PenFed Power Cash Rewards VISA Signature Card Review

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The PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card offers bigger rewards to military members and loyal customers of the credit union, but even for everyone else, it’s a worthwhile cash-back option with a low interest rate. 

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

overall rating
4.1
PenFed Power Cash 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
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 11.74% - 17.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 1.5% Cash Back on all purchases made with your card, and 2% Total Cash Back for PenFed Honors Advantage Members.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
Ratings Breakdown
for Interest
2.3
for Fees
1.9
for Rewards
4.8
for Credit
0.7

Current Offer:

$100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days

Top Rated For

Who Is This Credit Card Best For?

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    Savvy Saver

If you have excellent credit, this card is a solid choice for earning no-fuss cash rewards, especially if you’re linked to the military or willing to keep a PenFed checking account. In those cases, you’ll get a very competitive 2% cash back on every dollar you charge, and the funds are credited straight to your bank account or credit card statement. For everyone else, the cash-back rate is still a respectable 1.5%.

Pros
  • Low APR

  • Minimal fees

  • Potential for 2% cash back

Cons
  • PenFed membership required

  • High spending requirement for small sign-up bonus

  • No introductory rate on purchases

Pros Explained

  • Low APR: The variable APR on this card is better than most. Even the high end is well below the average for a cash-back card. While we don’t recommend carrying a balance on your credit card, if you unexpectedly have to, this is a good card to have. 
  • Minimal fees: This card doesn’t charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fee, which means you have the ability to avoid fees completely depending on how you use the card. Even the late fees—$10 to $25, depending on your balance—are more reasonable than on many cards.
  • Potential for 2% cash back: It’s pretty unusual to be offered 2% of every purchase in cash back, and you’ll automatically be eligible for this rate if the primary applicant is a current or retired member of the armed services. Even non-military get 2% if they open a checking account with PenFed.

Cons Explained

  • PenFed membership required: While anyone is eligible to get the card (regardless of military status) you must become a member of the credit union as part of the application process. At a minimum, this means having a savings account with at least $5 in it. 
  • High spending requirement for small sign-up bonus: The $100 statement credit is a smaller bonus than you’d get with many competing cash-back cards, and you have to spend three times as much to get it. 
  • No introductory rate on purchases: If you’re looking for a limited-time 0% APR offer, you won’t get it here unless you’re transferring a balance from another card. And if you do transfer a balance, you’re better off avoiding any new purchases until you’ve paid off that balance. (More on this below.)

Sign-Up Bonus 

You can earn a $100 statement credit by spending $1,500 in the first 90 days you have the card. This is half of what you’d get on some competing cards that don’t require you to spend nearly as much. 

Earning Points & Rewards

The PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card pays 1.5% of every dollar you spend in cash back, unless you’re in the military or willing to keep a checking account with PenFed. Then the rate is an impressive 2%. There’s no cap on the cash back you can earn, but the rewards expire after five years or if your account is closed.

The 2% cash-back rate is for members of the PenFed Honors Advantage Program. Any servicemember—on active duty, in the reserves or retired or honorably discharged—is automatically in the program, or the cardholder can be enrolled by maintaining a checking account. Any existing account other than a PenCheck Limited account qualifies. Otherwise you must open the company’s premium Access America account.

Redeeming Rewards

PenFed’s rewards are strictly redeemed as cash, so there’s no worrying about how much value you’ll get for different redemption options. You can get your cash as a credit to your balance, have it deposited into a PenFed checking or savings account, or have it transferred to another financial institution. (The last option is not available if you qualified for the Honors Advantage Program because you opened a checking account.)

How to Get the Most Out of This Card

If you’re not a member of the military and you don’t have a checking account with PenFed, open an Access America account to qualify for the Honors Advantage Program and maximize your cash back. (Just make sure you have a daily balance or monthly direct deposit of at least $500, or you’ll have to pay a $10 monthly fee.) 

You can transfer a balance under the promotional rate until March 31, 2020, but if you do, keep your card in your wallet until you’ve paid off the transferred amount. Otherwise, any new purchases will begin accruing interest as soon as you make them, even before you get your bill. 

The reason? Anyone who takes advantage of the balance transfer promotion also forgoes the normal grace period on new purchases until the entire transferred balance has been repaid. These unavoidable finance charges—assessed even if you pay off any new purchases as soon as you get your bill—would eat away at the interest you’re saving on the transferred amount.

This is a problem common on cards that offer an introductory rate on balance transfers but not on new purchases. 

Excellent Perks 

Of the credit card perks we’ve selected for their exceptional value, there’s one that comes with the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card:

  • Travel accident insurance: This automatic coverage applies to you, your spouse, and unmarried dependents when the full travel fare is charged to your credit card. The benefit of up to $250,000 kicks in if there’s accidental death or dismemberment while you are a passenger on a flight or other covered trip.

Other Features 

  • Extended warranties
  • Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
  • Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
  • Roadside assistance hotline 
  • Travel and emergency hotline
  • Concierge for booking event tickets, travel, and other services

Customer Experience

While PenFed doesn’t offer any fancy customer interfaces like online chat, it does have a mobile app that can be used to manage all accounts with the credit union. 

Security Features 

This card comes with industry-standard security features such as fraud monitoring.

Fees

PenFed stands out for its reasonable fees on credit cards. There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fee, and the late fee is lower than on many cards. You’ll be charged up to $10 if your balance is less than $1,000, up to $20 if it’s $1,000-$2,000, and up to $25 if it’s more than $2,000. As with many cards, you’ll pay a 3% fee for balance transfers and a 5% fee for cash advances, with a $5 minimum.

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CURRENT CARD
PenFed Power Cash 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
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 11.74% - 17.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 1.5% Cash Back on all purchases made with your card, and 2% Total Cash Back for PenFed Honors Advantage Members.
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.