USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card review: Not equally advantageous for all

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In a Nutshell

The USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card is a straightforward card with no annual fee, no rewards program and the potential for a low APR. But the higher end of its APR range could mean people who don’t have the credit profile to qualify for one of its lower rates can end up paying a lot of interest. Plus, USAA membership is mostly restricted to active and former service members and their families.

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Pros Cons
No annual fee No rewards program
Potentially low APR for purchases and balance transfers Potentially high APR for those with thin or bad credit
Special low APR for service members on active duty No 0% intro APR offer on either purchases or balance transfers
No foreign transaction fee Available only to USAA members
No penalty APR

 

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What you need to know about the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

The USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card is a no-frills credit card with a potentially low APR for purchases and balances and no annual fee. But it lacks intro APR offers for purchases or balance transfers and there’s no rewards program. It’s also available only to USAA members.

For USAA members only

First, it’s important to know that not just anyone can get this card. To apply for the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card, you’ll need to become a member of USAA. Membership is limited to cadets, midshipmen, veterans, active military members and eligible family members.

If you don’t fit this description, you’ll have to look for another credit card from another issuer.

Potential for a low APR, but no guarantee

The USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card has a regular variable APR of 8.90% - 25.90% on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.

You’ll generally need excellent credit to qualify for the lowest interest rates, which could help you pay less interest in case you need to carry a balance. But if you end up with an APR at the high end of the range, the interest costs could get expensive if you carry a balance from month to month.

In other words, the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card doesn’t guarantee a “rate advantage,” despite the promise of the card’s name. With an APR anywhere in the range of 8.90% - 25.90%, the lower end is well below the average APR for consumer credit cards listed by the Federal Reserve. But the high end of the card’s APR range includes rates more commonly seen from cards specifically marketed for building credit.

Before applying, consider what kind of APR you might qualify for with your credit history. If you have some derogatory marks on your credit reports, you might be better off looking for a card that offers more certainty in its rates.

Special APR during military deployment

There’s good news for active-duty military members: Eligible cardholders may qualify for lower rates with the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card, at least while deployed. If you have a balance on your card when you enter active duty, USAA offers a 4% APR on any outstanding balances from before deployment. That’s lower than the 6% APR for credit cards guaranteed by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

But anything charged to the card during or after active duty will see the standard rate you qualify for as a cardholder.

Some fees, but not many

When you use the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card, you won’t have to pay foreign transaction fees, penalty APRs or over-the-limit fees. Fee-free foreign transactions could be especially beneficial for servicemembers stationed abroad.

There’s also no annual fee. But note that the card also lacks a rewards program and sign-up bonus.

Cardholders are responsible for a handful of fees, including a 3% balance transfer fee and a late payment fee of up to $35. There’s also a 3% cash advance fee, though it’s not applied when transferring the funds to a USAA checking account.

Other stuff to know about the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

Though there’s no rewards program, this credit card offers a lineup of core benefits. Here are a few.

  • Shopping protections, including price protection and an extended warranty
  • Coverage when you travel, such as car rental insurance and travel accident and baggage delay insurance
  • Identity theft resolution services to help you notify credit bureaus, check your credit reports, and replace your credit card if you’re a victim of identity theft

Who this card is good for

The USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card doesn’t come with many bells and whistles. But it could be a good fit if you’re not looking for rewards — and if you have the credit profile to qualify for the lower end of its APR range. That’s especially true if you think a rewards program might entice you into spending more just to earn more points or cash back.

It could also be useful for anyone who’d like to build credit without distractions. Just be careful about carrying a balance, because this card could end up costing you in interest charges, especially if you only qualify for an APR on the higher end of its range.

Of course, many of these details might not matter as much to you as working with an organization that understands the details of military life. Aside from its credit card offerings, USAA also provides benefits like deployment advice, advance military pay, free limited home security during deployment and the option to apply for VA home loans.

Not sure this is the card for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Discover it® Cash Back: This could be a good fit if you want a card with no annual fee that offers rewards.
  • USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card: This card is a good fit if you like the idea of a USAA credit card but would prefer a rewards program.