If you’ve been looking to join a credit union instead of a bank or want to add a credit union account for your checking and savings, PenFed is worth checking out.
While they don’t have the highest checking and savings rates across the board, they are certainly at the top end of the market. In fact, PenFed made our list of the top 5 credit unions nationwide of 2022.
PenFed’s mobile app allows you to do all of your banking online or on the go through their mobile app, no matter where you are in the U.S. and even some locations outside of the U.S. In this article, we’ll review PenFed’s checking and savings products.
- Competitive interest rates
- Large nationwide ATM network
- Free checking option now available
PenFed Savings Details
PenFed Premium Online Savings Account
Who Is PenFed?
Pentagon Federal Credit Union is a full-service credit union. They were created in 1935 and have $25 billion in assets. PenFed is headquartered in McLean, Virginia. They used to restrict membership to a relationship with the military or federal government but have recently opened up to everyone.
PenFed services all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Okinawa (Japan). They are federally insured by NCUA and are an Equal Opportunity Lender. In addition to PenFed checking and savings accounts, members can also access home, car, credit card, and student loan products.
See our review of PendFed's student loan refinancing product.
What Do They Offer?
PenFed offers checking accounts and savings products. They have a network of 85,000+ ATMs. You can bank online or through their mobile app. PenFed has 50+ branches across the U.S.
The PenFed website shows its accounts earn interest (APY) and dividends. The terminology can make it sound as though you get the APY plus dividends. That isn’t the case. Dividends are simply being used interchangeably with interest (APY).
PenFed Free Checking Account
PenFed Free Checking account is our pick for the best checking account for military members! Why? Because it offers a no minimum balance, no monthly maintenance fee checking account (it does have a $25 minimum to open).
Plus, opening a checking account with PenFed is one of the two ways that account holders can become eligible to participate in the credit union's Honors Advantage Program (the other way is through military service of the primary applicant).
That's a big deal because Honors Advantage members who have the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® card earn 2% cash back on all their card purchases rather than the 1.5% that everyone else earns.
Access America Checking Account
You’ll need to deposit $25 to open an Access America checking account with PenFed. PenFed Access America Checking accounts do earn a little interest -- 0.15% to 0.35% depending on account size as shown below - as long as you have a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more.
- 0.15% APY on a daily balance of less than $19,999
- 0.35% APY on a daily balance of $20K - $50K
To avoid the $10 monthly fee, you’ll need a daily balance or monthly direct deposit of $500 or more. Overdraft protection is available but is subject to approval.
If you have an Access America Checking Account, you'll also be eligible to participate in the PenFed Honors Advantage 2% cash back program on the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa® Card. All other cardholders earn 1.5% with this card, so you'll earn an extra 0.50% just by opening a PenFed checking account.
Premium Online Savings Account
The Premium Online Savings Account pays 2.70% APY on all balances and only requires a $5 deposit. There are no monthly fees. However, there also is no ATM access.
Regular Savings Account
The Regular Savings Account pays only 0.05% APY on all balances. But in exchange for giving up that interest, you gain ATM access. However, if you can get by with transferring money to your checking account before making a withdrawal, the Premium Savings Account is clearly the way to go.
Money Market Savings Account
The Money Market Savings Account requires $25 to open and doesn’t lose ATM access. There are no monthly fees and you get free checks upon request. The account pays interest through several tiers that are dependent on your balance:
- 0.05% APY — $10,000 or less
- 0.10% APY — between $10,000 and $99,999
- 0.15% APY — $100,000 or more
See how this compares to the top money market accounts here >>
Money Market Certificates
You’ve probably heard of a certificate of deposit (CD). Credit unions call these simply “certificates,” but they are basically the same.
PenFed has several certificates to choose from. All require a $1,000 deposit to open. Just like a CD, your money must remain in the certificate until maturity or you’ll pay an early withdrawal penalty. Dividends are compounded daily and paid monthly.
The following certificates are available:
- 6 Month
- 12 Month
- 15 Month
- 18 Month
- 2 Year
- 3 Year
- 4 Year
- 5 Year
- 7 Year
Interest rates on PenFed money market certificates range from 0.45% to 1.50%
The mobile app for PenFed checking and savings includes all of the features you’d expect from full-service credit unions. You get instant check deposits, bill pay, ability to send money to almost anyone, account management, and the ability to transfer funds between your PenFed accounts.
