Category Archives: Blog

USAA Visa Credit Cards

USAA Visa Credits Cards

Visa Credit Cards are the most popular cards USAA members receive, based on volume, simply because of the diversity of options for receiving rewards for your purchases. USAA offers 4 different cards from Visa that are designed for different goals, such as low-interest rate cards, maximizing rewards points, cash-back, and a card designed specifically to help you build credit. I will go through each credit card, to guide you through the things you need to know most.

Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

We discussed Rewards cards in the “USAA American Express Rewards Card” blog, so now it’s time to understand what cash means and how it’s different. Cash Back is the percentage of each purchase you earn when you make Qualifying Purchases with your Account that you may later redeem for cash. This specific card gives you 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make (check the qualifying purchases for what you can’t do). For example, if you spend $1,000  on this card and pay it off on time, you’ll receive a $15 cashback that will be uploaded to your rewards account in USAA. If you charge $10,000 per year on your card, you’ll receive $150 cash to use on whatever you want to use it on.

What Are The Fees For Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card?

You pay no annual fee for owning this card, as long as you keep your account in good standing, which is a polite way of saying, don’t spend more than you have. If you’d like to use a money transfer from our credit card to another account, you’ll pay 3% of the total transfer as a processing fee for USAA. You can use this card anywhere in the world that accepts Visa, and you won’t be charged a foreign transaction fee. This is one of the many reasons to use USAA over many of its competitors. You should never put yourself in a position to have a late payment, but if you make the mistake once, you’ll only pay a $25 fee if its less than 6 months late. If you’re anything like me, you have so many bills, like cable, phone, water, electricity, sanitation, rent, or mortgage, that it’s easy to forget about a bill. Ask USAA about automatic payments, so you don’t forget about a bill.

Visa Rewards Card Fees
Annual $0
Balance Transfer You will pay 3% of the total amount that you decide to transfer for accounts
Cash Advance 3% of the amount of each cash advance. Fee waived when transferring funds electronically to a USAA deposit account.
Foreign Transaction None
Late Payment up to $35. The 1st-time offense is $25 within the 6-month payment window
Returned Payment up to $35.
Over-the-Credit Limit If you accidentally (or intentionally) over-charge your card due for whatever reason, you won’t be charged an extra fee.

Interest Rates and Charges

You’ll have to pay an interest rate somewhere between 13.40-27.40% for any purchase, balance transfer, or cash advance that you put on your card. You will pay no minimum interest charge with this card, meaning if you pay your balance off before the interest kicks in, you don’t pay interest on your purchase. One shady practice from a lot of banks (USAA excluded) is charging a penalty APR if you go over on your account. For example, if you overdraft your credit limit, companies can charge you double the interest you would have paid, and they can continue to charge that increased rate for as long as they want. If you want to avoid paying interest on your purchases, simply pay off the bill 25 days after the close of each billing cycle. A simple practice I use is to pay off my credit card each month in full to avoid these fees.

*As you pick a credit card, protect yourself when you travel with insurance in case you get your identity stolen:

How Are Rewards and Cash Back Credit Cards Different?

To be honest, I didn’t know this answer until I did my research a few years ago, so don’t stress if you’re as confused as I was. Rewards cards offer points on purchases in varying categories, such as gas, dining, groceries, and travel, based on each $1.00 you spend. Cash Back cards offer cash as the reward based on a percentage of the purchase you make. Cashback cards make a lot of sense for the people who spend a lot of money and don’t want to worry about the hassle of making sure it fits into the best category for rewards. Cashback cards give you the flexibility to know that every dollar you spend will collect in your account as cash.

Why I Should Apply For the Preferred USAA Cash Back Signature Card

Instead of thinking about the differences between purchases and which gets you the most out of your purchase, this card gives you much more freedom to just live your normal life and get cash back for it. This is by far the most popular card for USAA members, because it doesn’t require a great credit score, so it’s open to more members. This is a great starter card for those Soldiers, Airmen, Seamen, and Marines, coming straight out of basic training with no credit line and no experience on your own. This card will also help you build credit in the process, just make sure you pay your bills on time every month.

USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card

If you want to get the most out of an active lifestyle, the USAA Rewards Visa Signature Card is going to be your best option. For those of you that go out to dinner most nights and drive hundreds of miles each week for work or recreation, you could recoup some of the money you spend and use it on whatever you’d like. Similar to the American Express Rewards Card, the Visa Signature Card gives 2 points for Gas and 1 point for every purchase; however, the Visa offers 1 less point on dining options than the American Express Card.

Rewards Category Rewards Earned Qualifications
Dining 2 points Any restaurant that is licensed in the United States qualifies for redemption. (Wendy’s, MacDonalds, Applebees, Red Lobster, etc…)
Gas 2 points Any of the major gas stations in the country will qualify you for points.
Other 1 point This is a catch-all to give you points based on every dollar you charge to this card.
Bonus 2,500 points You get credited 2,500 points after your first purchase using this card

Fees

The fees are the same as the Preferred cashback card, so the only difference between the two cards rests in their rewards package.

Visa Rewards Card Fees
Annual Fee $0
Balance Transfer You will pay 3% of the total amount that you decide to transfer for accounts
Cash Advance 3% of the amount of each cash advance. Fee waived when transferring funds electronically to a USAA deposit account.
Foreign Transaction None
Late Payment up to $35. The 1st-time offense is $25 within the 6-month payment window
Returned Payment up to $35.
Over-the-Credit Limit If you accidentally (or intentionally) over-charge your card due for whatever reason, you won’t be charged an extra fee.

Why I Should Apply For the USAA Rewards Visa Signature Card

If the rates and fees are all the same for all USAA cards, then you need to focus on what you spend your money on the most. For example, if you have a family of 5 and you drive everywhere and ring up grocery bills that are in the hundreds every other week, this not for you. You should go with American Express Rewards Card, which you can find all the information for that card, here. With a lower APR and better rewards for groceries and the same for gas, the USAA Rewards American Express  Card. I could only see a point in getting this card if the places you travel to use Visa more than American Express. I know throughout my travels, Visa is more widely accepted than American Express Credit Cards.

USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

The Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card is specifically designed for those who have no credit history or need to use this credit line to live comfortably. This card comes with no rewards in either cash or points because USAA doesn’t benefit much from this card being opened. The Rate Advantage Visa Platinum is the lowest offered APR of any card from USAA with an APR of 8.40%-25.40%. These rates are very good, but there is no added benefit from owning this card like there is with the others.

USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card Fees
Annual Fee $0
Balance Transfer You will pay 3% of the total amount that you decide to transfer for accounts
Cash Advance 3% of the amount of each cash advance. Fee waived when transferring funds electronically to a USAA deposit account.
Foreign Transaction None
Late Payment up to $35. The 1st-time offense is $25 within the 6-month payment window
Returned Payment up to $35.
Over-the-Credit Limit If you accidentally (or intentionally) over-charge your card due for whatever reason, you won’t be charged an extra fee.

Conclusion

USAA offers both American Express and Visa Credit Cards, but if you’re a world traveler and need to have access to credit anywhere you go, Visa is your best option. Of the cards I reviewed, the Preferred Cash Back Visa Signature Card is the one with the most flexibility and points structure. Receiving 1.5% of every dollar you spend in cashback is something you could use to pay for family vacations by the end of the year or pay off some bills you’ve accumulated. In the end, if you travel just inside the United States, American Express offers better rewards programs with similar fees and APR.

 

USAA Auto Loan Guide

What is a USAA Auto Loan?

USAA Auto Loans cover the cost of buying a new car that you can’t pay for in cash, allowing you to own a car without spending too much money and compromising your family. USAA Auto loans will ask for as little as 2.74% annual percentage rate (APR) for a new car and as low as 3.24% APR for a used car (as of the publication of this article). Most of the time, someone’s APR is based upon their credit score; the higher the credit score, the lower your interest. In this blog, we will explain what a credit score is, how to get a lower APR on a car loan, the process of getting a USAA auto loan, and how to insure your vehicle for your family’s protection.

What is a Credit Score?

