5 Things to Know About the PenFed Gold Card

This card can be your ticket out of debt by saving you money on interest. To get it, you'll have to join PenFed Credit Union, but that's fairly easy to do.
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Written by Melissa Lambarena
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Edited by Kenley Young
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The PenFed Gold Visa® Card is an excellent pick for those looking to pay off debt, thanks to a lengthy interest-free window and no annual fee.

But if you’re not on a debt-payoff journey, other credit cards that offer rewards will be more valuable. Plus, to qualify for the PenFed Gold Visa® Card, you’ll have to become a member of PenFed Credit Union. The financial institution is known for servicing members of the military, veterans and their communities, although anyone can join by meeting a few criteria.

Here’s what to know about the PenFed Gold Visa® Card.

1. A few steps are required to join PenFed Credit Union

Compared with other credit unions that require you to live or work in a specific location or join a partner organization, PenFed is relatively easy to join. It does require some additional steps that aren’t typically necessary for a credit card application at a bank, but the potential savings you’ll get with the PenFed Gold Visa® Card can make the process worth it.

To join PenFed, you’ll need to provide information such as your name, phone number, email and address. You’ll also have to open a savings account with a $5 deposit to officially become a member. The savings account doesn't charge monthly fees, and the money deposited into it will be federally insured.

If you don’t want to open a savings account, explore a balance transfer credit card from a bank instead.

2. You can pre-qualify before becoming a member

If you’re not yet a PenFed Credit Union member, it's possible to see whether you pre-qualify for the card on the credit union’s website. You’ll get an idea of the odds of approval without the temporary dip in your credit scores that typically occurs with credit card applications. A pre-qualification option can offer a soft “yes” or “no” regarding your likelihood of approval, but the final decision will be made once you officially apply for the card — at which point there will be a hard inquiry that can ding your scores for a time.

This particular pre-qualification option is even more helpful because you don't need to waste time taking the steps to become a member if you’re likely to get denied for the card.

3. The balance transfer option may be a ticket out of debt

The balance transfer offer on the PenFed Gold Visa® Card can provide some breathing room on interest charges, allowing you to make more progress against your debt load. It offers a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days after account opening. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%.

Keep in mind, though, that you can only move a balance as high as the transfer limit allows, so it might not be possible to include all of the debt. It’s also important to factor in the cost of the 3% balance transfer fee that is charged on the amount transferred. To determine whether the fee is worth it, compare that cost with the amount you would otherwise pay in interest charges on your existing balance over time.

If you need a slightly longer interest-free window or don’t want to take the added steps to join PenFed Credit Union, a card like the $0-annual-fee BankAmericard® credit card offers a 0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 16.24% - 26.24% will apply. It charges a 3% introductory balance transfer fee for the first 60 days the account is open.

4. The ongoing APR is lower than average

The ongoing interest rate on this card (noted above) is significantly lower than the average APR of 22.15% charged for accounts that incurred interest in 2023, based on Federal Reserve data.

That makes sense, as federal law caps the interest rate on most loans and credit cards at federally chartered credit unions.

Still, an interest rate in the double digits can get expensive. Whenever possible, avoid carrying a balance from month to month.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If paying off debt is your priority, take advantage of this card's balance transfer offer and avoid using the card for new transactions. Switching to a different payment method like cash or a debit card while you're paying down debt will help you make progress faster.

5. It doesn’t earn rewards

It’s not uncommon for balance transfer credit cards to lack rewards. After all, the priority with these cards is generally to pay down debt, not incentivize more spending. If you worry that your old credit card spending habits might repeat themselves, rewards aren't worth pursuing. When you carry a balance, the cost of the interest charges will easily outstrip any rewards you might earn.

Still, if you know you can commit to paying off your balance in full each month, a balance transfer credit card that also offers rewards can give you a reason to keep using it, even after you've paid off the initial transferred balance. In that case, consider a card like the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card. It offers a 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR. Balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the introductory rate and fee of 3% or $5, whichever is greater. After that, a balance transfer fee of up to 5% will apply with a minimum of $5.

And on top of that, the card also offers one of the simplest reward structures, earning 2% cash back on all purchases.

🤓Nerdy Tip

One way to stay out of debt once you've paid it off is to build up a healthy emergency fund, so that you won't have to fall back on credit cards in the case of a big unexpected expense.

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