USAA Credit Cards & Rewards Program – How To Earn & Redeem Points [2021]

USAA soldier on phone
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USAA is most famous for offering military members and their family members state-of-the-art financial products and services.

Oddly enough, however, USAA actually stands for United Services Automobile Association, which is somewhat of a misnomer (you might think this was some sort of credit union for car owners).

Founded in 1922, this San Antonio-headquartered company boasts a full suite of services, including banking, investment, and even insurance!

In this guide, we’ll be examining a sub-section of USAA’s banking services: its rewards credit cards.

Let’s begin!

What Is USAA Rewards?

As you can probably imagine, USAA Rewards is the name given to the bank’s loyalty program.

It’s important to note that you must be from a military family to become a free member of USAA and qualify for a USAA Rewards card, which includes:

  • Active duty, National Guard and Reserve officers, and enlisted personnel
  • Veterans with an Honorable discharge
  • Spouses, former spouses/widows/widowers, and adult children of USAA members
  • Officer candidates in commissioning programs and contracted cadets and midshipmen

The points you earn and redeem are called USAA points. As long as your account is open and in good standing, your USAA points will not expire. However, if your account is closed (either voluntarily or involuntarily), then you have 90 days to redeem your rewards before they are forfeited. You can also transfer USAA points to any other cardholder with a USAA Rewards credit card.

USAA uses both Visa and American Express cards within its portfolio of credit cards. You can earn rewards on all qualifying purchases, which excludes balance transfers, cash advances, ATM cash disbursements, money transfers, truck stop transactions, gaming transactions, tax payments, finance charges, fees, and cash equivalents.

USAA Rewards Points Cards

USAA points can be earned with either of the 2 USAA Rewards credit cards. Both of them are personal credit cards — USAA doesn’t have a business credit card in this realm.

USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card

USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card. Image Credit: USAA

The flagship USAA credit card is the USAA Rewards Amex card that offers big benefits with no annual fee.

This credit card usually comes with a small welcome bonus after your first purchase — to sweeten the deal, you’ll earn as per the following structure:

  • 3x points per $1 spent on dining out
  • 2x points per $1 spent on gas and groceries
  • 1x points per $1 spent on all other purchases

Your earning is uncapped, which means that are no limits to the bonus spending you can earn points on.

This credit card offers primary rental car coverage if renting outside of your country of residence and secondary rental car coverage if renting within your country of residence; it also comes with trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay reimbursement, travel accident insurance, and travel/emergency assistance.

Furthermore, you’ll enjoy extended warranty coverage, identity theft resolution services, personal identity theft reimbursement, zero fraud liability, and access to a 24/7 concierge.

As we mentioned above, the USAA Rewards Amex card doesn’t have an annual fee and also doesn’t incur foreign transaction fees!

USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card

USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card
USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card. Image Credit: USAA

The second (and last) USAA Rewards product is the USAA Rewards Visa card, which has plenty to love, too!

To start, you’ll almost always find an identical welcome bonus to what’s offered to new cardholders of the Amex version.

But you’ll notice that the rewards structure is reduced:

  • 2x points per $1 spent on dining out
  • 2x points per $1 spent on gas
  • 1x points per $1 spent on all other purchases

In comparison to the USAA Rewards Amex card, this card will earn you 1 point per dollar less on dining out and groceries.

You’ll enjoy all of the same benefits, including rental car coverage (secondary if renting inside your country of residence, primary elsewhere), trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay reimbursement, travel accident insurance, a 24/7 concierge, extended warranty, and more.

Notably, this credit card also comes with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Bottom Line: The USAA Rewards Amex card earns 1 more point per dollar spent on dining out and groceries, but the USAA Rewards Visa card is more widely accepted around the world. See our comparison of Amex vs. Visa for more details on the differences, acceptance, and perks.

USAA Cashback Rewards Cards

USAA has a different set of credit cards for those interested in stable, cash-back rewards.

In total, there are 2 USAA credit cards that deliver cash-back, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

Let’s take a look at our options.

Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card. Image Credit: USAA

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card is the best cash-back credit card USAA offers.