Your credit score is a number that evaluates how you spend money and your trustworthiness with the major financial companies that offer the loans. For example, if you make $40,000 a year and spend $50,000 a year, you’ll be $10,000 in debt. Your credit score will be lower if you show that you can’t get out of debt and stay out of debt because the lender wants to make sure their company will get their money back. Your credit score will start at 300, and the highest score available is 850. My personal goal right now is to stay above 825, but you’re in the excellent category with anything more than a 720 for sure. Your credit score will be the largest factor in obtaining a loan and getting one with the lowest APR.

If you want to see the full rating system, go to this NerdWallet blog.

How Do I Improve My Credit Score?

I first learned about my credit score when I turned 20 years old and had to buy the first car that I couldn’t pay cash for, meaning it was above $2,000 in value. When I went to a Ford Dealership, they told my credit score was 350, and they couldn’t loan me a vehicle with that low of a credit score. Eventually, I had to have my father co-sign for the car for the bank to trust that I would pay it back. I focused my attention on 4 things to build my credit, which are:

  1. Focus on paying my loan back each month and doubling the payments some months to decrease the amount of interest I would pay.
  2. Use your credit card on everyday purchases, such as gas and the grocery store, and pay off the credit card after a couple weeks. Just make sure to not put more than 10% of the credit limit if that’s possible for you.
  3. Do your best to avoid hard-credit checks by banks and businesses, since these checks can actually hurt your credit score. The way you do this only applies for loans that you must have (car, house), everything else should be paid for in cash. If I want something that I can’t pay cash for, I save money from every paycheck until I can pay cash for that item, such as the Sleep Number Bed that I always wanted(totally worth it!). Avoid putting items on your credit card that you can’t pay off quickly, such as TV’s dishwashers, couches, and hunting gear.
  4. Nobody should need more than 1 credit card unless you’re a business owner or travel for business. Every time you apply for a credit card, they run a hard-check on your credit score, which causes your score to drop, and sometimes drastically.

 

*Do You have USAA Car Insurance? If not, read this blog to compare your current insurance with USAA.

What Is APR?

Annual percentage rate (APR) is the amount of money per year that you pay back to a lender in either a car or home loan. APR is impacted by your credit score, so be careful to follow the recommendations on how to improve your credit score. If you have a credit score of 720 or higher, you have the best chance at getting the APR that you want, which according to Value Penguin, averages out to a 3.60%  FICO score. Your APR rate could end up saving you thousands of dollars by the end of your loan if you use your credit card responsibly. For example, buying a used car with a 3.24% APR will cost you $2,110.00 if you borrow $25,000. On the other hand, if your credit score is less than 590, you will pay close to 15.24%, which will cost about $10,874.14. You could end up paying more than double on the amount of interest you pay if you have bad credit.

 

A graph showing the variation in auto loan rates by credit score.
Graph provided by valuepenguin.com

Why You Should Get Your Auto Loan With USAA

For those of us that are qualified for the services of USAA, there is no point in not taking advantage of these services when you get the chance. I will be the first to admit that I don’t like everything about USAA and get very frustrated with their customer service, but the Auto Loan service is the best. If you are not aware of any problems or issues reported at USAA, I urge you to read this blog. However, the simplicity of the USAA Auto Loan service is so incredible that you won’t believe how easy they make it. There are many reasons to get your loan with USAA, but let us focus on the most important reasons.

Reasons to Get a Loan With USAA
No Hidden Cost Don’t do all your research and financial planning to be surprised at the end of the deal with extra processing fees and taxes. Everything is upfront, and a price is attached to every service they provide with no acronyms that we don’t understand, just to take money from us.
Lease Buyout Many people lease vehicles for different reasons, some have to do with convenience, and some have to do with commitment issues. I know I thought about leasing a Tesla Model 3 to test it out for a few months and see if I like it enough to commit to it, so no judgment if you lease a vehicle. The one concern with leasing a vehicle is putting money into a car that you don’t keep seems like a waste of money, much in the same way renting an apartment is over owning a house.  With USAA, you don’t have to worry about that because they will help you buy the vehicle after your lease is up. 
Specialized Disabled Vehicle Loans No other company in the country is as in tune with the needs and issues affecting the Veteran community, such as USAA does. If you’re looking for a vehicle with specialized equipment for a wheelchair lift or accommodation, USAA offers special discounts on those loans. Wheelchair accessible vehicles can cost a ton, so being able to get the accommodations you need will be instrumental in living your best life.
No Prepayment Penalty Some loan companies charge an extra fee for paying off your loan earlier than the scheduled time because they know they’ll lose out on interest. USAA doesn’t charge for paying off loans early, regardless if you lose out on interest or not. I know this very well because my two loans were paid off early, and I received no penalty for it.
Flexibility Having the flexibility to choose who you buy your car from is the American thing to do, and USAA encourages you to buy from whoever you want. You’ll get a little higher rate if you don’t use the USAA Car Buying Service, but you get that choice.
USAA Car Buying Service The USAA Car Buying Service will get you a lower rate on your APR because it takes USAA less work to do everything in house than it does to pay off an independent seller.
Payment Deferment Options With the increase in natural disasters around the world, you could lose your car to a flood, tornado, hail storm, or hurricane. If you have a USAA loan, they will give you extra time to pay back the loan since they understand your car was just destroyed by mother nature, and there is nothing you could do about it.
Credit Decisions When you call USAA to set request a credit check and see what you’re qualified for, you could know everything you’re qualified for within a few minutes.

*If you’re not a homeowner, I strongly consider Renters Insurance to protect your most expensive belongings:

How Do I Get a USAA Auto Loan?

To ensure the loan process goes as quickly and smoothly as possible, use this time to get your paperwork and financial information together. You should know exactly how much cash you want to put down and how much you want to loan from the bank. Also, consider how much your household spends versus makes per month, so you don’t compromise your family. If you’re trading a vehicle, do your absolute best to get that vehicle paid off in full before the trade-in date, and you’ll have significantly less stress during the trade process. Once you have all your information ready and have done your research and math, click here, and in 5 minutes, you could be approved for an auto loan.

*If you’re looking for a car, the USAA Car Buying Service is the best place to start for USAA members.

Where DO I Start?

  1. Your employer’s name
  2. Income from all sources
  3. Calculate the full amount you would need to borrow
  4. If you are trading in a vehicle, your current monthly loan payment amount
  5. If you are purchasing a vehicle, remember to consider the cost of your vehicle plus sales tax, title, license, and optional warranties

 

Conclusion

A USAA Auto Loan is a difficult decision that has many financial implications, both good and bad. That’s why it’s so important to conduct your research. Just like anything in our lives, the work you put into reading this blog and other informative blogs will literally pay off in the end. In my opinion, this service is well worth the continued investment with USAA. I have found to have significantly less stress when I have used my USAA Auto Loans and will encourage any USAA Member to give it a try.

How To Guide: USAA Mortgage

What is a Mortgage?

A mortgage is a loan given to people from a lender (such as USAA) to buy a house when you can’t afford the up front cash. With home prices in the hundreds of thousands, not many of us are going to be able to come up with that kind of cash. If you already own property and need to raise funds for whatever reason, USAA would use a lien on the property you own. Simply put, a lien is a way for the lender to get a sense of security with the loan by charging interest and using your property as collateral.

How to Buy A House With USAA?

Buying a house is going to be the biggest purchase of your life, and there is no reason to rush that purchase without doing your due diligence. We have created a checklist on the things you need to think about and learn before you take on a $250,000 loan. The 3 main questions you need to ask yourself first, are “Am I ready to buy a house?”, “How Much Money will I need?” and “What rules and tips should I consider before buying a house?

3 Questions to ask yourself before you buy a home
Am I ready for a home How much do I make?  How Much Do I Spend? Do I have Good Credit?
How much money will I need Down Payment, Closing Costs, Moving Expenses, Move-in Costs, and do I have an emergency fund?
What is a VA Loan? If you don’t have cash for a house, like 90% of us, you’ll need a loan. If you qualify, this is a tremendous opportunity you don’t want to miss out on.

Am I Ready To Buy a Home?

As with any informational blog, we have to start at the beginning for everyone to start at the same place and hopefully finish with the best home they could have wanted. The first thing to consider is your current financial situation, in regards to credit cards, student loans, how much you make each year. If you have too much debt, chances are that you should work on fixing your situation and worry about buying a house when you’re more financially stable.

