PenFed Credit Union Review: Checking, Savings and Share Certificates

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers deposit accounts and other services primarily for military-affiliated members.

Spencer TierneySeptember 11, 2020

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Overall bank rating

PenFed Credit Union
  • Savings

    Savings

  • Checking

    Checking

  • CD rates

    CD rates

  • Banking experience

    Banking experience

  • Overdraft fees

    Overdraft fees

3.5

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers a modest banking product selection for military-affiliated members and others. But it makes up for that with good interest rates for checking, online savings and money market certificates. PenFed offers a handy mobile app, plus it’s relatively easy to join for a credit union. Its $30 nonsufficient funds fee, however, isn’t as consumer friendly, especially since there’s no cap on how many times PenFed can charge it in one day.

Pros

  • Checking account earns interest.

  • Members have access to more than 85,000 free ATMs.

  • Good APY on its online savings account.

Cons

  • Low APY on its basic savings account.

  • $1,000 minimum on share certificates is high.

  • Doesn't participate in shared branching.

Full review

PenFed Credit Union PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
APY

0.70%

With $0 minimum balance

PenFed offers the Premium Online High-Yield Savings account with a competitive 0.70% annual percentage yield on all balances. The basic savings offers a much lower APY as well as the ability to withdraw money at ATMs, which the online account does not. Both accounts have no monthly fees and require only $5 to open.

PenFed Credit Union PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking

PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
Monthly Fee

$10.00

Waived with $500 minimum balance

APY

0.20%

With $1 minimum balance

Access America, PenFed’s lone checking option, has tiered interest rates that are better than the national average. You can find higher rates elsewhere, particularly at top online banks, but you might have to meet quite a few requirements to earn them. With daily balances under $20,000, you can earn an annual percentage yield of 0.20%; deposits of $20,000 to $50,000 earn 0.40%. Its network of ATMs is larger than that of many financial institutions. You can avoid the $10 monthly fee by setting up a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more, or having a daily balance of at least $500.

PenFed Credit Union CD

PenFed Credit Union Money Market Certificate

2.5

NerdWallet rating 
1-year APY

0.50%

3-year APY

0.60%

5-year APY

0.80%

Minimum Deposit

$1,000

Money market certificates, PenFed’s version of a certificate of deposit, earn solid APYs, up to 0.80%. They function like standard share certificates, the term used by most credit unions.

Banking experience

3.5

NerdWallet rating 

Though many members of the credit union are military personnel or family, anyone can apply to join. All that’s required to be a member is a $5 deposit in a savings, or share, account.

The credit union's iOS and Android mobile apps get solid ratings from users, and customer phone support is available late into the evening hours and on weekends.

Overdraft fees

2.5

NerdWallet rating 

PenFed charges a $30 nonsufficient funds fee when you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a transaction. Unlike some other financial institutions, PenFed doesn’t have an overdraft transfer service or a daily limit on how many times it will charge the fee. Members can sign up for an overdraft line of credit that comes with a 17.99% annual percentage rate and no fee.

PenFed Credit Union PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
APY

0.70%

With $0 minimum balance

PenFed offers the Premium Online High-Yield Savings account with a competitive 0.70% annual percentage yield on all balances. The basic savings offers a much lower APY as well as the ability to withdraw money at ATMs, which the online account does not. Both accounts have no monthly fees and require only $5 to open.

How does PenFed Credit Union compare?

Federally insured by the NCUA

Member FDIC

APY

0.60%

With $0 minimum balance

APY

0.65%

With $100 minimum balance

APY

0.01%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

Bonus

N/A

Bonus

$150

Requirements to qualify

RATING METHODOLOGY

NerdWallet’s overall ratings for banks and credit unions are weighted averages of several categories: checking, savings, certificates of deposit or credit union share certificates, banking experience and overdraft fees. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing technology, customer service and innovation. The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.