Are There Any Fees?
The majority of PenFed's accounts don't come with fees. However, its Access America Checking Account has a $10 month fee if certain minimums aren't met. To avoid the fee, you'll need to keep a minimum balance of $500 or set up a $500 monthly direct deposit.
Here are few additional transaction fees that you could encounter with PenFed:
- Stop payment: $20
- Non-sufficient Funds (NSF): $30
- Out-of-network ATM fee: $1.50
- Foreign transaction fee: 2%
How Does PenFed Compare?
For a full-service credit union, PenFed is hard to beat. It offers the kinds of low fees and solid interest rates that we typically only see from online-only banks.
Plus, if you qualify to become an Honors Advantage member (either through military service or by opening a PenFed checking account), you'll get 2% cash back on all your PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa® Card purchases.
But it should be noted that PenFed doesn't currently pay any cashback on debit card transactions like some other banks do. Here's a quick look at how PenFed compares to other top banking options.
Top Savings APY
Cashback On Debit Card
How Do I Open An Account?
You can visit Penfed.org or a local branch if you have one near you to apply for membership. If approved, you'll need to deposit at least $5 to open an account.
Is My Money Safe?
Yes, money deposited with PenFed is federally insured by the NCUA. Like FDIC insurance for banks, NCAU insurance protects up to $250,000 of credit union member deposits per account.
How Do I Contact PenFed?
You can get in touch with PenFed's customer service team by phone or secure message. Their member service numbers are 724-473-6333 or 1-800-247-5626.
Customer service representatives are available at the following times:
- Monday - Friday: 7:00 AM - 11:00 PM (ET)
- Saturday: 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM (ET)
- Sunday: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM (ET)
As is fairly common with credit unions, PenFed has been known to provide better customer service than most national full-service banks. It currently boasts a 4.6/5 rating on Trustpilot and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Is It Worth It?
If you're looking to open a checking or savings account with a credit union, PenFed is a full-service credit union that pays up to 0.35% on checking account deposits, up to 0.55% on savings, and up to 1.50% on money market certificates
It has about 50 branches in 13 states, plus a few outside of the U.S. and includes NCUA protection. For those reasons, PenFed checking and savings is certainly worth considering.
But if you're comfortable with managing your checking or savings accounts with minimal support, you might be able to earn higher rates with an online bank. These are our favorite online banks for 2020.
Let's answer a few of the most common questions that people ask about PenFed:
Do you have to be an active or former military member to join PenFed?
No, PenFed membership is open to everyone!
Is PenFed better than Navy Federal Credit Union?
The answer to that question will vary depending on what kind of financial product you're looking for. But when it comes to basic savings accounts, PenFed currently offers a higher interest rate. Also, NFCU is harder to join as you must be a veteran or have ties to one.
Does PenFed's debit card work with digital wallets?
Yes, PenFed's banking customers can load their debit cards on to Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.
Are there any new account bonuses being offered at PenFed?
Not on its deposits accounts. However, PenFed is currently offering sign-up bonuses on all of its credit cards.
PenFed Checking And Savings Features
Checking, Savings, Money Market, Certificates
Free Checking: N/A
Access America Checking:
Regular Savings: 0.05% APY
Premium Online Savings: 2.70% APY
Money Market Savings
~50 across 13 states
68,000+ fee-free ATM network
Customer Service Number
Customer Service Hours
Mobile App Availability
iOS and Android
NCUA Charter Number
PenFed Checking And Savings Review
Fees And Charges
Ease of Use
Tools and Resources
Products and Services
PenFed checking and savings accounts combine solid rates and terms with the convenience of a national full-service credit union.
- Available in all 50 states with 85,000+ ATMs
- Checking accounts earn up to 0.35% interest
- Earn 0.45% APY with Premium Online Savings Account
- $500 minimum balance (or monthly direct deposit) required to avoid $10 checking account monthly fee.
- Limited local branch network (~50 branches across 13 states)
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.