2021 Review: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card – Best for Gas?
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The PenFed Platinum Rewards Card earns the most on gas and groceries. There’s a 0% intro offer for both purchases and balance transfers, but the options for reward redemption could be better.
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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 (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)
The PenFed Platinum card has yet to achieve the fame of big-name favorites like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ (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 and EV charging stations, 3X points per dollar on groceries, restaurants, and streaming services, 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.
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: 15,000 points for spending $1,500 in the first 3 months
- 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 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 on everyday purchases, and if you value each point at 0.85 cent, that’s still a 4.25% cash back equivalent.
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 for spending a certain amount after account opening, and its return on spend isn’t particularly noteworthy. But it’s a nice touch if you can get it without any unnecessary spending.
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.
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, and travel accident insurance 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 (then 11.74% to 17.99% Variable)||11.74% to 17.99% Variable|
|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%||Up to $28||Up to $25|
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® 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 Do I 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.
You’ll have to fill out an application and provide the usual identifying information, of course.
What Credit Scores Do I Need for the PenFed Platinum Card?
The PenFed Platinum card is designed for fair credit.
If you’re within 580–669 for FICO and 601–660 for VantageScore, you’re considered to have fair credit.
With that being said, approval is determined by more than just credit scores. Even if you have lower scores, you might still be approved. Or, even if you have high credit scores, you may not be accepted.
Qualifications and Requirements
- Must be 18 to apply
- Must be a PenFed credit union member
- Personal information: Name, date of birth, Social Security number, U.S. citizenship status
- Address and contact information: Home address and how long you’ve lived there, phone number, email address
- Financial information: Total annual income, monthly mortgage or rent payment
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do I have to pay off balance transfers at no interest?
You’ll get 0% APR for 12 months to pay off balance transfers, then your rate will be 11.74% to 17.99% Variable.
Not long enough? You can see our favorite balance transfer cards with 0% APR offers right here!
What are PenFed points worth?
The value of each point you earn with this card tends to be pretty low — PenFed states that points are worth 0.85 cents for gift card and merchandise redemptions, and potentially more for travel redemptions.
Looking for higher rewards and better redemption options? Check out the best rewards cards here.
When will my PenFed points expire?
Your PenFed points will expire in five years.
How do I redeem my PenFed points?
You can only redeem for travel, gift cards, charitable donations, and merchandise, not via statement credits.
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.
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Already using a great rewards card for your gas and groceries? See our picks for the best credit cards in every category to round out your wallet.
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.
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