USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Review: Higher Spending Means a Higher Cash Back Rate

Oct 06, 2016 | Be First to Comment!

USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature

While some cash back credit cards make you jump through lots of hoops to earn rewards, USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature@ keeps things simple. This card offers up to 1.25% cash back on every purchase, which makes it ideal for someone who wants to score some extra money for all their spending.

This card, like every USAA credit card, is designed for USAA members and has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees. Besides the cash back program, this card also comes loaded with extras that can make your life easier if you’re a member of the military.

Spend More to Earn Cash Back Even Faster

One of the hardest parts of picking a cash back rewards credit card is finding one that fits your spending style. Luckily, USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature@ gives you some freedom and flexibility when it comes to earning rewards.

As mentioned earlier, this card pays up to 1.25% cash back on everything you spend. That means you can get cash rewards when you’re stocking up on groceries, paying your electric bill, booking travel plans, or fueling up for an afternoon drive.

This is great for someone who doesn’t want to worry about different bonus rewards categories and limits. There is one slight wrinkle, however. To earn the maximum 1.25% cash back, you have to reach a certain spending threshold each year. The table below illustrates how the card’s rewards rate breaks down.

USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature Cash Back Tiers

Amount Spent on Qualifying Purchases Cash Back Earned
$0 to $5,000 0.45% of Qualifying Purchases (maximum of $22.50)
$5,000 to $10,000 $22.50 + 0.85% on the next $5,000 of Qualifying Purchases (combined maximum amount of $65.00)
$10,000 to $17,000 $65.00 + 1% on the next $7,000 of Qualifying Purchases (combined maximum amount of $135.00)
$17,000+ $135.00 + 1.25% on all Qualifying Purchases made thereafter (no maximum amount)

As you can see, to get the 1.25% rate, you have to charge at least $17,000 in qualifying purchases to your card each year. That comes out to about $1,417 in spending per month.

Here’s an example to illustrate how much cash back you stand to earn if you’re a heavy spender. If you make $25,000 in purchases, you’d earn $135 cash back for hitting the $17,000 spend mark. You’d then earn 1.25% cash back on the $8,000 you spend above that, which equals $100. Altogether, you’d earn $235 back for the year.

For someone who doesn’t spend at least $17,000 a year, the rewards rate is obviously going to be lower. If you only make $12,000 in purchases, you’d earn $65 for the first $10,000 in purchases, plus another $20 for the $2,000 over that amount ($85 total cash back).

Lacks a new account bonus

If you’re looking for a big cash back bonus right off the bat, you may be disappointed with this card. Unlike some cards, which give you a few hundred dollars in cash back when you meet the minimum spending requirement, USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature@ has no introductory bonus.

Redeeming rewards

The cash rewards you earn during a calendar year can be redeemed as a deposit into your USAA checking or savings account. You can also get your cash rewards as a statement credit to help pay for past purchases. You can redeem your cash back at any time and in any amount, as long as your account is open and in good standing.

Interest Rate Benefits During Active Military Service

As an added incentive to sign up for the card, USAA includes special banking benefits for military members who are deployed, receive PCS orders, are serving on active duty, or earn a medal while on a campaign. Here’s what you get when you open a USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature@ account:

  • Discount APR on balances while deployed. If you get deployed or receive PCS orders, USAA can reduce your annual percentage rate on any existing balances to 4% for up to 12 months.
  • Discount APR on balances while on active duty. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows for active duty service members to qualify for a 6% reduced APR on any credit or loan balances they owe. USAA lowers the rate to 4%.
  • Interest and finance charge rebates. If you’re carrying a balance on your card while you’re serving on a campaign or earn a medal for distinguished service, you may be able to have all the interest and finance charges that accrued while you were away refunded to you.

These reduced interest rates can come in handy to minimize your interest charges significantly.

Tip: If there’s a specific benefit you’re interested in, contact USAA to find out if you’re eligible.

Many Perks for Travel and Shopping

As if cash rewards and banking benefits aren’t enough, this card also comes with a number of Visa Signature® travel, security, and shopping perks. These bonus features can come in handy if you’re taking a trip or planning a big purchase.

Travel benefits

  • 24/7 concierge service. If you need help planning a vacation or scheduling reminders for important events, USAA Visa Signature Concierge service is there to help. Personal concierge assistants are standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Emergency travel and roadside assistance services. Running into trouble while you’re away from home can be a headache - but this card has you covered. You can get help with arranging medical transport back home, setting up wire transfers if you need cash, or connecting with a tow truck if your car breaks down.
  • Worldwide travel accident, baggage delay, and trip cancellation insurance. As a Visa Signature member, you’re covered for up to $500,000 in travel accident insurance, up to $100 per day for baggage delays, and up to $1,500 if your trip is canceled or interrupted.
  • Worldwide rental car insurance. If you’re getting a rental car for any reason, your card offers you liability protection for theft or physical damage.

