PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card Review

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card Review

Picture of Item Reviewed
Editor's Rating:
Intro Purchase APR Regular APR Intro Balance Transfer Annual Fee Credit Needed
9.99% for until 30th June 2014 9.99% 4.99% for Life of Transfer $50 Excellent
  • Earn 5 points on travel
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Balance transfer for life deal
  • Need to be a Penfed member
  • Might require W2s during application process
Executive Summary - The only card that gives you five points for spending on airline tickets. You need to be a Penfed member to qualify for this card. Excellent credit is needed and Penfed has been known to request W2s. The otherwise, folks who fly a lot and fly abroad will like this card because of the points you earn and the fact that it has no foreign transaction fees. Right now, the card is offering a low introductory APR of 9.99% and a 4.9% balance transfer for life deal.

PenFed and American Express Team Up - In November 2009, PenFed and American Express announced a partnership where PenFed will be launching the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card1. It was the first agreement between American Express and a credit union and the agreement stipulated that for a "limited time", PenFed will be the only agreement and partnership that American Express will have with a credit union1.

How You Earn Points? - When we first read the press release, I was taken aback by the rewards they offered. The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card allows cardholders to earn one point for every dollar that you spend on the card. You can earn a whopping five points for every dollar you spend on airline tickets using your card. When the card was first introduced, they even threw in a one year period whereby until until December 31st 2010, you can earn three points for every dollar you spend at hotels and restaurants. In February 2012, PenFed said in a press release that you could also earn double points on dining up until 30th April 20122. You can earn unlimited points with this card.

Bonus Points - As an incentive to sign up new card holders, PenFed is offering 20,000 bonus points if you spend $650 during the first 3 months.

Other Benefits - The card also offers other great benefits like

  • Access to 600+ Luxury VIP Global Airport Lounge Access with $15,000 Annual Spend - What they offer is actually a complimentary membership to Priority Pass Lounges and get 2 free member visits

  • 24/7 Premium Concierge Service
  • Exclusive Travel Upgrades and Offers

  • Ability to Redeem on any Airline; no black-out dates or restrictions

  • How good is the reward program? - At the end of the day, how good a reward card is really depends on how good the program is. So how good is the PenFed Reward Program? Quit good actually.

    Firstly, you can compare airline ticket prices, hotel prices and cruise prices on their travel portal and use your points for them. Secondly, PenFed does is allows you to redeem rewards for gift cards and merchandise. There are also gift cards for "travel related firms" like American Airlines, Hyatt and Hertz (just to name a couple of examples).

    Below are some screen shots of their reward programs.




Annual Fee - The annual fee for this card is $50 (which is waived for the first year). New card members will also get an introductory APR of 9.99% which is good until 30th June 20143. If you transfer a balance from 1st April 2012 to 30th June 2012, you will get a 4.99% APR for the life of the transfer.

Need to be a PenFed Member - To apply for this card, you need to be a PenFed member. If you are not, all it takes is a one time $20 fee.

How Does the PenFed Rewards Amex Compare with other travel rewards card - Let me start off by saying that it is the only card on the market that pays five points for every dollar that you spend on airline tickets. So in this regard, it is better than all reward cards. But this card comes with a $50 annual fee. So we would have to also see how they compare with travel rewards credit cards with annual fees.

There is a group of annual fee travel credit cards that allow consumers to earn double miles (or points) for every dollar that they spend on the card. The two cards that come to mind are the Discover Escape Card and the Capital One Venture Card. So how would Penfed stack against them? Well, it really depends on your composition of spending. If travel makes up a very significant portion of your total credit card spending, then Penfed would probably make more sense. But if travel makes up only a small portion of your spending, then perhaps the Discover Escape Card for example might be a better bet. By the way, both Discover and Capital One also have no foreign transaction fees.

The other type of cards to compare with are cards that allow you to transfer points into frequent flier miles. Examples of such cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card. Both cards allow you to transfer points to their airline partners for miles. Chase Sapphire Preferred allows you to earn double points for travel and dining, while the Premier Rewards Gold allows you to earn triple points for airline travel. The disadvantage of both these cards compared to Penfed is that they do not earn five points for travel. But in it's defense, the points can be transferred to miles and a savvy person will be able to extract a lot more value from miles than regular reward points.

Verdict and Opinion - The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card, in my opinion, is actually a pretty card for those who travel a lot. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, you get to earn 5 points for every dollar that you spend on airfares!. This is one of the most generous rewards payout in the market today. The way you redeem points is through their travel site where you can compare prices get and get the best deal for yourself (and obviously use your points). Their other rewards aren't too shabby as well.

Another great feature is that there is no foreign transaction fee. Hence, it is a great card to bring abroad. You also get concierge service (for those who value this).

If you are looking for a travel rewards credit card, this is definitely a card to put on your shortlist. You do however, have to looking at your credit card spending and see if this card makes more sense over the other cards that we have mentioned. Also, if you are a savvy frequent flier, cards that allow you to transfer points to miles may be a better bet.

How To Apply For This Card

To apply for this card, simply click on the PenFed card link on this page. You will be taken to the following page. Clicking on the "apply" button will take you to this page where you can apply to be a PenFed member before the rest of the application process continues. From here, it is pretty much standard fill in the blanks stuff.

1. Pentagon Federal Credit Union to Issue American Express Cards
2. Earn 3 points on all dining purchases with PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card.
3. PenFed Reward Cards Now Feature New, Lower Variable 9.99% Purchase APR