Review: USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Credit Card

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Credit card companies often have teams of people running over ten thousand experiments every year trying to find the best way to discourage transactors, people who pay off their credit card every month, and encourage revolvers, people who don’t pay off their credit card every month. Their goal is trying to determine how to maximize and entice the credit payments from revolvers, while minimizing the giveaways, especially for the superusers who take advantage of every reward and perk offered. The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express credit card does not participate in these offers and is a good addition to the purchase options in your wallet.

I am on the border of being a superuser. There are people who are much more sophisticated than I am at taking advantage of the credit card companies. I know that if I slip, some free burrito may end up costing me $50. I like to set my life up so that I have a routine. Decisions which cost me time and effort are expensive. Things that happen automatically are genius.

Recently, I signed up for a USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express credit card. This card offers 5% cash back on your first $3,000 of gas station purchases. My intention was to use this card exclusively for gasoline purchases. The 5% cash back is also good on military base purchases using the same shared $3,000 limit.

Getting a USAA credit card requires that you have a family member who served in the military. My father, George Marotta, served in World War II and already had a USAA account.

The offer for 5% cash back is a great offer. There are no incentive offers for signing up.

Since signing up I have put all my gasoline purchases on this credit card and each purchase has received 5% cash back.

One thing I’ve learned about credit cards is that the categories are entirely dependent on the correct categorization with a specific card of a company’s primary business. I’ve seen the same business categorized three entirely different ways with VISA, Mastercard, and American Express. That categorization, not what you purchased, will ultimately determine your rewards. For example, purchasing a sandwich at The Market at Bellair does not count as dining, but does count as gasoline and receives the 5% cash back.

I made sure that all the various marketing was turned off on this card. You have to do this periodically (every three years) in order to make sure that you avoid as much marketing as possible.

I set an alert to automatically notify me if I make a purchase over $1. This is the best fraud alert that I have found. Any time after using my credit card I will receive an email telling me that I made a purchase. This is quick enough that I have not forgotten about my purchase but delayed enough to remind me what my purchase costs.

I then also set my entire credit card bill to automatically pay from my checking account each month.

And I set the bill to come to me via postal mail in order to have a written record of my purchases and also in order to remind me that money will be flowing out of my checking account.

And I set my credit card to automatically apply my cash rewards to my credit card balance. Since I was able to pick what day of the month the cashback rewards would be redeemed, I picked two days before my credit card balance would be automatically paid.

This is a fairly easy way to receive a 5% reward for my gasoline purchases.

Background photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash. Screenshot of Cashback Rewards Plus American Express credit card from

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President, CFP®, AIF®, AAMS®

David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.