CREDIT CARDSCREDIT CARDSPENFED PLATINUM REWARDS REVIEW: EARN REVVED-UP GAS REWARDS

PenFed Platinum Rewards Review: Earn Revved-Up Gas Rewards

The card offers one of the highest rewards rates in the category, but speed bumps include membership eligibility, uneven point value and limited redemption options.
Robin Saks Frankel Author Avatar
Mar 23, 2023 10:41 a.m. PDT
Edited by
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4.9

NerdWallet rating
The bottom line:

The high rewards rates on gas and groceries are attractive, but be mindful of the hurdles you may face when it comes to redemption.

Pros
  • No annual fee
  • Bonus categories
Cons
  • Must be a member/customer
  • Complicated redemptions
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card Image
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

17.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days after account opening. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%.

Rec. credit score

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card Image

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

17.99% Variable APR

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Rewards rate

    1x-5x

  • Bonus offer

    15,000 points after $1,500 spend during first 3 months of card open date.

  • Intro APR

    0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days after account opening. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%.

  • Ongoing APR

    APR: 17.99% Variable APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% fee applies to each transfer

  • Foreign transaction fee

    0%

More details from Pentagon Federal Credit Union
  • Get Rewarded on Everyday Purchases.
  • 5x Points on gas paid at the pump and EV charging stations.
  • 3x Points at the supermarket (including most Target and Walmart locations), restaurants, and TV, radio, cable, streaming services.
  • 1x Points on all other purchases.
  • 15,000 Bonus Points when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days.
  • 0% Balance Transfers Promo APR for 12 months, 3% fee applies to each transaction. Subject to credit approval. 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days after account opening. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%. A 3% balance transfer fee applies to each transfer. This transaction is subject to credit approval. If you take advantage of this balance transfer, you will immediately be charged interest on all purchases made with your credit card unless you pay the entire account balance, including balance transfers, in full each month by the payment due date.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Purchase Variable APR: 17.99%
  • Refer to PenFed.org for Terms/Conditions

Compare to Other Cards

ANNUAL FEE
$0
REGULAR APR
17.24%-28.24% Variable APR
Rates & Fees
INTRO APR
0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
ANNUAL FEE
$95
REGULAR APR
21.49%-28.49% Variable APR
INTRO APR
N/A
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
ANNUAL FEE
$0
REGULAR APR
18.24%-28.24% Variable APR
INTRO APR
0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 billing cycles and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
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Detailed review: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Commuters, rideshare drivers and other road warriors may want to stay seated for this: The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card earns an unlimited 5 points per dollar spent at the gas pump, and for an annual fee of $0 to boot.

That's among the very best rewards rates on gas you'll find anywhere.

In addition to free-flowing fuel rewards, the card also pays an unlimited 3 points per dollar on groceries and an unlimited 1 point per dollar on all other qualifying purchases.

There are some catches, though. Redemption options are limited — cash back is not available — and point values may not be equal to other cards' rewards currencies. Plus, you'll have to join PenFed's credit union to apply.

Key features

Card type: Rewards.

Annual fee: $0

Sign-up bonus: 15,000 points after $1,500 spend during first 3 months of card open date.

Rewards:

  • 5 points per dollar spent on gas at the pump and EV charging stations.

  • 3 points per dollar spent points on supermarket purchases (including most Target and Walmart locations), restaurants and dining, plus TV, radio, cable and streaming services.

  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Points are redeemable for travel, gift cards and merchandise. Note that actual cash back isn't an option. Typically, travel redemptions yield the highest point value, usually about 1.7 cents per point, although according to a PenFed spokesperson, hotel bookings tend to inch slightly higher in value. When it comes to gift cards and merchandise, you can generally expect a value of about 0.85 cent per point, although you may be able to take advantage of periodic point sales where gift cards, merchandise and hotels can be purchased with fewer points than the standard price.

Introductory APR offer: A 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days after account opening. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%..

Benefits and perks

Powerful points potential

In 2018, a U.S. household spent, on average, roughly $2,100 on gasoline and other fuels. If you would have paid for those pit stops with the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, you'd have earned 10,500 rewards points by year's end, or about $89 worth of gift cards. Not too shabby.

