PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card: A Fantastic Credit Card

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

Editor's Rating

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The best travel card for military members. This card offers a plethora of features that don't usually come without an annual fee.
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
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Editor's Rating

?
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers.","showIcon":false,"tooltipLabel":"?"}

The best travel card for military members. This card offers a plethora of features that don't usually come without an annual fee.
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
This product is not available through ValuePenguin.
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The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is the best travel card for PenFed Honors Advantage Members, and a great card for everyone else. The card offers a valuable sign-up bonus, travel benefits, and bonus points when used for travel. However, if you value having options when redeeming your points, there are other credit cards you should consider. Otherwise, the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is one of the leading travel cards, and the top travel card available for military members.

Review: Our Thoughts on the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card offers excellent rewards on travel related purchases. But, if you’re interested in a card that offers the ability to transfer points or get cash back, you should consider other credit cards. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card, and the PenFed Power Cash Rewards are all great options in the aforementioned categories.

Good For…Bad For…
U.S. Military membersThose seeking airport lounge access
Someone looking for an inexpensive travel cardAnyone looking for cash back
Someone looking for a balance transfer offer

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is best for those who are PenFed Advantage Members—meaning anyone who's currently serving in the military, veterans, or customers with an existing or new PenFed Credit Union checking account product. PenFed Advantage Members receive four points per dollar spent on travel purchases, while everyone else gets three points per dollar spent on travel purchases.

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card offers features that are uncommon in a card that comes with No Annual Fee. For instance, the $100 travel fund benefit and the Global Entry and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck benefit is common among cards that charge $450 or more annually, the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card offers these perks without an annual fee. By taking advantage of these benefits, travelers are saving $200 over consumers paying the hefty annual fees . Not a lot of credit cards offer this value proposition and combine it with features such as travel and retail benefits.

The downside of the card is that it’s most useful when you redeem points on hotel stays. When using points to, for example, book flights you'll be severely undercutting the card’s value. Since point value depends on your redemption option, you’ll have to shop around to receive the most value out of the card. If you don’t mind doing extra research, then this won’t be a problem for you. Below, we outline the expected point value for various redemption options.

What are PenFed Points Worth?

Bottom Line: The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is a great credit card, especially for PenFed Honors Advantage Members. While the card has some downsides, it has No Annual Fee, which is rare for a card of this value. We consider this to be the best travel card for military members.

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card Benefits and Features

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card awards cardholders three points per dollar spent on travel purchases. However, if you have a PenFed Credit Union checking account or are a member of the military, you earn four points per dollar spent on travel purchases. Veterans also earn four points for travel purchases. Purchases made elsewhere earn one and a half points per dollar spent for all cardholders. Points can be redeemed through the Rewards Redemption Center for merchandise, gift cards, hotel stays, and airfare. The card is currently offering a 25,000 point sign-up bonus for cardholders who spend a minimum of $2,500 within 90 days of opening an account.

In addition to rewards that can be redeemed with points, the card can be utilized as a balance transfer credit card. Cardholders receive 0% APR for 12 months on balance transfers made before March 31, 2018. A 3% fee applies to any balance transfer made.

Point Redemption

The value of your points will vary depending on which redemption option you choose. For instance, airfare redemptions are generally worth less than hotel redemptions. Typically, your points are worth 0.85 cents when redeeming for gift cards, 0.90 cents for airfare, and 1.18 cents for hotel stays. If you’re planning on redeeming your points, it’s best to shop around the Rewards Redemption Center to find rewards that value points at a minimum of one cent per point, which is a common value for credit card points.

Travel Benefits

Cardholders are eligible for a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck benefit, which can be applied once every five years. Cardholders also receive a $100 annual travel fund that can be used to cover the cost of baggage fees, or other incidental travel expenses. The card features a wide variety of purchases that qualify as travel, thus earning you three or four points per dollar spent. The current qualifying travel purchases are listed below:

  • Airline Tickets
  • Hotels
  • Rails
  • Car Rentals
  • Buses
  • Cruises
  • Tours
  • Travel Agencies
  • Tolls
  • Commuter Transportation
  • Taxis
  • Uber & Lyft

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card offers basic travel and retail benefits, such as travel accident insurance, trip cancellation, as well as price and return protection. To be eligible to receive these benefits, the cardholder must make a travel or retail purchase using the card.

Who Can Apply for the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card?

In order to apply for the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card you must be a PenFed Credit Union Member. You’re eligible to join if you serve in the U.S. military, are a veteran, are an employee of the U.S. government, or are related to someone who is. However, dozens of organizations provide the ability to join PenFed Credit Union—such as Voices for America’s Troops, which charges a $17 annual membership fee. In order to be eligible for the card, you’ll need to open a savings account and deposit a minimum of $5.

How Does the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card Stack Up?

When evaluating credit card options, it’s important to compare cards against other available options. We profiled a couple of the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card’s competitors below. By comparing the card to others, you can see the variety of options available.

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card vs Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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If you’re a traveler who spends enough to meet the minimum spending requirement for the 60,000 bonus points, you’ll be better off with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The sign-up offer alone is worth $750. Very few people spend enough on travel per month to justify applying for the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card over the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. To make the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card card worthwhile, you have to spend over $2,000 per month on travel. This amount is on top of a monthly budget of $1,430. These figures take into account bonuses and fees offered over a two-year period. Furthermore, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has more flexible point redemption options, including the ability to receive cash back and transfer points to airlines at a 1:1 value. The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is a better card if you’re looking to transfer a balance since the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card doesn’t offer an introductory 0% APR period.

Highlights

  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
  • 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
  • 1:1 point transfer to airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Review

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card vs Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card
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The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card can be a solid option for people who specifically want cash back. The card offers a lucrative sign-up bonus. To earn the 50,000 point bonus, cardholders must spend at least $3,000 on the card within the first 90 days of account opening. It’s worth noting that the card comes with a $95 annual fee.

Highlights

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Get up to a $100 Airline Incidental Statement Credit annually for qualifying purchases such as seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight services, and airline lounge fees - automatically applied to your card statement.
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card Review

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card vs PenFed Power Cash Rewards

PenFed Power Cash Rewards
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If you’re looking for a card that offers rewards across several categories, the PenFed Power Cash Rewards is a better option for you. The card offers 1.5% cash back everywhere you shop, which is better than the 1.5 points per dollar spent that you earn through the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card since the points vary in value depending on the redemption option. However, you’ll lose out on travel perks such as the travel fund and the $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck benefit. If you care about these perks and earning bonus points for travel purchases, you should apply for the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card.

Highlights

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases made with your card.
  • 2.0% total cash back for all PenFed Honors Advantage Members.
  • No Annual Fee and no foreign transaction fees.
  • PenFed Power Cash Rewards Review
Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
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