What could be improved
The drawbacks really limit the value of this card, especially when it comes to the intro offer and rewards.
No intro APR on purchases
The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Credit Card doesn’t come with any kind of introductory APR offer on new purchases. This means your purchases will be subject to the go-to APR right from the get-go. The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Credit Card comes with an intro APR on balance transfers, but as we describe below, the value of that offer is limited due to the lack of an intro APR on new purchases.
Bonus categories have low annual limits
We touched on this briefly above, but it’s really worth mentioning twice: There are annual purchase limits for the bonus categories. While this isn’t uncommon — many cards with high rewards rates have some sort of cap on how much you can earn — this card’s limits are pretty low.
You only get the 5% back on up to $3,000 in combined gas and military base purchases each year. That comes out to just $250 a month. Depending on gas prices and your other on-base expenses, you could blow past that fairly quickly. Similarly, the 2% rate on grocery purchases also has its own $3,000 annual cap. This breaks down to a little over $57 a week in groceries, which isn’t much when you’re feeding a family.
Comparable grocery rewards cards have caps in the $6,000 range — or none at all. And while you won’t find a lot of other cards that can compete with the rate on gas or military base spending, that cap certainly limits the value of those bonus categories.
Must be a USAA member to apply
USAA is a credit union, which means everyone who uses its services must be a member. So, to apply for the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Credit Card, you first need to apply for USAA membership. Unfortunately, membership isn’t open to just anyone. You must be one of the following:
- Active duty member of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine, Navy, National Guard, or Reserves
- Veteran of the U.S. military with an Honorable discharge
- Current spouse, widow/widower, or unremarried former spouse of USAA member (member must have joined before or during the marriage)
- Children whose parents are USAA members
- Cadets and midshipmen at U.S. service academies or prep schools in advanced ROTC or on ROTC scholarship, or officer candidates within 24 months of commissioning
As part of the application process, you’ll need to disclose your branch of service, rank, and either your entry to service date (active duty) or your service start and end dates (veterans).