The 4 best USAA credit cards of 2021

Young family with the best USAA credit cardImage: Young family with the best USAA credit card

In a Nutshell

USAA offers several credit cards to meet the needs of active and former servicemembers and their families. Read on for our picks for USAA’s best credit cards for earning points in bonus categories, cash back on base, simple cash back and saving on interest.
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These offers are no longer available on our site: USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card, USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card, USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card, USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

USAA advertises seven different credit cards offered to members, each with its own unique perks and benefits.

To help you pick the best one for your situation, we’ve reviewed all the current USAA offerings and selected the top cards for specific groups of customers.

Just keep in mind, USAA membership is limited to U.S. military members, their families, and cadets and midshipmen from service academies.

Best for earning points in bonus categories: USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card

Here’s why: The USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card offers up three points for every $1 spent on dining out, two points per $1 on groceries and one point per $1 on all other purchases.

Cardholders don’t have to worry about rotating points categories and face no limits or caps on the rewards they can earn. Plus, points can be redeemed for gift cards, cash or travel. You can even use your points to make donations to participating charities.

Check out our editorial review of the USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card for more information.

Best for earning cash back on base: USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

Here’s why: If you or your spouse is active duty, there’s a good chance you do much of your shopping on base. That means you may miss out on cash back bonuses offered by other card issuers that reward shopping at civilian stores.

Thankfully, the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card can provide you with cash back for your on-base purchases.

This card offers 5% cash back on gas purchases and on purchases made on military bases (on your first $3,000 in combined spending in those categories per year). You’ll also get 2% cash back on supermarket purchases (on your first $3,000 of spending in the category each year). After you hit those spending limits, you’ll earn 1% on those (and all other) purchases.

And this card’s foreign transaction fees? None. This could come in handy if you have to make purchases off base in another country.

Learn more from cardholder reviews of the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card.

Best for simple cash back: USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Here’s why: If you’re looking for flat-rate cash back that won’t require you to track your spending in various categories, the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card may be the best choice for you.

This card provides 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no rewards caps or limits, so you don’t need to worry about earning fewer points once you hit a purchase cap. Plus, your cash back rewards can be redeemed any time.

Read more in our editorial review of the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card.

Best for saving on interest: USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

Here’s why: This card gives you a variable APR range of 6.9% – 23.9% (based on your credit profile and other factors) on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. No other USAA card offers a lower potential rate.

Also, like other cards on this list, it charges a $0 annual fee — and its penalty APR? None.

Check out our review of the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card for more details.

How we picked these cards

USAA doesn’t offer as many credit card options as some other issuers, but it does have cards that cater to various types of consumers.

We considered how your spending might vary at different points in your life, from when you’re living on base to when your career has advanced and you may be spending bigger or traveling more.

Next, we compared the features of each USAA card to determine what might be best for different kinds of spending. We looked carefully at potential rewards-earning rates and APRs and fees, balancing the various positives and negatives against one another to end up with our picks.

How to make the most of these USAA credit cards

If you’re going to use a USAA credit card, you should try to avoid carrying a balance whenever possible. While the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card can offer a lower regular APR than other USAA cards, if you end up in the higher end of its APR range it could still end up proving quite expensive.

You should try to avoid using a USAA credit card to transfer a balance, too. That’s because there’s no low promotional APR for balance transfers to help you avoid accumulating interest right after your transfer.

That said, USAA members have plenty of other ways to save money with these credit cards. For instance, each of our picks includes both no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. Those features could be especially beneficial for military members and families that don’t know exactly how much spending they’ll do in the United States or abroad while on active duty.

About the author: Christy Rakoczy Bieber is a full-time personal finance and legal writer. She is a graduate of UCLA School of Law and the University of Rochester. Christy was previously a college teacher with experience writing textbo… Read more.