PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card Review

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The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card offers travel rewards and travel credits with an introductory 0% APR offer and no annual fee. This card is best for someone who wants some serious travel perks without heavy carrying costs.

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is currently closed to new applicants while the credit union updates the card’s features. Look for a refreshed version of this card (and our refreshed review of it) in early 2020.

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card

overall rating
3.9
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 12.74% - 17.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3 points per $1 on all travel purchases and 1.5 points per $1 on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
Ratings Breakdown
for Interest
2.3
for Fees
4.4
for Rewards
4.6
for Credit
3.7

25,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 within 90 days of opening an account

Who is This Credit Card Best For?

  • Avatar for Jet Setter Persona
    Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free
    Jet Setter
  • Avatar for Deal Seeker Persona
    Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain
    Deal Seeker
  • Avatar for Road Warrior Persona
    Hits the road often, whether for work or play
    Road Warrior
  • Avatar for Adventure Seeker Persona
    Loves to explore places and experience new things
    Adventure Seeker

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is ideal for someone who wants to enjoy convenient travel credits and perks, and earn rewards for travel without an annual fee. Since this card gives even more points to PenFed Honors Advantage members, it’s an even better deal for PenFed customers who are able to join.

Pros

  • Travel rewards with no annual fee

  • Travel credits

  • 0% interest balance transfer offer

Cons

  • Membership required for highest earning rate

  • Restrictive travel redemptions

Pros Explained

  • Travel rewards with no annual fee: The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card lets you earn points on all your purchases, plus extra points for travel—all at a competitive rate. The sign-up bonus is also a good deal for a card with no annual fee.
  • Travel credits: Where most travel credit cards that offer credits charge an annual fee, the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card manages to offer reimbursements for $100 a year in air travel, and up to $100 for a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee without charging an annual fee.
  • 0% interest balance transfer offer: The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card lets you transfer balances from other credit cards and pay no interest on them for 12 months provided you pay a 3% balance transfer fee.

Cons Explained

  • Membership required for highest earning rate: To earn 4 points per $1 spent on travel purchases, you need to be a member of PenFed Honors Advantage. Membership requires either military service or a PenFed Access America checking account. 
  • Restrictive travel redemptions: Where some travel credit cards let you transfer points to airlines and hotels or book any travel you want, the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card requires you to book travel through their own portal. 

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card Sign-Up Bonus

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card gives you 25,000 points after you sign up and spend $2,500 on your card within 90 days of account opening. The bonus is worth up to about $425 when redeemed for travel. That’s a great deal considering many rewards credit cards with no annual fee offer smaller bonuses. Just remember that the spending requirement is rather high at $2,500 within 90 days—or $834 per month.

Earning Points & Rewards

You’ll earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel (4 points per $1 on travel if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage member). In addition, you’ll get 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. 

That combo can net you a lot of points. Imagine you spend $5,000 on travel with this card per year and $1,000 per month on other purchases. In that case, you would earn 33,000 points annually at minimum or 38,000 points per year as a PenFed Honors Advantage member.

Even though this is an American Express card, the points you earn are not American Express Membership Rewards points.

Redeeming Rewards

When it comes to redeeming rewards earned with this card, you’ll have several options to choose from. You can cash in points for merchandise, airfare and other travel, and gift cards. 

Points are worth 0.85 cents to about 1.7 cents each, depending on how you redeem them. For example, you may find you get 0.85 cents per point when you redeem for gift cards or merchandise, but you may get 1.7 cents per point when you redeem for travel.

Since you have to book travel through the PenFed rewards portal, point valuations can vary, with 1.7 cents per point being the average value for travel redemptions, according to a PenFed spokesperson.

How to Get the Most Out of This Card

Since the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card gives you more points on travel if you join their PenFed Honors Advantage program, you may want to consider applying for this program with military service or by opening a PenFed Access American checking account. The checking account option requires a $500 daily balance to avoid monthly fees, so keep that in mind before you open one. 

To get the absolute most out of this card, you’ll also want to use the travel credits. Also, save your points for travel purchases, since they are the most valuable redemption option.

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card’s Excellent Perks 

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card offers some perks the editors of The Balance consider “excellent,” especially for a card with no annual fee

  • Global Entry/TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement: Get a $100 application fee credit good toward Global Entry or an $85 fee credit toward TSA Precheck.
  • Airline fee reimbursement: Get $100 each year toward baggage fees, in-flight food and beverages, and airport lounge access on select U.S. headquartered airlines.
  • Travel accident insurance: This policy provides up to $100,000 coverage for death or dismemberment for you and your family while on a trip paid for with the card.
  • Insurance coverage for trip delay: If you incur costs due to trip delays, you’ll be reimbursed for up to $200 per trip.
  • Insurance coverage for lost or delayed luggage: For lost luggage, you’re covered for the “actual cash value” of the property and luggage lost; for delayed luggage you’ll be reimbursed for up to $200 of costs incurred, per year. 

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card’s Other Features

  • Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
  • Travel and emergency hotline
  • Roadside assistance hotline
  • Concierge for booking event tickets, travel, and other services

Customer Experience

You can access and manage your credit card account online or with a smartphone app. Customer service is available 24/7 by phone. PenFed does not offer access a free credit score, as many of its competitors do.  

Security

PenFed credit cards come with standard security features, including 24/7 fraud monitoring and $0 fraud liability.  

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card’s Fees

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card comes with lower fees than many other competing rewards credit cards, along with a lower range of interest rates. And there’s no foreign transaction fee.

For PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card

Compare This Card

See how this card stacks up to the competition
CURRENT CARD
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card
overall rating
3.9
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 12.74% - 17.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3 points per $1 on all travel purchases and 1.5 points per $1 on all other purchases.

Our Methodology

  • At The Balance, we are dedicated to giving you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews. To do this, we collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances.
  • Our Reviews Are Always Impartial: No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive. The scores and reviews come directly from the data we collect and our editorial expertise, and we focus on three areas:
  • How Much Does It Cost? With credit card debt at an all-time high, we believe you should know the cost of carrying a balance. Because of that, we give regular purchase APRs significant weight in overall scores, and cards receive low marks if they have an array of pricey fees.
  • What Are the Rewards Worth? Cards accumulate rewards in different currencies—points, miles, cash back—and their values vary widely. To simplify the problem, we built a system that fairly compares rewards and gives them a dollar value. We do this by looking at the ways you can earn and use rewards, which includes evaluating Americans’ typical spending habits and analyzing common travel patterns.
  • Does It Make Your Life Easier? Our scoring system favors cards that accept a wide range of credit profiles and offer simple solutions for things like checking your credit score or contacting customer service. Finally, we give preference to credit cards that have several tools for dealing with fraudulent charges.
  • For every review on The Balance, we hold the credit cards to these standards, and we set the bar high. While we recognize the appeal of splashy features like six-digit sign-up bonuses, our approach ensures that credit cards with the best combination of value, affordability, and accessibility receive the highest scores. See our full methodology for more details.