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 APYs, they are reasonable and competitive for a full-service credit union. In fact, PenFed made our list of the top 5 credit unions nationwide of 2020.
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.
- Competive interest rates
- Large nationwide ATM network
- Minimum balance required to avoid checking account fees
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.
What Do They Offer?
PenFed has one checking account and four savings products. They have a network of 85,000+ ATMs. You can bank online or through their mobile app. PenFed has nearly 50 branches across 16 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Okinawa.
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).
Access America Checking Account
You’ll need to deposit $25 to open a checking account with PenFed. PenFed checking accounts do earn a little interest -- 0.20% to 0.40% depending on account size as shown below.
- 0.20% APY on a daily balance of less than $20K
- 0.40% APY on a daily balance of $20K or more up to $50K
In addition to the listed APYs, you can also earn dividends with a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more. As well, 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.
Premium Online Savings Account
The Premium Online Savings Account pays 0.70% APY on balances up to $250,000 and only requires a $5 deposit. There are no monthly fees. However, there also is no ATM access.
Be aware that savings accounts have more restrictions than checking accounts. Due to federal law, you can only withdraw money from your account up to six times per month. You’re allowed up to $10,000 per day in deposits and a total of $50,000 for the month.
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
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 are not met. To avoid the fee, you'll need to keep a minimum balance of $500 or set up a $500 monthly direct deposit.
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.
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 0.50% on checking account deposits and up to 1.00% on savings. 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 won't be able to meet the requirements for waiving PenFed's monthly checking account fees, you might want to look at these free checking accounts instead. And 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.
PenFed Checking And Savings Features
Checking, Savings, Money Market, Certificates
Regular Savings: 0.05% APY
Premium Online Savings: 0.70% 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
- Interest Rates
- Fees And Charges
- Customer Service
- 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 68,000+ ATMs
- Checking accounts earn up to 0.50% interest
- Earn 1.00% 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.