*If you’re worried that you can’t pay back your debt and need help, Freedom Debt Relief can help you.

The biggest question after that is how much house can you afford based on your credit score and annual income of all your sources, including collateral, such as cars, boats, etc… One reason new homeowners get into trouble with payments is they fail to calculate the cost of ownership, such as property taxes and home insurance. A simple fix to this problem is to keep ALL housing costs between 25% to 36% of your take-home pay. So if your family brings home $8,000 per month after taxes, your mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, should be between $2,000 and $2,880. I would always go on the lower side (20-25%) to give yourself more room to buy things like a lawnmower, leaf blower, snow blower, furniture, and kitchen appliances.

How Much Money Will I Need to Buy a Home?

The amount of money needed is based on how much cash you have, how much you’re putting on down payment, and the closing costs. You’ll need to show something called Earnest money, which is cash that you’ll need up front to show the seller you’re serious about buying the house. Once you put the 1% or so upfront, you can use this towards the price of the house if you buy the house. If you don’t buy the house, ask your agent or lawyer about opt-out rights, you have to protect you from losing that money.

Down Payment

When considering a down payment, most banks require a 20% down payment to avoid PMI, which could cost an extra $500-$1,000 per month. This is so important to your financial health, so make sure you know what type of mortgage you’re getting. As I have said many times before, your credit score will be a huge factor in whether the USAA (Every bank treats credit score the same). The lower your credit score, the better APR you’re going to get on the house, which will result in less interest paid the bank throughout the term of your loan. One thing to consider is the larger the down payment you make, the lower interest rate, and monthly payment you’ll make.

Closing Costs

Closing costs are charges for an appraisal, credit report, home inspection, title insurance, document preparation, homeowners insurance, taxes, flood-zone determination. Closing costs on buying a house is the most overlooked expense when calculating what you can and can’t afford. A rule of thumb is to calculate 2% to 5% of the overall price to get your closing costs, but I always recommend to leave yourself more room, so go with 5%. If you calculate 5% and closing costs are only 2%, you’ll be more prepared and be able to put that money on top of the down payment or for other bills.

*Lenders must give you a detailed list of the projected costs within three days of applying for a loan. Review this carefully.

Moving Expenses

If you’re active duty, ignore this section because moving expenses are paid for by Uncle Sam, but the rest of us need to calculate those costs. I grew up in a military household (I’m not calling myself and Army Bratt) from the time I was born on Ft. Riley Kansas to the time I graduated high school in Mannheim, Germany (’04 Stand Up!). I have lived or traveled through 48 of 50 states, been to every country in Europe, and Most countries in the Middle East. I say this to give context to my desire to always hire someone to help you move. You can save money if you must, but moving sucks if you don’t have trucks, dollies, tape, boxes, and care about your back. With this being said, the average local moving companies will cost anywhere between $200-$1,000. Once you figure that cost out, its time to take things you don’t need to Goodwill or Salvation Army, I promise you’ll thank me later.

 

Move-In Costs

Once you close on your new home, you’ll be greeted with even more purchases you’ll need to make to make your home comfortable and safe. You’ll have to turn the power on, which will require a deposit for most utilities, and these deposits can cost $50-200. You’ll need new locks for all doors that have a lock and key associated with it, which can run you up to $500. If you’re curious about the different options for your home security, such as smart home security systems, our blog on “7 Best Home Security Companies For Veterans And Service Members”. If you’re like most of us moving into new homes, you’ll also need a whole lot of paint for all the rooms inside your home (For my sanity, can people please stop painting every room in a different color?!). This can easily reach well over $1,000, depending on the brand, style, and color of paint you use.

*For tips on how to reduce costs for home security, read “7 Inexpensive Ways to Make Your House More Secure”

Emergency Fund

An Emergency Fund is the money you have in cash, in case of situations like crashing your car, emergency medical bills, or a death in the family. Every accountant and lender will always recommend at least 3 to 6 months of cash saved up in case of these kinds of emergencies. This is also something you need to think about because if you have no emergency fund after purchasing a house, you could compromise your family. This is just another sign that maybe you should wait to purchase a house until your financials get more stable.

 

What Are VA Loans?

VA Loans are a type of mortgage that is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Administration (VA) as the promise to repay the loan. The VA doesn’t issue the loan to the Veteran or service member, they just promise a private lender that the debt will be repaid. There is nothing more powerful for a civilian company than the federal government guaranteeing they will get their money if they loan to the homebuyer.

 

 

 

USAA VA Loan

USAA is one of the top lenders to Veterans and their families in the country and offers incredible deals if you’re qualified. Eligibility is based on whether you’re active duty or a separated Veteran, if you served in peacetime or wartime, how long you served, and your current financial status. You must have an approved Certificate of Eligibility and follow the guidance of the VA by reading this page. Since my colleague already wrote an all-encompassing blog on USAA VA Loans, I encourage you to read her blog for all the information you could ask for. Once you have read her work, you’ll be ready to learn all about the different kinds of mortgages that USAA will offer.

 

How to Get a Mortgage Preapproval

After all your research is complete, it’s time to get working on getting preapproval for your mortgage so you can focus on buying the right house for you.  A preapproval is just a way of showing the lenders that all of your finances and credit are ready to go. This eliminates any doubt that a lender would have and speeds up the process of buying and closing on the house. For a more complete guide on preapproval, click here.

 

 

 

Conclusion

Before you get into what kind of mortgage you want to apply for, you need to have a solid starting point and do your research. We have discussed how to determine how much house you can afford, the costs associated with buying a house, and how to get a loan through USAA with the support of the VA. I can assure you that if you read this blog and its associated links, you’ll avoid being caught off guard by hidden expenses that we often don’t think about. Enjoy the confidence of knowing all of your T’s are crossed, and I’s dotted.

 

 

USAA American Express Credit Cards

USAA American Express Rewards Credit Cards

A credit card is similar to a loan from your bank, in that it lets you make purchases when you don’t have cash up-front, such as for a car, house, or appliances. Every card comes with some limit you’re allowed to put on it, i.e. $10,000. This blog is going to discuss everything you need to know about credit cards and how to use a great credit score to your advantage. Since USAA offers a lot of credit card choices, this blog will focus on the American Express Rewards Credit Cards.

USAA  Rewards Cards

Reward points are points that you earn when you make qualifying purchases with your credit card that can be converted into cash or redeemed for travel expenses, such as plane tickets. Rewards cards can be a versatile way for you to get the most out of your travel experience. Each card has different rewards, depending on what you want out of the card. For example, if you want to earn points for travel and get comped plane tickets, then you should get a travel rewards card. USAA offers rewards cards from both American Express and Visa, so we’ll organize each card based on their sponsor company.

Why Should I Apply For a Rewards Credit Card?

It is my personal opinion that everyone should have some sort of rewards or cashback card, as long as it doesn’t compromise your financial integrity. In our normal daily lives, we have to spend money on groceries, gas for our vehicles, Amazon Prime, and going out to restaurants to eat with your loved ones.  If you don’t have a rewards card, you are throwing away an opportunity for comped food and travel expenses, such as plane tickets, car rentals, and hotel stays. If getting free tickets to travel the world isn’t enough, using a credit card responsibly will increase your credit score.

What Happens if I Don’t Qualify for a Credit Card?

There are many reasons why someone wouldn’t qualify for a credit card, but the most common is poor credit from too much debt. For those on Active-Duty, as horrible as it sounds, I recommend going to your 1st Sergeant and asking for help on how to get your debt down and credit score up (1st Sergeants seem to live for that stuff). If you’re a Veteran or civilian reading this, I would look into some sort of debt relief company, such as Freedom Debt Relief. If you’re in debt because you made an issue with your tax return or forgot to file your taxes, you could always talk to organizations, like IRS Tax Debt Pros.

Why Should I Get Renters Insurance?

This may seem odd, but renters insurance is a must if you don’t own the place you’re currently living in because it can help if someone steals your identity by stealing your credit cards and mail at your apartment, USAA Renters Insurance will cover you.   In most places I’ve been to, landlords won’t rent without showing proof of Renters Insurance. If you’re concerned that you don’t know enough about renters insurance, we have blogs filled with everything you need to know about USAA Renters Insurance. If you want to look at other companies, besides USAA, this chart below is a good starting point.

