Review: PenFed Premium Travel Rewards AmEx

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Can you get a credit card without going to a bank? Sure. But there's a catch. (Isn't there always?)

I review dozens of credit card offers each week to find the best deals. Check out more on our credit card page

What if you could get a credit card without having to deal with a bank? There are some outstanding cards available from PenFed – the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. PenFed offers its Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card that allows cardholders to earn 5 points per dollar on all airfare purchases.

Advantages:

  • Earn rewards. Earn 5 points per dollar spent on airfare, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Redeem points. Points can be redeemed for a variety of rewards – merchandise, gift cards, and travel reservations. In general, each point is worth 1 cent toward rewards.
  • Interest rates.  The standard interest rate is 9.99 percent and is fixed for two years. After that, it will vary based on the prime rate. They also offer a promotional financing rate of 4.99 percent on all balance transfers completed in the first month of card membership.
  • Fees. No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees!

Disadvantages:

  • Must join the credit union. It’s very easy to join PenFed even if your household isn’t in one of many military, government, and private organizations. But if you don’t make the cut, you can make a one-time donation of $15 to a qualifying charity. Nevertheless, it’s an extra step.
  • Points go away if you close your account. You can spend years accumulating points, but you can’t redeem anything if you leave PenFed.
  • Marginal rewards for most purchases. While 5 percent cash back in spending on airline tickets is fantastic, the 1 percent back for most purchases is minimal.
  • No zero-percent financing offer. Many competing cards offer zero-percent financing on balance transfers and new purchases for as long as 18 months. This card offers a reduced interest rate balance transfer offer of 4.99 percent.

Bottom line

Get it if: You spend a lot of money on airline tickets and want the maximum possible rewards.

Forget it if: You want greater rewards for non-airline purchases, or a competitive balance transfer offer.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are the author’s and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through the American Express Affiliate Program.

Stacy Johnson

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