The PenFed Gold Visa Card is best for people with excellent credit who carry a balance or just want an affordable backup line of credit for emergencies. This card has a low ongoing interest rate (comparable to a personal loan), and there is no annual fee, so you can keep it open year after year for no additional cost. Even the late fees are more reasonable than on many cards.
While some cards initially won’t charge interest on your purchases, those promotional rates are short-lived and only help if you can plan ahead. If you have an unexpected situation you haven’t saved for, the PenFed Gold Visa Card can be a great substitute.
Very low interest rate for eligible card holders
No cash advance fees
Requires PenFed Credit Union membership
Balance transfer catch
- Very low interest rate for eligible card holders: This card has one of the lowest APRs available on the market today. (Your APR will be based on your creditworthiness and membership history, and the better your credit history, the closer you will get to the minimum 7.49%.) On the high end, 17.99% is still a comparatively low rate for a credit card, but carrying a balance at that rate will still rack up hefty interest charges.
- No cash advance fees: Many credit cards charge a fee and/or much higher interest rates on cash advances. This card doesn’t charge a cash advance fee, and the 17.99% cash advance APR is below average, according to The Balance research. If you don’t have any savings to fall back on and need emergency cash fast, this card is a decent back-up option. However, just note that cash advances made with this card aren’t free. Unlike purchases, cash advances accrue interest from the transaction date. There’s no grace period.
- Decent Bonus: You’ll get a $100 statement credit if you spend at least $1,500 within the first 90 days after opening the card. Most cards that target balance-transfer and low-interest rate customers don’t offer a bonus at all.
- No frills: Since this card’s primary benefit is its low interest rate, there are no ongoing rewards and very few perks. You can’t earn points, miles, or money beyond the $100 bonus for new cardholders.
- Requires PenFed Credit Union membership: Although PenFed is short for Pentagon Federal Credit Union and serves Department of Defense employees among others, you don’t need any special affiliation to become a member. But here is an extra step to take before applying for the card. You’ll need to open a savings account with at least $5. As well, your interest rate may be determined by how long you’ve been a PenFed member, along with your creditworthiness.
- Balance transfer catch: While a balance transfer promotion may sound great, there’s an important catch. If you transfer a balance by September 30, 2020, you won’t be charged any interest for 12 months (just a 3% balance transfer fee.) But, you’ll also have to forgo the grace period on new purchases, meaning you’ll be charged interest on those purchases immediately, even before you get your bill. (This is the case with many balance transfer cards that don’t also offer an introductory APR on purchases.)
Bonus for New Cardholders
If you spend at least $1,500 within your first 90 days, PenFed Credit Union will credit $100 to your statement. This isn’t a huge bonus when compared to those available on many rewards cards, but it’s notable in the world of low-interest credit cards. Most of those don’t offer any welcome bonuses at all.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
If you want to take advantage of the promotional balance transfer APR offer but avoid paying interest on new purchases, don’t use your card until you’ve paid off your transferred debt balance. Otherwise, finance charges from any new use will erase some of your savings from the balance transfer promotion.
If you have good to excellent credit, consider opening a rewards card alongside the PenFed Gold Visa Card. It’s likely to have a higher interest rate, so just use the rewards card for normal expenses you know you can pay off at the end of each month.
Credit cards often come with extra perks, but only some qualify as “excellent” by our editors’ standards. For the PenFed Gold Visa Card, there’s only one in this category:
Travel accident insurance: Should you have an accident or die while traveling on an airplane, train, or boat, this provides up to $100,000 worth of coverage if your trip was paid for with your card.
- Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- Roadside assistance hotline
The PenFed Gold Visa Card doesn’t offer the flashy customer service features that some of the bigger-name credit card issuers do such as free credit scores or credit report monitoring. However, PenFed does offer 24/7 assistance if you need to report your card lost or stolen, and require emergency card replacement and emergency cash.
You can manage your account from PenFed’s mobile app, and the card comes with a tap-to-pay feature.
PenFed Credit Union employs standard safety features for this card, including $0 liability on unauthorized charges. If you think you see a fraudulent charge, you have access to a 24/7 fraud monitoring phone line.
The PenFed Gold Visa Card is pretty reasonable when it comes to fees. There’s no annual fee, cash advance fee, or foreign transaction fee. The late payment fees are lower than many other standard cards, at $20 if your balance is under $1,000, $25 if your balance is $1,000-$2,000, and $28 if your balance is more than that.
The same ongoing APR of 17.99% is applicable for cash advances, penalty APR, and balance transfers (after the 0% introductory period on balance transfers ends).
Make sure you opt into electronic statements or you’ll pay a $1 monthly fee to receive hard copies in the mail.