Skip to content

Advertiser Disclosure

Credit Card Insider is an independent, advertising supported website. Credit Card Insider receives compensation from some credit card issuers as advertisers. Advertiser relationships do not affect card ratings or our Editor’s Best Card Picks. Credit Card Insider has not reviewed all available credit card offers in the marketplace. Content is not provided or commissioned by any credit card issuers. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information, though all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on any ‘Apply Now’ button, the most up-to-date terms and conditions, rates, and fee information will be presented by the issuer. Credit Card Insider has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Credit Card Insider and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. A list of these issuers can be found on our Editorial Guidelines.

PenFed Credit Cards

6 min read
By Sean Messier Sep 24, 2019 | Updated Sep 21, 2021
At a glance

PenFed, short for Pentagon Federal Credit Union, offers a variety of credit cards and other financial products. Though it used to be more exclusive, Penfed membership is now available to anyone.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

With 1.7 million members and a whopping $25 billion in assets, Pentagon Federal Credit Union is one of America’s largest credit unions.

It offers all the services you’d expect of any community-based credit union, including checking accounts, savings accounts, and the usual batch of borrowing options — personal loans, auto loans, mortgages, and the like.

But there’s one thing that separates PenFed from many of its competitors: its military focus.

The credit union first served members of the now-defunct War Department, but today it’s open to anyone who wants to join. Still, PenFed remains particularly popular among the nation’s uniformed services, as well as their family members and supporters.

There are currently dozens of PenFed locations spread throughout the United States, with branches in the Washington D.C. area and several other states, plus at American military bases in Puerto Rico, Japan, Portugal, and Guam.

Just like many big-league financial institutions, PenFed Credit Union is also a credit card issuer.

The current PenFed credit card selection is fairly small, at just a few cards, but it includes some surprisingly compelling options. PenFed is federally insured by NCUA and is an Equal Housing Lender.

What Are the Best PenFed Credit Cards?

Each PenFed credit card is best suited for a certain crowd.

The PenFed Gold Visa® Card (Review) is best for applicants looking for a no-frills card with low interest rates.

Featuring a flat-rate rewards program, the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card (Review) is perfect for anyone who wants to earn cash back on every purchase. It can be used to fill in the blanks that your other cash back cards don’t cover, or as a go-to credit card if you prefer simplicity.

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card (Review) delivers strong gas and grocery reward rates. Rather than cash back, the Platinum earns points that can be swapped for travel, gift cards, and more (but not for statement credits/cash back). It’s best if you’d like to earn travel rewards without paying an annual fee.

Low Interest Rate

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

PenFed Gold Visa® Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelFair
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR7.49% to 17.99% Variable

The PenFed Gold Visa® Card features low interest rates, and works in a promotional APR offer (see details).

Cash Back Rewards

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelFair
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR14.99% to 17.99% Variable

If you’re looking for a rewards credit card that can help you save on every dollar spent, count the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card among your options. This PenFed credit card provides a flat cash back earning rate that increases if you’re part of the PenFed Honors Advantage program, as well as select Visa Signature benefits.

Travel Rewards

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$95
  • Purchase APR14.99%–17.99% Variable

A relatively new entry, the PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card is all travel, all the time. It’s got a solid rate for every travel purchase you make, along with a trio of benefits you don’t often find on a card at this fee level: a Priority Pass Select membership, a $100 air travel credit, and a $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit.

Gas/Grocery Rewards

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelFair
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR11.74% to 17.99% Variable

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers a straightforward and remarkably competitive rewards program. It’s a bit slim on benefits, but that’s to be expected when you’re not paying an annual fee.

Insider tip

According to PenFed, the value of a PenFed point is 0.85 for gift cards and merchandise, while it varies for travel redemptions. This is lower than the reward points offered by many other issuers. However, you may be able to increase your redemption value by taking advantage of monthly promotions.

What Features Do You Get With PenFed Credit Cards?

PenFed’s credit cards generally come with at least a few basic features. Certain cards may offer a wider selection of these features than others, so check into any specific card’s terms to learn more before you apply.

PenFed credit cards include:

  • An interest rate cap of 18%: Federal credit unions have to abide by certain laws, which currently include a NCUA maximum interest rate of 18% for most loans (including credit cards).
  • PenFed Honors Advantage program: Some PenFed cards provide extra rewards for Honors Advantage members; to qualify, you must either:
    1. Be in an active military service status, a member of the Reserves or National Guard, an honorably discharged U.S. military veteran, or retired from such service
    2. Be the primary owner of both the relevant credit card and a checking account of any existing open or newly established PenFed product
  • Various reward redemption options: PenFed’s cash back rewards card, the Power Cash, offers only cash back redemptions. The Platinum card, on the other hand, allows you to redeem for gift cards, travel, and shopping, but not for cash back. Notably, PenFed does not allow cardholders to transfer rewards between cards.
  • Free FICO credit score: PenFed credit cardholders can check their FICO NextGen credit scores for free whenever they’d like, based on their Equifax credit reports (PenFed customers with other eligible account types, like checking accounts and installment loans, can check their scores too).
  • Fraud protections: PenFed’s credit cards all provide fraud protective measures, including 24/7 fraud monitoring. As with most issuers, you won’t be held responsible for charges you didn’t authorize.
  • Visa benefits or American Express benefits: Most of PenFed’s cards are part of the Visa network, which gives them certain benefits. Two standard Visa cards and two Visa Signature cards are available, and the latter options will likely provide a few more perks than the former. Visa-provided benefits often include purchase protection, a concierge service, auto rental collision damage waivers, travel accident insurance, roadside assistance, and more. The lone Amex card in the lineup offers similar benefits.

