Are you on the hunt for the next best travel rewards credit card?
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The PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card made a splashy entrance in 2021 when it was announced that all applicants who applied for the card between May and September would be automatically entered into a contest for a “dream vacation” valued at $10k. Now, unfortunately there’s no such prize, but it’s still a pretty rewarding travel credit card with above-average points-earning opportunities.
Find out here if this is the right card for you. Plus, see how to qualify and what travel benefits you can take advantage of as a member.
✈️ Looking for a new travel credit card this year? See today’s top offers below:
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In this post you'll learn:
Features and Benefits
Before we get into the travel perks, let’s talk about the points you can earn with this card.
First, you can qualify to earn up to 50,000 bonus points when you sign up and spend at least $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account. After that, you will earn four points per dollar you spend on all travel categories as a PenFed Honors Advantage Member or three points per dollar spent on travel if you are not an Honors Member. Plus, you’ll get 1.5 points per dollar on everything else. Points are not capped for any category.
The variable purchase APR for this card is between 15.99% and 17.99% depending on your creditworthiness. At this time, there is no promotional interest rate or introductory period.
Outside of daily points-earning but including the bonus offer of 50,000 points, this card offers travel benefits valued at up to $799. These include the following:
- $100 annual statement credit for ancillary domestic travel fees (like seat selection, checked baggage, etc.)
- $100 Global Entry statement credit or $85 TSA Pre-Check statement credit
- Complimentary Priority Pass Airport Lounge Annual Membership
You do not need to do anything to qualify for these statement credits. Just use your card to register and your account will be credited automatically. It may take several weeks for a credit to post.
Also included with this card are complimentary 24/7 fraud monitoring services and other enhanced security benefits. The credit card itself is chip-enabled and compatible with Visa Secure Remote Commerce Services.
This card also qualifies you for Visa Signature discounts on a variety of spending categories and travel. All you have to do is use your Pathfinder card to access available discounts.
Finally, you can use your card to transfer your balance on another card to PenFed. You can do this to consolidate your debt and potentially pay less interest, reduce your monthly repayments, or cover unexpected expenses without exceeding your credit limit. Many people also use a balance transfer to pay down high-interest debt and take advantage of introductory rates with a new card. There is a 0% introductory APR for balance transfers made between now and September 30th, 2022. After that, it is 17.99%.
How to Redeem Points
With all those points you can earn on travel, how do you use them? First, you’re going to want to log in to your PenFed account and select “Access My Rewards.”
There are three different ways to redeem your rewards points: by using the points to purchase gift cards, book travel, or shop. Gift cards are available for a number of categories including retail, dining, entertainment, and more.
When you use your rewards to book travel, you can purchase hotel stays, airline travel, rental cars, and other forms of transportation. You will incur an additional transaction fee when booking travel with points.
Note that your points will expire after five years or if your account is closed. There is no way to redeem your points for cash or use your rewards as a credit toward your balance.
Who Is It For?
You probably need a credit score of at least 700 to qualify for the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards card, possibly even 750, which will put this card out of reach for a lot of applicants. But if you meet the credit and income requirements and you’re a PenFed member, it might be worth applying.
The people who will benefit the most from this card are those who travel often. PenFed Honors Advantage members enjoy the most perks and can earn points at a higher rate than non-Honors members.
How to Become a PenFed Member
First things first: you cannot qualify for this card unless you are a member of PenFed Credit Union. There are no exceptions. For many years, only those actively serving or retired from the military–and their relatives–qualified to join PenFed. But now, anyone can become a member.
To join, you just need to apply for a Regular Share savings account and deposit at least $5. As long as this account is open and in good standing, you will be a member of PenFed and can apply for this credit card.
Alternatively, you can open a Premium Online Savings account. This account also requires a minimum opening deposit of $5. There is no monthly maintenance fee and you will earn an APY of 0.55%.
There are other advantages to being a member besides getting to apply for this travel card. For example, there are many member discounts you can automatically qualify for that fall into the categories auto, finances, home, personal, and retail. Here are just a few:
- 25% all Alamo car rentals
- Discounted auto insurance coverage through Travelers insurance
- $25 H&R Block tax prep services
- $20 TurboTax services
- Free home security camera + two months of free monitoring services through SimpliSafe
- Up to $360 annual Tracfone savings
- 10% discount on select Starr Wright USA insurance plans
- 30% off Alpha Industries purchases
How to Become a PenFed Honors Advantage Member
If you want to take it one step further, you could become an Honors Advantage member.