Although you won’t typically get access to a welcome bonus, what you will get is access to up to 5% cash-back in rewards:

  • Earn 5% cash-back on your first $3,000 in combined gas station and military base purchases yearly
  • Earn 2% cash-back on your first $3,000 in grocery purchases yearly
  • Earn 1% cash-back on all other purchases

As you can see, this is our first credit card with bonus category limits, so just be sure you keep track of that when making purchases.

With the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card, you’ll get all the same benefits as the USAA Rewards cards above, including rental car coverage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, travel accident insurance, baggage delay and reimbursement, identity theft resolution, zero fraud liability, and 24/7 concierge service.

There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fees with the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card.

Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Image Credit: USAA

Our last credit card product is the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa card, which has a different appeal.

Just like the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card above, you’ll rarely find an introductory welcome bonus on this card.

What’s special about this card, however, is that instead of bonus categories like military base purchases, you’ll earn a flat 1.5% cash-back on all qualifying purchases with no category restrictions.

Your potential rewards are infinite because there aren’t any caps on spending.

Of course, you’ll also get travel perks such as baggage delay coverage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, travel accident insurance, auto rental coverage, and more.

Just like every other card above, there are no annual fees or foreign transaction fees.

How To Redeem USAA Rewards Points

So after you’ve earned your points, the next thing to do is redeem them! You can currently redeem USAA points in the following ways:

  • Airline travel
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards
  • Cash
  • Charitable contributions
  • Cruise travel

The most you’ll get from your redemptions will be 1 cent per point when booking cruises and airfare.

You’ll get around 0.9 cents per point when redeeming for cash-back, around 0.8 cents per point when redeeming for charity, and around 0.7 cents per point when redeeming for gift cards.

Sadly, this isn’t a competitive redemption rate. Nonetheless, you can redeem your points by logging into your online USAA account or calling the USAA Rewards Service Center at 800-980-8722 (to redeem points for a cruise, you’ll need to call 800-571-4208).

How To Redeem USAA Cashback Rewards

It’s much simpler to redeem your cash-back because there’s just 1 redemption option: cash-back!

You must redeem your cash-back in increments of $1.

To use or check your cash-back rewards balance, log into your online account or call 800-980-8722.

Final Thoughts

All in all, USAA offers a great incentive structure and schedule of fees, considering a total absence of any annual fees.

If you happen to be an eligible military member, you can enjoy no foreign transaction fees, annual fees, and a decent rewards structure on a few different bonus categories like dining and grocery.

Hopefully, you found this guide useful in learning more about USAA’s credit cards and rewards program.


The information regarding the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card, USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card, Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card, and Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 


Frequently asked questions

What is the best USAA credit card?

The best USAA Rewards Points card is the USAA Rewards Amex card, while the best USAA Cashback Rewards card is the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card. 

Who is eligible for USAA credit cards?

You don’t have to be in the military to get a USAA credit card. If you fall under any of these categories, you are eligible for a USAA credit card:

  • Active duty, National Guard and Reserve officers, and enlisted personnel
  • Veterans with an Honorable discharge
  • Spouses, former spouses/widows/widowers, and adult children of USAA members
  • Officer candidates in commissioning programs and contracted cadets and midshipmen

Can I get a USAA credit card with bad credit?

Most likely, the best cards for you if you have bad credit or are looking to pay a low interest rate are the USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card or the USAA Secured Visa Platinum® Credit Card.

Can you join USAA If you are not military?

Yes. However, you need to be affiliated in one of these ways to the military:

  • Active duty, National Guard and Reserve officers, and enlisted personnel
  • Veterans with an Honorable discharge
  • Spouses, former spouses/widows/widowers, and adult children of USAA members
  • Officer candidates in commissioning programs and contracted cadets and midshipmen
Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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4 comments

  1. Can you get rewards by paying a bill off with your credit card?

    Reply

  2. I have the USAA Secured American Express Card – and don’t see that option reflecting among the USAA cards referenced in this list. Is my card no longer included in receiving rewards?

    Reply

    • Hi Jenn,

      That card is no longer open to new applicants, but you might still be earning rewards on the card. The best thing to do is put some purchases on the card and see if you get rewards.

      Thanks.

      Reply

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