAA membership) who makes regular gas station and commissary pit stops (where the top 5% cashback rate applies, but only up to a point). Not you? No reason to stick around — the 1% default cashback rate is nothing to write home about.
The basics: Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in combined gas station and military base purchases yearly, 2% cash back on your first $3,000 in grocery purchases yearly, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other qualifying purchases. Get a 0% APR for 15 months on balance transfers and convenience checks that post to your account within 90 days of account opening.
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card pros and cons
- 5% cash back on gas and military base purchases (up to a point)
- 2% cash back on groceries (also up to a point)
- 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers/convenience checks
- No foreign transaction fees
- Handy protection benefits for travel and purchases
- No annual fee
- The 5% and 2% rewards rates shrink to 1% after you spend $3K in each category
- The 1% cash back on everything else is 🙄
- No sign-up bonus
- No intro APR on purchases
- USAA membership required
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card cashback rewards spending categories
The following table shows the cashback rewards rate per $1 spent in the six most common spending categories. The “Bonus Rate” refers to the amount you can earn in excess of the card’s standard rewards rate.
Some cashback cards limit the spending amount eligible for the bonus rate (a.k.a. the “Spend Cap”). Once you hit that cap (e.g. $1,500 spending in a particular category during a defined time period), the rewards rate on future purchases in that category reverts to the lower “Default Rate.”
|Category||Default Rate||Bonus Rate||Bonus Spend Cap||Bonus Spend Period (Months)|
What we like
Load up at the canteen! The 5% cashback rate on gas also applies to military base purchases.
Travel and purchase benefits are great for worriers and the accident-prone. Included is trip cancellation/interruption/accident insurance, baggage delay reimbursement, car rental collision coverage, extended warranty and ID theft protection/resolution services.
The 3% cash advance fee is waived when you transfer funds electronically from your USAA credit card to your USAA bank deposit account. Even if you incur the 3% cash advance or balance-transfer fee, USAA charges no $5 or $10 minimum like other cards.
Reward redemption options are plentiful. In addition to using rewards for a statement credit or having it electronically deposited to an eligible USAA account, the USAA Rewards Center lets you apply the money toward the purchase of travel accommodations, merchandise and gift cards, or make a charitable contribution to a participating charity.
Going abroad? Charge away with no worries of getting hit with a foreign transaction fee.
Questions? Concerns? Just wanna chat? USAA is known for its outstanding customer service.
A plus for active duty servicemembers: You may qualify for an ultra-low 4% interest rate on your USAA card balances. That’s even lower than the 6% available if you’re covered under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and state military bennies.
What we don't like
That 5% rewards rate only applies to the first $3,000 you put on your USAA card on gas and on-base purchases c-o-m-b-i-n-e-d per year. We’re talking a max of $150 cash back on these combined purchases annually.
The rewards restrictions on groceries (same $3,000 annual spending cap) means the maximum cash back you can earn per year on supermarket purchases at the 2% rate is $60.
Once you hit the 5% and 2% spending caps (and with the price of gas these days…), the rewards rate ratchets back to just 1%. Small favors: At least the 1% cashback rate is unlimited.
Sorry, one more thing about the 1% that applies to purchases that don’t qualify for better. Frankly, it just feels cheap compared to the 1.5% unlimited, restriction-free cash back offered by the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature. There, now it’s out of our system.
Like most rewards cards, "supermarkets" is defined narrowly. Grocery purchases at wholesale clubs (like Costco), warehouse clubs (such as Sams) and discount stores (Target, Walmart) do not qualify for the 2% cashback rate.
The card is only offered to USAA members. Membership is limited to active or former military and their spouses and adult children.
The bottom line
Is the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card the best rewards card for your wallet? The answer depends entirely on your spending patterns. Let the numbers speak for themselves: Use the investor.com Cashback Credit Card Calculator to see which credit card pays back the highest rewards based on how much you spend each month.
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card fine print
Does the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card charge an annual fee?
No, there is no annual fee for the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card.
Roughly 14% of the consumer cashback cards we track in our database charge an annual fee. The average annual fee is $72.60, while the median is $95.
Does the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card offer a welcome bonus?
No, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card card does not currently offer a welcome bonus.
Of the more than 60 cashback credit cards in our database, 66% offer a welcome bonus. Currently, the average sign-up bonus on a new cashback card is $210.71, with the median being $200.
How much cash back can I earn with the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card?
The average American that spends $1000 per month will earn $211.08 in cash back per year using the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card. For comparison, the average annual rewards payout from the cashback credit cards in the investor.com database is $191.26, and $180 is the median.
These calculations are based on average consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the reward payout rates from the providers we track. Of course, you’re so much more than an average data point (aka “consumer unit,” in BLS parlance). The amount you can earn in cashback rewards using the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card depends entirely on your unique spending habits.
Find out exactly how much you’ll rake in with the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card by tailoring the spending inputs in the calculator above.
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Compare USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card
The results of the investor.com Credit Card Rewards Calculator are based on the monthly spending amounts you enter and the annual dollar value of the rewards each credit card program pays per $1 spent. Credit card companies often express this payout amount as a percentage (e.g., 1.5% of every dollar spent) or on a points basis (e.g. ,1.5 points for every dollar spent). We converted all of them to a dollar amount (“Cash Back Per Year”) to make comparing offers easier.
To calculate the amount of cash back you could earn per year, we factored in:
- Spend category inputs: The default dollar values for each “Spend Category” in the Best Cashback Credit Cards tool — gas, groceries, travel, restaurant, entertainment, pharmacy, other — are based on average American spending data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also include additional spend categories (such as streaming services, online shopping, utilities, transit, Amazon and more) to help you see which rewards cards are most closely aligned with your actual spending patterns. We encourage you to customize the monthly spend inputs for the most accurate results.
- Tiered rewards rates: If a rewards credit card pays higher cashback rates on certain spending categories (also called “Bonus Rewards”), that difference is reflected in the total “Cash Back Per Year” tally.
- Rewards spending caps: Some cards impose category- or time-based limits (monthly, quarterly, annually) that affect the amount of rewards you can earn. For example, a card may pay 3% cash back on groceries on up to $1,000 of spending each quarter, then revert to the base/default rewards rate until the following quarter. We accounted for bonus spending caps and timeframe in the calculations.
- Default rewards rates: Purchases that exceed a spending cap are usually subject to a lower default rewards rate (e.g., 1% or 1.5%). We mathed that out too.
- Annual fees: If a rewards card charges an annual fee, we deducted that amount from the “Cash Back Per Year” total to provide a true accounting of a card’s annual rewards payout.
What’s not included in the “Cash Back Per Year” total is the cash value of any sign-up/introductory bonus. We highlight any Welcome Bonus separately. While sign-up bonuses can be the most lucrative part of getting a new cashback rewards credit card, not everyone will want or be able to do what it takes to earn the extra cash. (It usually requires spending a certain amount in a specified time period after the card is activated.)