Review: USAA Rewards American Express

Money Talks News

Some credit card users have simply had it with banks. Banks behaving badly was one of the major causes of the financial meltdown, as well as an irritating source of fees.

If you can relate, you might find privately held USAA to be an attractive alternative. San Antonio-based USAA was founded in 1922 to provide car insurance to soldiers, and today offers a full range of financial services to members of the Armed Forces, as well as their immediate families. But anyone can apply for a credit card or open a checking or savings account with USAA regardless of whether they have served in the military. The USAA Rewards American Express card offers competitive rewards with no annual fee.

Advantages

  • Earn rewards. One point is earned for each dollar spent on all purchases, with double points from gas stations and grocery stores.
  • Redeem reward points. Once earned, points can be redeemed for cash, merchandise, or travel rewards. Points are worth less than one cent each for cash and merchandise. On the other hand, airline travel rewards return 1 cent per point in value.
  • Low fees. There is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 1 percent foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside the United States.

Disadvantages

  • Low sign-up bonus. New cardmembers can earn 2,500 points after their first purchase. This is worth $25 at most.
  • No promotional financing. Many credit cards offer 0 percent APR promotional financing offers on new purchases and balance transfers. This card does not.
  • Variable return on awards . Their award chart offers different levels of value depending on how many points you redeem. This makes it more complicated while returning less value in many cases.

Bottom line

Get it if: You are looking for an alternative to credit cards from regular banks but still want competitive rewards.

Forget it if: You want a strong promotional financing offer or a big sign-up bonus.

Note: While we attempt to be completely objective when reporting on credit cards, this site may be compensated by issuers when a reader applies for a credit card through the links within credit card stories or on our credit card search page.

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