Rebuilding Credit: Military Personnel Should Consider the USAA Classic American Express Credit Card

By Christina Majaski. Last updated 27 June 2017. 0 comments

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Editor's note: This offer is currently unavailable. For a similar card, check out the USAA Secured Card Visa Platinum.

If you have had credit problems in the past or are just starting out, it can be difficult qualifying for a credit card that helps you build a good credit rating. Most of the time, consumers have no choice but secured credit cards, which require tying up funds in security deposits while you rebuild your credit. (See our favorite secured credit cards for rebuilding credit.)

However, there are also credit cards, such as the USAA Classic American Express®, for those with less than stellar credit that are unsecured and designed for consumers in the process of building or rebuilding credit. Military personnel and family members whose credit rating falls within the "average" category, and prefer an unsecured card over secured for building credit, should consider the USAA Classic American Express. (See also: Best Credit Cards for Fair/Average Credit)

Why We Like This Card

  • Special military benefits
  • No security deposit required

How This Card Works

Applicants must be a USAA member, open to active or retired military personnel and certain family members. This is a basic card with no rewards, but it offers perks and benefits for military personnel. 

Other Benefits

Extended warranty. This card includes extended warranty for purchases made with the card that extends the manufacturer or U.S. store brand warranty for up to one year.

Military benefits. You can receive the same military benefits that USAA offers all cardholders, which include special opportunities to qualify for a 4% APR during deployment, PCS, or active duty. You can also qualify for a rebate of finance charges accrued while you are serving in a qualified military campaign.

Pros

Rebuild credit without a security deposit. An unsecured card means there is no security deposit required. You receive a credit card with a line of credit, and when you use your card and make your payments on time, you can build a good credit rating.

For average credit. Average credit ratings often start in the low 600s, often a result of a small credit file or minor credit problems in the past. An average score isn't considered "poor" credit, which is generally in the 500s to low 600s, but approval for unsecured credit cards can be just as difficult.

Special military benefits. Benefits such as special rates specific to your military service can especially come in handy and help you save money while you are repairing your credit.

No foreign transaction fee. Cards without foreign transaction fees are often reserved for higher credit ratings and carry larger annual fees. Fortunately, this card does not charge a foreign transaction fee, which makes it ideal for people with average credit ratings who plan on making many purchases outside of the U.S.

Cons

High APR. The APR is among the highest for credit cards, with even a handful of secured credit cards offering a lower APR. This is less of a disadvantage if you pay your balance in full each month rather than carrying a balance from month to month, because you can avoid paying interest on your purchases. If, however, you consistently carry balances, you should use a card with a lower APR.

No rewards program or extra perks. Although it isn't expected, this is a pretty basic card and does not include any rewards programs or extra card perks. The entire purpose is to provide an opportunity to rebuild or build credit with an unsecured credit card. (See also: Best Credit Cards for Fair/Average Credit)

Who This Card Is Best For

The USAA Classic American Express is best for military personnel and qualifying family members who are in the process of rebuilding or establishing a good credit rating. It is one of only a few unsecured credit cards available for people who have "average" credit ratings and might not qualify for other credit cards. Because of the APR, the card is best for those who are diligent in paying balances in full each month.

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