*If you feel like you need more convincing to get Renters Insurance, read “5 Reasons to Get Renters Insurance”.

USAA Rewards American Express Card

A USAA Rewards card by American Express is a great way to get your feet wet into buying a credit card because of the flexibility and no annual fee. When you want to build your credit, you can work on making purchases from your rewards card and reap the benefits of things you would buy anyway. There are 4 main categories (Dining, Gas, Groceries, Other) for you to think about when making purchases with your credit card. The points scale is set up to give you the allotted points per category based on each dollar spent. For example, if you spend $50 on dinner with your wife, you’ll receive 150 points for the dinner you had. Each card is different, but you can expect to get just over 1 cent per point.

Rewards Category Rewards Earned Qualifications
Dining 3 points Any restaurant that is licensed in the United States qualifies for redemption. (Wendy’s, MacDonalds, Applebees, Red Lobster, etc…)
Gas 2 points Any of the major gas stations in the country will qualify you for points.
Groceries 2 points Any grocery store that is licensed qualifies for this redemption. Whole-Sale businesses like Costco and Sam’s Club are excluded.
Other 1 point This is a catch-all to give you points based on every dollar you charge to this card.

Interest Rates and Charges For USAA Rewards American Express Card

Every credit card in the world will say they offer low APR rates that will give you the most flexibility on when to pay off your charge. However, I beg of you to think about what you put on your credit card before you just start swiping your card everywhere. The simplest way to do this is to never charge anything unless you can pay it off within a couple months. The simple concept of never spending more than you have should be your guiding principle for using credit cards. If you have great credit, you could get an APR as little as 11.40% for all purchases after the payment window ends. For example, if you go out to dinner with your family and charge it, you’ll be given a few months (at most) to make a payment before the APR kicks-in. This is the biggest reason to always pay off your credit card as quickly as you can, so you can avoid paying 11.40% of that charge.

What are the Annual Fees for the American Express Rewards Card
Before you apply for any credit card, you need to make sure you understand the associated fees that go into each card. The best feature of this card is the zero-fee for ownership because you don’t have to worry about getting the most out of the card by spending more money to get more rewards. This card allows you to spend at your normal rate and get the benefits of living your life. If you’re an international traveler or stationed across the world in the military, you will be charged NO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES! This could save thousands of Americans, hundreds of dollars in foreign fees.

American Express Rewards Card Fees
Annual Fee $0
Balance Transfer You will pay 3% of the total amount that you decide to transfer for accounts
Cash Advance 3% of the amount of each cash advance. Fee waived when transferring funds electronically to a USAA deposit account.
Foreign Transaction None
Late Payment up to $35. The 1st-time offense is $25 within the 6-month payment window
Returned Payment up to $35.
Over-the-Credit Limit If you accidentally (or intentionally) over-charge your card due for whatever reason, you won’t be charged an extra fee.

Why I should Apply For the American Express Rewards Card?

The American Express Rewards Card is going to give confidence that no matter if your card or identity is stolen, you will face no liability for any purchase that someone charges to your card. For example, I have been alerted by USAA 5 times that my identity had been stolen, besides sending me a new card, I never saw a bill or charge on my account.  If you use this card as your major spending card, you’ll receive unlimited points on everything you buy. I think of it like getting back money I spent on something I was going to buy in the first place. For active-duty soldiers deploying to a war zone, USAA will connect you with the deployment team to get all of your financials in order before you go and after you get back (they also help organize everything for your next of kin if you don’t come back).

 USAA American Express Military Affiliate Credit Card

The Affiliate card is one of the best ways to customize your card with your branch of service or veteran organization that USAA is affiliated with. This card offers fewer reward points than the original card, but it offers excellent perks such as collision damage waiver coverage, which pays for physical damage on any rental car you buy and covers you if someone steals your rental car. As with the American Express Rewards Card, you get identity theft resolutions services that inform you of suspicious activity and protects you from incurring any cost due to theft. More than a million people every year have their credit card information stolen (5 times for me!), and its best to protect yourself when this happens. Another awesome perk is the extended warranty on manufacturers or U.S. store brand warranties for up to one year.

Rewards Category Rewards Earned Qualifications
Dining 2 points Any restaurant that is licensed in the United States qualifies for redemption. (Wendy’s, MacDonalds, Applebees, Red Lobster, etc…)
Gas 2 points Any of the major gas stations in the country will qualify you for points.
Other 1 point This is a catch-all to give you points based on every dollar you charge to this card.

What Are The Fees and Rates For The American Express Affiliate Card?

As you are approved of this card, you will pay 0% interest for the first year of your card and as low as 12.40% after the first year. The rates for this card are going to be higher than the American Express Rewards Card, but you still don’t have to pay an annual fee. This card is going to give the same fees as the first card, but you’re not going to get as many rewards points. I look at this card as a way to have fun with the aesthetics of your credit card while still enjoying the benefits of a rewards card.

American Express Affiliate Card Fees
Annual Fee $0
Balance Transfer You will pay 3% of the total amount that you decide to transfer for accounts
Cash Advance 3% of the amount of each cash advance. Fee waived when transferring funds electronically to a USAA deposit account.
Foreign Transaction None
Late Payment up to $35. The 1st-time offense is $25 within the 6-month payment window
Returned Payment up to $35.
Over-the-Credit Limit If you accidentally (or intentionally) over-charge your card due for whatever reason, you won’t be charged an extra fee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glock 101

Glock 101

Gaston Glock, an Austrian engineer, and businessman founded GLOCK Ges.m.b.H in 1963 and began production with his first line of knives and machine-gun belt links in the ’70s. After the successful launch of Glock knives and belt links, Gaston Glock created the first Glock semi-automatic pistol in 1982. Glock saw a need for the Austrian Army to be outfitted in a service pistol that could be ready at a moment’s notice. With this in mind, he created his patented Safe Action pistol design. The 3-internal safeties, the Glock is made to be fired quickly and controlled to prevent accidental discharge by a police officer or soldier.

Gaston Glock has been instrumental in changing the entire gun industry with his incredible design and engineering teams. As the Austrian government asked for a lighter pistol with a higher magazine capacity, Glock went right to work and created the Glock 17. In 1984, the Glock 17 passed every test NATO threw at them with the highest of markings in durability, simplicity, and reliability. Shortly after the Norwegian Army adopted the Glock 17 as their standard-issue duty pistol, the rest of the world caught on and made the Glock the most renowned pistol across the world.

Glock 19

The Glock 19 is one of the most sold pistols across the world because of its durability, performance, and concealed-carry capacity. As the Glock 19 Gen 5 pistol was rolled out, more people switched to the new feel of more than 20 different modifications from the Gen 4, including removing the finger grooves in the pistol grip. If you’re interested in learning everything you can about the Glock 19, read our blog “Glock 19 Review”.

 

Buy Here

 

Glock 43

The Glock 43 is designed to be a secondary pistol for law enforcement because it’s incredibly lightweight and can be concealed anywhere on your body. A lot of LE professionals carry this pistol on their ankles, hip, or inside a shoulder holster because its small enough to go unnoticed. Everything you need to know about the Glock 43 can be found in our blog, “Glock 43 Review”. 

Glock 43 9mm Pistol with Night Sights, Black

 

Buy Here

 

Glock 45

The Glock 45 is growing as an alternative to the Glock 22 semi-auto pistol that is known as the primary law enforcement pistol. The Glock 45 is a 9mm versus the .40 caliber S&W round used in the Glock 22, making for more control and less felt recoil. The 45 comes in Gen 5, so it has no finger grooves that have given many LE pros fits about grip positioning. If you’re interested in learning more about the Glock 45, read our “Glock 45 Buyer’s Guide” blog to get the most up to date information.

 

 

 

   Learn More

 

 

USAA Travel Insurance

What is USAA Travel Insurance?

USAA Travel Insurance is a protection service that helps financial issues that arise during your travels, whether you’re traveling by plane or automobile. Like most Veterans, active-duty soldiers, and their families know, travel plans, especially international travel plans, can change 10 times from the security check-in to the time it takes to get to your original gate. When the inevitable happens, and your baggage doesn’t arrive, or the weather cancels your flight, USAA Travel Insurance will protect you from any burden you’re likely to face.

