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PenFed Credit Cards Review

This article was written by in Credit. 10 comments.

Even though you’ve probably seen hundreds of commercials for Discover, Citibank, Chase, Capital One, Bank of America and American Express, the best credit card issuer continues to be Pentagon Federal Credit Union, and their line of six — only six — credit cards, three of which we list below. PenFed is a credit union designed to focus on members of the military, but anyone can apply and be approved. The only requirement is that you be a member of the credit union, which can be obtained in a variety of ways, explained below.

Here is a quick review of two of the credit cards currently offered by PenFed.

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® CardPenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card. A top-notch travel rewards credit card, the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card offers 20,000 bonus points after spending $2,500 within the first three months of card ownership. Cardholders receive five points per dollar on airfare purchases and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Like all other PenFed credit cards, the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card carries no annual fee.

PenFed Promise VISA CardPenFed Promise VISA Card. For those not interested in rewards and more concerned about finding a low interest rate, the PenFed Promise VISA Card carries one of the lowest interest rates available today for those with excellent credit. The purchase APR will vary with the Prime Rate, and is currently 7.99% to 16.99% APR based on your credit worthiness, which is still low compared to other credit cards on the market today. Without a rewards program, the PenFed Promise VISA Card offers other perks. This card has no fees, so there is no cash advance fee, no foreign transaction fee, no balance transfer fee, no annual fee, no late fees and no over-limit fees.

PenFed is a credit union, and in order to be considered for approval for these cards, you must be a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed). It is important to note being a member of PenFed does not guarantee approval for a credit card, you must also meet the credit standards set forth by PenFed. Becoming a member is simple, and can be accomplished by meeting one of the following criteria:

  • Members of the United States Military or Uniformed Services
  • Employed by the US government
  • Members of an eligible military association
  • Family members of someone in the United States military
  • Employees or volunteers of the American Red Cross
  • Employees of a qualifying organization
  • Residents of a military base
  • One-time donation of $15 to Voices for America’s Troops
  • One-time donation of $20 to the National Military Family Association

Although the Pentagon Federal Credit Union is designed for military members and employees of the U.S. government, it’s quite simple for anyone to join. The one-time donations are likely the easiest gateway for most people who aren’t eligible through the other requirements.

Updated March 2, 2015 and originally published April 1, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

I didn’t see ‘spouse of deceased military’ catagory. Would this be considered as a catagory?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,615 (Platinum)


If the deceased family member was a member of PenFed or was eligible to be a member when he or she passed away, you should be eligible to join.

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

i have looked into PenFed in the past and i have heard very good things about the credit union; however, i have heard it is very hard to actually get approved for their line of credit cards. i do not have any personal experience, just what i have researched online. i wonder if gaining access to the credit union would improve one’s chances of getting a card?

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avatar PenHead

It’s not a matter of improving your chances, since it’s a prerequisite to be a member of the credit union, to apply for one of their credit cards. Flexo illustrated the various ways to qualify as a member, as well as essentially buying your way in by making a one time contribution to one of two qualifying charitable military organizations. Figure in an additional 5 bucks, as that is the minimum required to keep the credit union account open. Once the credit union account is established, THEN you go through the process of applying for whichever card you’re interested in. The whole thing can be done in one shot, online, although plan a free half hour to complete everything. Their computers do the credit check near the end of the credit card application process, and you get an instant decision, as well as your credit limit, assuming you qualify. I don’t know how they proceed if you don’t qualify. Presumably, they either turn you down flat, and you still have your credit union account, or they offer you a lower tiered card. Hopefully, they would give you the option to decide whether or not to accept the lesser card, rather than just say, “here’s your shiny new less-than-you-wanted Visa card”. Maybe someone who has been turned down can elaborate on their experiences??

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avatar Frozen

Well, first you don’t get a chance to apply online unless you first enroll into online banking, which you can only do after you receive a PIN from them via regular mail. If something is missing – they are not going to call you – you just will never receive the PIN and will have to call them and resolve the issue.
Second, if you apply and get turned down, they will simply say so as well as some reasons why (age of credit accounts, utilization too high, etc.) They don’t offer you another product, and you just end up with the Membership Share account that you opened to join.

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avatar James Jacobson

Does a retired federal employee qualify?

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avatar Diego's Dad

Hello everyone,

I would just like to state my recent experience with PenFed. I applied and donated $15 to one of their two charities (bought myself into it like Penhead stated), and proceeded to setup the credit union account, followed by my application and subsequent approval of my credit card. It was fast, and easily the best way I have ever applied online. Their rates are incredible (lifetime 4.99% apr on balance transfers cannot be beat). I am very excited about it.

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avatar Frozen

I have a mid-700 score and I had and instant decline for the USED auto loan. I’m not significantly leveraged – may be 30 %, but an auto loan, where your car serves as a collateral, should have been approved. I think any other bank of CU would approve me – very strange. The other thing – I have a lot of dormant credit card accounts with no balance on them, and the average age or them is ~ 3 years. Any ideas what could have caused instant decline?

Approved folks – did you have any checking accounts, or any other accounts besides regular share opened with them before applying for a credit card?

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avatar Read Ballew

PenFed has significant security issues. They have cancelled my existing card and sent me new ones due to their security issues twice in less than two months. In addition, they are incompetant at the transition from one card top the next. It took more than two months to fix their double billing error in the card transition. I would suggest any other credit card company.

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avatar Read Ballew

Poor service when they make errors.

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