2018 USAA Rewards American Express Review
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The Verdict: The USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card makes it cheaper to put food on the table and gas in your car's tank. It offers 3 points per $1 spent when you dine out, 2 points per $1 spent on groceries and gas, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. Plus, you get a 2,500-point bonus simply for making your first purchase. There's no annual fee, either.
In other words, the USAA Rewards Amex is $15.88 per year cheaper than the average credit card and rewards you up to three times more for making purchases.
That is not to say the offer is without flaws. For starters, USAA rewards points are worth less than a penny each, according to WalletHub's research. So that initial bonus equals just $21.25 on average, and your ongoing rewards work out to 0.85% to 2.55% cash back. The regular APR could be an issue, too. If you barely qualify for an account, you might be assigned a rate that make even the average card's penalty APR look cheap.
The USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card's eligibility requirements could also present some problems for some interested applicants. Not only do you need good or excellent credit and enough income to pay the bills, but you must also be a current or former member of the military or the child of a USAA member.
If that describes you, this card could be an asset for your wallet. Continue reading to learn about what else it brings to the table, its top competitors and more.
Up to 3 Points per $1 Spent: You will earn 3X points on purchases made at places classified as dining establishments, which typically includes restaurants of all types, from fast food to fine dining. Similarly, purchases made at gas stations and non-wholesale grocery stores yield 2X points. Non-wholesale means the likes of Costco, Sam's Club and Walmart don't count. And rounding out the ongoing rewards party, purchases in non-bonus categories get you 1 point per $1 spent.
Only the bonus earning rates wind up being worthwhile when you convert things to dollar terms, though. Each USAA point is worth an average of 0.85 of 1 cent. So you'll earn just 0.85% cash back on most types of purchases made with the USAA Rewards Amex. Meanwhile, the average cash rewards card offers 1.06% back on all purchases. But if you stick with gas, groceries and dining out, you can earn up to 2.5 times more than average.
- No Annual Fee: This saves you $15.88 per year compared to the average credit card. This also opens the door wider for folks who want to get the USAA Rewards Amex just for dining, gas and groceries.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee: This will save you an average of 1.51% on each international credit card purchase you make, whether you're traveling abroad or buying something from a foreign merchant while stateside. It will also allow you to take full advantage of the low currency conversion rates that credit cards offer.
- Special 4% Military APR: This universal USAA credit card feature applies to any balance you owe when you begin active military duty. And it lasts until the balance is repaid or a year after you conclude active duty. The same rate also applies to balances for up to 12 months in the event of deployment or PCS.
- Small Initial Bonus: The USAA Rewards Amex doesn't make you spend thousands of dollars in the first few months to earn thousands of bonus points. You get 2,500 points after just your first purchase. And that's just an appetizer. There are more rewards to come when you earn it, and it won't fill your wallet up, as it's worth just $21.25.
Very High Regular APR Possible: The USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card's regular APR could be anywhere from 11.65% to 27.65% (V), depending on your overall creditworthiness. And you must have good or excellent credit to qualify for the card in the first place. With that context, the low end of its APR range makes sense, considering credit cards for people with excellent credit charge an average of 14.19%, according to WalletHub's latest Credit Card Landscape Report. The high end, however, is way out of whack with the average APR among credit cards for good credit: 19.88%. In fact, it dwarfs even the average APR among credit cards for people with fair credit (22.41%) and the average penalty APR among all credit cards (26.18%).
When you further consider that this card doesn't offer any 0% introductory rates, it's clear you should look elsewhere if you have financing in mind. The only time you should consider carrying a balance from month to month with this card is if you qualify for the special 4% military rate.
- Rewards Points Worth Relatively Little: This card's rewards earning rates may seem higher than they really are because the points you get are worth less than your standard credit card points or miles. Credit card points and miles generally are redeemable for a penny each. USAA points are worth 85% of that on average.
Other Things to Consider
- Minimum of Good Credit Required: You can check your latest credit score for free on WalletHub to see if you fit the bill. USAA will also consider your ability to pay, given your income, assets and existing debts.
- USAA Eligibility Criteria: To qualify for USAA membership, you must be a current or former member of the U.S. military, enrolled at a U.S. military academy, or the adult child of a USAA property insurance or auto insurance customer.
- Mystery Spending Limit: Some credit card companies will give you a hint by listing the minimum limit all approved applicants are guaranteed to get. But not USAA. You won't find out how much spending power you'll start with until you're approved for an account.
- Top-Ranked Secondary Benefits: WalletHub's editors rank this card's rental car insurance and price protection policies 4th among major credit cards. You'll also enjoy travel insurance, extended warranties and more.
Compared to the Competition
There are lots of tasty credit cards on the menu these days. And many will yield bountiful rewards when you dine out, buy gas and shop at the grocery store. Figuring out which card is best for your particular needs may be the hardest part. So to help you out with that, we’ve compared a handful of the top offers below.
USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card
Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
|Rewards Bonus||2,500 points||$150||$200||N/A|
|Rewards Rate||1 - 3 points / $1||1 - 3% Cash Back||1 - 6% Cash Back||1 - 4% Cash Back|
|Purchase Intro APR||Not Offered||0% for 15 months||0% for 12 months||Not Offered|
|Transfer Intro APR||Not Offered||0% for 15 months|
Transfer Fee: 3%
|0% for 12 months|
Transfer Fee: 3% (min $5)
|Regular APR||11.65% - 27.65% (V)||14.74% - 24.74% (V)||14.99% - 25.99% (V)||17.24%* (V)|
|Editors’ Rating||3.7 / 5||4.8 / 5||4.6 / 5||4.8 / 5|
|Details, Rates & Fees||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More|
Rates & Fees
For more appetizing offers, check out the rest of WalletHub's picks for 2018's best credit cards for dining.
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