PenFed American Express Review (Updated For 2013)

Should you consider the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card?

penfed american expressAlthough I’m a member of the Pentagon Federal credit union, I don’t have any of their credit cards. However the PenFed American Express card really caught my attention because of the benefits it offers.

Let’s take a closer look…


With the name PenFed Premium Travel Rewards it better give something good, right? Well here’s what it offers:

  • 1 point per dollar on regular purchases
  • 5 points per dollar on airlines (Note that only purchases made directly with the airline count. Flights booked on travel websites and bundled vacation packages won’t count).
  • There are no reward caps

Previously, the card use to offer 3x points on restaurants/hotels and 2x points on everything else but those were limited time promotions which have since expired. Either way, the 5x points on airfare is great! It definitely beats airline affiliated credit cards, which usually give rewards equal to around 2-3% when you buy from their airline.

Annual Fee

When the card first launched it did have a $50 annual fee but it looks like they have since eliminated it, because I carefully read of the PenFed American Express application and it said “Annual Fee: None”

Other Benefits

  • If an account has annual spending of $15,000 or more then for the following year, complimentary airport lounge access will be included. It will continue as long as at least $15,000 per account anniversary.
  • As with many travel cards, complimentary phone concierge service is included on the PenFed American Express Card.
  • Cardholders also will have access to some travel discounts or perks for various hotels, international airfare purchases, cruises, and car rental companies.
  • There are the usual travel insurance benefits that cards in this class have. On eligible common carrier travel you get travel accident, lost luggage, baggage delay, and trip delay insurance. That’s comparable to most other credit cards.


The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card appears to be a good value, especially since they eliminated the annual fee. The 1x points on regular purchases is average but the 5x on airline is definitely nice. But be aware that most of the customer reviews I’ve seen are quite negative (alleging that promised promotions and points weren’t received). Whether those claims are true or not I cannot say, since I don’t have this particular card.

Is it the best for 2013 or not?

In terms of rewards for airline spending, this is an excellent program. However my only complaint about it is the approval process to get it. PenFed has perhaps the strictest requirements of any credit card company. Usually you will have to do the following after you apply:

  • Mail/fax in your last 2 paystubs as well as your last 2 years of income tax returns.
  • Even if he/she is not on the card, you may still have to provide paystubs for your spouse, too.
  • Perfect credit is not an exaggeration. Even savvy credit users with FICOs in the 800’s regularly report getting turned down.

If you’re willing to jump thru all those hoops, then go for it. If you would rather not, then I would highly recommend this offer. It’s the best signup bonus currently available for travel:

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Pentagon Federal Credit Union credit cards will work in ATM machines for the first 120-days, which is their version of a free cash advance. This policy is outrageous!

Review:We have been a Penfed member for over 20 years. We saved and saved our travel rewards for a once in a lifetime trip. We booked the tickets months in advance and felt the charge for the tickets in terms of how many points were used was ridiculously high. But, they were free so we went ahead with it. Sadly, a few months before we were set to travel the area we were going to visit became dangerous and we wanted to change destinations. The credit union said we had to pay $250 per one way flight to make a change! We ended up walking away from the points and not being able to use them at all. I’m devastated and Pen Fed could care less!

This card is not worth the hassles. The reward of getting free visits to airport lounges after spending $15K was changed to just two free visits! Further, I’ve been waiting to get my “Lounge Club” Activation code sent to me for the past 5 months! Numerous phone calls with PenFed Customer Service results in one delay excuse after another. I can’t even get the code to use my free visits!

Save yourself the frustration and get a 1% cash back card. If you spend $15K, that’s $150 in your pocket and covers the costs of more than two visits to an airport lounge. Stay away from PenFed and this AMEX card.


This PenFed CC does not give the rewards as promised. You must go through their site to get the travel reservations and the costs are sometimes double what you would pay for the actual flight, hotel, or car. So all those so called, double points are spent. CapitalOne is the best rewards card giving 2X for every dollar and just crediting your card for travel, hotel, car rental so you actually benefit. I only use credit cards for the benefits and pay them off every month.

Where do I find my credit card account to see recent transactions ?

don’t forget about the no foreign transaction fees (on both of the penfed and the thankyou premier)