USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card Review

By: Vik Holovanov Dec. 26, 2019

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card allows you to earn rewards that can be redeemed at anytime from the convenience of your mobile app. You’ll get 5% back on your first $3,000 spent on military base and gas station purchases yearly. You’ll also get 2% cash back on your first $3,000 spent on grocery items each year. All other purchases come with an unlimited 1% cash back.

Plus, there is no annual fee, penalty APR or foreign transaction fee. Your creditworthiness will help determine your APR, which ranges from 13.40% to 27.40%. Like all USAA cards, you’ll need to be a military member or family member to qualify. You’ll receive special benefits as a thank you for your service. Check out our USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card review below for more information.

What is the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card?

The Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card is one of several cards provided by USAA. The company was founded in San Antonio in 1912 by a group of Army officers. Since then, the company has grown substantially, but they are still headquartered in Texas. USAA specializes in serving military members and their family. They offer special APR pricing to active duty members. You’ll also enjoy competitive APRs, military affiliate card designs, and no hidden fees. Joining USAA is free. You’ll get free checking, credit advice, and plenty of special benefits. There is no better choice for those who serve their country.

To qualify for any of their cards, you will need to meet the following requirements:

Be an eligible family member

this includes widowers, widows, and un-remained former spouses of USAA members who became a member before or during the marriage. This also includes those whose parents became members.

Be an Active Duty, Reserve, or Guard member

this includes people who are currently serving in the United States Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, National Guard, Marines, and Reserves

Be a midshipmen or cadet

this includes midshipmen and cadets at United States service academies, affiliate academy preparatory schools, or ROTC members. It also applies to candidates within 24 months of commissioning.

Be a veteran

this includes those who have retired from the United States military with an honorable discharge.

The Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card is ideal for those in need of an everyday cash back rewards card. You’ll get 1% unlimited cash back anywhere you use your card with no annual fee. Plus, you’ll get 5% cash back on your first $3,000 spent at gas stations or on military bases within one year. You’ll also get 2% back on your first $3,000 spent on grocery store purchases each year. Qualifying purchases refer to items that post to your account. This does not include purchase credits or other adjustments.

Here is a list of items that do not qualify for cashback:

  • Purchase credits
  • Returns
  • Adjustment to your account
  • Balance transfers
  • Cash advances (such as convenience checks)
  • ATM withdrawals
  • Money transfers
  • Truck stop purchases
  • Gaming purchases
  • Tax payments
  • Finance charges
  • All fees (even ones used to buy goods or services)

Qualifying purchases at grocery stores include items that are identified as non-wholesale groceries to customers. You can redeem points on purchases made at supermarkets and grocery stores. However, groceries purchased at wholesale stores, such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Costo, do not qualify. Gas purchases must include automobile gasoline from gas stations, such as Shell and Exxon. Military base purchases must be made in the form of goods or services on United States military bases, including exchanges, shops, and commissaries.

How Does It Work?

The Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card allows you to earn cash back on the purchases you make. You will earn 2% cash back on the first $3,000 of your grocery purchases. This rule also applies to your gas station and military base purchases. You’ll earn 5% cash back on the first $3,000 you spend on those. Your cash back will return to 1% on these purchases after you reach your $3,000 limit. However, these benefits reset after one year. You can enjoy the same rates the following year until each limit is reached.

You can also redeem your cash back anytime from the app as long as your account is in good standing. You can’t be in violation of your USAA agreement or have outstanding late payments. Cash back can only be redeemed in increments of $1.00. You can use your cashback to pay off your balance. Keep in mind that joint account holders can redeem cashback on the account at anytime, too. If your account becomes delinquent, then you will not be able to redeem cash back.

What Does It Offer?

The Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card offers special benefits in addition to its cash back rewards. Most notably, there are no hidden fees. This includes annual fees, penalty APRs, sign-up fees or foreign transaction fees. Your USAA account is protected by top-notch security features. These include biometrics, Quick Logon, CyberCode text and computer recognition. USAA also provides extra support to make sure your identity is not stolen.

You’ll also enjoy numerous shopping and travel benefits, including emergency assistance and rental car insurance. There is a zero liability feature that does not hold you responsible for fraudulent charges on your account. You can also proudly display your military status by choosing a military affiliate card design. Customer service representatives are standing by 24/7 to help with questions. You can even contact them while you’re traveling to get help whenever you are. The following is a detailed list of your benefits as a Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® card holder.

Military Member 4% SCRA Rate

Military members will enjoy a special 4% APR on their current balance after entering active duty. This helps you save money on your existing balance or the balance you carry before your status changes. It’s good for the entire length of your active duty. You must submit the required paperwork 180 days before active duty to quality. You must also be a USAA member before active duty. Here are some account types that are eligible for the special 4% APR:

Personal loans

Home equity loans or lines of credit

Auto loans

Some life insurance policies

Credit card balances

Eligible mortgages

You may be denied this rate if you acquired your balance during or after active duty. You may also be denied if you don’t submit your request 180 days before your status changes. If you already applied this special 4% APR to your current balance once before, then you will not qualify again. You can also be denied if you’re a government contract employee.