How Do You Become a Member of PenFed Credit Union?

PenFed may issue only a few credit cards, but among its modest portfolio are some fairly impressive rewards cards. The catch is that you have to be a PenFed member to get these cards (and you still have to apply and be approved for each card once you’re a member).

So, you might be wondering: Can anyone become a member and apply for a PenFed credit card? Though it wasn’t always the case, the answer is now “yes.”

PenFed allows anyone to become a member. You previously had to meet certain criteria, mostly related to the military, but those restrictions have been lifted.

All PenFed members must open and maintain a savings account with at least $5. PenFed is federally insured by NCUA and is an Equal Housing Lender.

Some of PenFed’s products require military affiliation to get certain benefits. For example, with the Power Cash Rewards card, you must be a member of the PenFed Honors Advantage Program to get 2% cash back. To qualify for PenFed Honors Advantage, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Be in an active military service status, a member of the Reserves or National Guard, an honorably discharged U.S. Military Veteran or retired from such service
  2. Be the primary owner on both the credit card and checking accounts of any existing open or newly established PenFed product, excluding PenCheck Limited accounts

A Brief History of Pentagon Federal Credit Union

Attracting nearly 2 million members since its establishment, it’s clear that PenFed has been doing something right.

Even so, the Pentagon Federal Credit Union tale is one that begins humbly.

Back in the Day

PenFed’s story begins in March 1935, when ten volunteers united and founded what was then known as the War Department Federal Credit Union. At the time, the credit union’s membership was focused exclusively on the War Department’s civilian employees, and it operated in Washington, D.C.’s old Munitions Building.

The old Navy and Munitions Buildings on the Washington Mall. Image credit: NPS

The credit union moved to the Pentagon building in November 1942, and was suitably renamed Pentagon Federal Credit Union in December 1947. PenFed reached $1 million in assets shortly thereafter, in August 1949, offering a taste of the credit union’s prosperous future.

Growth and Expansion

The years following PenFed’s adoption of its current name brought about a host of major changes, and perhaps to no surprise, they were accompanied by some big-league achievements.

August 1956 saw PenFed expanding its membership to encompass not only the War Department, but all Army and Air Force Commissioned and Warrant Officers, too, paving the way for major growth.

In 1971, this growth came to fruition and then some, as the credit union opened its first overseas branch and climbed past 100,000 members.

The Roaring ’80s

PenFed’s international debut heralded a new era for the credit union, which diversified its services considerably throughout the 1980s.

PenFed introduced the PenCheck account in 1982, and just two years later, the credit union began issuing credits cards. By 1987, PenFed had received authorization for First Mortgage and HELOC lending, expanding the list of resources available to its members even further.

As yet another marker of the progress accompanying these changes, PenFed surpassed $1 billion in assets in mid-1984.

PenFed Now

Today, PenFed strives to remain on the cutting edge of the financial scene through a combination of accessible financial products and forward-thinking technology that allows the bank to better serve its members, including those members of the military stationed all around the world.

The credit union reached $10 billion in assets in January 2007 and 1 million members in December 2010, and today boasts $25 billion in assets and 1.7 million members.

In addition to its financial services, PenFed actively supports the community through the PenFed Foundation, which was established in the aftermath of 9/11 to assist the nation’s active servicemembers and veterans, along with their families and supporters. The organization has since delivered more than $34.5 million in assistance through emergency and down payment grants, childcare expense coverage, and several other charitable initiatives.

Find more information about the foundation’s efforts on the PenFed Foundation website, or browse PenFed locations and visit a branch near you.

PenFed credit cards are popular among members of the military, but there are plenty of other options. Browse our go-to selections for military credit cards.
Written by

Sean Messier

Sean Messier works to empower individuals with the knowledge required to use credit cards responsibly and to their advantage. His writing- and research-based background has granted him experience in an array of topics, from finance to business and beyond. Sean distills the knowledge accumulated over years of experience in the credit space into consistent, actionable articles, guides, and reviews.

Do you have a correction, tip, or suggestion for a new post? Contact us here.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by bank advertisers. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers' responsibility to ensure all posts are accurate and/or questions are answered.

Scroll to top