The 3 points back per dollar spent on groceries, dining, and cable and streaming services is a nice plus, too. That rate might sound similar to the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which also has an annual fee of $0 and earns 3% back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). Terms apply — see rates and fees. But the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card has no such cap in this category, and it also earns a higher ongoing rate on gas.

No rewards caps

Unlike some other gas-rewards-focused credit cards, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card doesn't cap the amount of rewards you can earn quarterly or annually on its bonus categories. There's no limit to how many points you can earn.

Additional perks

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card comes with a sign-up bonus: 15,000 points after $1,500 spend during first 3 months of card open date. That's not as high as some other rewards cards, but it's still some extra dough that could go a long way toward filling up your tank or your grocery cart.

Also, it's a Visa Signature card, so cardholders get benefits at hotels that are part of the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection, such as complimentary breakfast daily and room upgrades when available. It also means access to a Visa Signature concierge, auto rental collision coverage, travel accident insurance, and roadside dispatch service in the U.S. and Canada.

And, of course, because the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card isn't issued by a megabank, you'll instead enjoy the general benefits of being a credit union member.

Drawbacks and considerations

Members only

To apply for the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, you have to be a member of the PenFed Credit Union.

Everyone is eligible to join, but it does require a few extra steps. You'll have to submit an application and make a $5 deposit into a PenFed savings account to set up your membership.

You can't get cash back

Although you can redeem your rewards for merchandise, gift cards and travel (by air, hotel and car), you can't redeem your earnings for actual money. Also, note that a minimum point balance of 1,000 is required for redemptions. Other gas rewards cards give you the option of a direct deposit to your bank account, a statement credit, a check that's mailed to you or in some cases a direct ATM withdrawal of your rewards.

So-so value

The points earned on a PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card are worth less than one cent each in most cases, typically about 0.85 cent, a PenFed spokesperson confirmed. This is a poor rate compared with other rewards cards that charge no annual fee.

The exception are points redeemed for travel, which — depending on dates and options — are worth, on average, 1.7 cents each, according to a PenFed spokesperson.

When it comes to strong cash-back value, you could instead consider the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card. It earns 3% cash back in a category you choose (from a list of six options, including gas) and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on up to $2,500 in combined choice-category/grocery/wholesale club spending per quarter. All other purchases earn 1%. The quarterly caps can make this card a little more complicated, but you'll have access to cash back when you want to redeem your points. And if you're already a Bank of America® customer, you could earn elevated rewards rates.

'At-the-pump' gas rewards only

Keep in mind that unlike a lot of other gas credit cards, this card's high rewards rate on gas applies only to what you are purchasing specifically at the pump. That means that purchases you make inside an attached convenience store may not be eligible to earn 5 points per dollar spent.

To find out how this card measures up to other rewards cards, visit our roundup of the best credit cards.

Alternate Pick: 3x rewards on gas and more
No membership required

Earn triple points across a wide swath of common spending categories like dining, travel, gas stations and streaming — all while paying no annual fee.

How to decide if it's right for you

If a hefty portion of your household budget goes toward gas, followed by groceries, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card might earn you more total points than the competition. And if you're OK with redeeming for things like travel or even gift cards, you'll likely be satisfied with the return.

But if your lifestyle has less predictable spending patterns, if you spend more in other areas, or if you just want plain old cash back, another card may be a better fit over the long haul.

To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, see this page.

Methodology

NerdWallet reviews credit cards with an eye toward both the quantitative and qualitative features of a card. Quantitative features are those that boil down to dollars and cents, such as fees, interest rates, rewards (including earning rates and redemption values) and the cash value of benefits and perks. Qualitative factors are those that affect how easy or difficult it is for a typical cardholder to get good value from the card. They include such things as the ease of application, simplicity of the rewards structure, the likelihood of using certain features, and whether a card is well-suited to everyday use or is best reserved for specific purchases. Our star ratings serve as a general gauge of how each card compares with others in its class, but star ratings are intended to be just one consideration when a consumer is choosing a credit card. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.

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