Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free See more cards
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
Hits the road often, whether for work or play See more cards
Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
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.
Priority Pass membership
Good point value
Can’t transfer points
No cash-back redemption
May have to pay an annual fee
Harder to earn (and potentially keep) points
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.