Pentagon Federal Credit Union Review 2022: A Credit Union Anyone Can Join

GOBankingRates Score

4.7
Quick Take: Pentagon Federal Credit Union has higher CD rates than other credit unions. However, its free checking doesn't have as many perks as some others. Thanks to the mobile app, online banking and the extensive fee-free ATM network, members don't need to live anywhere near a physical branch to bank with Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Best of all, its membership is open to everyone.
  • Savings and CD Rates
    4.8
  • Checking
    4.5
  • Banking Experience
    4.8
  • Overdraft Fees
    4.5
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Membership is open to everyone
  • Higher than average CD rates
  • Ability to do most banking transactions without visiting a physical branch

Cons

  • High non-sufficient funds fee
  • Steep early withdrawal penalties on CDs

About Pentagon Federal Credit Union

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, also referred to as PenFed, is one of the largest credit unions in the United States. With more than 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’s included in the Top 100 Banks of 2022 in GOBankingRates’ annual Best Banks rankings.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union Features

GOBankingRates gave Pentagon Federal Credit Union a 4.7 overall score 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 the Regular Savings and 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. Both its short- and long-term CD rates are high compared to other credit unions. IRA and Coverdell Education certificate rates are only slightly lower than the Money Market certificate rates. 

Term Money Market CD APY
6 month
12 month
15 month
18 month
2 year
3 year
4 year
5 year
7 year

Good To Know

PenFed has great CD rates but stiff early withdrawal penalties. Certificates with terms longer than 36 months and that are less than one-year mature get hit with a penalty of 365 days of earned dividends. Certificates that have surpassed one year maturity are penalized 30% of the gross amount of dividends that would have been earned if the certificate had reached maturity.

Checking

PenFed offers two checking options: Free Checking and Access America Checking.

A free checking account can be opened with as little as $25, and it has no minimum balance requirements beyond the initial opening. Account holders have access to a network of more than 85,000 fee-free ATMs. They can also apply for an overdraft line of credit with this account.

Access America Checking account has a $25 minimum opening deposit, but it also has a $10 monthly fee. The fee is 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 of less than $20,000 and APY on daily balances ranging from $20,000 to $50,000.

Banking Experience

Because PenFed has members worldwide, most members rely on mobile and online banking. With the mobile app, members can deposit checks, check the status of loans, make loan payments, transfer funds and monitor account details.

Online banking provides many of the same features, other than the ability to deposit checks. Account holders also have a network of over 85,000 fee-free ATMs to withdraw cash.

Members can access forms for most banking needs on the PenFed website. Documents can also be uploaded securely from the website.

Those who need to speak with customer service but aren’t near a branch location can have a representative contact them via email or phone. They also have a chatbot on their website that can answer some questions and connect users with a representative if needed.

Overdraft Fees

PenFed doesn’t charge overdraft fees, but it does charge a $30 non-sufficient fund fee anytime 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 a 17.99% annual percentage rate.

Other Features

Pentagon Federal offers a number of other services, including:

  • Auto loans
  • Mortgage and home equity loans
  • Personal loans
  • Student loans
  • Member discounts on various insurance, auto 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 draw comparisons. Here’s some insight into a few of PenFed’s competitors.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union vs. Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union membership is limited to those who live or work in an eligible community or are currently or previously employed by an Alliant partner. Those who seek 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 the member’s behalf.

Alliant offers a high-yield APY checking 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 getting eStatements rather than paper statements.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union vs. Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union

While Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union does have membership requirements, there are over 4,000 ways to qualify, making this credit union more accessible than some. 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 starting at APY for a 6-month term compared to PenFed’s APY. But RFCRU’s long-term rate tops out 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. That means most people don’t qualify for membership.

PenFed has better rates on both short- and long-term CDs, but Navy Federal pays interest and dividends on its checking accounts, including its free and student accounts.

Final Take

Pentagon Federal Credit Union is one of the few credit unions that accepts everyone for membership. Its CD rates are higher than other credit unions, but its free checking doesn’t earn interest, which may make competitors more appealing.

Between the mobile app, online banking, the extensive fee-free ATM network and the PenFed website, members don’t need to live anywhere near a physical branch to bank with PenFed efficiently and successfully.

PenFed Credit Union FAQ

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about Pentagon Federal Credit Union.
  • Can anyone join Pentagon Federal Credit Union?
    • Pentagon Federal Credit Union membership is open to everyone. It originally served U.S. military members and veterans, federal employees and retirees, but it has expanded its membership to nonmilitary members. The only requirement to becoming a member is opening a Regular Share Savings account or a Premium Online Savings account with a minimum of $5.
  • Is PenFed a real credit union?
    • PenFed is one of the largest credit unions in the United States. Established in 1935, PenFed has $31 billion in assets and more than 2.5 million members. It is federally insured by the National Credit Union Association.
  • Is PenFed or Navy Federal better?
    • Navy Federal pays interest and dividends on its checking accounts, whereas PenFed's free checking is non-interest bearing. But PenFed has better rates on both short- and long-term CDs. Both have banking products that outperform the other, so customers will want to research both to decide what's best for their priorities.
  • What credit score do you need for PenFed?
    • There is no minimum credit score requirement to join PenFed, but credit scores in the good to excellent range are required for loans or credit cards.

Rates are subject to change; unless otherwise noted, rates are updated periodically. All other information on accounts is accurate as of July 20, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Pentagon Federal Credit Union or any other financial institutions mentioned. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Pentagon Federal Credit Union or any other financial institutions mentioned.

Is this your bank?

Stay Up to Date on the Latest From Your Bank

Keep a good thing going with top financial tips and advice from GOBankingRates.

Please enter an email.
Please enter a valid email address.
There was an unknown error. Please try again later.

Thank You For Signing Up!

Get ready to receive top financial tips from the experts at GOBankingRates.

Take Advantage of our Best Offer(s)

Share This Article:

About the Author

Andrea Norris has been in the web publishing business for the past 15 years both as a content contributor and a copy editor specializing in personal finance, frugal living, home and auto topics. She writes both short and long-form content and is well-practiced in SEO keyword research and writing.
Learn More