When You Can Use Travel Insurance?

I really hope I’m not the only one that notices, regardless of what airline I fly with, I am always sprinting to my connection. In the past 10 years, I have missed dozens of flights because the airline didn’t consider connection times or weather delayed the plane from moving. With USAA Travel Insurance, I have saved a few thousand dollars from claims like the one I described here. I created this chart to give you a bigger list of the things you can claim for travel insurance with explanations of each category.

When Can I use my USAA Travel Insurance?
Lost or delayed baggage If your luggage gets lost in transit, you could be on the hook for the cost of your luggage. Airlines will do everything they can do to avoid accountability, but Travel Insurance will make sure you’re covered. If your luggage is delayed and you’re traveling for an event, Travel Insurance will cover the cost of you buying a new suit or dress.
Trip delays or missed connections Anyone who has been in Atlanta, Dallas, or Chicago in the summer can tell you, you’re guaranteed to miss at least one connection, or your trip will be delayed due to weather. The summer storms are undefeated and EVERY airline will refuse accountability if they can’t fly due to weather. That leaves us as travelers stuck with a paid-for plane ticket and no plane to ride in. Let travel insurance take the bill for your lost ticket, I know for sure the airlines won’t do it.
Trip interruption or cancellation because of accident or illness My wife and I have a running joke that if we didn’t go on vacation, we’d never be sick a day in our lives. At least one of us has gotten sick from traveling across the country the last 5 trips from Virginia to Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and California. Last year, I had to have emergency surgery (Torn Tricep off the bone), and I couldn’t make my flight the week after like I originally planned. I would have been out $1,500 for my hotel and plane tickets if I didn’t have travel insurance.
Medical expenses during a trip Whether you get sick or you go on vacation and get hurt during a hike in Colorado or rock climbing in Utah, there will be medical expenses. With these medical expenses, many people are often overwhelmed with jacked-up fees that come with emergency care. USAA Travel Insurance will pay at least a portion of those bills, and the best part is travel insurance is independent of your health insurance. So, if your health insurance company decides you violated some terms of their agreement and doesn’t pay for your expenses, travel insurance will cover you.
Interruptions related to weather and natural disaster Weather is the number one reason people miss their flights, and every airline has a policy to not reimburse any flight that has been canceled by something out of their control (i.e., weather, natural disasters. Travel insurance doesn’t care how or why you had your flight interrupted, they pay either way.
Medical and legal referral  If you’re skiing in the Rockies or the Alps Mountain ranges and twist your knee, travel insurance will pay for a medical referral from a local doctor. The same thing applies with any legal issues you might find yourself in, USAA Travel Insurance will pay to cover lawyer fees when you’re out of town.
Hospital admission guarantee  With USAA Travel Insurance, you’re guaranteed to be given hospital admission anywhere in the world. Your insurance is accepted (call USAA for more info).
Emergency assistance and evacuation If you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters and you need to be evacuated by emergency services, you will get stuck with the bill for the helicopters, ambulances, and equipment they use to rescue you. Travel insurance will cover you if this fits your situation, so you don’t have to stress about anything you can’t control.
Coverage for Deployment or PCS Have you planned a trip and got a call an hour before your plane leaves from your sergeant or Captain, telling you, you’re being deployed in 24 hours? Things often happen that are out of our control, and USAA knows that better than any other insurance company. If this happens to you and you have to eat the cost of your entire vacation, USAA Travel Insurance will cover you (This happened to me for my 2008 deployment!)

 

Why Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is not for everybody, and I don’t want everyone reading this to think this is something everyone must buy, like Car and health insurance. If you travel less than twice a year, I recommend not buying travel insurance because you’re not going to get the most out of it. Personally, I’d only buy travel insurance if I were traveling more than a few times a year. If you’re an active-duty soldier, chances are you travel more than you can count, so travel insurance is going to be worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a friend in the military regret buying travel insurance, but I have seen many who regret not buying it.

For those travelers who go to National Parks, such as Yellowstone National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Mount Ranier National Park, travel insurance is made for you, as well. Travel insurance is made for recreational travelers, regardless of your interest. I love to travel and hike, hunt, and once a year, sit on the beach in Hilton Head, Island, SC with a Margarita in hand. With the inevitability of Murphey’s Law, USAA Travel Insurance will help you cover things, such as sprained ankles while hiking, getting the flu from unsanitary airports, and broken bones from snowboarding or skiing.

How Do I Get USAA Travel Insurance?

USAA Travel Insurance is incredibly easy for USAA members by filling out a 5-minute application process and credit check from Travel Insurance International. Once you get a quote, you’ll be redirected to the Travel Insurance International website, which is the host company for USAA members. You’ll normally be granted your travel insurance within minutes of submitting your application, but bad credit situations can make it a longer process.

What About Life Insurance? If you don’t have life insurance yet, start your research below.

How Should I Get Ready For a Trip?

I know this sounds like I am assuming our readers know nothing about travel, but I guarantee that you will learn something new that you haven’t thought of yet. If you’re a Veteran or active-duty soldier, you have probably been given these checklists by your 1st Sergeant at some point to get you ready for deployment. This checklist was created by USAA’s expert travelers who have thought of everything for you. I have no shame in admitting I use this checklist for every week or longer trip I take.

 

Gather Important Documents

  • Make sure driver’s licenses or other forms of identification are current.
  • Have travel documents like airline tickets printed and on hand electronically.
  • Print your emergency contact list in case your phone is lost or damaged.
  • If traveling outside the country, get passports and necessary vaccinations.
Get Your Finances Ready
  • Make sure bills are paid or scheduled before you leave to avoid late fees.
  • Download the USAA Mobile App to manage your accounts while you’re away.
  • Set up travel notifications to avoid credit or debit card blocks or declines.
  • If traveling outside the country, learn more about using your USAA debit and credit cards in our International Travel FAQ.
  • Take some cash to have on hand and to exchange currency, if necessary.
Prepare Your Home
  • Be sure to set your security system before you leave. Consider getting a security system if you don’t have one.
  • Unplug major electronics, or those on timers, like coffee makers.
  • Turn your water heater to vacation mode and adjust your thermostat.
  • Place a hold on mail and newspaper subscriptions.
  • Consider having someone check your home and water your plants while you’re gone.
  • Wait until you return from traveling to post your photos to social media sites.
  • If you are traveling in the winter, check out some of USAA’s winter-proofing tips.
Do You Have a Pet-sitter?
  • Ask your veterinarian if they provide boarding for pets or ask a friend to help take care of your pet while you’re away.
  • If you’re taking your pet with you, make sure its shots and paperwork are up to date.
  • Pack any food, medications, toys, crates, leashes, and bowls your pet may need.
  • Consider what you’ll do with your pet while you’re gone sightseeing.
Get Phone and Electronics Ready
  • Check with your mobile service provider on phone usage and international calling plans.
  • Check camera equipment to make sure it’s working and get extra batteries and memory cards if needed.
  • Don’t forget to pack chargers, adapters, and headphones.
Put Technology To Good Use
  • Download useful travel apps, music, and games to smartphones or tablets.
  • Take pictures with your smartphone to help remember things like your airport parking spot, luggage and its contents, hotel room number, and the outside of your hotel.
  • Program street addresses and phone numbers of key travel locations into your smartphone.
  • Email your itinerary and contact information to a family member or friend.
  • Record your travel dates in your calendar with the confirmation numbers within the calendar planners.
  • Download your airline’s app, if available, to check-in, check flight status and obtain electronic boarding passes.
  • If traveling internationally, find apps that may help with language translation, money conversion rates, global tipping guides, and fuel costs.
Pack Only What You Need
  • Take clothes and shoes that are suitable for the weather and activities at your destination.
  • Consider washing clothes during your trip to lessen the number of items you need to pack.
  • Refill and pack prescription medications.
  • Check TSA travel restrictions.
  • If possible, take an extra pair of prescription eyeglasses or contacts.
  • Pack toiletries, sunscreen, beauty supplies, and over-the-counter medications.
  • Consider taking a backpack so you can easily carry and access items during your trip.
  • Plastic baggies come in handy for transporting items like cosmetics in your luggage.
  • Consider taking a small travel pillow, blanket, umbrella, or poncho.

