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2021 Review: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card – Best for Gas?

Updated Oct 06, 2021 | Published Jun 02, 20208 min read

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PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Min Credit Level Fair
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 11.74% to 17.99% Variable
At a glance

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)
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PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
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  • Min. credit levelFair
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR11.74% to 17.99% Variable

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 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 on everyday purchases, 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:
    • Gas purchases at the pump
    • Electric vehicle charging stations
  • 3X points per dollar:
    • Supermarkets
    • Restaurants/dining
    • Cable, satellite, and other television/radio/streaming services
  • 1X point per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus
  • 15,000 points for spending $1,500 in the first 3 months

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.

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, 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

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® 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.

But you can apply now 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.

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
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

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.

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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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  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR0% for 15 billing cycles, then 13.99%–23.99% Variable
  • No annual fee
  • $200 cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • NEW OFFER: Maximize your cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement /furnishings
  • Now earn 3% cash back in your choice category and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • You can update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month using the Mobile Banking app or Online Banking, or do nothing and it stays the same
  • No expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 13.99%–23.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% – 75% more cash back on every purchase
Why We Picked It

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards 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.

Rewards
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
  • 3% and 2% rewards only up to $2,500 spent per quarter, then 1% cash back
Introductory Bonus
  • $200 cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
Key Features
  • Free FICO credit score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Shopping and travel protections: Extended warranty protection, auto rental collision damage waiver, and potentially more, depending on your card’s network tier
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 billing cycles, then 13.99%–23.99% Variable APR
  • Annual fee: $0
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  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR0% for 15 months, then 14.99%, 19.99%, or 24.99% Variable
  • Unlimited 2% cash back rewards on all purchases
  • $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • 0% intro purchase and balance transfer APR for 15 months, then 14.99%, 19.99%, or 24.99% Variable.
  • Cellular Telephone Protection
  • Roadside Dispatch
  • Visa Concierge service
  • Visa Luxury Hotel Collection
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Why We Picked It

The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card (Review) is a new contender for the best flat-rate cash back card.

Simply use it for every purchase to earn an impressive 2% cash back. So you’ll lose some earning power but you’ll gain unparalleled flexibility. Or, you could use both cards together. Use the PenFed Platinum card for its bonus categories, and use the Active Cash for everything else.

The Active Cash even features a long 0% intro offer for balance transfers , plus adds a 0% offer for purchases, making it a better tool to avoid interest charges.

The Active Cash’s benefits are pretty equal to the PenFed Platinum card’s. Both are issued as Visa Signature cards.

Rewards
Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back on all purchases
Introductory Bonus
  • $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
Key Features
  • Free FICO credit score: Check your FICO Score 9 online whenever you’d like, based on your Experian credit report.
  • Visa Signature Concierge: Get 24/7 assistance with non-emergency tasks like travel planning, restaurant reservations, and gift hunting.
  • Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection: Pay with your card to get perks at select hotels around the world, like a $25 food/beverage credit, complimentary WiFi and breakfast for two, automatic room upgrades when available, VIP Guest status, and more.
  • Cellular Telephone Protection: Provides reimbursement for damage or theft of cell phones, up to $600 per claim and two claims per 12 month period, with a $25 deductible. You must pay your phone bill with the card to be eligible.
  • Roadside Dispatch: Call 1-800-847-2869 if you need help on the road, with some services at set prices like towing, tire changing, jump starting, and lockout service.
  • Travel and Emergency Assistance Services: Includes help with medical and legal referrals, emergency transportation, ticket replacement, lost luggage location, emergency translation, and more.
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 15 months, then 14.99%, 19.99%, or 24.99% Variable
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 14.99%, 19.99%, or 24.99% Variable
  • Balance Transfer fee: 3% for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5%; min: $5
  • Annual fee: $0
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  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Purchase APR0% on purchases for 12 months, then 13.99% - 23.99% Variable

Rates & Fees

  • Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later: Enjoy $0 plan fees when you use Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 plan fees on plans created during the first 12 months after account opening. Plans created after that will have a plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • Terms Apply.
Why We Picked It

Despite its annual fee, 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% cash back reward rate for U.S. supermarket purchases, but that limit is high enough that it doesn’t really detract from its value.

Rewards
Spending Rewards
  • 6% cash back:
    • U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent annually, then 1%)
    • Select U.S. streaming services
  • 3% cash back:
    • U.S. gas stations
    • Transit
  • 1% cash back on other eligible purchases
Introductory Bonus
  • $300 statement credit for spending $3,000 in the first 6 months
Key Features
  • Amex Offers: Find offers for extra cash back at a changing selection of merchants.
  • $120 Equinox+ Credit: Get up to $10 per month for a stand-alone monthly membership to the Equinox+ app. Will not apply if you purchase the membership through the Equinox app or a third party.
  • ShopRunner membership: ShopRunner provides free two-day shipping and returns at participating online retailers.
  • Shopping protections: Return Protection, Extended Warranty, Purchase Protection
  • Travel protections: Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance, Global Assist Hotline
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 12 months, then 13.99% - 23.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees)

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

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PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
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securely on the issuer's website

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

If you found this review useful, feel free to share it with a friend! Think we missed something? Tell us in a comment below.

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.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here.

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.

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