This in-depth PenFed Checking and Savings review is ideal for consumers who prefer joining a credit union instead of a bank or those who want to add a credit union account for their checking and savings.
This review will provide you the essential information you need from the integrity of PenFed Credit Union, how competitive and beneficial their checking and savings accounts are, up to how to actually join and be part of it.
Before we even get deeper into this PenFed checking and savings review, let us define what a credit union is first.
According to an article published by Forbes Advisor, although a credit union has similar offerings as to banks, what makes it different is that it is owned by its members.
Credit unions are set up as cooperative. It usually “open membership to individuals who share a common bond, such as the industry they are employed in, the community they live in, their faith or their membership in another organization.“
Additionally, the article states that “credit unions are also generally exempt from federal taxes, and some credit unions even receive subsidies from the organizations that they are affiliated with.” For this reason, “credit unions do not have to worry about making profits for shareholders.”
Perhaps you are wondering why choose a credit union over a bank?
Well, since credit union is a cooperative financial institution, it means they put their members first. In fact, credit unions are known for providing excellent customer service.
If you are particular about having great customer service, then, no doubt, a credit union would be the best option for you.
Now, according to an IBISWorld report, there are currently 6,293 credit unions in the United States, which is a 2.7% increase from 2020. With a lot of options, it could be a little challenging as well to choose one.
But just like when choosing a bank, it all boils down to what your needs and preferences are.
Among all the credit unions in the country today, PenFed Credit Union is one of them.
In the next few sections, we are going to talk about what this credit union is all about, its product offerings particularly checking and savings accounts, and a lot more.
For your reference, here’s a guide on the things that we are going to tackle in this PenFed checking and savings review:
- What is PenFed Credit Union?
- Who is PenFed Credit Union best for?
- What are the products offered by PenFed Credit Union?
- How to bank with PenFed Credit Union?
- Is PenFed Credit Union safe?
- What to like about PenFed Credit Union?
- What not to like about PenFed Credit Union?
WHAT IS PENFED CREDIT UNION?
Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which is more popularly known as PenFed Credit Union is a full-service credit union that was established in 1935.
Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, PenFed currently has 1.8 members and $25 billion in assets. Thus, making it one of the largest credit unions in the United States to date.
Primarily, PenFed was exclusive to members who have a relationship with the military or federal government. However, over time, PenFed has eventually opened its doors to everyone who wanted to join the credit union regardless of affiliations.
PenFed Credit Union services all 50 states, including Guam, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, as well as Okinawa in Japan.
To ensure that all deposits are safe, PenFed is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and is an Equal Opportunity Lender.
PenFed offers a variety of financial products including credit cards, homes, cars, and student loans. In this blog, however, we are going to specifically focus on PenFed’s checking and savings account offerings.
If you are interested to know more about PenFed and the services it offers, below is an insightful review by CreditKim:
WHO IS PENFED CREDIT UNION BEST FOR?
Now that you already know what PenFed Credit Union is, in this section of our review, we are going to tackle who it is best for.
As mentioned earlier, a credit union, although offers similar products to banks, what makes it unique is that it is owned by its members, which means, to be able to open an account, you have to join its membership first.
So, unless you are okay with that, then, PenFed is not for you.
PenFed Credit Union specifically with its checking and savings account offerings would be ideal for people who want to enjoy earning competitive interests for both accounts. It would appeal to consumers who want to take advantage of good customer service, which is often one of the concerns customers have with banks, particularly online banks.
In addition, it would also be a great choice for those who want to have ATM access for free across more than 85,000 ATMs nationwide.
Similar to online banks, PenFed Credit Union offers online and mobile access, which makes it ideal for people who want easy access to their accounts.
If you think this all pertains to what you are looking for, then PenFed Credit Union and its account offerings are perfect for you.
WHAT ARE THE PRODUCTS OFFERED BY PENFED CREDIT UNION?
You already know what PenFed Credit Union is about and who would benefit from it the most. This time in our PenFed checking and savings review, we are going to talk about, obviously, the deposit accounts offered by the credit union.
Although PenFed Credit Union has several product options, which include credit card, home, car, and student loans, this review will particularly focus on its major offerings – the checking and savings accounts.
