PenFed Credit Union Student Loan Refinancing Review

PenFed offers student loan refinancing, but only to members

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PenFed Credit Union personal loans

PenFed Credit Union personal loans

Investopedia’s Rating
3.8

Our Take

PenFed Credit Union offers refinancing options to students and parents with student loan debt, but loans are limited to members of PenFed who are invited to apply. While the rates and terms are decent, there may be better refinancing options available with other lenders.

  • Pros and Cons
  • Key Takeaways
  • Company Overview
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • No application or origination fees

  • Can refinance Parent PLUS loans into student’s name

  • Transparent income and credit requirements

  • Married couples can combine loans

Cons
  • Must have graduated to qualify

  • Only available to PenFed members

  • No autopay discounts

  • No variable rate loans

Key Takeaways
  • PenFed offers student loan refinancing to PenFed members.
  • PenFed loans are originated by Campus Door, but serviced by PenFed.
  • Refinances are available from $7,500 up to $500,000 in total loan balance.
  • PenFed offers loan consolidation between married couples, as well as Parent PLUS loan refinancing in the child’s name.
Company Overview

Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) offers student loan refinancing to members directly, and partners with Ascent to provide undergraduate and graduate student loans. PenFed was founded in 1935 to offer banking services to military and federal employees, but has since opened up membership nationwide to all U.S. residents. PenFed refinance loans are originated by Campus Door, an online lender, but loan servicing is handled by PenFed.

It’s recommended to have a credit score of 670 to qualify for refinancing, which is higher than some competitors but still at the low end of the “good” range. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and meet the income and credit history requirements to qualify. Students (or parents) can refinance loans as low as $7,500 up to $300,000 per loan, and multiple loans can be consolidated for an aggregate total of $500,000.

PenFed is available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

  • Year Founded 1935
  • Official Website www.penfed.org
  • Loans Offered Refinance
  • Customer Service Email. Phone: (844) 381-6621
PenFed Credit Union personal loans

PenFed Credit Union personal loans

overall rating
3.8

PenFed Student Loans: Quick Look

Loan Type Fixed APR
Refinance 7.74%–9.93% 

Want to see some other loan types, or search for a lower APR? See our selections for the best student loans, or browse the best student loan refinance companies.

Pros Explained

  • No application or origination fees: PenFed charges no origination or application fees on loans, and there are no prepayment penalties either.
  • Can refinance Parent PLUS loans into student’s name: Parents can have students refinance a Parent PLUS loan into the student’s name, releasing them from the responsibility of the loan.
  • Transparent income and credit requirements: PenFed openly states its income and credit requirements, so borrowers and co-signers will know if they meet the lender’s criteria before they apply. 
  • Married couples can combine loans: PenFed allows married couples to combine student loans into a single loan through a loan consolidation refinance.

Cons Explained

  • Must have graduated to qualify: You must have graduated with at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for PenFed’s refinance loans.
  • Only available to PenFed members: Student loan refinancing is only available to PenFed members, although membership is free and available nationwide.
  • No autopay discounts: There are no discounts for setting up autopay on loans, nor are there any other discounts available when refinancing with PenFed.
  • No variable rate loans: PenFed only offers fixed-rate loans, so students looking to refinance to a variable rate will need to look elsewhere.

Student Loans Offered by PenFed

Student Loan Refinancing

PenFed offers student loan refinancing through a partnership with Campus Door, an online lender. Loans are available in 5- to 15-year term lengths, and only come with fixed rates.

Interest rates are not terrible, but they’re not the lowest either. PenFed offers co-signed loans, and also allows married couples to consolidate their student loans as well.

Terms for Refinancing Loans
Fixed APR 7.74%–9.93%
Loan amounts  $7,500–$300,000 ($500,000 in total) 
Loan terms  5–15 years 

Parent Loan Refinancing

PenFed offers refinancing to parents who took out a student loan for their child. Students can also refinance parent loans to put the loan into the child’s name instead.

Terms for Parent Loan Refinancing
Fixed APR 7.74%–9.93%
Loan amounts  $7,500–$300,000 ($500,000 in total) 
Loan terms  5–15 years 

Loan Eligibility and Approval

To qualify for a student loan refinance with PenFed, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be a PenFed member
  • Live in the United States
  • Be the age of majority as defined by state of residence
  • Be a United States citizen (PenFed does not support permanent residents)
  • Have a minimum of $7,500 in qualified education loans that will be refinanced
  • Have attended a school that is eligible for Title IV federal student aid
  • Have graduated with (at least) a bachelor’s degree

There are also personal financial requirements considered as part of the application process:

  • Have a minimum credit score of 670
  • Be employed or have sufficient income from other sources
  • Have a qualifying debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

PenFed refinancing is only available to members, so you will need to sign up first before applying if you are not a member already. And while no income or debt-to-income minimums are disclosed, PenFed conducts a credit history check and requires income documentation to be approved.

