The new PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card offers unprecedented perks for a no-annual-fee rewards card. When you consider the $100 annual travel reimbursement and the GlobalEntry or TSA Precheck® benefit every five years, PenFed is basically going to pay you to use the card. And that's before we even discuss the rewards-earning opportunities that could be as high as four points per $1 spent.
Combining the best attributes of a travel card with the best attributes of a rewards card, the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card rewards you on purchases both big and small. Whether it's a gracious four points (for members of the military as well as Access America Checking account holders) or three points (for everyone else) for all travel purchases (including airline tickets, hotel stays, taxis, tolls, etc) or a still respectable 1.5 points for all other purchases, the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card helps you to earn points fast. Plus, the 25,000 bonus points you'll earn after spending at least $2,500 with the card within the first 90 days will give you a nice boost towards point redemption, which can be used on anything from airline tickets to gift cards.
Basically, the card offers superb opportunities to earn points on travel and everydaypurchases, the freedom to redeem your points how you want (with no caps or limits on rewards), travel reimbursements generally reserved for cards with sky-high annual fees, plus an unexceptionally low APR.
And, the Pentagon Federal Credit Union is easy to join even if you aren't and have never been a member of the military or worked for the government. More on membership below.
Notable features of the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card:
If you are a member of the military, or an Access America Checking account holder, the four points you'll earn on travel purchases is huge. And even if you're not, three points for everyone else is still a higher earn rate than even travel rewards cards with annual fees in the $450 range.
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card cardholders can quickly rack up points close to home since the broad definition of "travel" includes everything from commuter transportation and ride-sharing purchases to airfare and hotel stays. Knowing you're earning bonus rewards toward your next getaway every time you take the bus into work just might make the Monday to Friday grind a bit more bearable.
Let's say you maintain an Access America Checking account with PenFed, so you earn four points on your travel purchases. Now, if you spend $1,200 a month on travel (remember, "travel" includes everyday expenses like bus and train tickets, tolls and taxi/ride-sharing fares in addition to standard airfare and hotel stays) and $2,500 a month on other expenses (3,750 points), you would earn 8,550 points a month, totaling 102,600 points annually (or 88,200 annually for standard cardholders). Add in the 25,000 point signup bonus, and with those numbers, you'll have earned 127,600 (or 113,200) in your first year, just for making purchases you'd be making anyway.
Those points could prove very useful, especially if you have a big trip or some other sort of hefty expense coming up for which you'd like to offset the cost.
In addition to the huge points-earning potential, we like that the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card also offers a number of great travel and retail benefits, such as roadside assistance and travel and emergency assistance, as well as trip cancellation and interruption protection. Knowing you're earning points on your trip when using your card is great, but knowing you're protected on that trip thanks to your card is even better. Plus, no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees certainly don't hurt!
While military members and Access America Checking account holders will benefit greatly with four points earned for all travel purchases, those who aren't in the military or who are not Access America Checking account holders might not be as thrilled with a reduced three-point earning rate, especially as there are other cards on the market with similar offers (though, theothers generally charge an annual fee).
Furthermore, to be eligible for the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card, you must be a PenFed Credit Union member; however, membership eligibility is available through a wide range of employment, association membership or volunteerism opportunities so don't write this card off yet.
How to Become a PenFed Credit Union Member:
The PenFed Credit Union will only consider applications for the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card if you are a PenFed Credit Union member. You are eligible for membership if:
For a full list of qualifying military services, associations, organizations, government agencies, and locations, please
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card vs. Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Not so sure about such a steep annual fee? That's okay. Let's take a look at another no- annual-fee card.
What's great about the no-annual-fee Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card is that it earns an unlimited 1.25 miles per $1 on every purchase, plus, a nice 20,000-point signup bonus for spending just $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.
It's a pretty simple reward structure, but that's what's so nice about it. Instead of worrying about having certain cards to use with certain purchases, the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card is a nice card to have on hand for all your purchases. It might not earn you rewards as quickly as the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card, but it's a nice, stable card to always have on hand, and with regular use, could gain you some serious rewards over time, especially if it's your go to card. Plus, like with the PenFed card, there are no foreign transaction fees, so it's great for travel, and as an added bonus, there's 0 percent intro APR for the first 12 months (then, 13.24% - 23.24% (Variable)).
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Credit Card vs. Discover it® Miles
Though Discover it® Miles doesn't offer a signup bonus after an initial spend like the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card, it does MATCH all the miles you've earned at the end of your first year. With an unlimited 1.5 miles earned on every $1 spent, there's some serious earning potential to be had that first year of card membership since you'll basically be earning three miles per $1 spent on all your purchases.
If your decision comes down to these two cards, you'll need to consider your spending habits. Big spenders might really benefit from the Discover it® Miles as there's no limit on how many miles you can match your first year. If you spend $30,000 your first year with the card you'll earn 45,000 miles, which will become 90,000 miles at the end of the year thanks to the match. Spend $50,000 and watch that turn into 150,000 miles at the end of the year, etc. As you can see from the numbers, the earning potential with Discover it® Miles your first year can be huge; however, the match offer is only good for the first year. After that, you'll only earn 1.5 miles per $1. Also keep in mind that Discover it® Miles doesn't offer a travel reimbursement or Global Entry/TSA Precheck® fee credit like the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card does.
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
Despite the fact that one card has an annual fee and one doesn't, we think that the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ are in a few ways, similar. They both earn at least three points on travel purchases, for instance, (though PenFed cardholders can earn up to four) and there are no caps or limits on rewards. They also both offer annual travel reimbursements and Global Entry/TSA Precheck® fee credits. The one big difference people are sure to notice, though, is that Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ has a hefty annual fee of $450 (plus $75 for each additional user), whereas the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card has no annual fee at all.
One thing to keep in mind though, is that even though Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ has such a high annual fee, it does have many favorable perks to help outweigh this cost. For starters, the signup bonus is huge – double the size of the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card's bonus in fact at 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, which when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, are worth $750. The signup bonus alone is almost enough to cancel out two years worth of credit card fees, though it does require you to spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Additionally, Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ cardholders receive a $300 statement credit each year to cover travel expenses such as airline tickets and hotels versus PenFed's $100 annual travel fund benefit. Furthermore, in addition to the three points earned on travel purchases, Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ members have an additional chance to earn three points when they use their card for dining purchases; however, outside of travel and dining, only one point per $1 will be earned, compared to the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card's 1.5. It should also be noted that with Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, users will get 50 percent more value when redeeming points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, hence, 50,000 points equaling $750.
So do the cards compare apples to apples? Not exactly. Still, even with Chase's annual fee, thanks to the other card parks, we think that as far as rewards go, they come pretty close. You'll just have to decide if that major annual fee is worth it to you.
The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card is a surprisingly good no-annual-feecard option for members of the military or for Access America Checking account holders, in particular, as the card earns a whopping four points for every $1 spent on travel purchases. And even if you're not a military member or an Access America Checking account holder, with three points earned on travel – even travel on commuter transportation –, and 1.5 points on everything else, we still think the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card is a great card for those looking to easily accumulate a lot of points. Consider the points-earning opportunities along with the annual travel reimbursement of $100 and Global Entry/TSA Precheck® fee credit and you have yourself a truly unique no-annual-fee rewards card.