Editorial Review

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 FrankelNovember 8, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take

3.2

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.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

11.74% - 17.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% promotional rate for 12 months on transfers made now through March 31, 2020

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$0
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
0% promotional rate for 12 months on transfers made now through March 31, 2020

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • No annual fee

  • Bonus cash back categories

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons
  • Membership required

  • Can't redeem for cash

  • Inconsistent point value

Alternate Pick: 5% cash back on gas

Ducks Unlimited Rewards Platinum Edition® Visa® Card

No membership required

This card boasts something that few other cards on the market can: a big, honking cash-back rate on gas and at the mini-mart with no strings attached — no reward limits, spending caps, fees or membership requirements. Minimum redemptions start at $25, which could be a drawback for some.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

15.49% - 27.49% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

Intro APR

0% APR for 12 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

Full Review

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: $100 bonus after spending $1,500 in purchase transactions within the first 90 days of account opening.

Rewards:

  • 5 points per dollar spent on gas at the pump.

  • 3 points per dollar spent points on groceries.

  • 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: 0% promotional rate for 12 months on transfers made now through March 31, 2020, and then the ongoing APR of 11.74% - 17.99% Variable APR.

Why you might want the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

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 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. 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: $100 bonus after spending $1,500 in purchase transactions within the first 90 days of account opening. 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.

Why another card might be better

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. The $0-annual-fee Ducks Unlimited Rewards Platinum Edition® Visa® Card, for example, earns an eye-popping unlimited 5% cash back on gas purchases and at sporting goods stores, plus an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. And you can get those rewards as a bank deposit, physical check or a statement credit, although you have to accrue at least $25 in points before you can redeem for cash.

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® 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.

Is the PenFed card 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.