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Review

2019 Review: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card – Best for Gas?

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Sean Messier By Sean Messier Aug 08, 2019 | Updated Sep 24, 2019
Our rating
Min. credit level: Fair
Annual Fee: $0
Regular APR: 11.74% to 17.99% Variable

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card has yet to achieve the fame of big-name favorites like the Chase Freedom® (Review) and the Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer (Review), but it’s nevertheless an interesting pick for a rewards card with no annual fee.

Take a look at its rewards program, and you’ll likely be shocked at the rates it delivers. You get 5X points per dollar at the gas pump, 3X points per dollar on groceries, and 1X point per dollar everywhere else.

The icing on the cake? It provides a decent balance transfer APR offer for a touch of extra functionality.

But as is the case with all good things, there are drawbacks, and they do dig into the value of this card offer as a whole.

Find more information about the Penfed Platinum Rewards card’s ups, downs, and everything in between below.

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelFair
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR11.74% to 17.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Our Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

We give the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card 4 out of 5 stars, because while its rewards program allows you to earn quickly in its spending categories, your redemption options are limited. The fact that you have to be a PenFed member to get the card is a bit of a detriment too, but it’s only a minor hurdle.

Why We Like It

  • 5X points on gas and 3X points on groceries, with no limit on rewards, is a very competitive offer for a card with no annual fee
  • Reward points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, charitable donations, or gift cards
  • No blackout dates for travel redemptions
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% APR on balance transfers for 12 months now through March 31, 2020 (then 11.74% to 17.99% Variable)

Why It Could Be Better

  • Points are often worth less than 1 cent each
  • No statement credit redemption option
  • Must redeem your rewards points through PenFed Credit Union
  • Travel bookings cost $15 (online) or $25 (by phone)
  • Points expire after five years
  • Signup bonus offers a relatively low return on spend
  • Requires PenFed Credit Union membership (but all you have to do is open a checking or savings account with a $5 deposit)

Insider Advice: Getting the Most Out of Your Card

  • Buy groceries and gas: Use this card at gas stations and grocery stores to build your point balance quickly.
  • Use the intro bonus: Spend $1,500 in 90 days to get a $100 statement credit.
  • Redeem points for gift cards or merchandise: As tempting as travel redemptions might seem, this card’s low point value and booking fees mean you might be better off using a dedicated travel card.
  • Transfer a balance, if you have to: If you’re planning on applying for this card, consider paying off another debt that’s accumulating interest by taking advantage of this card’s introductory balance transfer APR offer.

The Rewards

The PenFed Platinum Rewards card’s reward rates are quite high, which does a good job of making up for each point’s relatively unexceptional cash value. You can earn up to 5X points per dollar, and if you value each point at 0.85 cent, that’s still a 4.25% cash back equivalent.

Earning

Spending Rewards
  • 5X points per dollar spent on Gas purchases at the pump
  • 3X points per dollar spent on Groceries
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $100 statement credit for spending $1,500 in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Return on spend: 6.67%

The value of each point you earn with this card tends to be pretty low, usually around 0.85 cents, give or take.

Fortunately, when you consider the high reward rates you’re getting, the relatively low value of PenFed points becomes less of a problem. You should be able to build your point balance fairly quickly, especially considering how both gas and groceries tend to be everyday necessities.

This card probably isn’t for you if neither gas nor groceries demand a considerable portion of your income.

Another perk is that the Platinum Rewards card features no spending limit on its 5X and 3X categories. Some of its competitors, such as the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, restrict how much you can earn at certain rates.

The PenFed Platinum Rewards offers a small signup bonus, and its return on spend isn’t particularly noteworthy. But it’s a nice touch if you can get it without any unnecessary spending.

Redeeming

Point redemption is where this card falls a bit short of its competitors.

Any points you earn will expire in five years, so that’s a limitation you’ll want to keep in mind if you prefer to amass heaps of points over a long period of time.

Whereas nearly all of the best rewards cards let you redeem for statement credits in addition to a host of other redemption options, the Platinum Rewards card doesn’t offer statement credit redemptions at all. You can only redeem for travel, gift cards, charitable donations, and merchandise.

And you’re not likely to get an exceptional value, no matter how you redeem. Nor can you transfer your points to another loyalty program. You’re also unable to transfer points between PenFed cards.

You can’t view PenFed’s specific redemption options and booking portal unless you have a PenFed credit card, but PenFed says that each point is worth 0.85 cents when redeemed for gift cards and merchandise.

Travel redemptions may offer a higher rate, with hotel and car rental redemptions generally providing the best return on spend.

You may also be able to get a better redemption rate if you can take advantage of one of PenFed’s monthly promotions, which it regularly offers on merchandise, gift cards, and travel.

So you might want to search elsewhere if you’re after a credit card that offers either cash back or a valuable travel redemption rate.

The Benefits

Cards with no annual fee rarely provide a king’s ransom in benefits, but you could do worse than the PenFed Platinum Rewards. Virtually all of the card’s benefits are coordinated by the network (Visa, in this case), but they’re still pretty valuable.

  • Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection: Enjoy a variety of perks, like automatic room upgrades, complimentary in-room WiFi, and more, at more than 900 hotels around the world.
  • 24/7 concierge service: Included by default with many Visa Signature cards, this perk provides round-the-clock assistance with non-emergency tasks, from restaurant reservations to vacation planning and beyond.
  • Shopping benefits: Get discounts from select retailers both online and in store, plus enjoy purchase protection and extended warranty protection whenever you shop with the card.
  • Travel benefits: Roadside assistance, travel and emergency assistance, travel accident insurance, and a car rental collision damage waiver offer valuable coverage when you’re on the go.
  • Entertainment benefits: Access exclusive travel packages, ticket presales, event tickets, and more.
  • Security benefits: Including zero fraud liability, emergency card replacement, emergency cash disbursement, and lost/stolen card reporting.

