GOBanking Rates Score
Quick take: Pentagon Federal Credit Union has higher CD rates than other credit unions. However, its free verification does not have as many advantages as others. With the mobile app, online banking, and extensive network of free ATMs, members don’t need to live near a physical branch to bank with the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Even better, membership is open to everyone.
- Savings and CD Rates
- Banking experience
- Overdraft fees
How did we calculate this?
- Membership is open to all
- Above average CD rates
- Ability to perform most banking transactions without going to a physical branch
- High insufficient funds charge
- Significant early withdrawal penalties on CDs
About Pentagon Federal Credit Union
The Pentagon Federal Credit Union, also known as PenFed, is one of the largest credit unions in the United States. With over 2.5 million members worldwide, PenFed is one of the few credit unions that opens its membership to everyone.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union offers a wide range of banking products, including savings accounts, CDs, money market accounts, checking, loans, IRAs, and credit cards. It is one of the Top 100 Banks of 2022 in GOBankingRates’ annual Best Banks ranking.
Features of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union
GOBankingRates gave Pentagon Federal Credit Union an overall rating of 4.7 for the following notable features.
Savings and CD Rates
PenFed offers four savings accounts: Premium, Regular, Money Market, and IRA. Its APY rates are competitive — % for regular savings and 0% for the Premium.
PenFed also offers Money Market, IRA, and Coverdell Education certificates. Opening a money market certificate at PenFed only requires $1,000 and offers a range of terms from 6 months to 7 years. Its short-term and long-term CD rates are high compared to other credit unions. Rates for IRA and Coverdell Education certificates are only slightly lower than rates for money market certificates.
Good to know
PenFed has excellent CD rates but severe early withdrawal penalties. Certificates with terms of more than 36 months and maturities of less than one year are subject to a penalty of 365 days of earned dividends. Certificates that have expired by one year are penalized by 30% of the gross amount of the dividends that would have been received if the certificate had expired.
PenFed offers two verification options: free verification and Access America verification.
A free checking account can be opened with as little as $25, and it has no minimum balance requirements beyond initial opening. Account holders have access to a network of over 85,000 ATMs free of charge. They can also apply for an overdraft line of credit with this account.
The Access America checking account has a minimum opening deposit of $25, but it also has a monthly fee of $10. Fees are waived for account holders who maintain a minimum daily balance of $500 or have monthly direct deposits of $500 or more. Making $500 or more in monthly direct deposits can also earn the account holder a %APY on daily balances below $20,000 and %APY on daily balances ranging from $20,000 to $50,000.
Because PenFed has members worldwide, most members rely on mobile and online banking. With the mobile app, members can deposit checks, check loan status, make loan payments, transfer funds, and monitor account details. Online banking offers many of the same features, except for the ability to deposit checks. Account holders also have a network of over 85,000 free ATMs to withdraw cash.
Members can access forms for most banking needs on the PenFed website. Documents can also be securely downloaded from the website.
Those who need to speak to customer service but are not near a branch can have a representative contact them by email or phone. They also have a chatbot on their website that can answer some questions and connect users with a representative if needed.
PenFed does not charge an overdraft fee, but it does charge an insufficient funds fee of $30 whenever an account balance is too low to cover a transaction. However, for those who qualify, PenFed offers a no-fee overdraft line of credit of $300 or more at an annual percentage rate of 17.99%.
Pentagon Federal offers a number of other services, including:
- Car loans
- Mortgages and home equity loans
- Personal loans
- Student loans
- Discounts for members on various insurance, automobile and tax services
It also provides financial education and advice through the Learning Hub on its website.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union Competitors
Anyone considering joining a credit union should shop around and do some comparison shopping. Here’s a look at some of PenFed’s competitors.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union vs. Alliant Credit Union
Membership in Alliant Credit Union is limited to those who live or work in an eligible community or who are currently or previously employed by an Alliant Partner. Those looking for an alternative option may consider becoming a member of Foster Care to Success – all members of this organization are eligible for Alliant membership. It will even pay the one-time $5 membership fee to FC2S on behalf of the member.
Alliant offers high performance % APY current account with no overdraft fees. It also pays dividends to account holders who meet the minimum requirements of receiving at least one electronic deposit per month and obtaining electronic statements rather than paper statements.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union vs. Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union
Although the Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union has membership requirements, there are over 4,000 ways to qualify, making this credit union more accessible than others. Like PenFed, RBFCU offers personal lines of credit that can be used for overdrafts with APRs ranging from 7.95% to 18%.
RBFCU also has better rates on short-term CDs from 0% APY for 6 months vs PenFed 0% APY. But RFCRU’s long-term rate is much lower than PenFed’s %.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union vs. Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union membership is limited to current and retired members of the armed forces, Department of Defense personnel, and children of existing members. This means that most people are not eligible for membership.
PenFed has better rates on short-term and long-term CDs, but Navy Federal pays interest and dividends on its checking accounts, including its free and student accounts.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union is one of the few credit unions that accepts everyone as a member. Its CD rates are higher than other credit unions, but its free verification does not earn interest, which may make competitors more attractive. Between the mobile app, online banking, extensive network of free ATMs, and PenFed’s website, members don’t need to live near a physical branch to bank with PenFed from efficient and successful way.
PenFed Credit Union FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.
- Can anyone join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union?
- Membership in the Pentagon Federal Credit Union is open to all. It originally served U.S. military and veterans, federal employees, and retirees, but has expanded its membership to non-military members. The only requirement to become a member is to open a regular stock savings account or a premium online savings account with a $5 minimum.
- Is PenFed a real credit union?
- PenFed is one of the largest credit unions in the United States. Founded in 1935, PenFed has $31 billion in assets and more than 2.5 million members. It is insured at the federal level by the National Credit Union Association.
- Is PenFed or Navy Federal better?
- Navy Federal pays interest and dividends on its checking accounts, while PenFed’s free checks bear no interest. But PenFed has better rates on short-term and long-term CDs. Both have banking products that trump the other, so customers will want to research both to decide which best suits their priorities.
- What credit score do you need for PenFed?
- There is no minimum credit score requirement to join PenFed, but credit scores ranging from good to excellent are required for loans or credit cards.
Rates are subject to change; unless otherwise specified, prices are updated periodically. All other account information is accurate as of May 13, 2022.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Any opinions, analyses, criticisms, evaluations, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or otherwise endorsed by the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.
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