Pentagon Federal Credit Union has grown into one of the country's largest credit unions by offering solid financial products to military families and their supporters. Their PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers outstanding value for families that spend a lot of money every year at gas stations and grocery stores, all with no annual fee. For this reason, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® was named a 2016 CardRating's Editor's Choice Award winner (for best rewards cards)
Best card for gas and grocery rewards
This card is best for anyone with large grocery bills and heavy personal mileage. PenFed designs its credit cards around the needs of military families, explaining some of the extraordinary rebates you can rack up with this account. Gas purchases earn five points per dollar -- the equivalent of a 5 percent rebate -- when you pay at the pump. Supermarket purchases score 3 points per dollar, and all your other purchases earn one point per dollar. (For the benefit of military families, PenFed considers military commissaries the same as supermarkets.)
Redeeming your points requires a quick trip to PenFed's online rewards center, which will look familiar if you've ever used similar tools from the Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou programs. Although the site offers a handful of electronics and household goods, you'll generally get the best value by trading points for Visa prepaid reward cards or instant e-certificates to retailers like Amazon and Gap.
Bonus perks for overseas travelers
Like other PenFed credit cards, the Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card charges no foreign transaction fees. That can make a big budgetary difference to military personnel deployed overseas, saving between 3 and 5 percent on every transaction compared to most credit cards. PenFed also includes comprehensive travel accident insurance for members and their families traveling on itineraries purchased with this card.
How PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card compares to other gas credit cards
The big banks' best gas credit cards can't stand up to the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Although cards from Chase, American Express (American Express is a CardRatings.com advertiser), and Discover offer occasional 5 percent rebates on U.S gas purchases, their offers usually expire after a few months or come with spending caps. Most co-branded gas cards top off their rebates at about 3 percent, while requiring you to track down a participating gas station. PenFed doesn't restrict members' earning potential on their 5 point gas rewards. In fact the promotional materials for this account advise cardholders to use their cards as much as possible to earn extra rewards.
If you spend more on supermarket purchases than on fuel, you could squeeze out a better overall return from the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card, which offers a whopping 6 percent back at U.S. grocery stores. However, that card caps your bonus spending at $6,000 per year, knocking you back to 1 percent after that. The typical American household spends about $7,800 on groceries annually, according to government statistics.