There are a few perks that you can only qualify for as a PenFed Honors Advantage Member, and these include a waiver for the annual fee and four points per dollar on travel instead of the baseline three points per dollar.
To become an Honors Advantage Member, you need to either be a member of the U.S. military–-either active-duty, retired, or otherwise discharged–or have a PenFed Access America checking account. This checking account pays 0.35% interest on balances between $20,000 and $50,000 and offers convenient banking features such as early direct deposit and the option for an Overdraft Line of Credit.
If you think that you might want this checking account anyway, it’s probably worth it to wait to apply for the travel credit card until you’ve opened the account.
Note that the Access America checking account also opens you up to more benefits if you have the PenFed Power Cash Rewards credit card.
This card carries an annual fee of $95 that’s waived if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage Member or military member.
There is a 3% transaction fee for balance transfers, a $25 returned payment fee, a late payment fee of between $20 and $28 ($20 if your balance is less than $1,000, $25 if it’s between $1,000 and $2,000, and $28 if it’s above $2,000).
There are no fees for cash advances or foreign transactions.
Is It Worth It?
Though there are plenty of travel credit cards that don’t have an annual fee, 1.5 points on everything and up to four points on all travel is nothing to scoff at. If you’ll travel enough in a year to easily make the annual fee up, you probably won’t even notice the $95.
With that said, this fee is comparable to the top competitors like the Capital One Venture Rewards Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Check these options out and compare the points categories to figure out which one will be the best fit for you.
If you don’t like the idea of joining a credit union, this card isn’t for you. There’s no way around that one.
Consumer Sentiment + Customer Support
If you know PenFed, you know that they tend to do right by their customers. As a rule, they score well on consumer review platforms and have a Better Business Bureau rating of A+. Customer service representatives are generally helpful and prompt in responding to and resolving inquiries. The majority of customers are satisfied with the quality of service they receive and their overall experiences with PenFed.
To get in touch with customer service, you can call 724-473-6333. This is the general phone line for all inquiries, so don’t be surprised if you’re put on hold. Representatives are available to assist from 7 am to 11 pm EST Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 11 pm on Saturday, and from 9 am to 5:30 pm on Sunday.
The phone number for lost/stolen cards or to report an unauthorized transaction is 1-866-820-8875 and the line for card activation is 1-877-856-9690. If you have any questions about your rewards or travel bookings, just sign in to your account.
The PenFed mobile app could be a little bit better. It currently has a rating of 4.4 on Google Play and 4.2 in the App Store. While many users find the app to be perfectly fine, some complain about being locked out of their accounts on their phones or having trouble installing updates. But as far as financial apps go, it’s definitely not bad.
Pros and Cons
✅ Pros: What makes this a good travel credit card?
The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards card comes with a lot of advantages besides the opportunity to earn points on all travel and other purchases.
For example, the fact that this card does not charge foreign transaction fees is a huge benefit that could certainly come in handy if you do a lot of international travel. Considering the average travel credit card charges a foreign transaction fee of around 3%, you could save a significant amount using this card overseas. And the same goes for cash advances
Weekend and evening customer service availability, member discounts, are a few more benefits that make this card competitive.
🛑 Cons: What are some of its drawbacks?
One of the main disadvantages is that PenFed doesn’t offer as many points redemption categories as competitors like Chase and Citi. This could be a disadvantage for you if you’re hoping to simply cash out on the points or pay yourself back for purchases. Gift cards are the closest you’ll get. You also can’t transfer your points to another loyalty account with an airline or hotel brand as you can with many similar cards.
Another possible con to note is that your credit limit may be lower than you like. It has been reported that PenFed limits how much credit it gives customers to $50,000 across all accounts, so if you have multiple credit cards with the credit union already, you might not be thrilled with the limit you’re approved for when you get the Pathfinder Rewards card. You can always request an increase, but there is no guarantee it’ll be accepted.
Finally, you might be disappointed that there is no introductory APR for this card. Many of its competitors offer 0% interest introductory periods of up to 15 months.
This card definitely competes with many of the best travel credit cards out there right now. The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards card lets you earn a whole lot of points, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and offers many travel benefits that more than pay for the annual fee (which is also avoidable). This isn’t the card for you if you want to cash out or transfer points or borrow without interest for any period of time.
If you’re not already a member of the credit union and you’re willing to apply–even better if you don’t mind opening an Access America checking account for that higher rewards rate–this is a solid option for travelers, especially those who travel outside of the country. Overall, we definitely think this card is worth it.