Usually, when you hear the words, “exclusive membership”, people think about membership fees. However, USAA is one of the few companies offering membership to specific groups without the annual fees or monthly dues. So, to answer the question is USAA really worth the exclusive membership, we’re going to talk about the multitude of things they offer, none of it requiring the member to pay more.
Now, with that being said, there are more benefits to being a member than not. Starting with the fact that USAA is more than a bank. In fact, they didn’t start off as a bank at all. USAA actually stands for United Services Automobile Association, because they started in the auto insurance department.
So, while you might think of USAA as only a bank, they’re so much more than that. They’re USAA insurance, USAA banking, USAA investments and they’re full of financial advisers specifically meant to aid our service members, veterans and their family members.
One advantage of USAA is that they’re willing to serve military members and their families. So, if you’re the child of a service member or veteran, you can use any of the services listed below.
With that being said, USAA isn’t as exclusive as one might think. Basically, if you’re associated with a military member, you likely qualify. Remember, however, it’s the actual service member or veteran who gets the best discounts. But, that doesn’t mean a spouse can’t reap the benefits.
Services USAA provides
· Free checking—with no service fees
· Savings accounts
· Competitive rates on mortgages, auto loans, and personal loans (yes, you can sometimes find lower rates, but USAA is competitive, especially when you start adding on discounts, and if you have a good driving record/credit score)
· Investment accounts—IRAs, Roth Accounts, 529s, brokerage accounts and more
· Credit cards—cash rewards, low APRs
· Car-buying services—more significant discounts with partnered car companies
· Home, renters, life, personal property, and car insurance
Besides what’s listed above, USAA continues to offer more than most banks. They reimburse ATM fees and their customer service is continuously at the top of the charts.
*USAA Bank does not charge a fee for the first 10 ATM withdrawals. Subsequent withdrawals will be charged $2 each except when made at any USAA Bank-owned ATM. USAA Bank also refunds up to $15 in other banks’ ATM usage fees for transactions at ATMs in the United States. The ATM fee refund does not apply for the month in which the account is closed. The ATM fee refund does not apply to USAA Cashback Rewards Checking. A 1% foreign transaction fee applies to withdrawals outside the United States.
Yes, it has been reported that USAA’s customer service has declined a bit over the years. But, they typically handle complaints very well, and unlike cable companies, they don’t wait until you want to move on to make up for the problem. So, along with the discounts, you’re getting help from professional, knowledgeable individuals who seem to care about their military. They also thank you for your service at the end of each call and make sure you don’t need any further help before they hang up. While they’re looking at your account, they’ll let you know if they see anything that needs to be addressed, so they can get you to the right people if need be. For example, if you call about changing your address, they’ll say maybe you need to talk to the insurance department for a new policy—which is great if you’re moving somewhere the rates will be lower.
You can also reach their claims department any time of day or night, on weekdays and weekend. Which is great when you get in an accident at 2 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday—and no matter the time, everyone always seems happy to talk with you.
When USAA Makes a Mistake
From personal experience, USAA once made a mistake in transferring funds to my account. I was headed out on a trip and needed money for my expenses. However, it was going to take another 24 hours before I could use the money that was already mine. I called USAA and told them they didn’t transfer the funds correctly. Instead of making me wait, they gave me a temporary loan for that same amount until the funds hit my account, no interest, no fees.
USAA’s Fraud Department
Something you might not hear a lot of other articles talking about is USAA’s fraud department. I travel a lot, meaning I go from one state or country to the next with little to no notice. Instead of just shutting my account down when I start spending money in Italy instead of the US, they’ll call or text to confirm my purchase. Once I had over $1,300 removed from my account in Japan at an Apple store. I got a call as soon as it happened, the lady stayed on the phone with me until I got to the ATM, let me take out as much money as I would need for the next few days, and I got a new card in the mail two days later without paying any rush delivery charges.
Also filing a claim against a charge you didn’t make is extremely easy and getting your money back is both effortless and quick.
USAA’s Exceptional Customer Service
I once had an issue using my card at an ATM on a Sunday. I called USAA because I was getting an “over-withdrawal” notice. I was assured that my card wasn’t the problem and the representative stayed on the phone with me until I got to a new ATM to ensure I could access my funds.
If the above stories don’t tell you, you’re getting more than a bank, you’re getting a partnership, a quality level of customer service, then I don’t know what will. So, is the exclusive membership worth it? Absolutely, based on customer service alone, USAA is one of the best banking options. Add on all their other services and the discounts makes it that much better a choice. Meaning, if you qualify and don’t yet use USAA, we advise you to give them a call.