Today is the first installment of a new, recurring feature on FCN where I’ll be highlighting various credit card offers and possibly other financial products (high interest savings accounts, high CD rates, etc.). These posts will go live on Saturday mornings in addition to all the weekday content that we provide.
As you’re likely aware, the credit card landscape tightened up during the recent economic crisis, and many of the best offers disappeared. In recent months, some fairly attractive offers have popped back up however.
I’m going to kick off this series by looking at a pair of reward credit cards from Pentagon Federal Credit Union (a.k.a., PenFed). I’ve talked about PenFed in the past in the context of their competitive CD rates as well as their mortgage refinance business.
What is PenFed?
For starters, we need to talk about PenFed… Pentagon Federal is a credit union that serves members of the armed forces, defense-related companies, the VFW, and the American Red Cross. As it turns out, however, anyone can join.
Membership privileges are actually extended to immediate family members and housemates of individuals in qualifying groups, and if you still don’t qualify, you can simply join the National Military Family Association (NMFA) for $20. There’s no need to maintain the NMFA membership in the future to remain a part of PenFed.
Note: as reader “RS” points out in the comments, PenFed requires you to open a Regular Share Account and maintain a minimum $5 balance maintained in order to remain a member (this is in addition to the $20 NMFA membership). You can fund the $5 via EFT, credit card, or check (with the check option allowing you to receive your account opening materials).
Details on all of this are available from the membership section of the PenFed website, or via links from their best credit card applications. When we joined, we did it as members of the NMFA — which we joined for the sole purpose of gaining access to PenFed and their products. An important note to keep in mind, membership to PenFed credit union does not guarantee you will be approved for one of their credit cards, you will need excellent credit along with meeting any other credit requirements they have as part of their credit card application process.
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card
The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card was highlighted as one of the best credit cards of 2009 by CardRatings.com. This card features 5 points per dollar spent on airfare, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, and no foreign transaction fee. You also get two complimentary Lounge Club visits at airports around the world upon spending $15,000 on the Card in a calendar year.
Ability to redeem points for a range of rich rewards, including travel, brand-named merchandise, and gift cards through PenFed Premium Rewards. And if you spend $2,500 in the first three months of opening the card, you can get 20,000 bonus points.
There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee on this card.
PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa Card
The PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa Card is a great all around cash back credit card. The Plus version of this card features a 5% cash back on gas purchases paid for at the pump. To get the Plus version of the card you must obtain a qualifying PenFed product* such as an active checking account with direct deposit ($250 min). The Standard version of this card offers 3 percent cash back on gas purchases paid at the pump and an introductory annual fee of $0, then a $25 annual fee. Fuel purchases for airplanes and boats are not eligible for cash back rewards with this offer. Cash Rewards are credited each month. As with any credit card offer we recommend you contact the issuer or check their online disclosure for account terms and conditions and other related information before you apply.
I’ve heard from a number of readers that this is their favorite “general rewards” card.
PenFed Promise Visa Card
The PenFed Promise Visa Card was featured by the New York Times Bucks Blog as “a decent product for those in debt.” This card features an introductory purchase APR of 7.49% which lasts for a full 36 months; after that the purchase APR varies with the market based on the Prime Rate and currently jumps to Prime plus 6.74% today that would be 9.99% – which is far below current average credit card rates.
But what is truly remarkable about this card, is that it comes with is no fees. That means:
- No annual fee
- No over credit limit fee
- No foreign transaction fee
- No balance transfer fee
- No cash advance fee (the APR for cash advances currently is 9.99%, and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.)
- No late fee!! But, you don’t have free ability to blow off your bill – if you are late enough PenFed will send out a warning and then cut you off if you don’t pay promptly.
There are no rewards associated with the card, and while there isn’t an annual fee, you may have to pay a one-time membership fee to an eligible organization to join the credit union. As noted above, if you’re not a member of the US armed forces and you don’t meet the other requirements for free membership to PenFed, you can pay a low fee to become a member of the National Military Family Association to become eligible to join PenFed.