Are Co-Signers Available?

Co-signers are available for PenFed loans, which can help you qualify if you don’t meet the application requirements. Co-signers can also be released after 12 months of on-time payments, which is generous compared to other lenders.

Is Loan Pre-Qualification Available?

PenFed does offer pre-qualification with a quick online application. PenFed will ask for some personal details (name, address, Social Security number), and run a soft credit check (which does not hurt your credit score).

Once pre-qualified, you can choose a loan term length and rate that works for you, and move forward with submitting a complete application.

Length of Time for Loan Approval and Disbursement

After the full application is submitted online, PenFed will instantly show if you are approved. If approved, you will then select your loan details, and PenFed will reach out to your school to verify your enrollment.

School certification varies by school, and it can take a few weeks before funds are disbursed. Some schools don’t certify until within a few weeks of classes starting, but others complete the processes within a fixed time frame. It is always best to apply as early as possible to ensure funds are available when needed.

Loan Fees and Repayment Options

Loan Fees

PenFed doesn’t charge origination, prepayment, early payment, or extra payment fees. But PenFed does charge a late fee of 20% of the interest owed (minimum of $5, maximum of $25). Late fees are assessed on payments that are more than five days late.

Loan Discounts

There are no loan discounts available for PenFed refinanced student loans.

Repayment Options

PenFed offers a standard full principal-and-interest repayment plan on refinance loans, with term lengths of 5, 8, 10, or 15 years. 

There are no deferment options, and no grace periods for repayment. Loan term length and payment info can be chosen at the time of application.

Rewards

There are no rewards or sign-up bonuses for using PenFed.

Loan Forbearance and Discharge Options

PenFed doesn’t offer any formal forbearance or discharge options, but individuals can apply for them on a case-by-case basis. PenFed has developed a credit assistance program, and offers a financial hardship application for borrowers who experience job loss, death of a family member, natural disaster, or a significant loss of income.

Customer Service

PenFed offers some help documentation on its website, but there is not a lot of detail. 

Customer support is available via email, online chat, or over the phone at (800) 247-5626. Hours are:

  • Monday to Friday: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time
  • Saturday: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET
  • Sunday: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET

As for customer complaints, neither PenFed or the refinance loan originator (Campus Door) were included in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) recent education loan report, indicating there were no formal complaints lodged against them.

Applying for a PenFed Student Loan

You can apply for PenFed student loans online; you’ll begin at PenFed’s site before being redirected to Campus Door. You must be a PenFed member to apply. You will need to submit certain personal and financial information to complete your application, including:

  • Personal details (name, address, email, etc.)
  • Social Security number
  • Degree information
  • Current debt payments
  • Income details

Pre-qualification is available to see your potential loan terms and rate before completing a full application. Pre-qualifying only requires a soft pull of your credit and does not affect your score. 

Alternative Choices

  PenFed Laurel Road  Discover 
Loan types offered Student loan refinancing; parent loan refinancing Refinance; refinance for medical professionals  Undergraduate; graduate; parent; specialty loans 
Student loan refinancing fixed APR  7.74%–9.93%  4.49%–6.90%  4.99%–9.89%
Student loan refinancing variable APR  N/A  2.50%–6.80%  5.49%–9.89% 
Origination/administrative Fee None  None  None 
Repayment options  Full payment  Fixed payment; variable-rate payment; full payment  Deferment; fixed; interest-only; full payment 
Refinancing available  Yes  Yes  Yes 

Final Verdict

PenFed is a solid student loan refinancing option for PenFed members, with flexible repayment terms, reasonable rates, and the ability to consolidate loans for married couples. Parents can also get Parent PLUS loans out of their name by having their child refinance with PenFed.

PenFed does require a decent credit score to qualify, and doesn’t offer variable-rate loans. There are also no discounts available to lower the rate or earn cash back, as you may find with other student loan refinancing companies.

Overall, PenFed is worth a look if you are a member, but if you need more flexibility and (potentially) a lower rate, you may want to shop around.

Not a member, and not interested in joining a credit union? Take a look at the best student loans, most of which don’t have any membership requirements.

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of student loan lenders. We collected thousands of data points across 30 lenders—including loan types, interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that we help readers make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.

Article Sources
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  1. PenFed. "About PenFed."

  2. PenFed. "Student Loan Refinancing." 

  3. PenFed. "How to Submit Financial Hardship Applications."

  4. ConsumerFinance.gov. "Report of the CFPB Education Loan Ombudsman."