PenFed HELOC Review 2023

Good for: Borrowers who prefer a credit union and who want the option of predictable payments.
By Taylor Getler 

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Our Take


NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

PenFed’s HELOC stands out for offering a fixed-rate option in addition to a variable rate; the fixed rate can help keep payments predictable. Borrowers need to be members of the credit union, though membership is open to anyone with a $5 deposit into a savings account.

PenFed: NMLS#401822
National / regional
Min. credit score
Loan types and products
Purchase, Refinance, Home Equity, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, VA

Pros & Cons


  • Offers a fixed-rate option.
  • Customers can borrow up to 85% of their equity, which is slightly above average for HELOC lenders.
  • HELOCs are available on second homes.
  • Borrowers who meet stricter criteria may be eligible for closing in as little as 15 days.


  • $99 annual fee.
  • We experienced technical difficulties with the online application.

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Full Review

PenFed HELOC rates and discounts

Most home equity line of credit, or HELOC, interest rates are indexed to a base rate called the prime rate. The annual percentage rate, or APR, that you’re offered will include a margin the lender has added to the prime rate. Offered margins depend largely on factors like your credit score, your existing debt and the amount you wish to borrow, but they will vary by lender.

Current prime rate

Prime rate last month

Prime rate in the past year — low

Prime rate in the past year — high





PenFed sample rates are posted online, though the exact offer will be customized to each applicant based on their financial profile. On the day we checked, the minimum margin added to the prime rate was 0.125 percentage points. The lender does not outline any rate discounts.

Applying for a PenFed HELOC

You can begin an application online, but you’ll need to have a PenFed agent call you to complete your request. You can request a specific time that works for you. PenFed’s online portal froze during our attempts to complete an online application. Users are urged to use web browsers like Chrome or Safari.

The site offers a chatbot feature, which initially prompts users to choose a query from a preselected menu. If an answer to the user’s question is not available, a live agent takes over. However, the agent was not able to answer our questions either because HELOC support is not available via PenFed’s chat feature.

Credit union members or prospective members can also call a toll-free number, though the automated line ended the call when we tried to reach the extension for home equity inquiries. Although PenFed has branches in the Washington, D.C., area, borrowers are not able to apply for a HELOC in person.

You do have to join the credit union to get a HELOC from PenFed.

Closing and managing a PenFed HELOC

According to a PenFed representative whom we spoke with by phone, borrowers can expect to close on their HELOC within 30 days. However, some borrowers are eligible for “HELOC Express,” which would allow them to close within 15 days.

Criteria for the HELOC Express borrower include:

  • A credit score of 720 or higher.

  • Not self-employed.

  • A maximum debt-to-income ratio of 50%.

  • Has received an online appraisal.

Criteria for the HELOC Express loan include:

  • The amount must be less than or equal to 70% of the borrower’s equity.

  • The loan must be for a single-family home.

All HELOC borrowers will receive checks at closing. They can also transfer money to their preferred spending account by linking it to their PenFed HELOC account online.

HELOC borrowers have 10 years to draw from the account. During this time, the only payment obligations are on the interest. After that, borrowers have 20 years to pay back the remaining principal and interest.

By beginning your application online, you automatically consent to receiving telemarketing calls and texts from PenFed. However, you can opt out at any point.

Alternatives to a PenFed HELOC

Bethpage is another credit union that offers a fixed-rate HELOC option, while PNC Bank can be a solid choice for borrowers who would rather go with a bank.

HELOCs offer a flexible way to access home equity over a period of time and pay interest only on the funds you withdraw. However, rising interest rates can bump up your monthly payment, and, as with credit cards, it takes discipline to avoid overspending.

Alternatives to home equity lines of credit include a home equity loan, which offers a lump sum with a fixed rate, or a cash-out refinance, which replaces your existing mortgage with a larger loan.

In addition to HELOCs, PenFed offers cash-out refinancing.


HELOC star ratings are awarded by the editorial team based on the following evaluated factors: whether a fixed-rate option is available, combined loan-to-value ratio, annual fees and transparency on key factors.