PenFed Credit Union Review: Checking, Savings and Share Certificates

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers deposit accounts and other services to anyone who joins.
Spencer TierneyOct 6, 2021

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Overall bank rating

PenFed Credit Union
  • Savings

  • Checking

  • CD rates

  • Banking experience

  • Overdraft fees

4.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers a modest banking product selection for anyone who joins. But it makes up for that with good interest rates for checking, online savings and money market certificates. PenFed is easy to join and offers a handy mobile app. Its $30 nonsufficient funds fee, however, isn’t as consumer friendly, especially since PenFed can charge it multiple times in one day.

 

Best for: Those who prefer a credit union and want high interest rates and plenty of access to free ATMs, and who are unlikely to overdraft.

Pros

  • Checking account earns interest.
  • Members have access to more than 85,000 free ATMs.
  • Good APY on its premium savings account.

Cons

  • $1,000 minimum on share certificates is high.
  • Doesn't participate in shared credit union branches.

Full review

PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
APY

0.50%

With $0.01 minimum balance

PenFed offers the Premium Online Savings account with a competitive 0.50% annual percentage yield on all balances. The basic savings account 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 Access America Checking

PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Monthly Fee

$10.00

Waived with direct deposit or $500 minimum balance

APY

0.15%

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 and credit unions, but you might have to meet quite a few requirements to earn them. At PenFed, the only requirements to earn interest are daily balances. With daily balances under $20,000, you can earn an annual percentage yield of 0.15%; deposits of $20,000 to $50,000 earn 0.35%. 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 Money Market Certificate

PenFed Credit Union Money Market Certificate

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
1-year APY

0.60%

3-year APY

1.00%

5-year APY

1.25%

Minimum Deposit

$1,000

Money market certificates, PenFed’s version of certificates of deposit, earn solid APYs, up to 1.25%. They function like standard share certificates, the term used by most credit unions.

Banking experience

3.5

NerdWallet rating 

Though the credit union was originally exclusive to military personnel and family, anyone can now 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.

PenFed doesn’t participate in shared branches, which some other credit unions offer, but it has about 40 branches of its own across the country.

Overdraft fees

2.5

NerdWallet rating 

Unlike some financial institutions, PenFed doesn’t charge overdraft fees. Qualified members can sign up for a line of credit that has a 17.99% annual percentage rate and no fee. But members who don’t qualify for the line of credit will be hit with a $30 nonsufficient funds fee when there’s not enough money in their account to cover a transaction. The NSF fee can be charged multiple times in a day, which can quickly add up with a few declined transactions.

PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
APY

0.50%

With $0.01 minimum balance

PenFed offers the Premium Online Savings account with a competitive 0.50% annual percentage yield on all balances. The basic savings account 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?

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
APY

0.50%

With $0 minimum balance

APY

0.40%

With $0 minimum balance

APY

0.40%

With $1 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

Bonus

$200

Requirements to qualify

Bonus

N/A

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.