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Apply online for PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card
About Our Ratings
Credit Needed
Excellent

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card Review

Pros & Cons

  • Enjoy perks usually reserved for cards with sky-high annual fees, including an annual travel reimbursement and Global Entry/TSA Precheck® application fee reimbursement.
  • The travel category where you'll earn three of four points per $1 spent is broad. You'll earn big points for your flights as well as your regular commuter bus or train tickets.
  • Earn 25,000 bonus points after you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days.
  • You will need to join PenFed Credit Union to take advantage of this card and, if you want the highest possible rewards, you'll need to be a member of the military or open a checking account with the credit union.

Top Features

Rewards
Earn 4X Points on travel purchases through the PenFed Honors Advantage program. Earn 3X points on travel purchases for all other card holders. Earn 1.5X points on all other purchases.
Bonus Rewards
Earn 25,000 Bonus Points by spending $2,500 in the first 90 days of opening account.
Purchase APR
11.99% - 17.99% Subject to credit approval.* Your APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
Annual Fee
$0

Full Review

Brooklyn Lowery Site Editor

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card Essentials

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:

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $100 annual travel fund reimbursement
  • $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck® application fee reimbursement every five years
  • Roadside assistance and travel and emergency assistance
  • Baggage loss and delay insurance and travel accident insurance
  • Auto loss and damage insurance
  • Trip cancellation and interruption protection
  • Extended warranty and purchase protection

What Our Editors Like Most About 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!

Potential Downsides of the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card

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:

  • You are an active or retired member of the United States Military or Uniformed Services.
  • You are an employee of a qualifying organization such as Argon Engineering, Armed Forces Benefit Association, or the Enterprise Information Services.
  • You belong to or volunteer with certain associations or organizations such as the American Red Cross (donating blood qualifies you for membership!), The Marine Corps League or the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.
  • You are an employee of the United States government, including the National Security Council, DHS, or the Department of Homeland Security.
  • You are the relative or housemate of someone who is eligible.
  • You live or work at an eligible location, such as Fort Hood Texas, Fort Myer Virginia, or Fort Shafter Hawaii.
  • You are a Voices for American Troops or National Military Family Association member. (PenFed Credit Union makes joining easy, right on the membership application page, for a one-time enrollment fee of $17.)

For a full list of qualifying military services, associations, organizations, government agencies, and locations, please visit PenFed's website.

How the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card Compares to Other Rewards Credit Cards

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.

Who Should Get the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card?

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.

This page was last updated on February 02, 2018

This card compared to other travel rewards cards

Rewards
Earn 4X Points on travel purchases through the PenFed Honors Advantage program. Earn 3X points on travel purchases for all other card holders. Earn 1.5X points on all other purchases.
2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.
2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Bonus Rewards
Earn 25,000 Bonus Points by spending $2,500 in the first 90 days of opening account.
50,000 Miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Purchase APR
11.99% - 17.99% Subject to credit approval.* Your APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
14.24% - 24.24% (Variable) 
17.24% - 24.24% Variable 
Annual Fee
$0
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
$0 Intro for the First Year. Then $95
CardRatings.com Editorial Staff

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card details

Balance Transfer Intro APR
0%
Balance Transfer Intro Period
for 12 months
Purchase Intro
APR:
N/A
Purchase APR
11.99% - 17.99% Subject to credit approval.* Your APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
Annual Fee
$0

What Pentagon Federal Credit Union says about this card

  • 0% APR promo balance transfer rate for 12 months with 3% balance transfer fee now through March 31, 2018. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be 11.99% to 17.99%. APR will vary with the market based on Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval.
  • Earn 25,000 Bonus Points by spending $2,500 in the first 90 days of opening account.
  • Earn 4X Points on travel purchases through the PenFed Honors Advantage program. Earn 3X points on travel purchases for all other card holders.
  • Earn 1.5X points on all other purchases.
  • $100 Annual Travel Fund Benefit
  • $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck Benefit every 5 years
  • No caps or limites on rewards. No annual or foreign transaction fees.
  • Chip enabled for added security. Federally insured by the NCUA
  • Variable rate as low as 11.99% APR. Rate and offers current as of February 1, 2018 and are subject to change.
  • Federally insured by NCUA.

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Highlighted offers
Currently available on the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card
Earn 25,000 Bonus Points
By spending $2,500 in the first 90 days of opening account.

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Apply online for Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • New! Earn unlimited 10x miles on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Credit Needed:
Excellent, Good
Apply online for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Credit Needed:
Excellent/Good