PenFed Credit Union Review: Checking, Savings and Share Certificates

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers checking and savings accounts, money market certificates and other services to anyone who joins.
Ruth Sarreal
Spencer Tierney
By Spencer Tierney and  Ruth Sarreal 
Edited by Tim Manni

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PenFed Credit Union
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Savings
  • Checking
  • Customer experience
  • Overdraft fees

Overall institution rating

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
The bottom line:

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers strong rates for 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

  • No monthly fees on some savings accounts.
  • Competitive rate on some money market certificates.
  • Anyone can become a member.
  • Large, free, nationwide ATM network.
  • Early direct deposit.

Cons

  • Expensive nonsufficient funds fee.
  • Monthly fees (though they are avoidable).
  • Limited branch access.

Full review

Certificates of deposit

PenFed Credit Union Money Market Certificate
PenFed Credit Union Money Market Certificate

CD

Federally insured by NCUA

4.0

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
1-year APY
4.65%
3-year APY
4.10%
5-year APY
4.00%
Minimum deposit
$1,000

Money market certificates, PenFed’s version of certificates of deposit, earn competitive APYs. They function like standard share certificates, the term used by most credit unions. Terms from six months to seven years are available.

» COMPARE: See our list of the best CD rates

  • 6-month CD: 3.00% APY.

  • 1-year CD: 4.65% APY.

  • 15-month CD: 4.55% APY.

  • 18-month CD: 4.50% APY.

  • 2-year CD: 4.30% APY.

  • 3-year CD: 4.10% APY.

  • 4-year CD: 4.00% APY.

  • 5-year CD: 4.00% APY.

  • 7-year CD: 3.90% APY.

Savings

PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings
PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

Savings

Federally insured by NCUA

4.0

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
APY
3.00%
With $0.01 min. balance for APY

PenFed offers the Premium Online Savings account with a strong 3.00% 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.

» Looking for a loan? See our PenFed personal loans review

Checking

PenFed Credit Union Free Checking
PenFed Credit Union Free Checking

Checking

Federally insured by NCUA

4.0

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
Monthly fee
$0

PenFed’s Free Checking account has no monthly fee. Other than a minimum opening deposit of $25, there are no other requirements for this account. Direct deposits can arrive up to two days early.

PenFed's interest-bearing checking account, which didn’t factor into our rating, has a monthly fee (though it can be waived), and some requirements to get the APY, including a minimum direct deposit, and a hefty minimum balance.

Its massive ATM network includes Allpoint and Co-op machines and is larger than that of many financial institutions.

» Interested in credit? Check out our list of the best PenFed credit cards

Customer experience

4.0

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 account.

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

PenFed doesn’t participate in shared branches, which some other credit unions offer, but it has more than 50 branches of its own across the country.

Overdraft fees

3.0

NerdWallet rating 

PenFed’s overdraft policies aren’t easy to find on their site but according to the credit union, it doesn’t charge overdraft fees. Certain transactions, such as debit card purchases or ATM withdrawals, are rejected by the institution and no fee is charged.

Other transactions, such as checks or pre-authorized debits (like a recurring bill payment) would incur a $30 nonsufficient funds fee. What’s more, the NSF fee can be charged multiple times in a day, which can quickly add up.

Members who want overdraft transactions to go through can sign up for a line of credit that has a 17.99% percentage rate and no fee (restrictions for who qualifies for this program apply). If you tend to overdraw your account, consider one of the best banks for overdrafts instead.

How does PenFed Credit Union compare?

NerdWallet rating 

4.5

/5
NerdWallet rating 

4.5

/5

APY 

4.60%

With $0 min. balance for APY

APY 

5.05%

With $5,000 min. balance for APY

Bonus 

$300

Earn up to $300 with direct deposit. Terms apply.

Bonus 

N/A

Learn more

at SoFi Bank, N.A.

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at CIT Bank

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.