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USAA Credit Cards: Everything You Need To Know

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

USAA offers 14 credit cards out of which two are noteworthy deals for consumers – the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card and the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card. These cards fill very specific purposes, which should fulfill the needs of most consumers. In case they don’t, this article will also provide consumers with non-USAA alternatives for each category.

The Best USAA Credit Cards Are…

Best USAA Credit Card Overall: USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
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The USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card makes the top of the list due to its above-average rewards rate on all purchases. No matter where you shop, you will get 1.5% cash back by using the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card – that is an above-average rate of return as far as credit cards are concerned. While some cards can give you 2% cash back, these rewards are frequently limited to certain categories – such as gas, groceries, or supermarkets. When it comes to other purchases those other cards will giving you just 1% -- meaning you'll get 50% more rewards in those other categories by sticking to the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card. If you’re someone who values simplicity, the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card will work well for you. Simply swipe your card, and collect the cash back rewards without having to worry about optimizing for certain categories.

Best Alternative: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Like the card above, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® lets you earn 1.5% anywhere you shop. You'll also earn a $150 sign-up bonus after spending $500 within the first three months of account opening. Unfortunately, most of the USAA credit cards do not come with any sign-up bonus either, and the few that do offer very little to consumers. One further thing to note: the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards family of credit cards, which allows you to combine it with other UR cards to improve your rewards. This feature is what made the Chase Freedom Unlimited® one of ValuePenguin's Top Cash Back Credit Cards of 2019.

Best USAA Credit Card for Those On Active Duty & Working On Base: USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
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The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card has a unique rewards category that earns users very high cash back rates at military base purchases -- 5%. This makes it uniquely beneficial for those who work on military bases -- whether in a military or civilian capacity. Cardholders can also get 5% back on gas purchases. Know that these 5% rewards rates are capped at the first $3,000 in combined annual purchases. When the card is used at supermarkets it gives a respectable 2% back on up to a separate $3,000 annually. All other shopping will net just 1% back. The 5% rate is what really makes this card stand out for those who are currently working in military bases and find themselves shopping frequently at commissaries, exchanges and shopettes. No other card can match these rewards.

Best Alternative: PenFed Platinum Rewards VISA Signature® Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards VISA Signature® Card
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While no card can match the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card for on-base purchases, the PenFed Platinum Rewards shines on other, similar, categories. You get a 5% rewards rate for purchases at the pump, 3% at supermarkets and 1% everywhere else. That makes the card ideal for dealing with some essential purchases military personnel may deal with when back home. You must be a member of the PenFed Credit Union to apply for this card. If you or a relative are a member of the military, or a federal government employee you can qualify.

Best Alternative if You Have Bad Credit: Discover it® Secured

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The Discover it® Secured made ValuePenguin’s list of Top Secured Credit Cards and Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit 2018. These accolades aren’t unwarranted. This is one of the only credit cards available to those with bad credit to also offer a rewards program -- all this with $0 annual fee. Users get 1% cash back on every purchase, and 2% back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Discover will also double the cash back new cardmembers earn at the end of their first year. That means this card effectively has a 2%-4% rewards rate during the first 12 months – that’s better than even some of the top cash back credit cards out there. If you want to learn more about the Discover it® Secured, check out our review here.

Comments and Questions

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).