PenFed Credit Union Mortgage Review 2020

Good for: borrowers looking for online convenience, a wide selection of mortgages and the competitive rates of a member-owned credit union.

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Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: PenFed Credit Union has a digital mortgage application and offers a wide selection of mortgages, including low-down-payment home loans. But it doesn't offer FHA mortgages.

PenFed

PenFed: NMLS#401822

Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%

Loan Types and Products

Purchase, Refinance, Home Equity, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, VA

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Offers a broad selection of home loan products, including low-down-payment options for first-time home buyers and home buyers of limited means.

  • Offers a lender credit, based on loan amount, for purchase mortgages.

  • Offers relatively low mortgage rates in comparison to other lenders.

Cons

  • Lender credit isn't available for refinance mortgages.

  • Doesn't offer FHA loans.

Compare to Other Lenders

Min. Credit Score

620

Conventional:

620

FHA:

580

VA:

620

USDA:

620

Min. Credit Score

660

VA:

660

Conventional:

660

FHA:

660

USDA:

660

Min. Down Payment

3%

Min. Down Payment

0%

Loan Types and Products

Purchase, Refinance, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA

Loan Types and Products

Purchase, Refinance, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA

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Full Review

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, getting a mortgage may be a bit of a challenge. Lenders are dealing with high loan demand and staffing issues that may slow down the process. Also, some lenders have increased their fees or temporarily suspended certain loan products. If you can’t pay your current home loan, refer to our mortgage assistance resource. For the latest information on how to cope with financial stress during this pandemic, see NerdWallet’s financial guide to COVID-19.

PenFed Credit Union mortgages at a glance

The Pentagon Federal Credit Union, known as PenFed, rose from modest beginnings. Established by 10 investors as the War Department Federal Credit Union in 1935, the credit union now has over $25 billion in assets and 2 million members worldwide.

You have to be a member to get a mortgage from PenFed, but gaining membership is easy. PenFed now has an open national membership charter, which means anyone is eligible to join.

Here's a breakdown of PenFed's overall rating:

  • Variety of loan types: 5 of 5 stars

  • Variety of loan products: 4 of 5 stars

  • Online convenience: 5 of 5 stars

  • Rates and fees: 4 of 5 stars 

  • Rate transparency: 4 of 5 stars

PenFed mortgage loan types and products

PenFed offers a wide array of home purchase and refinance mortgages in a variety of terms, including 15- and 30-year fixed loans and adjustable-rate mortgages.

There are also jumbo loans, which are high-balance mortgages for borrowers with an original loan amount that exceeds the conforming loan limit, and VA loans, which are backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. PenFed also offers home equity lines of credit.

PenFed doesn’t offer FHA loans, which are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, but does offer conventional mortgages with down payment requirements as low as 3%. These include programs geared to first-time home buyers and home buyers with limited means. The HomeReady program, which has income limits, accepts a wide range of income sources for qualification and allows down payment and closing costs from multiple sources, including gifts and grants. Repeat buyers can also apply.

PenFed also offers a lender credit to home buyers when their mortgages close. The credit, which is available only for purchase mortgages, not refinance mortgages, is $500 for a loan up to $199,999, $1,000 for a loan of $200,000 to $699,999 and $2,500 for a loan of $700,000 or more.

PenFed mortgage online convenience

To apply for a PenFed mortgage, you can call a toll-free number and fill out a form online to have a loan officer call you, or you can fill out an application for mortgage preapproval online. PenFed's digital capabilities allow for e-signature, online document upload and online mortgage status updates.

A loan officer will serve as a single point of contact and work with you through the mortgage process.

While PenFed offers mortgage loans nationwide, actual brick-and-mortar locations are limited to about a dozen states, with the most branches in the Washington, D.C., area and in Texas. There is at least one branch in California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. There are also branches in Guam, Japan and Puerto Rico.

PenFed mortgage rates and fees

One of the most important considerations when choosing a mortgage lender is understanding what the loan will cost. In order to provide consumers with a general sense of what a lender might charge, NerdWallet scores lenders on two factors regarding fees and mortgage rates:

  • A lender's average origination fee compared with the median of all lenders reporting under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. PenFed earns 3 of 5 stars on this factor.

  • A lender's offered mortgage rates compared with the best available on comparable loans. PenFed earns 5 stars on this factor.

Borrowers should consider the balance between lender fees and mortgage rates. While it's not always the case, paying upfront fees can lower your mortgage interest rate. Some lenders will charge higher upfront fees to lower their advertised interest rate and make it more attractive. Some lenders just charge higher upfront fees.

You can decide to buy discount points — a fee paid with your closing costs — to reduce your mortgage rate.

Deciding whether you want to pay higher upfront fees is a matter of considering how long you plan to live in your home and how much cash you have to apply toward closing costs when you sign the loan paperwork.

PenFed mortgage rate transparency

PenFed publishes sample mortgage rates on its website for the various types of loans it offers. The sample rates are based on a credit score of 720. Online personalized rates based on location, credit score or other factors aren't available.

NerdWallet’s star ratings for mortgage lenders are awarded based on our evaluation of the products and services each lender offers to consumers who are actively shopping for the best mortgage. The five key areas we evaluated include the variety of loan types and products offered, online conveniences, online mortgage rate information, and the rate spread and origination fee lenders reported in the latest available Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. To ensure consistency, our ratings are reviewed by multiple people on the NerdWallet Mortgages team.