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Both the USAA Rewards American Express Card and the USAA Cash Rewards American Express Card feature programs that award points for gasoline and grocery purchases. The primary difference between them is the rewards themselves. When you make purchases with the Rewards American Express card you earn points, and with the Cash Rewards card, you receive cash back.
If you are a servicemember of the U.S. armed forces – or are related to one – the many benefits offered by the USAA Cash Rewards American Express may be right for you.
- Fees. There is no annual fee for the USAA Cash Rewards American Express. The balance transfer fee is 3% and is capped at $200. The foreign transaction fee is 1%.
- APR. The APR for purchases and balance transfers is based on your creditworthiness and ranges from 9.90% to 25.90%, varying with the prime rate. There is no introductory APR.
- Rewards Program. You earn 2.25% cash back on gas and grocery purchases and 1.25% cash back on all other purchases. Cash back is awarded every January. There is no limit to the amount you can earn, and your rewards do not expire.
- Shopping Portal. As a USAA cardmember, you receive access to USAA’s online shopping portal, MemberShop, which includes more than 500 popular retailers such as Target, Macy’s, and Apple. When using MemberShop, you can receive up to 20% in rewards (in addition to the cash back earned on purchases), depending on the retailer.
- Eligibility for Membership. You can qualify as a USAA cardmember if you are an active servicemember, retired and honorably separate officer, or enlisted personnel in the U.S. military. You also qualify as an officer candidate in a commissioning program such as Academy, ROTC, or OCS/OTS. If you are not a servicemember, you may qualify as a spouse, an adult child, or a widow or widower of one.
- Benefits for Servicemembers. If you are an active-duty servicemember, you may qualify for additional benefits such as a 4% interest rate on preexisting USAA card and loan debt, waiver of card fees, and – if you are deployed or are deploying – a 4% interest rate when you undergo a permanent change of station. If you receive a qualifying campaign medal such as the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal, you can have all interest paid during the campaign rebated to your USAA credit card.
- Potential Low-Interest Rewards Card. The APRs of cash back credit cards typically range from 12.99% to 14.99%. However, with the USAA Cash Rewards American Express you have the opportunity to qualify for one as low as 9.90%. The Discover it Card offers the next lowest APR at 10.99%.
- No Cap on Cash Back. There is no limit to the cash back that you can earn with your card, even in the gas and grocery categories. Other cash back cards such as Chase Freedom require enrollment in quarterly categories, with a limit of $1,500 in purchases per quarter.
- Additional Military Benefits. Financial products that provide additional benefits for servicemembers are limited, but USAA credit cards offer various opportunities, such as lower interest rates and waived fees. You are not likely to find many of these additional benefits on any standard credit cards.
- No Sign-up Bonus. Often, rewards cards offer sign-up bonuses that are awarded either for spending a certain amount upon opening an account, or for simply making a purchase with your card. Many such bonuses are worth $100 or more – for example, the Chase Freedom and Capital One Quicksilver Cash (and even the USAA Rewards American Express card offers a minimal sign-up bonus worth $25). However, the USAA Cash Rewards American Express does not offer a sign-up bonus.
- No Introductory APR. Credit cards typically offer introductory APRs to attract new customers, especially those eager to transfer balances from higher APR cards and begin paying them down. Almost all of the best cash back credit cards offer a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for at least 12 months.
- Rebates Once Per Year. Cash back accumulates throughout the year and you receive it in the form of a rebate check in January. Other cash back cards allow you to use your rewards when you reach the minimum threshold, at the very least, which is typically $25. Capital One cards, such as the Quicksilver Cash Rewards, allow you to redeem your cash back at any time in the form of a check, statement credit, or gift card.
- Foreign Transaction Fee. The foreign transaction fee of 1% is low considering these fees can reach as high as 3%. However, there are cards with no foreign transaction fees, such as all Capital One cards and the Discover it, which may prove more suitable if you travel abroad frequently.
The USAA Cash Rewards American Express Card is a great option if you are a servicemember whose purchases fall in either the gasoline or grocery store categories. But there are better cash back cards out there, offering sign-up bonuses, introductory APRs, the opportunity to redeem rewards more than once per year, and lower foreign transaction fees.