PenFed Credit Union ReviewUpdated: April 26, 2022
PenFed Credit Union, also known as the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, is a members-only financial institution that operates in a similar fashion to other military-friendly credit unions but with a twist. Some of these companies restrict membership to military, military-affiliated, and federal employees.
This is also true of PenFed, but this military-friendly lender allows members to sign up without a federal job, military service, or family affiliation with those who serve; some exceptions are made for those who donate a small amount of money to military-focused non-profit organizations (PenFed supplies the details for these donations at the time you explore your membership options).
PenFed has a longer history than some other financial institutions catering to military and government employees; established in 1935 and has members in all 50 states and elsewhere.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union is members-only, so the first thing you will need to do before signing up for a VA loan or any other financial service via PenFed is to create your account and supply your personal information. You can sign up online.
Opening an account requires documentation of your military or government affiliation. New members are also required to keep a small amount of cash (under $20) in a Savings/Share account. This is rendered in the form of an initial deposit when your account is created.
This lender advertises membership in “three easy steps” but be aware that you may need to have some paperwork ready to submit electronically including proof of your military or government affiliation, status as a military family member, etc.
Pentagon Federal offers the following services to its members:
- Checking & Savings
- Credit Cards
- Mortgage & Home Equity
PenFed Pros & Cons
- Military, employees of the DoD and DHS can join plus anyone else can join through a variety of easy methods
- Discounts from select auto, finance, home personal, and retail partners
- Access to tens of thousands of free ATMs
- Convenient online and mobile access
- Understands VA loans the military community’s unique needs
- Small number of branches nationally
- Must open and maintain a savings account to become a member
Checking & Savings
Typical checking and savings options are offered including online/mobile account access, overdraft protection (offered as a line of credit and subject to approval), chip-enabled Visa cards, and compatibility with digital wallet apps.
PenFed advertises “high-yield savings accounts,” plus traditional and Money Market savings accounts. Individual Retirement Account options including IRA Certificate and IRA Premier accounts are also available.
Gold and Platinum credit card accounts area available, depending on your choices you may have support for the following mobile pay options:
- Apple Pay
- Samsung Pay
- Google Pay
- Visa Secure Remote Commerce
Credit card services offered here are fairly typical; read the fine print including information on interest rates and penalties for missed payments before you sign up. PenFed credit cards have features such as cash back rewards that (depending on the card you get) can pay you back for any purchase, anywhere. The PenFed marketing blurb for these services states, “No caps. No limits. No gimmicks.”
New and used vehicle loans are offered along with certain optional protection plans including:
- Mechanical Breakdown Protection
- Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP)
- Debt Protection
PenFed also has a vehicle shopping service that lets you review databases of new and used vehicles, then be paired with a PenFed Certified Dealer. Doing this gives customers access to “member pricing” and you can get approved for the auto loan prior to visiting the dealer.
Mortgage & Home Equity
For some new PenFed members, the VA loan program is an option worth joining specifically for Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Non-VA choices include a home equity line of credit.
PenFed advertises “no lender fees,” though other closing costs may apply. Borrowers who may be exempt from having to pay the VA loan funding fee may find that the no-lender-fee offer further enhances their savings (depending on circumstances, your experience may vary). PenFed advertises a lender credit program depending on the size of your VA mortgage.
This lender credit is offered for “eligible fixed rate, ARM, and VA loans PenFed offers to all members” who have submitted loan applications on or after March 1, 2020. The lender credit is applied at closing time, but pre-approvals and refinance loans are not eligible.
Pentagon Federal provides personal loans and “in-school” student loans. Student loan refinancing is also available. Some potential members might wonder why a veteran would need to apply for a student loan or a student loan refinance; many service members join the military with past education debt to contend with. Refinancing such loans can save more money over the lifetime of the borrower’s payments.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News