Pentagon Federal Credit Union, commonly referred to as “PenFed,” is the third largest credit union in the nation—and the second largest federal credit union—with 1.75 million members across the world and $25 billion in assets.
PenFed, originally called the War Department Federal Credit Union by the group of ten civilian War Department employees that founded it in 1935, is headquartered in Virginia today but started out in the Munitions Building on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
Though technically a military credit union, you don’t actually have to be a military member or dependent to join. There are a number of ways to qualify for membership with PenFed outside of this, including becoming a member of the nonprofit National Military Family Association for $17 or Voices for America’s Troops if you don’t meet any of the other requirements. Once a member, you’ll have access to modest rates on multiple savings products from this NCUA-insured credit union.
PenFed CD Rates + Account Details
PenFed offers a slightly wider range of certificate products than most credit unions with nine terms to choose from ranging from six months to seven years. Their CDs, called money market certificates, provide very good returns compared to the current national average(s). These accounts are federally insured by the NCUA up to $250,000 per depositor or $500,000 for joint accounts.
They are very easy to open, especially for credit union standards. Once you’re a member, certificates can be opened online within minutes.
To put their 12 month and 5 year CD in perspective, the current national average for those terms sit at just 1.28% APY and 1.21% APY, respectively, according to FDIC data.
You’ll need a minimum of $1,000 to open any money market certificate account with PenFed.
Compounding and Crediting Interest
Dividends are compounded daily and paid monthly – except for the 6 month certificate – which earns only simple interest, paid at maturity, on the principal.
You can choose to have your dividends deposited into a separate account if you’re using these proceeds for income, or it can be returned to the CD account to compound further. The latter is the default option.
Early Withdrawal Penalties
- For a 6 month certificate, you’ll have to pay 90 days’ interest;
- for any other certificate (from 12 months to seven years), you’ll pay 365 days’ interest if you withdraw within a year of issuance and 30% of the gross interest earned if you withdraw after a year of issuance but before maturity.
Money Market Rates + Account Details
Money Market Rates
|$25 – $9,999||0.05%|
|$10k – $99,999||0.10%|
The national average for money market rates sits at 0.44% APY according to FDIC data. PenFed hasn’t lifted their money market rates in years despite our rising interest rate environment.
A PenFed money market savings account does not come with a monthly service fee or balance requirement. You are allowed no more than six withdrawals per month and you will be charged a fee of $10 for every excessive transaction. You may withdraw funds from a non-PenFed ATM, but you’ll have to pay $1.50 per.
Other Savings Accounts Offered
PenFed offers regular savings and premium online savings accounts.
For a $5 deposit, you become a member of PenFed, purchase a share in the credit union, and open a regular savings account all at once. But this savings account is called “regular” instead of “premium” for good reason: it pays a rate of just 0.05% on any balance.
Dividends are paid and compounded monthly and you do have the option of withdrawing funds from an ATM with this account type. There is no monthly maintenance fee for a PenFed regular or premium savings account, but there are other fees you’ll want to watch out for. You will be charged an insufficient funds fee of $30 every time you try to overdraft your account and there is no overdraft transfer service, so stay on top of your account balances if you plan to join PenFed.
Premium Savings Account
PenFed’s “premium savings account” offers an APY of 2.30%. Interest is compounded and credited monthly and the account requires just $5 to open. Keep in mind this savings account does not allow for ATM transactions, so you will not be able to conduct any regular banking activity out of the account.
About PenFed Credit Union + Eligibility
In its 2018 Annual Report, PenFed reported growing by 80,000 members and $170 million in net worth for that year. Today, PenFed has 1.75 million members across the world and over $25 billion in total assets. It has members in every U.S. state as well as the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico and the prefecture Okinawa.
There are only 50 PenFed branch locations in select cities and states, but over 60,000 ATMs nationwide. To find ATMs and/or branch locations start here. You are more than likely within a mile of several ATMs accepted by PenFed. Some of these surcharge-free ATMs are branded as PenFed Credit Union and some of them are not. However, like other large credit unions, PenFed DOES NOT participate in shared or co-op branching. Branches can be found in Washington, D.C., Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
PenFed membership eligibility is inclusive to just about everyone regardless of military affiliation. You can qualify for membership in any of the following ways:
- You are an active-duty or retired military member
- You are employed at a qualifying organization (such as a veterans service organization)
- You belong to a qualifying association (such as the American Red Cross)
- You are a United States government employee
- You live or work in a qualifying location
For a complete list of qualifying organizations, associations, and locations, go here. If you are not eligible in any of these ways, you can access membership by joining either the National Military Family Association for $17 or Voices for America’s Troops for $14.
The goal of both of these organizations is to help military members feel seen and heard. The National Military Family Association supports military families by bringing pressing issues that service members and dependents face to the attention of Congress and other decision-making officials when it matters most. Voices for America’s Troops advocates for career incentives in order to make a life serving in the military a sustainable option for soldiers and their families.
PenFed has kept their fixed-rate CDs competitive, while some of their variable rate deposit accounts have remained less competitive.
Other than the decent CD rates, it’s also nice to see that there are no membership or maintenance fees. There are also perks like discounted offers through partner organizations such as TurboTax and Sprint, that PenFed members can take advantage of.
PenFed is one of the most inclusive credit unions in the country opening their doors to nearly any US citizen or resident.