Conclusion

Do you travel a lot for work, recreation, or for military PCS orders? If your situation fits one of those 3, chances are you could really benefit from travel insurance. Travel Insurance will protect you and your family from financial hardship if Murphey’s Law strikes you at the most inopportune time. By reading the car insurance and travel insurance blogs, you will be able to determine which service is best for you. Follow the checklist provided and cross every T and dot every I to make sure you have the most stress-free travel experience.

How to Pay for School With Vocational Rehabilitation

How do Veterans Pay For School Without the G.I Bill?

In our last blog about how Veterans pay for school, we discussed the G.I. Bill and how it works best for you or your family. Today, we’re going to discuss what to do if you don’t have the G.I. Bill to fall back on for all of your costs associated with a college or tech school. The good news is, there are multiple ways for students to pay for school. But, we’re going to mainly discuss a program called Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment.

 

Image result for VA

 

 

What is the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program?

Vocational Rehabilitation or “Voc Rehab,” as most people refer to it as, is a program run by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The point of this program is to help Veterans with service-connected conditions get a job, keep that job, and achieve independence in their lives. This program is for Veterans who have suffered from an injury (physically or mentally) while in the service and have trouble getting a job due to that injury. Before we get into all the great services Voc Rehab offers, let’s make sure you’re eligible for the service before you read this whole blog.

What are the Requirements of Voc Rehab?
Dates of Service Must have served on or after September 16, 1940
What % of the service-connected disability is needed At least 20%, but if the VA determines you have a serious employment handicap, you could qualify with 10%
Do you need help getting a job? The Vet needs Voc Rehab to overcome an employment handicap
When does Voc Rehab run out? It has been less than 12 years since VA notified the claimant of his or her qualification for Voc Rehab benefits
What is IDES? Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) process or awaiting discharge due to a medical condition resulting from a serious injury or illness that occurred in the line of duty.
Type of Discharge Honorable Discharge

How do I apply for Vocational Rehabilitation benefits (Chapter 31)?

The first thing you need to do is sign into your EBenefits account and click apply to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits. After you apply, the VA will determine your eligibility, and if you are eligible, you’ll receive a letter and email, notifying you of your acceptance. In this acceptance letter, you’ll also receive an invitation for an initial meeting with your VA Voc Rehab counselor. This counselor will be your guide throughout the whole process and be responsible for your rehabilitation plan.

What are the Services Provided Through the Voc Rehab Program?

  • A complete evaluation to determine your abilities, skills, and interests for employment

Once you receive the acceptance letter and meet with your Voc Rehab counselor, you will conduct an evaluation based on your needs, interests, and abilities for finding a job. This evaluation is to determine if you need the services from this program to gain employment. Once this is complete, the next step will be to set up a plan for you to complete training or college to meet the requirements of the desired job.

  • Vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning for employment services

Once you figure out what you want to do with your life, you and the counselor will set up a plan on how to achieve your education or training goal. Normally, these plans average between 2-4 years, but can last as little as one semester in college.

  • Employment services such as job training, resume development, and other work-readiness support

Voc Rehab will pay for any job certification you need in fields, such as welding, plumbing, electrician, automotive, etc… which will save you thousands of dollars. Once you complete your training, the program gives your resume to a professional resume writer who polishes your resume to make it acceptable for employers.

 

construction workers
Getty Images Creator: fstop123

 

  • Help to find and to keep a job, including the use of special employer incentives and job accommodations

Once you’re finished with your training, the VA will advocate for you to find a job in the areas that you want to live and work. They will call and email companies in your field and explain the benefits of hiring Veterans, including the federal incentives businesses get for hiring a certain number of Veterans. It’s an awesome part of this program because you have professional advocacy on top of your individual search, which should increase your chances of getting a job.

  • On-the-job training (OJT), apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences

How many times have you heard a company say, “you don’t have the experience” or “you don’t have the training you need”? Voc Rehab sets up apprenticeships with companies to give you the experience you need to compete with your peers. This is one of the biggest issues in the job market today because you are unable to get the experience because you can’t get a job. It’s such an asinine and frustrating situation to be in as a job-seeker because it feels like a no-win situation.

  • Post-secondary training at a college, vocational, technical, or business school

If you don’t have the G.I. Bill or run out of benefits, Voc Rehab, is an amazing program to take advantage of for qualifying Veterans. Voc Rehab pays for the tuition of your school, but you don’t get room and board like you do with the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

 

Image result for business school
Creator: LANGEjff, Copyright: LANGEjf

 

  • Supportive rehabilitation services including case management, counseling, and medical referrals

Often times, Veterans are suffering from illnesses and mental disorders, such as PTSD and alcoholism, from their time in service. While you’re in the Voc Rehab program, you’ll receive counseling services and referrals to professionals who can help guide you through your time in school.

If you’re a Veteran who has sustained severe injuries in war, Voc Rehab will help you adjust to your new circumstances in life. They will help find you a place to live that can accommodate your specific needs, such as wheelchair accessibility, 1st-floor apartments, and jobs you can do online or remotely. They also cover expenses such as bathing, dressing, eating, and speech therapy.

Can I use the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and Voc Rehab at the Same Time?

No, there would be no point in using both the G.I. Bill and Voc Rehab at the same time because the benefits don’t stack on top of each other. Meaning, you won’t get the standard rate of the G.I. Bill and the standard rate of Voc rehab at the same time. These are two very different benefits the VA offers, and I want to show you how to get the most out of both of them.

Can I use the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and Voc Rehab in conjunction with each other?

Yes! The best piece of advice I can give regarding your education benefits would be to use both of these programs in conjunction with each other. This means use the G.I. Bill first, which will give you 36 months of educational benefits with room and board with books and BAH. If you need extra benefits after the 36 months, apply for Voc Rehab to cover your remaining tuition costs.

Why Would I Need to Use Both Benefits?

For example, I used my Post 9/11 G.I. Bill Benefits for my first 4 years of school and needed 2 extra years for a Master’s degree. Once my G.I. Bill was done, I applied for my Voc Rehab benefits to pay for the final 2 years of my Master’s degree. Fortunately, I was able to get my benefits on time because I applied for them about 4 months before my G.I. Bill ran out. Using both benefits allowed me to walk away with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from West Virginia University with absolutely zero debt!

Image result for law school
Creator: Leisa Thompson, Copyright: Leisa Thompson Photography

 

Which Benefit Should I Use First?

I get this question a lot from friends who are exiting the military and are concerned about paying for school, unfortunately, everybody’s situation is different. However, let this serve as a guideline for you to apply to your own situation so you can make the best decision for you.

Why You Would Use the G.I. Bill First:

  • I’m not sure what I want to study and would like to get my Gen Ed done before I make a decision
  • I have a nice laptop and access to a printer/scanner
  • I need BAH and money for books
  • My school is a Yellow Ribbon Participant
  • I plan to get an advanced degree

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions above, chances are you should go with the G.I. first and the Voc Rehab second.

Why I Would Use Voc Rehab First:

  • I am living rent-free
  • I have limited transportation costs
  • I need a laptop and printer
  • I need gear and equipment for my tech school

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions above, chances are you should go with the Voc Rehab first and the G.I. Bill second.

Conclusion

The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program is specifically designed for Veterans with at least a 10% disability rating from the Veteran’s Affairs. Referred to as Voc Rehab or Chapter 31, this program will pay for tuition and provide services to help get you a job in the field of study. My favorite thing about Voc Rehab (besides the tuition payment) is how they provide you with whatever resources you’ll need for your time in school. I received a brand new printer/fax machine with a new laptop. This program is a great first step for Veterans who either don’t have access to the G.I. Bill or want to extend their education benefits as far as they can. If you play it right, you could end with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and pay nothing out of pocket.

Daniel Defense M4 V11 Review

What is the Daniel Defense M4 V11?

