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The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) was established by servicemembers who wanted to provide an auto insurance option for other members of the armed forces. These days, it has evolved into one of the largest providers of financial products, including credit cards, for millions of military personnel and their families.
The USAA Platinum® Visa® offers you a choice between the USAA Rewards program and a Cash Rewards program. With USAA Rewards, the USAA Platinum Visa offers a sign-up bonus and flat-rate rewards program which awards 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases, as well as access to MemberShop and additional military benefits.
- Sign-up Bonus. Earn 2,500 bonus points when you make your first purchase. These can be redeemed for $25 in airfare.
- Fees. The USAA Platinum Visa does not impose an annual fee. Balance transfers are 3% of the transfer up to a total of $200 in fees. Foreign transactions are 1%.
- APR. The APR for purchases and balance transfers ranges from 9.90% to 25.90%, based on your creditworthiness and variations in the prime rate.
- Rewards Program. Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases without limit or expiration. You can redeem your points for merchandise, statement credit, airfare, or to make charitable donations. The best value is achieved when redeeming for airfare through ALG Travel Service, starting at 15,000 points for $150. If you redeem larger amounts of points – 20,000 for a statement credit, for example – they are worth approximately one cent each. If you redeem for merchandise, smaller statement credits, or charitable donations, each point is worth less than one cent.
- Qualifications for Membership. To qualify for USAA membership you must be active-duty, a retired and honorably separated officer, enlisted U.S. military personnel, or an officer candidate in a commissioning program such as Academy, ROTC, or OCS/OTS. You can also qualify if you are an adult child of eligible parents, a spouse, or a widow or widower of a qualifying member.
- Military Benefits. The USAA Platinum Visa features benefits specific to servicemembers and their families. As an example, although the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides active-duty personnel a reduced rate of 6% on debt incurred prior to active duty, USAA offers an even lower interest rate of 4% on preexisting USAA credit card and loan debt. USAA also waives certain fees on credit cards for active-duty members who are deployed or deploying, and it offers the lower interest rate if you have 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), all interest accrued during that campaign is rebated to your card.
- Possible Low Interest. As with other USAA rewards cards, you have an opportunity to qualify for an APR as low as 9.90%, a rarity among rewards cards.
- Unlimited Points. Often, similar credit cards only allow you to earn bonus points or rewards up to a certain limit. There is no cap on the number of points you can earn with the USAA Rewards program.
- No Rotating Categories. Cards such as Discover it and Chase Freedom offer more cash back and rewards in certain purchase categories that rotate on a quarterly basis. If you fail to enroll in these categories, don’t make purchases in them, or reach the cap of approximately $1,500, your purchases earn a base rate of either 1 point per dollar spent or 1% cash back. The USAA Rewards program imposes no rotating categories – you are rewarded for all of your purchases equally.
- Military Benefits. If you meet certain requirements as a service member, you can qualify for lower APRs on existing debt with USAA and additional benefits exclusive to military personnel.
- Low Sign-up Bonus. The best rewards cards offer sign-up bonuses worth at least $100 – for example, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card. The bonus offered with the USAA Rewards program can be redeemed for $25 in travel, or for lesser value if redeemed for cash or gift cards.
- No 0% Promotional APR. The USAA Platinum card with USAA Rewards does not offer an introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers. If you plan on transferring balances from high-APR cards or making a large purchase, this is not the card for you.
- Low Rewards. Although a flat rewards rate is convenient and does not require the hassle of managing purchases or rotating categories, 1 point per dollar spent is the very lowest offered by rewards cards. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash awards a slightly higher flat rate of at least 1.5%.
- Foreign Transaction Fee. If you travel abroad frequently, using a credit card that charges a foreign transaction fee can limit or negate any rewards you earn. Although the USAA Platinum Visa’s 1% foreign transaction fee compares favorably to the 3% charged by many cards, a number of issuers such as Discover and Capital One do not charge any such fee at all.
The features of the USAA Platinum Visa with USAA Rewards are similar to the USAA World MasterCard – for both, there are numerous other cards available that provide better rewards programs and rates. If you prefer Visa over MasterCard and are a servicemember who can take advantage of the military benefits and the convenience of a flat-rate rewards card, the USAA Rewards Visa may be right for you.
There are other flat-rate rewards credit cards that offer an introductory APR and no annual fee, and even more credit cards with better rewards programs, including other USAA branded credit cards.
3.5 out of 5 Stars: The USAA Platinum® Visa® is missing many of the benefits that come standard with similar rewards cards.