Travel Benefits

You will be covered when you travel as long as you use your Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card to buy your tickets. The following is a list of travel benefits:

Auto rental car coverage

this feature allows you 31 days or protection when you reserve and pay for your rental car with your card. This includes built-in auto rental coverage, which protects you for theft, physical damage, reasonable towing, and loss of charges. All you have to do is decline the waiver that the rental car company offers. This will help you save money. Additional drivers must also be on the rental agreement.

Travel and emergency assistance

you can use this feature if you experience an emergency or illness while traveling anywhere in the world. Call the benefits center for help anytime of day or night. You can also use this service to get prescription refills, legal and medical referrals, and travel planning assistance. Call for help if you need to locate your lost luggage, replace travel documents, or speak to an attorney.

Trip interruption and cancellation

you’ll be covered for up to $1,500 per person if your trip is interrupted or canceled for a covered reason. This includes coverage for non-refundable prepaid passenger fare. You’ll be reimbursed if you become sick or an accident that involves one of your family members prevents you from traveling.

Travel accident insurance

this coverage protects you for loss of life or limb when you use your credit card to pay for your ticket. It’s good for travel via air, ferry, cruise ship, train, or bus. You’ll receive up to $500,000 for loss of hearing, speech, sight, or life, depending on the loss. This includes coverage during ground transportation as well as between terminals at the airport. You’ll also be covered right before you leave or after arrival on a covered trip.

Baggage delay coverage

your baggage is insured up to $100 per day for three days if it’s delayed for more than four hours. You can use this money to buy essentials, such as clothing, device chargers, and toiletries. You must use your card to buy your ticket to be eligible.

Shopping Benefits

In addition to earning cash back on all purchases, you’ll also be eligible for the following coverage (as long as you use your card to make the purchase):

Extended warranty protection

this option extends the United States manufacturer’s warranty on purchases for up to one extra year. You will need to register your purchases to be eligible for this protection.

Concierge services

concierge is always available to help 24/7. Call them if you need help picking out a gift or a place to eat. You can also have them arrange travel or entertainment tickets for you. They can recommend hotels, shopping areas, and fitness activities if you’re new to an area. You can also ask them about vaccinations or exchange rates when you travel. The concierge service also helps with business and specialty services.

Security Benefits

USAA takes steps to ensure your security. These include the following:

Identity theft resolution center

USAA will help you if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. This coverage assists you with notify the credit bureaus and replacing your card. The service also acts on your behalf to help you dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports. You can use this assistance until your case is complete.

Personal identity theft

this covers you for expenses that you incur after identity theft. You’ll get up to $1,000 in coverage to help you pay for the cost of credit reports, legal fees, and postage.

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card: Pros and Cons

The Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card is a great way to save on everyday purchases. This is especially true if you spend a lot of time on base. You’ll save the most on purchases up to $3,000 in the gas station and grocery store categories. After this, you’ll save 1% on everything you buy. Keep in mind that you must be a USAA member to qualify. Joining is free, but you’ll need to be a military member.

The website does not disclose certain terms, such as length term or credit limit. This information is likely based on your financial status and credit report. However, there are no annual fees, foreign transaction fees, sign-up fees. or penalty APRs to worry about. Plus, you’ll get excellent shopping and travel benefits. Here are some pros and cons to consider before you apply.

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus PROS

  • You will earn 5% cash back on combined gas and military base purchases up to $3,000 within the first year (this will drop to 1% after you hit your limit)
  • You will earn 2% cash back on grocery store purchases up to $3,000 within the first year (again, this drops to 1% after you hit $3,000)
  • You will earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • You can redeem your cash back anytime from your mobile app
  • Travel benefits, including rental car insurance, emergency assistance, travel accident insurance, and baggage delay coverage
  • You may qualify for 4% APR on current balances when you enter active duty
  • Identity theft protection and services, including up to $1,000 in coverage for identity theft
  • You may qualify for 4% APR on current balances when you enter active duty
  • There is no annual fee, start-up fee, foreign transaction fee or penalty APR
  • You are not held responsible for fraudulent charges on your account
  • 24/7 concierge services to help with travel, credit disputes, and more
  • Your information is protected by several high-tech tiers
  • Joint accounts are available
  • Military card affiliate card designs are available
  • Shopping benefits, including warranty extension

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus CONS

  • APRs range from 13.40% to 27.40%, which is high. The best way to ensure a low rate is to have good credit.
  • USAA does not list their credit limit or length terms on their website. This information is likely based on your credit history and cannot be generalized. You may want to inquire about this information before you apply to prevent the inquiry showing up on your report.
  • You must be a USAA member to apply. Becoming a member is free. However, you must be a military affiliate.

How to Apply USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Card

To apply, you’ll need to first become a USAA member. Joining is free. You will need to provide your personal information, including your military status. Military family members can also join. Once you’re a member, you can apply for the card. USAA does not have a prequalification process. You may want to inquire about specific terms before applying. All inquiries will likely end up on your credit report, which can affect your score.

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