Pentagon Federal Credit Union makes it easy to become a member and pays competitive rates on savings
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- Pentagon Federal Credit Union (federally insured by the NCUA) offers in-person banking in 13 US states and DC, and on military bases in Guam, Puerto Rico, and Japan, and you can bank digitally if you don't live near a branch.
- With PenFed, you'll earn competitive rates on your savings and money market certificate balances, and you can earn interest on your checking account balance.
- PenFed's two weak links are its money market accounts that pay low rates, and its six-month certificates, which pay simple interest rather than compounding.
- It's easy to become a member of PenFed, even if you aren't a member of the military and don't work for what the company lists as a qualifying employer.
- See Business Insider's picks for the best high-yield savings accounts »
Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers competitive rates on savings and certificates (the credit union version of a CD), and you may qualify to earn interest on your checking account balance. The credit union has branches in 13 US states and Washington DC, and on military bases in Guam, Puerto Rico, and Japan. But you can bank digitally with PenFed if you don't live near a branch.
PenFed makes it easier to become a member than most credit unions, so it's a good option for people who prefer a credit union to a bank but aren't eligible to join some other credit unions.
You're eligible if you have served in the military or work at qualifying associations or organizations. But the easiest way to join is to join the National Military Family Association for $17, or Voices for America's Troops for $15.
- Should you bank with Pentagon Federal Credit Union?
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union Premium Online Savings Account review
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union Access America Checking Account review
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union Money Market Certificate review
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union Money Market Savings review
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union features
- How Pentagon Federal Credit Union compares
Should you bank with Pentagon Federal Credit Union?
You might like banking with Pentagon Federal Credit Union if you:
- Want to earn a competitive APY on your savings account or certificate
- Want to earn interest on your checking account balance
- Plan to open a certificate with a term longer than five years
- Are comfortable banking digitally, OR live near a branch
You might not like banking with Pentagon Federal Credit Union if you:
- Value accounts that compound interest daily rather than monthly
- Don't qualify to earn interest on your checking account balance
- Want to earn a competitive APY on a money market account
- Don't qualify to waive monthly fees for the checking account
- Don't have $1,000 to open a certificate
- Want a six-month certificate that compounds interest
- Aren't comfortable banking digitally, OR don't live near a branch
Pentagon Federal Credit Union Premium Online Savings Account review
Pentagon Federal Credit Union Premium Online Savings Account
0.05% – 0.15% APY
- Many ways to join PenFed, the easiest being to join the National Military Family Association for $17, or Voices for America's Troops for $15
- Branches in US and on military bases in Guam, Puerto Rico, and Japan
- Earn 0.05% on balances under $10k; 0.10% on balances between $10k and $99,999; 0.15% on $100k or more
- Federally insured by the NCUA
- Interest is compounded and paid monthly
- $25 opening deposit
- No monthly service fees
- Paper checks
- Low APY
- No debit card
The PenFed Money Market Savings account will send you paper checks, but the account doesn't come with a debit card. You can also find a higher APY elsewhere, especially if your balance is under $10,000. All in all, the money market account is a weak link for PenFed.
See Business Insider's picks for the best money market accounts »
Pentagon Federal Credit Union features
PenFed has 68,000 free ATMs nationwide. It has around 50 branch locations in Washington DC and the following US states:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
The credit union also has branches on military bases in Guam, Puerto Rico, and Japan.
PenFed offers a checking and money market account, two savings accounts, and various money market certificates with terms up to seven years. Its Premium Online Savings Account and Money Market Certificates are its strongest products, and the checking account is a worthwhile option if you can opt out of the monthly fees and qualify to earn interest.
To contact customer service with questions, call Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET. Or call Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET, or Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET.
You can also contact customer service via email, snail mail, or fax, but there is no live online chat option.
Your PenFed accounts are federally insured by the NCUA for $250,000, or $500,000 for joint accounts.
How Pentagon Federal Credit Union compares
|Pentagon Federal Credit Union||Navy Federal Credit Union (federally insured by the NCUA)||Alliant Credit Union (federally insured by the NCUA)|
|Accounts||Savings, checking, money market account, certificates||Savings, checking, money market account, certificates||Savings, checking, kids savings, teen checking, certificates|
|Branch locations||13 US states, DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, Japan||30 US states, DC, Guam, overseas||Online only|
|Opening deposits||$5 – $1,000||$0 – $1,000||$0 – $1,000|
|Monthly service fees||$0 – $10||$0 – $10||$0|
|ATM access||Network; $1.50 out-of-network fee||Network; refunds up to $20/month in out-of-network fees||Network; refunds up to $20/month in out-of-network fees|
Pentagon Federal Credit Union review vs. Navy Federal Credit Union review
Your choice between PenFed and Navy Federal will likely come down to two main factors: membership eligibility and branch locations.
It's more difficult to join Navy Federal than PenFed; you must be tied to the armed forces or have a family member who is already a member of the credit union. You can also be a Department of Defense civilian employee, veteran, or extended family member.
If you qualify to join both credit unions, your decision may rely on the closest branch. Navy Federal has more locations across more US states than PenFed.
Maybe you're eligible to join either credit union and have nearby branches for both institutions. Your decision could come down to which type of account is most important to you.
PenFed pays a higher APY on your savings account balance. However, Navy Federal has more checking account options and pays a higher rate on money market accounts. When it comes to certificates, the higher rate will depend on the term length you're interested in.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union review vs. Alliant Credit Union review
First things first: If you don't like banking digitally, and you live near a PenFed branch, you should go with PenFed. Alliant is an online-only credit union with no brick-and-mortar locations.
If you're comfortable banking online, Alliant is a worthwhile option — we've listed it as on of our top picks for online banking.
Otherwise, your choice could come down to which account you prioritize. If you want a money market account, you'll want to go with PenFed, because Alliant doesn't offer a money market account. PenFed also pays a higher APY for savings than Alliant.
Alliant pays the same rate for all checking account balances. You'll earn more with Alliant if your balance is under $20,000, but more with PenFed if your balance is over $20,000. The better APY for a certificate will depend on your term length.
Alliant offers savings and checking accounts specifically for minors, so if you want to open accounts for your kids, Alliant might be the better fit.
This post was reviewed and updated on September 24, 2020.
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