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.
May 13, 2022

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Overall bank rating

PenFed Credit Union
  • CD rates

  • Savings

  • Checking

  • Banking experience

  • Overdraft fees

4.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers good interest rates for checking and even more competitive rates for online savings and money market certificates (its version of certificates of deposit). 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.
  • Access to more than 85,000 free ATMs.
  • Good APY on premium savings account.
  • Early direct deposit.

Cons

  • Minimum deposit on money market certificates is high.
  • Doesn't participate in shared credit union branches.
  • High nonsufficient funds fee.

Full review

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

CD

Federally insured by NCUA

4.5

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
1-year APY
2.30%
3-year APY
3.25%
5-year APY
3.20%
Minimum deposit
$1,000

Money market certificates, PenFed’s version of certificates of deposit, earn highly competitive APYs. They function like standard share certificates, the term used by most credit unions.

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

Savings

Federally insured by NCUA

4.5

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
APY
1.20%
With $0.01 min. balance for APY

PenFed offers the Premium Online Savings account with a competitive 1.20% 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

PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking
PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking

Checking

Federally insured by NCUA

4.0

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
Monthly fee
$10.00
Waived with direct deposit or $500 minimum balance
APY
0.15%
With $0.01 min. balance for APY

Access America 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.

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

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 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 about 40 branches of its own across the country.

Overdraft fees

2.5

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). There are other banks and credit unions with more forgiving overdraft policies.

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

CD

Federally insured by NCUA

4.5

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
1-year APY
2.30%
3-year APY
3.25%
5-year APY
3.20%
Minimum deposit
$1,000

Money market certificates, PenFed’s version of certificates of deposit, earn highly competitive APYs. They function like standard share certificates, the term used by most credit unions.

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.