Editorial Review

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 TierneyDecember 19, 2018

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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

4.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers a modest 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 68,000 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 Premium Online Savings

PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
APY

1.40%

With $5 minimum balance

PenFed offers a Premium Online High-Yield Savings account with an impressive 1.40% annual percentage yield for balances up to $100,000. 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 Access America Checking

PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking

4.0

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, though you can find higher rates elsewhere, particularly at top online banks. With daily balances under $20,000, you can earn an annual percentage yield of 0.20%; deposits of $20,000 to $50,000 earn 0.50%. Its network of ATMs is larger than that of many financial institutions.

PenFed Credit Union CD

PenFed Credit Union CD

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
1-year APY

1.10%

3-year APY

1.15%

5-year APY

1.25%

Minimum Deposit

$1,000

Money market certificates, PenFed’s version of a certificate 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 many members of the credit union are military personnel or family, you can also apply to become a member if you work for certain government agencies or for another qualifying organization, among other options. Donating a one-time fee of $17 to one of two nonprofit groups that support service members and their families also makes you eligible to apply.

The credit union's iOS and Android mobile apps get solid ratings from users, and customer phone support is available 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 Premium Online Savings

PenFed Credit Union Premium Online Savings

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
APY

1.40%

With $5 minimum balance

PenFed offers a Premium Online High-Yield Savings account with an impressive 1.40% annual percentage yield for balances up to $100,000. 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 Access America Checking

PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking

4.0

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, though you can find higher rates elsewhere, particularly at top online banks. With daily balances under $20,000, you can earn an annual percentage yield of 0.20%; deposits of $20,000 to $50,000 earn 0.50%. Its network of ATMs is larger than that of many financial institutions.

PenFed Credit Union CD

PenFed Credit Union CD

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
1-year APY

1.10%

3-year APY

1.15%

5-year APY

1.25%

Minimum Deposit

$1,000

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

3.5

NerdWallet rating 

Though many members of the credit union are military personnel or family, you can also apply to become a member if you work for certain government agencies or for another qualifying organization, among other options. Donating a one-time fee of $17 to one of two nonprofit groups that support service members and their families also makes you eligible to apply.

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

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.

How does PenFed Credit Union compare?

APY

1.30%

With $0 minimum balance

APY

1.30%

With $0 minimum balance

APY

1.30%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

Bonus

N/A

Bonus

$500

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.