Shopping benefits

Your USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature@ comes with price protection and an extended warranty program built in. The extended warranty covers you for an additional year beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. Price protection allows you to get up to $250 of an item’s purchase price refunded to you if you see it somewhere else for less within 120 days of charging it to your card.

Security protections

This card features EMV chip technology, which gives you an added layer of security protection when you’re shopping in stores. You can also take advantage of identity theft resolution services and identity fraud expense reimbursement if you’re a victim of identity theft.

The Regular APR Can Vary Greatly

This card is good if you don’t want fees detracting from your rewards. The only fees you really have to worry about are the 3% fee that applies to balance transfers and cash advances and the fee for returned and late payments, which goes up to $35.

The card features an APR range that’s comparable to what other rewards cards offer. Your individual rate is based on your creditworthiness. A higher credit score is the ticket if you want to get the best rate possible. On the lower end of the spectrum, you can get a very low APR to help minimize any interest you might incur. On the higher end, you may also get a very high APR - higher than many other cash back credit cards out there.

Tip: If your credit rating needs some help, using a credit card to improve your score is one way to give it a boost.

USAA Membership Reserved for Military Families

If you want to apply for this card or any USAA credit card, you first have to become a USAA member. Membership is extended to:

  • Active, retired, and honorably separated officers and enlisted personnel of the US military
  • Officer candidates in commissioning programs (Academy, ROTC, OCS/OTS)
  • The spouses, widows, adult children, and stepchildren of USAA members

If you don’t meet any of those criteria, then you won’t be able to get a USAA credit card.

How It Fares Against Other USAA Cards

The USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature@ is just one of many rewards cards USAA offers. To put things in perspective, we’ve highlighted three other choices that are worth considering.

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express®

Card features:

  • Earn 5% cash back on gas and military base purchases, up to a combined $3,000 in spending each year
  • Earn 2% cash back at supermarkets on the first $3,000 in purchases each year
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

If you do most of your spending on gas, military base purchases, or groceries, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® may catch your eye. Assuming you max out the 5% and 2% bonus categories each year, you’ll earn $210 cash back. That’s roughly the same as the example we gave for the USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature@ earlier - but you don’t have to spend nearly as much to do it. We’d suggest this card if you want to max out your cash back but you’re a more low-key spender.

USAA Cash Rewards American Express®

Card features:

  • Earn up to 2.25% cash back on gas and groceries
  • Earn up to 1.25% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

USAA Cash Rewards American Express® allows you to earn up to 2.25% cash back on gas groceries, along with up to 1.25% cash back on all other purchases. Like USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature®, you have to get to $17,000 in purchases before the higher rewards rate kicks in. If you normally spend that much or more each year, this card might give you a little more cash back mileage than USAA Cashback Rewards Visa Signature®.

USAA Preferred Cash Rewards® VISA Signature®

Card features:

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

USAA Preferred Cash Rewards® VISA Signature® falls in the middle of the pack as far as USAA’s cash back cards go. This card pays 1.5% cash back on everything you spend and you don’t have to hit a preset spending limit to get that rate. If you were to spend $17,000 a year with the card, you’d earn $255 cash back. That might make it more tempting than the USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature@ if you want more rewards with no added hassles.

Here is a quick comparison of the USAA cash back credit cards:

USAA Cash Back Credit Cards Comparison

Credit Card Cash Back Program Annual Fee
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Earn 5% cash back on the first $3,000 spent combined annually in gas and military base purchases. Earn 2% cash back on the first $3,000 spent annual on groceries. Earn unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. $0
USAA Cash Rewards American Express Earn up to 2.25% cash back on gas and groceries. Earn up to 1.25% cash back on everything else. The actual cash back rate varies depending on annual spending -- requires $17,000 in annual spending to get the highest cash back rate. $0
USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature Earn 1.5% cash back on everything. $0
USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature Earn up to 1.25% cash back on everything else. The actual cash back rate varies depending on annual spending -- requires $17,000 in annual spending to get the highest cash back rate. $0

Final Verdict: For People Who Want a Simple Cash Back Card

USAA Cash Rewards Visa Signature@ is one we’d recommend to people who spend a lot on their credit cards each year. We would, however, caution that this card is better for someone who pays their balance in full each month because the upper end of the APR range is on the high side.

Ultimately, you should think about getting this card if you want a simple cash back credit card with no annual fee. Ideally, you can qualify for USAA Preferred Cash Rewards® VISA Signature®, which pays 1.5% cash back on everything. Otherwise, this card is a good alternative.

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