PenFed Credit Union offers one checking account and four savings accounts. PenFed Credit Union accounts can be accessed through a network of more than 85,000 ATMs nationwide.
More so, members can bank online or through PenFed’s mobile application. Unlike most mobile banks that do not have physical branch locations, PenFed Credit Union has almost 50 branches across 16 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Okinawa.
Now, let’s talk more about each product to know what’s in store for customers like you —
Access America Checking Account
As mentioned, PenFed Credit Union only offers a single checking account, which they call the Access America Checking account.
Eligible accounts could earn 0.20% annual percentage yield (APY) on daily balances up to $19,999.99, while those with daily balances between $20,000 and $50,000, could earn 0.40% APY. Dividends for this account type are compounded daily and paid monthly.
By the way, the account becomes eligible for dividends by setting up at least a $500 recurring direct deposit.
To be able to open an Access America Checking account, you must first and foremost be a member of PenFed Credit Union by opening a savings account with at least a $5 initial deposit. No savings account means no access to opening the credit union’s checking account.
The Access America checking accounts comes with a free Visa contactless debit card. It a card that is compatible with Apple Pay, Google Pay, as well as Samsung Pay. The debit card allows you to access over 85,000 ATM networks of Allpoint and CO-OP ATMs nationwide for free.
In addition, the account does not charge out-of-network ATM use, however, there may be a surcharge fee from the third-party ATM operator.
Access America Checking account comes with a monthly service fee of $10. However, this can be waived if a direct deposit of a minimum of $500 is made per month or by maintaining a balance of at least $500 on a daily basis.
The Access America Checking account also offers Bill Pay for free, as well as a no-fee overdraft line of credit starting at $500. The account’s line of credit comes with a fixed 17.99% APR, as well as flexible limits starting at $500.
Regular Savings Account
Unlike other PenFed’s deposit accounts, the Regular Savings Account pays only 0.05% APY on all balances.
While the rate is quite low, the good side of it is that you get to gain ATM access to over 85,000 ATMs nationwide.
The Regular Savings Account is also the key to establishing a PenFed membership. With at least a $5 initial deposit, you get to establish yourself as a PenFed member, allowing you to enjoy other products that the credit union offers.
The Regular Savings Account lets you access your money easily. As mentioned, it comes with a free ATM card that is accessible to thousands of Allpoint and CO-OP ATMs across the country.
Please note that All Regular Savings Accounts are federally insured for up to $250,000 and are also backed by the full faith and credit of the government.
Premium Online Savings Account
Unlike the Regular Savings Account, PenFed’s Premium Online Savings Account allows account holders to earn 0.50% APY on balances up to $250,000.
This account does not charge monthly fees, but, unfortunately, it does not have ATM access. If you want to withdraw your money, you will have to transfer it to your Regular Savings Account first.
To open a Premium Online Savings Account, you also only need at least a $5 initial deposit.
Please note, though, that unlike checking accounts, savings accounts have more restrictions. As the federal law states, account holders can only withdraw money from their account up to six times per month.
Additionally, customers are only allowed to make deposits of up to $10,000 per day and a total of $50,000 per month. Otherwise, fees will be charged.
Money Market Savings Account
Unlike the first two savings accounts, the Money Market Savings Account requires a minimum of $25 initial deposit. Similar to Premium Online Savings, this, too, does not have ATM access.
However, you also get to enjoy no monthly fees, as well as free checks upon request.
As with interests, the Money Market Savings Account has several tiers depending on balances. For those with balances of $10,000 and below, the APY is 0.05%. For account holders with balances between $10,000 and $99,999, it’s 0.10% AP, while those with balances of $100,000 and above, get to earn 0.15% APY.
To easily access your account, all you have to do is visit PenFed’s website or download the mobile app.
Money Market Certificates
Last on the savings account options is the Money Market Certificates. This one’s similar to banks’ certificate of deposit (CD) account.
PenFed Credit Union offers a variety of Money Market Certificates to choose from. The certificate terms vary from six months up to 7 years. All of which require at least a $1,000 deposit to open.
The APY also differs depending on the terms, but customers could earn up to 0.75% APY for a seven-year term.
Similar to CD accounts, your money must stay in the certificate until it matures. Otherwise, you will be charged with an early withdrawal penalty if you get it before the maturity date.
