USAA Mortgage Loans Review 2020

Good for: military members and their relatives who are interested in a VA loan.

Hal M. Bundrick, CFPSeptember 24, 2020
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Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: USAA specializes in VA loans and offers a variety of online conveniences, but its website doesn’t provide customized rate quotes.

USAA

USAA: NMLS#8722

Min. Credit Score

640

Conventional:

620

VA:

640

Min. Down Payment

0%

Loan Types and Products

Purchase, Refinance, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, VA

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • VA loans are the bulk of USAA’s business, so it knows the ins and outs of eligibility.

  • Lots of experience assisting first-time home buyers.

  • You can submit loan documents online.

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer FHA or USDA loans, or second mortgages.

  • Limited mortgage rate information is on the USAA website — none of it customized. You'll have to call.

Compare to Other Lenders

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Min. Credit Score

620

Conventional:

620

FHA:

580

VA:

620

Min. Credit Score

660

VA:

660

Conventional:

660

FHA:

660

USDA:

660

Min. Down Payment

3%

Min. Down Payment

0%

Loan Types and Products

Purchase, Refinance, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA

Loan Types and Products

Purchase, Refinance, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA

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Full Review

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, getting a mortgage may be a bit of a challenge. Lenders are dealing with high loan demand and staffing issues that may slow down the process. Also, some lenders have increased their fees or temporarily suspended certain loan products. If you can’t pay your current home loan, refer to our mortgage assistance resource. For the latest information on how to cope with financial stress during this pandemic, see NerdWallet’s financial guide to COVID-19.

USAA Mortgage at a glance

USAA specializes in VA loans for military-connected borrowers. USAA Mortgage is part of a unique financial services firm. While USAA is not a credit union, it is owned by its members who can be anyone who has ever "honorably served in the U.S. armed forces and their direct dependents." USAA charges no fees on VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans, and is competitive on rates and fees for all other loans, too. USAA serves all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but not through a network of local offices. USAA is “100% consumer direct,” meaning most business is conducted over the phone or online.

Here’s a breakdown of USAA Mortgage's overall score:

  • Variety of loan types: 4 of 5 stars

  • Variety of loan products: 4 of 5 stars

  • Online convenience: 5 of 5 stars

  • Rates and fees: 3.5 of 5 stars

  • Rate transparency: 4 of 5 stars

USAA Mortgage loan types and products

Loans backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are USAA’s sweet spot. In fact, nearly three-quarters of USAA mortgages are VA loans.

"While we offer many mortgage options to our entire membership base, USAA has traditionally specialized in VA Loans,” Mark Burrage, an assistant vice president at USAA Mortgage, said in an email. The lender’s average home loan size is $265,000, according to 2019 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data.

Even though USAA offers conventional loans with as little as 3% down, considering its military membership, VA loans with 0% down are the core offering for first-time home buyers. As a result, USAA doesn’t offer FHA or USDA loans.

Home equity loans and lines of credit are also unavailable at USAA.

USAA Mortgage online convenience

Because USAA's membership has traditionally relied on a long-distance relationship rather than a brick-and-mortar local presence, technology is key.

“We provide a robust digital mortgage experience,” Burrage said. “From the ability to apply online, import your bank statements, electronic document uploads and e-sign loan documents. We prefill a large part of the mortgage application based on information in the member's profile — which reduces needless keystrokes and speeds up the process.”

When a user receives an official loan estimate, the data for his or her particular loan is rendered in real time as an explanatory video, breaking down all of the information contained in the estimate.

Loan officers are typically available by phone Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time and 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Central Time on Saturday and Sunday. There is a single point of contact through the initial loan stage.

USAA Mortgage rates and fees

One of the most important considerations when choosing a mortgage lender is understanding what the loan will cost. In order to provide consumers with a general sense of what a lender might charge, NerdWallet scores lenders on two factors regarding fees and mortgage rates:

  • A lender's average origination fee compared with the median of all lenders reporting under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. USAA Mortgage earns 3 of 5 stars on this factor.

  • A lender's offered mortgage rates compared with the best available on comparable loans. USAA Mortgage 4 of 5 stars on this factor.

USAA's VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan, or VA IRRRL, has no origination fee, and the lender says it covers the appraisal, title and VA funding fee.

Borrowers should consider the balance between lender fees and mortgage rates. While it's not always the case, paying upfront fees can lower your mortgage interest rate. Some lenders will charge higher upfront fees to lower their advertised interest rate and make it more attractive. Some lenders just charge higher upfront fees.

You can decide to buy discount points — a fee paid with your closing costs — to reduce your mortgage rate.

Deciding whether to pay higher upfront fees is a matter of considering how long you plan to live in your home and how much cash you have to apply toward closing costs when you sign the loan paperwork.

USAA Mortgage rate transparency

USAA mortgage rates are available online but are not customized by a user's credit score or loan details. The USAA rate webpage shows purchase and refinance mortgage rates, and makes it fairly easy to see if discount points have been applied to lower the displayed rate. To get a customized rate quote, you'll need to contact a USAA loan officer or start an online application.

More from NerdWallet

NerdWallet’s star ratings for mortgage lenders are awarded based on our evaluation of the products and services each lender offers to consumers who are actively shopping for the best mortgage. The five key areas we evaluated include the variety of loan types and products offered, online conveniences, online mortgage rate information, and the rate spread and origination fee lenders reported in the latest available Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. To ensure consistency, our ratings are reviewed by multiple people on the NerdWallet Mortgages team.