PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
vs. USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

Updated: June 24, 2024

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Both the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card and the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card offer compelling cash back rewards without annual fees, appealing to savvy spenders. However, the PenFed Power Cash Rewards edges out slightly with a higher cash back potential for PenFed Honors Advantage Members and a lower required credit score, making it more accessible.

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus offers up to 5% cash back in specific categories, but the lack of a welcome bonus and a higher credit requirement might limit its appeal. Still, this card's targeted rewards are worth considering for those who frequently spend at gas stations and military bases.

Credit Card logo for PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Credit Card logo for USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

  • Regular APR
    17.99% variable
    17.15% – 29.15% variable
    0% APR Offer
    -
    -
    Intro Offer
    Earn $100 Bonus Offer Statement Credit
    -
    Rewards Summary
    Earn 1.5% – 2% cash back
    Earn 1% – 5% cash back
    Balance Transfer Offer
    0% Introductory Balance Transfer APR for 12 months
    0% Intro APR for 15 months
    Balance Transfer Fee
    3% fee applies to each transaction
    5% of the amount of each Balance Transfer
    Annual Fee
    $0
    $0
    Recommended Credit
    670–850 (Good to Excellent)
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
    Penalty APR
    17.99%
    None
    Not sure?

Which Card Is Better for You?

You might prefer the PenFed Power Cash Rewards if you value simplicity in your rewards program. This card keeps it straightforward with a flat cash back rate on all purchases and a potential for higher earnings for PenFed Honors Advantage Members. The absence of an annual fee and a competitive balance transfer offer can make it a solid choice for many consumers.

You might prefer the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus if you spend a lot on gas and groceries. With up to 5% cash back in these categories, you can maximize your rewards where it counts. Additionally, the longer 0% introductory APR period on balance transfers can provide valuable breathing room if you're planning to pay down existing debt.

Head-to-Head Comparison: Card Details and Features

Evaluating APRs, fees, credit requirements, rewards and other features clarifies which card aligns with your financial needs. For instance, if you're a military member who frequents base gas stations, USAA Cashback Rewards Plus could be lucrative. Conversely, PenFed Power Cash Rewards may appeal to those seeking consistent cash back on all purchases. Assess each card's details to pinpoint the one that fits your spending habits.

    discount icon

    Regular APR: USAA Cashback Rewards Plus

    For regular APR, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus could be better for those who qualify for the lower end of its APR range, offering rates from 17.15% to 31.15% variable. In contrast, the PenFed Power Cash Rewards has an APR of 17.99% variable.

    annualFee icon

    Annual Fee: Tie

    Both the PenFed Power Cash Rewards and the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus have no annual fee, making them equally attractive for those looking to avoid extra costs.

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    Introductory 0% APRs: USAA Cashback Rewards Plus

    The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus is better for introductory 0% APRs on balance transfers, offering a 0% introductory APR for 15 months with a 5% balance transfer fee, compared to the PenFed Power Cash Rewards' 12-month period with a 3% fee.

    coins icon

    Rewards: USAA Cashback Rewards Plus

    The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus is better for rewards, offering 1% to 5% cash back with higher rates on gas, military base and grocery store purchases, though with annual caps. In contrast, the PenFed Power Cash Rewards provides a flat 1.5% back on all purchases or 2% for PenFed Honors Advantage Members, without caps.

    rewards icon

    Welcome Offers: PenFed Power Cash Rewards

    The PenFed Power Cash Rewards is better for welcome offers, offering a $100 bonus offer statement credit after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days. The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus does not offer any welcome bonus.

    creditApproved icon

    Recommended Credit Score: PenFed Power Cash Rewards

    The PenFed Power Cash Rewards is more accessible, catering to those with good to excellent credit scores ranging from 670 to 850. The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus requires an excellent credit score.

    autopay icon

    Penalties and Fees: USAA Cashback Rewards Plus

    The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus is better for penalties and fees, offering no late fees or penalty APR, unlike the PenFed Power Cash Rewards, which has a variable late fee and a penalty APR of 17.99%. Both cards do not charge foreign transaction fees, but the USAA card imposes a 5% fee on cash advances.

    points icon

    Issuer Satisfaction: USAA Cashback Rewards Plus

    USAA, which issues the Cashback Rewards Plus, outperforms with a higher issuer satisfaction rating of 4.8. PenFed Credit Union, which issues the Power Cash Rewards card, has no rating.

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    Other Features & Perks: Tie

    The PenFed Power Cash Rewards provides various additional benefits, including cell phone protection, travel accident coverage and $0 fraud liability. The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus offers complimentary auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance and concierge service. These perks provide added value beyond the basic card features, catering to those who value travel and shopping protections.

Rewards Comparison

The PenFed Power Cash Rewards edges out with a higher overall cash back rate, especially for PenFed Honors Advantage members, offering 2% on all purchases. For non-members, it still provides a solid 1.5% back across the board.

While not as robust overall, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card is strong in its 5% cash back category for gas and military base purchases, capped at $3,000 annually, and 2% for grocery store spending up to $3,000 per year. Outside these categories, it defaults to 1% cash back on other purchases. For those with heavy gas spending or who shop frequently on military bases, the USAA card could be more lucrative in these specific areas.

The table below details the bonus categories for each card to help you compare at a glance.

Category
PenFed Power Cash Rewards
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus

Gas Stations

1.5%/2% for PenFed Honors Advantage Members

5% for the first $3,000 annually/1% thereafter

Military Bases

1.5%/2% for PenFed Honors Advantage Members

5% for the first $3,000 annually/1% thereafter

Grocery Stores

1.5%/2% for PenFed Honors Advantage Members

2% for the first $3,000 annually/1% thereafter

All Other Purchases

1.5%/2% for PenFed Honors Advantage Members

1%

Redeeming Rewards

The PenFed Power Cash Rewards card keeps it simple. Your cash back does not expire, ensuring you can use your rewards when it suits you best. You can redeem rewards as statement credit, as a deposit into your PenFed account or as a transfer to another account you choose.

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card also offers non-expiring rewards, with the added benefit of redeeming your cash back in $1 increments, giving you precise control over how and when you use your rewards.

Methodology

MoneyGeek evaluates credit cards like the PenFed Power Cash Rewards and USAA Cashback Rewards Plus based on their performance in various use cases, such as cash back, which is their highest scoring category. The scoring reflects how well each card serves its intended use case, with a focus on the effective reward rate and the return on investment for offers. These factors and other considerations, such as annual fees and issuer satisfaction, contribute to a card's overall score. For a detailed understanding of our ranking process, you can review our ranking methodology.

FAQ: PenFed Power Cash Rewards vs. USAA Cashback Rewards Plus

What are the cash back rewards for each card?
Do either of the cards offer a welcome bonus?
What are the introductory APR offers for balance transfers?
Are there annual fees for either card?
What is the recommended credit score to qualify for these cards?

About Doug Milnes, CFA


Doug Milnes, CFA headshot

Doug Milnes is a CFA charter holder with over 10 years of experience in corporate finance and the Head of Credit Cards at MoneyGeek. Formerly, he performed valuations for Duff and Phelps and financial planning and analysis for various companies. His analysis has been cited by U.S. News and World Report, The Hill, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and many other outlets.

Milnes holds a master’s degree in data science from Northwestern University. He geeks out on helping people feel on top of their credit card use, from managing debt to optimizing rewards.


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