The Daniel Defense M4 V11 is an upgrade from the V9 series carbines with the added benefits of having the KeyMod System and the integrated SliM Rail. The mid-length gas system has a smoother recoil impulse, which keeps the shooter on target at a faster pace than previous models. The Picatinny rail on top of the receiver and the KeyMod attachments (3,6,9 o’clock) gives the shooter an option to have attachments, such as optics and lights, and still have a clear line of sight for iron sight shooting. This rifle comes standard with an ambidextrous Grip-N-Rip Charging Handle that is perfect for us lefties too. With an ambidextrous safety select lever and QD points for quick connection and disconnection of slings, this rifle is engineered to be comfortable for all shooters.

Specs:

DDM4V11
Weight 6.15 lbs
Barrel Length 16″
Overall Length 32 1/4″-35 7/8″
Magazine Capacity 30
Caliber .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
Gas System Mid-Length
Twist Rate 1/7
MSRP $1,729.00

Pros:

  • Lightweight for 16″ barrel
  • 16″ barrel increases your target range and accuracy past 400 yards for a point target
  • Twist rate allows for heavier bullets to provide better accuracy
  • SliM Rail System is amazing
  • Durable
  • Accurate

Cons:

  • Very Expensive!
  • It seems like they forgot to put creativity into their pistol grip

Features:

  • Improved muzzle design reduces the flash signature of the rifle
  • The Barrel is Cold-Hammer Forged to drastically increase the life and performance of the barrel
  • The magazine well is widened and beveled to guide magazines into place faster and more secure, saving time and energy.
  • Ambidextrous safety lever
  • Free-floating rail system provides assurance that the barrel harmonics will be protected
  • The Buttstock is interchangeable and has a nonslip cheek weld with QD point for sling
  • KeyMod Attachment System

    Daniel Defense Rifle DD M4 Carbine V11 LW - 0215130032047

 

Daniel Defense SliM Rail System

The SLiM Rail is the patented rail system used in the V11 Series rifles that have made their M4 more ergonomic and lightweight while maintaining its power and accuracy. The biggest reason for this improvement is the KeyMod accessory attachment system. KeyMod is lighter than other attachment systems, such as M-Lok, and are just as durable as any other method for accessories. The KeyMod System also helps to reduce the recoil due to its free-floating rail system and the aircraft-grade aluminum used to make the gun. The KeyMod System also doesn’t mess with your zero when you attach or detach a weapon accessory, and it is easier to attach accessories than an M-Lok System.

The SliM Rail is known for its lightweight and free-floating barrel design, and it’s Bolt-Up Mounting System. The Bolt-Up Mounting System makes it simple and fast to mount the rail system onto any upper receiver that matches the same length of the receiver (15″). Due to the length of the SLiM Rail, shooters with longer arms and bigger bodies can reach out toward the front of the weapon for maximum leverage and control when switching from target to target. With attachment points at 3,6, and 9 o’clock positions and ambidextrous swivel points at the 1 and 11 o’clock positions, this rail system gives you a ton of variability and customization.

Why You Should Buy the DDM4V11

This M4 is about as good as it gets for this weapon system with the quality of materials used to make the parts to the integration of the KeyMod and Bolt-Up systems in the SLiM Rail. If I wanted an M4 and didn’t already have one, this is by far the best one I’ve been around. I carried the M4 from Colt during my two tours in Iraq (Balad, Bucca) and had a chance to hold the Daniel Defense M4, and without any doubt, Daniel Defense has a better rifle. This rifle will be very expensive, but if you want the best-made M4, go with Daniel Defense and don’t look back.

Where Can I Buy a DDM4 V11?

You can buy most Daniel Defense weapons from Palmetto State Armory, especially if you’re a veteran or law enforcement officer to get that discount. Buying directly from Daniel Defense is also a great option because you get their lifetime warranty on all parts of your gun from any defects or poor workmanship. Just make sure if you decide to build your own Daniel Defense rifle, you don’t use parts from other manufacturers. Daniel Defense won’t honor the warranty unless your entire gun is made by them.

DDM4 V11 Pro

The DDM4 V11 Pro is specifically designed for competitors in multi-gun matches in the International Defense Pistol Association(IDPA) or the National Rifle Association (NRA) run bouts across the globe. The biggest differences between the regular V11 and the V11 Pro are the muzzle climb mitigator, the upgraded trigger, and the updated pistol grip. The muzzle climb mitigator redirects the gasses from the operation through calibrated ports to keep your rifle on target without muzzle rise and reduces felt recoil. The best upgrade by far is the Geissele Automatics Super Dynamic 3 Gun Trigger. The trigger is a flat instead of curved and is incredibly crisp with no creep, comes in just under 3 lbs of trigger pull, and has a very quick reset of operation. The muzzle mitigator can be loud, and the flash can be seen as you shoot, but for competition shooters, this is an excellent rifle for a 3-gun match. The barrel is incredibly accurate, but at 18″, it can be a little front heavy, making it difficult for shooting at range standing. You’ll most certainly need a front grip to help with the length of the barrel.

Specs:

DDM4V11 Pro
Weight 7.53 lbs
Barrel Length 18″
Overall Length 34 ¾” – 37 7/8”
Magazine Capacity 30,32
Caliber .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
Gas System Mid-Length
Twist Rate 1/7
MSRP $1,999.00


Pros:

  • 18″ barrel increases your target range and accuracy up to 500 yards with a 4 MOA
  • Twist rate allows for heavier bullets to provide better accuracy
  • SliM Rail System is amazing
  • Durable
  • Accurate
  • Muzzle Climb Mitigator helps with accuracy and control

Cons:

  • $2,000 w/out attachments
  • Mitigator does make this gun very loud to shoot
  • Heavy compared to the V11

Features:

  • Improved muzzle design reduces the flash signature of the rifle
  • The Barrel is Cold-Hammer Forged to drastically increase the life and performance of the barrel
  • The magazine well is widened and beveled to guide magazines into place faster and more secure, saving time and energy.
  • Ambidextrous safety lever
  • Free-floating rail system provides assurance that the barrel harmonics will be protected
  • The Buttstock is interchangeable and has a nonslip cheek weld with QD point for sling
  • KeyMod Attachment System
  • Upgraded Trigger
  • Upgraded pistol grip designed to stop slippage in your grip during rain or mist and built at a better angle for your hand to rest in comfortably.
  • Muzzle Climb Mitigator

 

Why You Should Buy The M4V11 Pro

The V11 Pro model is best used for competition shooters in their 3-gun matches across the world because the trigger pressure is light, crisp, and has a quick reset for follow up shots. The muzzle mitigator prevents almost all of the felt recoil and resists muzzle climb shot after shot, allowing for incredible accuracy and speed. This rifle is going to be very expensive, even if you get it on sale, so make sure you can get your money’s worth before diving into such a big expense. There are plenty of M4 rifles that you can get for less than half this price at places such as Armslist and Palmetto State Armory.

What is the Best Ammunition for DDM4?

The best ammunition for your gun is going to be the ammo that doesn’t have misfeeds or misfires and is consistently accurate shot after shot. Personally, I won’t use anything less than 62Grain 5.56 (.223 Remington) ammo in my M4 because I have the best accuracy with heavier grain bullets. With a 1/7 twist rate in the barrel, Daniel Defense is designed to use heavier bullets that provide more force for accuracy at any distance. For the sake of argument, I know there are dozens of brands that work just fine, but I use Sig Sauer 77 Grain Elite Performance and PMC X-Tac 62 Grain

 

SIG SAUER 223 REMINGTON 77GR ELITE MATCH GRADE OTM AMMUNITION

For competition shooters, this is going to be the best ammo to use because of the muzzle velocity (2,750 fps), Sig Sauer’s name, and the most dependable primers in the game. This round is specifically made for competition shooters who demand the best ballistics, such as the Sig V-Crown. The Sig V-Crown uses a toothed cannelure to help lock the lead core to the jacket. Most other rounds are bonded, which bonds the jacket to the soft lead core, helping keep the bullet together for maximum penetration of your target. By locking in the lead core to the jacket, the V-Crown style bullets are more accurate.

 

 Buy Here

 

PMC X-TAC 5.56MM NATO 62GR LAP AMMUNITION

I carry the PMC X-Tac ammo because it’s always up to the standard of either US Military Specification standards (MIL-SPEC) or The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI). The peace of mind that I get when using this ammo instills confidence in me. The X-Tac 62 Grain round makes me feel like it’s going to hit my target and will fire exactly where and when I want it to. As a self-defense round, it’s best to spend your money on companies that put their entire reputation on whether their products work 100% of the time or not.  As any police officer or warfighter will tell you, confidence in your gear is instrumental in your success in the field.