Similar to checking accounts, dividends are compounded daily and paid out monthly.
PenFed’s Money Market Certificates are available in the branch, by phone, as well as online.
HOW TO BANK WITH PENFED CREDIT UNION?
As mentioned, to be able to enjoy the products offered by PenFed Credit Union, you have to become a member first.
Joining the credit union comes in three very easy steps.
First, you have to be eligible to join. You can join through association membership, employment, military affiliation, and a lot more. To know the full list, you may check with a PenFed branch near you or visit their website.
Second, you will need to provide your personal information such as your name, phone number, email address, as well as your home address.
Lastly, you will have to open a savings account with at least a $5 initial deposit.
Once you’re done with all these, you are now a PenFed member. By being one, you do not only get to access the different financial products that PenFed offers, but also other membership perks like member discounts, access to the advice center, financial hardship center, as well as deployment guide.
Although not all accounts have ATM access, you can easily withdraw by transferring funds to your Regular Savings Account, which is the basic account requirement to avail PenFed membership.
All PenFed issued debit card is accessible to over 85,000 Allpoint and CO-OP network ATMs nationwide.
Online and Mobile Access
All PenFed checking and savings accounts are accessible through its mobile app. It comes with all the features your’s expect from a full-service credit union.
It comes with features like instant check deposit, account management, bill pay, the ability to send money to almost anyone, as well as the ability to transfer funds between your PenFed accounts.
The mobile app is available for both iOS and Android devices.
Almost all of PenFed’s accounts do not come with fees except for its Access America Checking account that charges a $10 monthly fee. However, it can be waived by keeping a $500 balance or set up a $500 monthly direct deposit.
IS PENFED CREDIT UNION SAFE?
This Penfed checking and savings review will not be complete if we are not going to tackle the safety and security features of the credit union.
As mentioned, all accounts can be accessed online and through the mobile app. To ensure all data are safe from fraud or identity theft threats, PenFed follows bank-level security.
As with your money, all funds deposited with PenFed are federally insured by the NCUA. It’s insurance similar to FDIC for banks.
Just the same, with the NCUA insurance each member depositor can receive up to $250,000 per account in the event of credit union failure.
WHAT TO LIKE ABOUT PENFED CREDIT UNION?
At this point of our review, we are going to share with you a list of the things that we like about PenFed Credit Union as a whole, as well as its checking and deposit account offerings.
The list includes:
- Competitive Rates – Except for the Regular Savings account, all the other accounts offer very competitive rates.
- No Monthly Charges for Savings Accounts – All savings account holders are free from monthly charges. As with checking account holders, while there is a $10 monthly fee, it can be waived by either keeping a $500 balance or set up a $500 monthly direct deposit.
- Online and Mobile Access – All deposit accounts are accessible both on PenFed’s website as well as through its mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices.
- Easy Membership Application Process – PenFed has three easy and simple membership applications. Needless to say, it was already made available for anyone in the United States.
- Available Across 50 States – PenFed is available across all 50 states as well as in Guam, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Okinawa, Japan.
WHAT NOT TO LIKE ABOUT PENFED CREDIT UNION?
While there are a lot of things to like about PenFed Credit Union, it sure has its flaws as well.
Some of the things to not like or probably to improve on are as follows:
- $500 Recurring Direct Deposit to Earn Dividends – PenFed requires all checking accounts to have a recurring $500 direct deposit to earn dividends, which can be quite a challenge for some.
- Requires to Open and Maintain a Regular Savings Account – The credit union requires opening a savings account to be able to become a member. Needless to say, it has to be maintained to be able to withdraw money from other accounts.
- Limited Local Branches – Although PenFed is available across 50 states, its local branches are only available in 16 states.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON PENFED CHECKING AND SAVINGS REVIEW
Although PenFed is a credit union, which functions like a cooperative, it has similar product offerings to banks, including checking and savings accounts.
It’s a good alternative especially for people who want to enjoy the same type of products that banks offer but in a more relaxed environment.
With PenFed checking and savings accounts, for instance, both offer competitive rates sans bank fees (except for checking account, which charges a $10 monthly fee if requirements are not met).
Given the information we provided, do you now consider joining a credit union to have a credit and savings account?