2018 Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card Review
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The Verdict: The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card offers elite terms on up to $6,000 in purchases per year but is fairly average otherwise. The gems of the offer are a pair of bonus cash back earning rates: 5% back on a total of $3,000 in gas and military purchases each year, plus 2% back on $3,000 in supermarket spending annually. When you consider that the average cash rewards card offers just over 1% back on purchases, it's clear just how generous Cashback Rewards Plus can be - at least while its bonus rates last.
This card isn’t much of a taker, either, as far as fees are concerned. Cashback Rewards Plus doesn’t charge either an annual fee or a foreign transaction fee.
The problem is that most types of purchases will reward you at just about the average rate. There’s no initial bonus to make up for it, either. Another potential issue for some folks is the fact that you need at least Good credit to get approved. You must also be current or former military or the child of a USAA member. Finally, you shouldn’t get this card with financing in mind. Its regular interest rate could be even higher than the average credit card’s penalty rate.
At the end of the day, the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card is an excellent choice for anyone with good credit or better who’s eligible for USAA membership and wants to earn bonus rewards on about $6,000 in gas, military and supermarket purchases each year. But beyond that, it’s right around the middle of the rewards-card pack.
Continue reading below to learn more about the best and worst aspects of the offer.
- $150 initial bonus: Spending at least $500 within 90 days of getting the card will score you a $150 bonus. That’s above the $139 average for a cash rewards bonus. And while it’s only about a third of what the best travel credit cards will give you, they also require you to spend at least six times as much over the same timeframe. So this is a pretty good deal for light-spenders.
- Up to 5% Cash Back on Gas & Military Purchases: That's nearly five times the average rewards rate for cash back credit cards. But it only lasts for your first $3,000 in qualifying purchases each year. In other words, you can earn up to $150 in bonus cash back in these categories every 12 months. After that, you get the standard 1% back until your next account anniversary.
- Up to 2% Cash Back at Supermarkets: The first $3,000 you spend at supermarkets each year yield 2% cash back, or up to $60. Supermarket spending beyond that threshold is half as rewarding.
- No Annual Fee: This is definitely one for the pro column, as avoiding fees always is preferable to paying them, all else being the same. And it does save you None per year compared to the average credit card. But it's also fair to note that there's no shortage of cash back credit cards with no annual fee.
- No Foreign Fee: The average credit card charges a foreign transaction fee equal to 1.51% of each purchase. That could add up to a lot for a military family doing a stint abroad. So it's good USAA Cashback Rewards Plus doesn't play that game.
- Special 4% Military APR: Not every cardholder gets this low rate, and it won't last forever for those who do qualify. But if you have a balance when you start active duty military service, this rate applies to that balance until you pay it off or a year after your active duty ends, whichever comes first. It also applies to all balances for up to 12 months in the event of deployment or PCS. You'll get this from any USAA credit card.
- Very High Regular APR Possible: The USAA Cash Rewards Plus Amex offers a regular APR of 13.65% - 27.65% (V), depending on your creditworthiness. To put that in perspective, the average APR among credit cards for people with excellent credit is 14.19%, credit cards for good credit charge an average of 19.88%, and credit cards for fair credit average 22.41%, according to WalletHub's latest Credit Card Landscape Report. Bear in mind that you need good or excellent credit to get Cash Rewards Plus.
- No Initial Bonus: This means there's no early payday to complement the ongoing perks, as has become common among rewards cards. The average cash back credit card offers a bonus of about $139 within the first few months.
Other Things to Consider
- 1% Cash Back on Most Purchases: You'll earn 1% cash back on non-bonus category purchases, plus spending in those categories once you pass your annual quota. That's important because the average U.S. consumer spends about $6,600 per year on gas and groceries alone.
- Good or Excellent Credit Required: You'd better check your latest credit score before you apply. You may want to check out the market's best overall credit cards, too. After all, USAA Cashback Rewards Plus isn't the easiest card to get and has quite a bit of top-notch competition.
- Several Secondary Perks: USAA's credit card rental car insurance and price protection policies rank 4th overall, according to WalletHub's research. Its extended warranty and travel insurance come in 11th and 18th, respectively.
- Undisclosed Spending Limit: If you're approved, that's when you'll find out what your starting spending will be. This isn't unusual, but it's not what you hope for, either.
- USAA Eligibility Test: USAA membership is reserved for current and former military personnel as well as the children of USAA members.
Compared to the Competition
If you choose a credit card without seeing what else is out there, you could easily miss out on a great deal. Here are just a few of the other popular options to consider before submitting your application.
USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
|Rewards Rate||1 - 5% Cash Back||1.5% Cash Back||1 - 5 points / $1||1 - 6% Cash Back||2% Cash Back|
|Purchase Intro APR||Not Offered||Not Offered||Not Offered||0% for 12 months||Not Offered|
|Transfer Intro APR||Not Offered||Not Offered||0% for 12 months|
Transfer Fee: 3%
|0% for 12 months|
Transfer Fee: 3% (min $5)
|0% for 18 months|
Transfer Fee: 3% (min $5)
|Regular APR||13.65% - 27.65% (V)||13.65% - 27.65% (V)||11.24% - 17.99% (V)||14.74% - 25.74% (V)||15.24% - 25.24%* (V)|
|Editors’ Rating||3.0 / 5||3.5 / 5||N/A||4.6 / 5||5.0 / 5|
|Details, Rates & Fees||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More|
Rates & Fees
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