 

Buy Here

 

Conclusion

The Daniel Defense M4 V11 series rifle is going to be one of the most expensive rifles could ever own, but as with many things in life, it’s well worth the money. This SLiM Rail technology paired with the KeyMod attachment locks on the 3,6,9 o’clock positions makes this rifle lightweight, ergonomic and accurate on the move. Upgrade the M4 V11 to the Pro model if you’re a competitor in the 3-gun challenge and take advantage of the muzzle climb mitigator that replaces the V11. The Pro comes standard with an 18″ barrel to increase accuracy and range but gives up a little in the control of the rifle. The most impressive feature of the pro model is the upgraded Geissele Automatics Super Dynamic 3 Gun Trigger. The trigger is flat and has about a 2.5 lbs trigger pull near the bottom of the trigger, and a 3 lbs trigger pull weight in the middle. The pull itself is clean, crisp, and resets surprisingly quick, giving the shooter quick and more accurate follow up shots. Whether you’re a competitor or soldier, the DDM4 V11 series is a hell of a tool to have when time and accuracy are everything.

USAA Car Buying Service

What is the USAA Car Buying Service?

Buying a car can be one of the most stressful purchases in your life, next to buying a house or paying for college, but USAA helps make it much easier. With the USAA Car Buying Service, you don’t need to worry about being swindled by car salesmen or getting ripped off on your loan rates.  On Average, USAA members save $3,537 off the MSRP of all new vehicles. As for loan rates, USSA members save 0.50% on car loans with USAA Car Buying Service and have thousands of vehicles to choose from, such as BMW, Ford, Subaru, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz. USAA can provide this impressive selection of vehicles because of their partnership with TRUCar. TRUCar is known as one of the largest car dealership Sponsors in the country with a respectable reputation for offering fair prices for new and used vehicles.

How Does USAA Car Buying Service Work?

The USAA Car Buying Service serves as a middleman between you and the dealerships near you to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of, financially. As USAA brings in business to thousands of dealerships, the dealerships are incentivized to offer the lowest price on the market for that vehicle.  Other companies offer great rewards too, so I still recommend looking at websites, such as Kelley Blue Book and CarFax, to compare prices to gain leverage in your pursuit of a car. I have found lower prices for vehicles on both of those websites, so do your research and make your decision after you add up the total cost of the car buying service.

If you’re reading this blog and asking yourself, “how much does the service cost?” the answer is nothing for the car buyer. USAA gets paid directly from the dealerships that are getting your business, so we as consumers don’t pay anything extra. Due to the overall weight of a company that has the business of every warfighter (that I know) in our country, they’re able to push that weight to encourage dealerships to be fair and accountable. As with many programs that USAA offers, the USAA Car Buying Service does a great job of relieving the stress of car buying. Walking into a dealership, knowing that a billion-dollar company is making sure you don’t get ripped off is a great feeling to have.

How Do I Buy a Car on USAA Car Buying Service?

The fast and easy way to buy a car through this service is to go to this website (Your screen should look like this screenshot below). As the page opens up, simply select if you want a new or used car and select the vehicle make you want to look for. Once you click search, a list of all available vehicles will be listed along with their prices and the closest location to your desired area code. Search for your vehicle, and once you click on the vehicle, you’ll be asked to log in with your USAA number (you know the drill). Once your identity is confirmed by USAA, you can buy your car with the help of a USAA Car Buying Service expert. They will literally guide you step-by-step with all the paperwork you’ll need, and they will be able to tell you if your credit score and cash flow qualify for a loan (just remember, cash is King!).

 

 

Guide To Using USAA Car Buying Service?

As someone who has used this service and has been taken advantage of by dealerships outside of this program, I want to share how I would do it over. The first thing you have to do is get your financials in order and make sure you can prove you have the money to buy a car. Once you understand how much you can afford, you need to figure out how much money should put down on the vehicle if you’re financing the vehicle. The tables below should provide you with a great place to start buying a new car with USAA Car Buying Service. I ask all of our readers to put their bravado and ego aside and avoid the same mistake I made during my first-time car buying experience.

Buying a New Car With USAA Car Buying Service
How Much Car Can I Afford? This quick blog on USAA will explain the topics you need to think about before buying a new or used car. If you don’t know that you should not spend more than 15% of your take-home pay on a car payment, then you need to read this blog!
How Big Should My Down Payment Be? Knowing how much to put down on a car to keep you financially stable is sometimes difficult to figure out. If you don’t know that putting a high down payment on a vehicle increases our chances of being approved of a loan
How To Negotiate a Great Deal on Your Next Car? This video explains a few important tips to figure out how to get a better deal on a car. Going into a negotiation with confidence and knowledge is important to get the best possible price and value.
What’s the True Cost of Your New Car? Understanding the upfront cost of Taxes, Titles, and License (TTL) and the cost of ownership year to year is the financially responsible thing to do.
When is The Best Time To Buy A Car? Is it better to buy a car in the fall, winter, spring, or summer? If you don’t know, read this article and learn when to shop for the best deals.
Should I Buy a Vehicle Service Contract or Extended Car Warranty? At the end of your car buying experience, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to buy the Extended Car Warranty or the Vehicle Service Plan. If you are new to car buying and don’t know what any of those words mean, read this article.

Should I Buy A Used Car With USAA Car Buying Service?

The decision to buy a used or new car is often manipulated by society to have the newest and recent material object, such as the New I-Phone or newest 8K TV at BestBuy. There are times to buy a new car, but most of the time, buying a used car is the right move to make. For example, if you were to buy a brand new Ford F-150 pick-up truck for $45,000 (low price for new F-150), the minute you drive it off the lot, the car is now worth $40,000 at best. The only thing faster than the depreciation of vehicles Tyreek Hill on a football field. For that fact, it’s often best to buy a used car and not worry about the rapid depreciation. Before you buy a used car, take a look at the articles created by USAA to help you get the best deal you could.

Buying a Used Car using the USAA Car Buying Service
9 Advantages of owning a Minivan As many Vets can attest to, Minivans are capable of carrying a large family and suitcases without paying a boatload for them. For 9 more advantages of buying a Minivan, read this article, and save money.
4 Things To Look For in a Used Car The first thing you need to do when buying a used car is figuring out what you’re looking for in mileage and aesthetics. If you’re not sure about everything you should be thinking about when buying a used car, you’ll want to see this article.
Get Top Dollar When Selling Your Car If you’re going to buy a used car, I’m deducing you’re probably interested in selling a used car. If you’re trying to get the most you can get out of your current car to go towards your newer car, read this article to get the best tips.
7 Things To Know About Your Title If your someone who puts your title in the glovebox or doesn’t know your lender gets priority on your car title, please read this article!
Auto Loan Calculator Once you figure out what kind of car you want and what you’re willing to pay, type what you want to loan, and USAA will give you a quote for what you’re qualified for.
5 Ways to Help Lower Auto Insurance Rates One of the biggest killers of buying your dream car is the cost of insurance, which is different for new and used vehicles. Before you insure your vehicle, read this article and get tips from the experts at USAA.

*Is USAA The Best Car Insurance for Veterans? If you’re not convinced about USAA Car Insurance, read this blog and decide for yourself.

Why Should I Use USAA Car Buying Service over its competitors?

I get asked this question a lot, and my answer is always to use as many resources as you can to achieve your goal of buying a new/used car at the best price. Even USAA recommends researching the cost of vehicles at Kelley Blue Book and CarFax to compare and contrast prices from different sources. There are 4 reasons why you should buy your car with USAA after your research is concluded.

  1. TRUCar guarantees you get the best price that includes all the fees, including TTL
  2. Dealers compete against other dealerships for our business, the best prices win the deal
  3. USAA provides a price curve for all the same vehicles sold versus what you’re about to pay. This provides the consumer with an opportunity to know that it’s a fair asking price.
  4. Once you login to other car buying services, you’re going to be hit with a lot of advertising spam from all the companies that bought your information from them. USAA makes sure to keep your information private, so you don’t get 1,000 credit cards and car offers in the mail.