PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card Review

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The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card offers excellent value for travelers who can qualify for an annual-fee waiver, and who don’t mind redeeming their rewards points for travel booked through PenFed.

PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Overall Rating
4.1
PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® 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
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 14.99% - 17.99% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate 4x points on all travel categories for PenFed Honors Advantage Members, 3x points on all travel categories, and 1.5x points on all other purchases
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
Ratings Breakdown
for Interest
2.6
for Fees
2.2
for Rewards
4.3
for Credit
2.2
Current Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on the first 90 days

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 See more cards
    Jet Setter
  • Avatar for Deal Seeker Persona
    Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
    Deal Seeker
  • Avatar for Road Warrior Persona
    Hits the road often, whether for work or play See more cards
    Road Warrior
  • Avatar for Adventure Seeker Persona
    Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
    Adventure Seeker

If you’re a travel aficionado and you’re already a PenFed Credit Union member, this card may be a good choice for you. But in addition to that, we’d recommend this card if you’re a military member (specifically, “active duty, reserve, honorably discharged, or retired”) or if you already have an Access America checking account with PenFed. This qualifies you for better card benefits through the Honors Advantage program. 

The Honors Advantage program allows you to get the annual fee waived and earn an extra point for every dollar you spend on travel. Those two factors make this card particularly valuable for you.

If you’re opening an Access America checking account to qualify for the Honors Advantage program (and thus the fee waiver and extra points), make sure you sign up before you apply for the card. If you open it afterward, you’ll still be charged an annual fee during your first year.

If the Honors Advantage program is not in the cards for you, you might get better value out of another travel rewards card with less restrictive barriers.

Pros
  • Priority Pass membership

  • Travel credits

  • Good point value

Cons
  • Can’t transfer points

  • No cash-back redemption

  • May have to pay an annual fee

  • Harder to earn (and potentially keep) points

Pros Explained

  • Priority Pass membership: You’ll get a complimentary Priority Pass, which lets you into more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world. 
  • Travel credits: You’ll get an annual credit for $100 toward ancillary travel charges, like pet kennel fees, baggage fees, or in-flight food and drinks. You’ll also get up to a $100 credit towards a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application (once every four years). 
  • Good point value: Points are worth up to 1.7 cents each, based on our calculations, when you redeem them for travel, which is more than some of its competitors.

Cons Explained

  • Can’t transfer points: Unlike many of this card’s competitors, you can’t transfer your points to other airlines, hotels, or other travel programs. 
  • No cash-back redemption: You can redeem points for gift cards, travel, and merchandise, but you can’t redeem them for cash. That’s a big bummer if you prefer cash rewards. 
  • May have to pay an annual fee: Unless you’re a member of the Honors Advantage program, you’ll pay a $95 annual fee.
  • Hard to earn (and potentially keep) points: You’ll earn 1.5 points on every purchase, but there’s only one category that unlocks more points per dollar: travel. Most other cards offer multiple ways to multiply your spending. Plus, your points expire after five years.

Bonus for New Cardholders

To this card’s 50,000-point welcome bonus, you’ll need to spend at least $3,000 within the first three months. The bonus is worth about $850 when you redeem it for travel, based on our research, which is above average compared to what other travel cards offer. 

Earning Points & Rewards

There are two tiers for earning rewards with this card. You’ll earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend regardless, but if you make any travel purchases, you’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you spend. If you’re in the Honors Advantage program, you’ll earn slightly more: 4 points for every dollar you spend on travel. 

That’s not a bad earnings rate, but it also means you won’t earn more points for spending in other categories. For example, other cards also offer more points for spending at restaurants, at gas stations, or even at supermarkets, which can help you pile up the points faster. 

Redeeming Rewards

The best way to redeem your rewards is for travel through the PenFed travel portal, where your points are worth 1.7 cents each. 

Aside from travel, you can also redeem your points for gift cards, although they’re worth much less (only 0.85 cents per point). You can also redeem points for merchandise like kitchen gadgets and home gizmos, but these are among the lowest-value ways to use your points. 

How to Get the Most Out of This Card

Qualifying for the Honors Advantage program will maximize this card’s value since you’ll get an extra point per dollar spent on travel. If you aren’t in the military, sign up for a fee-free Access American checking account. Once you’re in the Honors Advantage program, make the Pathfinder your primary card for travel purchases and book your travel through PenFed to take advantage of the excellent rewards rate and redemption value. 

You’ll also want to make sure to book a trip at least every few years with this card because your points expire after five years on a first-in, first-out basis. So, if you earn the 50,000-point bonus in 2021, your points will expire in 2026.

Excellent Perks

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards card offers some perks that we think are particularly useful:

  • Travel accident insurance: Reimbursement of up to $250,00 for you and your family in the event of severe injury or death 
  • Insurance coverage for trip delays: Up to $300 to cover reasonable expenses incurred during a trip delay of more than 12 hours 
  • Insurance coverage for lost or delayed baggage: You and your immediate family could be eligible for up to $300 of coverage for baggage delayed more than four hours after your arrival.

Other Features

  • Extended warranties
  • Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own car insurance policy)
  • Roadside assistance hotline
  • Travel and emergency hotline
  • Concierge for booking event tickets, travel, and other services
  • Sports, music, and event ticket presales, plus VIP access at some events

Customer Experience

PenFed’s customer service is fairly basic. You won’t get 24/7 phone support, which could be inconvenient if you’re on active duty and stationed on the other side of the world. However, you can access your account through the PenFed mobile app at any time of the day. 

Security Features

Similarly, PenFed doesn’t offer any particularly flashy security features, but what it does provide is standard for the industry: zero liability for fraudulent purchases, fraud monitoring and alerts, virtual card numbers, and a chip-enabled card.  

Fees

This card’s fee structure is cardholder-friendly. The APR is competitive, there’s no cash advance fee, and if you qualify, the annual fee is waived. Plus, like most travel cards, it doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee

Next Steps
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CURRENT CARD
PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
overall rating
4.1
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
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 14.99% - 17.99% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate 4x points on all travel categories for PenFed Honors Advantage Members, 3x points on all travel categories, and 1.5x points 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.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. PenFed Credit Union. "PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card Travel Credits." Accessed Jan. 19. 2021.

  2. PenFed Credit Union. "PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card." Accessed Jan. 19, 2021.

  3. PenFed Credit Union. "Program Rules, Terms and Conditions." Accessed Jan. 19, 2021.

  4. PenFed Credit Union. "Travel Signature Program Benefits." Accessed Jan. 19, 2021.