The Terms & Fees

Purchase APR Balance Transfer APR Cash Advance APR
11.74% to 17.99% Variable 0% for 12 months now through March 31, 2020 (then 11.74% to 17.99% Variable) 11.74% to 17.99%
Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee
$0  None 3% per transaction None
Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
17.99% None Up to $25

The Platinum Rewards card features no foreign transaction fees, which, coupled with its chip-and-PIN functionality, makes it a decent card to bring with you if you’re headed overseas.

There’s an introductory APR offer for balance transfers, too. There are several longer-lasting balance transfer offers on the market, but it’s a helpful touch if you think the card complements your spending and are looking to transfer a balance anyway.

Like other PenFed credit cards, the Platinum Rewards provides low interest rates in accordance with credit union regulations. And while we always recommend you pay off your statement balance by its due date to avoid interest charges altogether, this can prove helpful if you might have to carry a balance and don’t have a 0% purchase APR offer.

The Bottom Line

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card is a good rewards credit card that’s kept from excellence by a few manageable flaws.

You’ll get the most value from this card if you use it for gas and grocery purchases. That means you’ll probably want to use another rewards credit card for purchases outside of those categories.

Statement credit redemptions aren’t available, and the point value tends to stay on the low side, which you’ll likely want to keep in mind if you prefer to use the most valuable credit card possible.

But for a relatively basic card with no annual fee, the Platinum Rewards is a competitive pick for gas and groceries, especially when you consider additional features like its lack of foreign transaction fees and introductory balance transfer offer.

You just might have more valuable options; check out some of them below.

How to Apply for the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Eager to add the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card to your wallet? Unlike most big-league credit card issuers, you have to be a member of PenFed in order to get it, so you’ll probably want to start there. Anyone can become a member by opening a checking or savings account with a deposit of at least $5.

But you can apply for the card before becoming a member, and then complete the membership process afterward. Click the “How to Apply” button below to learn more.

You’ll have to fill out an application and provide the usual identifying information, of course.

Qualifications and Requirements

  • PenFed membership (apply before or after applying for the credit card)
  • Personal identifying information, including birth date, Social Security number, email address, phone number
  • Employment details
  • Income information
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelFair
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR11.74% to 17.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Alternatives to the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Because of its redemption restrictions, the PenFed Platinum Rewards card isn’t for everyone. However, there are plenty of cards that don’t feature these restrictions that can still help you rack up rewards on key expenses, like gas and groceries. We’ve compiled a few of the best choices below.

 

Ducks Unlimited Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Ducks Unlimited Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR21.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

We’re always quick to mention the Ducks Unlimited Rewards Visa Signature® Card when discussing gas rewards cards, and that’s because it’s pretty much the best one available. There’s a high reward rate with no spending limit and no annual fee. What’s not to love?

Spending Rewards
  • 5% cash back at:
    • Gas stations
    • Sporting goods stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Key Features

  • Free credit score: Check your FICO Bankcard Score 9 for free anytime
  • Visa card benefits: This card is issued at either the Visa Platinum or Visa Signature level, depending on your creditworthiness, and delivers benefits accordingly
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR16.24%–26.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card (Review) gives you the freedom of choice. You pick your 3% cash back category from a list of six options, most of which cover common purchases for a lot of people. Then, you get 2% back at both grocery stores and wholesale clubs.

The main catch? You only earn at the 3% and 2% reward rates until you’ve reached $2,500 in combined spending per quarter. But $10,000 a year isn’t all that restrictive for a card with great reward categories and no annual fee.

Spending Rewards
  • 3% cash back in one category of your choice:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at:
    • Grocery stores
    • Wholesale clubs
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Spending limit: 3% and 2% rewards only up to $2,500 per quarter, then 1%
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $200 cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • Return on spend: 20%

Key Features

  • Free credit score: Check your FICO Score 8, based on your TransUnion credit report
  • Intro Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles (then 16.24%–26.24% Variable)
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR15.49%-27.49% Variable

Yet another selection with no annual fee, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (Review) provides 3X points per dollar spent on dining, gas, and travel — three of the most sought-after reward categories — as well as select eligible streaming services, which is fairly unique. There’s also an intro APR offer on both purchases and balance transfers.

Spending Rewards
  • 3X points per dollar spent on:
    • Dining
    • Gas
    • Travel
    • Streaming services
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 30,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
    • Value: $300
    • Return on spend: 10%

Key Features

  • Free credit score: Check your FICO Score 9, based on your Experian credit report
  • Intro Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 months (then 15.49%-27.49% Variable)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR14.49–25.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

Despite its annual fee (Rates & Fees), the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Review) is one of the most rewarding cash back credit card offers you’ll find if you’re a heavy grocery and gas spender. The card does feature a $6,000 annual spending limit on its 6% reward rate for supermarket purchases, but that limit is high enough that it doesn’t really detract from its value.

Spending Rewards
  • 6% cash back for:
    • U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000, then 1%)
    • Select U.S. streaming services
  • 3% cash back for:
    • U.S. gas stations
    • Transit
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Introductory Bonus Offer

  • $250 cash back for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Return on spend: 25%

Key Features

  • Intro Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 months (then 14.49–25.49% Variable)
  • Annual fee: $95 (Rates & Fees)

 

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelFair
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR11.74% to 17.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

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