is committed to the highest ethical standards and reviews services independently. Learn How We Make Money

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card Review

Dayana Yochim

Written by Dayana Yochim
Edited by Carolyn Kimball
Fact-checked by Andrea Coombes

March 12, 2024

Why trust us? 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.

This USAA card's 5% cash back rate on gas and commissary purchases (and a much less exciting 2% on groceries) are fine if you're looking for a second card to ride shotgun. But reward spending caps and membership requirements limit its utility for civilian cardholders.

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% cash back rate applies, up to a point). Card features and benefits designed specifically for those in the military and their families helped the this card earn the title of Best Cashback Card for Military in our 2024 awards.

If you're not a USAA member or feel too constrained by the $3K annual spending cap that applies to both the 5% gas 2% grocery store categories, there are other cards with even more competitive offers: See our picks for the best gas rewards cards and most lucrative cash back cards for dining and groceries.

USAA vs. USAA: We make it easy to compare the pros, cons and cash back earning potential in USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card vs. USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card.

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.

Credit Card Calculator
Monthly Spend
Spend Categories expand_more
Clear All
dining Dining
theater_comedy Entertainment
local_gas_station Gas
shopping_cart Groceries
monetization_on Other
local_pharmacy Pharmacy
card_travel Travel
local_shipping Amazon
storefront Costco
construction Home Improvement
shopping_bag Online Shopping
smart_display Streaming
local_taxi Transit
power Utilities
kitchen Whole Foods
receipt_long Wholesale Clubs

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card Logo
Cashback Per Year
Annual Fee
Welcome Bonus
Want to compare more cards? Use our full calculator.

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card pros and cons

thumb_up_off_alt Pros

  • 5% cash back on gas and military base purchases (up to a point)
  • 2% cash back on groceries (also up to a point)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Handy protection benefits for travel and purchases

thumb_down_off_alt Cons

  • $3K annual rewards spending cap on 5% and 2% categories
  • The 1% cash back on everything else is 🙄
  • No sign-up bonus
  • 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 (aka 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)
Gas 1.00% 5.00% $3,000 12
Travel 1.00% - - -
Dining 1.00% - - -
Entertainment 1.00% - - -
Pharmacy 1.00% - - -
Groceries 1.00% 2.00% $3,000 12
Other Purchases 1.00% - - -

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.

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 which runs 3% or more on some other cards.

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. I did the math and was reminded why I always give side eye to cards that cap rewards earning potential: The maximum a cardholder can earn on gas and commissary purchases annually is $150 cash back.

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. My advice if you're a foodid: Get a card that pays an unlimited 3% cash back (or more) on groceries/dining out.

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 Card. 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 5% cash advance fee is brutal, although it's waived if you transfer the money electronically to a USAA deposit account.

The card is only offered to USAA members. Membership is limited to active or former military and their spouses and adult children. . (See more on USAA membership requirements.)

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 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

Please turn your attention to the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card rates and fees, card benefits and rewards FAQs.

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.

tips_and_updates Trivia time!

How common are annual fees? Roughly 17% of the consumer cash back cards we review charge an annual fee. They range from $39 to $99, with an average annual fee of $67.

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.

tips_and_updates Fun fact

More than half (55%) of the consumer cash back credit cards we track in the database offer a welcome bonus, ranging from $30 up to $300. The average sign-up bonus for new cardholders is $197, 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 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.

Popular Credit Card Guides

More Credit Card Reviews


The results of the 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.)

About the Editorial Team

Dayana Yochim
Dayana Yochim

Dayana Yochim has been writing (articles, books, podcasts, stirring speeches) about personal finance and investing for more than two decades, focusing on bringing clarity and the occasional comedic aside to what is often a murky, humorless topic. She’s written for NerdWallet, The Motley Fool,, Woman’s Day, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and been a guest expert on "Today," "Good Morning America," CNN, NPR and wherever they’ll hand her a mic.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is Managing Editor for Reink Media Group and the lead editor for content on Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

Andrea Coombes
Andrea Coombes

Andrea Coombes has 20+ years of experience helping people reach their financial goals. Her personal finance articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, Forbes, and other publications, and she's shared her expertise on CBS, NPR, "Marketplace," and more. She's been a financial coach and certified consumer credit counselor, and is working on becoming a Certified Financial Planner. She knows that owning pets isn't necessarily the best financial decision; her dog and two cats would argue this point.