Full Review of PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card
Excellent rewards on gas and grocery purchases
Low ongoing APR
Membership is required
Restrictive redemption program
Unexceptional one-time offer
- Excellent Rewards on Gas and Grocery Purchases: This card offers an unlimited 5 points per dollar spent at gas stations. With each point worth, by our calculations, an average of 1.7 cents when used for travel—the most lucrative redemption option we found—gas spending can earn you up to 8.5 cents per dollar spent. That’s one of the highest rewards rates available for gas purchases. Groceries also earn strong rewards. At 3 points per dollar spent, grocery purchases earn you up to a very competitive 5.1 cents per dollar spent, again providing you opt to redeem the rewards for travel.
- Respectable 0% APR Balance-Transfer Offer, with Low Ongoing APR: You can transfer a balance to this card and pay no interest for a year on the sum you transfer, which is a fairly typical period for cards that provide a 0% APR benefit. Better than the norm, though, is this card’s ongoing interest rate. You’ll pay a variable APR between 13.49% to 17.99%, based on creditworthiness. That rate range applies both to any of a transferred balance that remains in your card account at the end of 0% APR period, to new purchases, and even to cash advances. That’s an unusually low APR range that would provide significant savings to those who customarily carry a balance on their credit cards. Note, however, that as with many 0% APR offers, you are on the hook for a balance transfer fee of 3% of the sum transferred and you must transfer the balance during the eligibility period to qualify for the 0% offer.
- Membership Is Required: Since PenFed is a credit union, you must be a member of the organization in order to apply for this card. PenFed caters to members of the military, but membership in the credit union is open to anyone. Still, the requirement adds an extra step to the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature compared with getting most other rewards cards. You'll have to submit a membership application, and make at least a $5 deposit into a PenFed savings account (there's no cost to for doing so).
- Restrictive Redemption Program: Cardholders only have the option of redeeming their points through PenFed's rewards portal for travel, gift cards, and merchandise. There’s no cash-back or statement credit redemption option and no way to transfer points.
- Unexceptional One-Time Offer: With this card, you'll get a $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 within the first 90 days of opening an account. While that is a relatively easy reward to earn—with a mere $500 in monthly spending for three months—several competing cards offer a larger bonus with less of a spending requirement.
This Card is Best For
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature card is especially suited to those who seek a card for gas purchases, and that also offers strong rewards for groceries. Purchases earn an outstanding 5 points per dollar for gas and 3 points per dollar on groceries. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent.
Given the value of the points you earn—and the absence of an annual fee to offset that value—even average spending can earn high rewards with this card. For example, if you were to spend $150 per month on gas and $350 on groceries, you'd earn 21,600 points over a year. Those rewards would be worth $367 in travel, by our calculation. That's enough to trade for many round-trip domestic tickets.
A few caveats, however. You'll be charged a $15 fee for booking airline tickets. (There’s also a $25 charge per hotel booking.). And you'll have to redeem points through the PenFed portal for either travel, gift cards, or shopping. There's no option for cash back or even a statement credit.
If you're interested in transferring a balance or often carry a balance, this card can be a good fit as well. There’s a 12-month 0% intro period on balance transfers, followed by a low ongoing APR. That same relatively low rate also applies to any balance on new purchases that you carry from month to month. That makes this card a better choice than most if you expect you may not pay off your balance in full in certain months.
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card One-Time Offer
Cardholders receive a $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 within 90 days of opening an account. The statement credit can take up to 4 weeks to post to your account.
Overall, this bonus is unremarkable compared to other cards on the market. Several cards now on the market offer a higher bonus with less of a spending requirement.
Rewards Earning Details
Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar spent on gas, 3 points per dollar at supermarkets, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Along with traditional grocery stores, military commissaries count as supermarkets, making this a useful card for members of the military.
There's no limit to the number of points you can earn, but points expire 5 years after being awarded.
Rewards Redemption Details
Points rewards earned from your PenFed card can be redeemed in a few different ways through PenFed's rewards redemption center. You can redeem points for:
- Merchandise and services
- Travel, including airline, hotel, car rental, vacation deals, and vacation tours
- Gift cards and certificates
In order to start redeeming rewards, you must first have a minimum balance of 1,000 points.
You'll generally get the best value out of each point by redeeming for travel. We value each PenFed point at 1.7 cents when redeemed for flights and hotels.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
With its generous rewards bonus categories, it makes sense to use the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature card for all of your gas and grocery purchases. The number of points you can earn is unlimited.
If you are carrying a balance on another credit card, you should take advantage of the 12-month 0% APR introductory period. Despite the imposition of a 3% fee on the amount transferred, you'll almost certainly save by bringing a balance over to this card. And that’s the case not only during the introductory year free of interest. The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature has an unusually low ongoing APR, which means you’ll likely pay less on this card than on another one if you must continue to carry some of the old balance on it after the year of 0% APR has elapsed.
Finally, even if the one-time offer on this card isn’t especially lucrative, it's still worth spending $1,500 within 90 days to earn the $100 statement credit.
For this scenario, let's assume you spend $2,000 per year on gas, which is approximately what the average household spends, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We'll further assume you also use this card for groceries and charge $4,500 each year, which is also close to the expenditures of the average U.S. household. Annually, this spending would earn 23,500 points, which we estimate is worth $400 when redeemed for travel through PenFed.
To create a higher-spending scenario, let's say you add to the spending above by giving cards to two family members who drive their own cars, and each spends $1,000 a year on gas. In addition, one of those drivers has their own place and buys groceries for themselves, to the tune of $2,000 a year. Additionally, while another card could likely get better dining rewards than the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature (which gives 1-point-per-dollar on miscellaneous purchases), you charge $200 a month at restaurants to the card. And a further $150 on average each month for apparel, entertainment, and personal care products.
Overall, you'd earn an additional 20,200 points which, with the average spending added in, would yield 43,700 points worth about $740 when redeemed for travel.
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card's Outstanding Benefits
- Travel accident insurance
- No foreign transaction fees
- Special offers and upgrades at the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection
- Savings and access to more than 50 Sonoma Country wineries
- Complimentary 24/7 concierge service
- Digital wallet technology
- Auto-rental collision damage waiver (secondary to your own policy)
- Extended warranties
- Roadside assistance hotline
- Travel and emergency hotline
PenFed is not scored in the J.D. Power surveys for credit-card satisfaction. But the bank receives an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Customers can contact a PenFed representative about their Visa credit card at 800-247-5626. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, and current customers also have the option of sending a secure online message by logging into their account.
PenFed offers a number of security features with this card that are standard in the industry, including 24/7 fraud monitoring, programmed time-outs on PenFed online, EMV chip-enabled technology, and secure electronic statements.
Excellent rewards on gas and groceries along with a low ongoing APR make the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature card a solid choice for current PenFed members or for those who wish to join the credit union.
However, its membership requirements, a low one-time offer, and restrictive redemption opportunities are disadvantages compared to other cards in the same category.
Pairing the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature with another card that earns flat-rate cash-back rewards for all purchases could make it more appealing, though. The Citi Double cash card, for instance, could be used for all other expenses outside of gas and groceries. It offers double cash back on all purchases—1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off.
Alternatively, if you want a single card with flexibility in how you earn and redeem rewards, consider the Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express. It charges a $95 annual fee, but offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on the first $6,000 in spending and eligible U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% on transit and U.S. gas stations, and 1% on all other purchases.