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PenFed Power Cash Rewards Card Review

Dayana Yochim

Written by Dayana Yochim
Edited by Carolyn Kimball
Fact-checked by Andrea Coombes

March 12, 2024

Why trust us? has no financial relationship with any of the credit card providers whose products we analyze and review. Our opinions are based solely on data and our own extensive independent research — that means unbiased guidance for consumers. Rewards cards in our cashback credit card calculator are listed in descending order according to how much money they pay out annually based on the inputs.

PenFed's flat-rate cash back Visa Signature card requires a lot for non-Honors Advantage Members to raise the 1.5% base rewards rate to 2%. Current/former military (active duty, reserve, honorably discharged, retired), however, automatically earn the higher rate.

Here’s the emoji-illustrated guide to the PenFed cashback card: Pay no annual fee (😃) and earn a flat 1.5% on all your purchases (😶). However, if you’re a current or former member of the military — or willing to open a checking account (😞) and do what it takes to avoid the $10 monthly service fee (😖) — this becomes a 2% unlimited-cashback-on-everything card (😍).

Flat-rate rewards cards like the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card are a fantastic choice for those who want to avoid the hassle of managing a complex bonus program. We have our favorites among 2% cash back credit cards, but — spoiler alert — PenFed didn't make the cut because of the extra requirements for non-military credit union members to earn the 0.5% rate boost.

» Navy vs. Pentagon: Compare the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card vs PenFed Power Cash Rewards.

The basics: PenFed Honors Advantage Members earn 2% cash back on all purchases. Non-members earn 1.5% cash back. Introductory 0% balance transfer APR for 12 months on balance transfers made within the first 90 days after account opening. (Subject to credit approval; 3% transfer fee applies.) Earn a $100 bonus statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days.

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PenFed Power Cash Rewards

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Logo
Cashback Per Year
Annual Fee
Welcome Bonus
Want to compare more cards? Use our full calculator.

PenFed Power Cash Rewards pros and cons

thumb_up_off_alt Pros

  • 2% unlimited cash back for PenFed Honors Advantage members
  • Blissfully uncomplicated rewards structure
  • No annual, foreign transaction or cash advance fees
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers
  • Variable APR is capped
  • Visa Signature Card benefits included

thumb_down_off_alt Cons

  • PenFed membership required to apply
  • 2% only applies to active/former military and PenFed checking customers
  • 1.5% cash back rate for non-Honors Advantage cardholders
  • No introductory APR on purchases

PenFed Power Cash Rewards cashback rewards spending categories

The following table shows the cashback rewards rate per $1 spent in the six most common spending categories. The “Bonus Rate” refers to the amount you can earn in excess of the card’s standard rewards rate.

Some cashback cards limit the spending amount eligible for the bonus rate (aka the “Spend Cap”). Once you hit that cap (e.g., $1,500 spending in a particular category during a defined time period), the rewards rate on future purchases in that category reverts to the lower “Default Rate.”

Category Default Rate Bonus Rate Bonus Spend Cap Bonus Spend Period (Months)
Gas 1.50% - - -
Travel 1.50% - - -
Dining 1.50% - - -
Entertainment 1.50% - - -
Pharmacy 1.50% - - -
Groceries 1.50% - - -
Other Purchases 1.50% - - -

Note: PenFed Honors Advantage members earn an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. See membership requirements here. The credit credit card rewards calculator applies the 1.5% cash back rate to all purchases.

What we like

The simple rewards structure. A flat-rate cash back credit card is the LBD (little black dress) of rewards cards. A no-fuss, universally flattering choice that's appropriate for all spending occasions.

More cash back for PenFed Honors Advantage members. Instead of 1.5% cash back, qualified members earn an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. Honors Advantage perks automatically apply to members of the military (active duty, reserve, honorably discharged or retired). Non-military members can qualify for the higher rewards rate by maintaining a PenFed Access America Checking Account. (More info about what that entails in the next section.)

Comes with several signup incentives, including a modest welcome bonus and a no-interest period on balance transfers, subject to a 3% balance transfer fee and credit approval.

PenFed caps the variable interest rate it charges on unpaid balances. That's the beauty of banking with a credit union — much better terms for members than offered by for-profit banks. This perk alone can save you a bundle of cash if you're unable to pay off your balance in full every month.

No foreign transaction fees makes the PenFed Power Cash card an ideal international travel companion.

No cash-advance fees? Whoa. You won’t find that on a lot of cards. Just be aware that interest starts accruing on that money right away.

Offers prequalification, which lets you see if you're likely to be approved for the PenFed Power Cash Rewards card without impacting your credit score.

Includes Visa Signature card benefits like roadside assistance, travel offers/upgrades, travel accident insurance and emergency assistance, Visa Signature concierge, sport and golf benefits, etc.

What we don't like

The 1.5% default cash back rate isn't very compelling. But that's what you'll earn if you're not current/former military or willing to take the extra steps to qualify for the higher 2% rate. That said, it's still in line with other similar no-annual-fee cards (e.g. Bank of America Unlimited Cash Reward and the Capital One Quicksilver Rewards, to name two).

The card requires a PenFed membership to apply. As a reminder, PenFed is a credit union, and all credit unions require membership. Although the bank has a low hurdle — simply open a savings account with an initial $5 deposit — it leaves you with yet another addition to your list of accounts to track. For comparison, Alliant Credit Union, which has its own flat-rate rewards card (the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card) requires a $5 reimbursable donation to its financial literacy foundation.

Honors Advantage eligibility for non-military requires requires maintain maintaining either an Access American Checking or Free Checking account. A few details on those accounts:

  • An Access America checking account charges a $10 monthly maintenance fee (that’s 120 clams a year) unless you maintain a $500 daily balance or set up a monthly direct deposits totalling $500 or more.
  • PenFed's Free Checking account requires a $25 minimum deposit to open and has no monthly fee. But merely having the account won't qualify cardholders for the 2% cash back rate on the Power Cash Rewards Card. Like the Access America checking account, Honors Advantage Eligibility requires maintaining a $500 minimum daily balance or setting up monthly direct deposits totalling $500 or more.

Be prepared to pay off your card balances from the start. Unlike many cards, this one has no 0% introductory APR on new purchases.

The bottom line

Is the PenFed Power Cash Rewards the best rewards card for your wallet? The answer depends entirely on your spending patterns. Let the numbers speak for themselves: Use the Cashback Credit Card Calculator to see which credit card pays back the highest rewards based on how much you spend each month.

PenFed Power Cash Rewards fine print

A guide to PenFed’s Power Cash Rewards and credit card terms, conditions and legalese. See more on how to qualify for PenFed Honors Advantage Membership and be eligible for the 2% cash back rate.

Does the PenFed Power Cash Rewards charge an annual fee?

No, there is no annual fee for the PenFed Power Cash Rewards.

tips_and_updates Trivia time!

How common are annual fees? Roughly 17% of the consumer cash back cards we review charge an annual fee. They range from $39 to $99, with an average annual fee of $67.

Does the PenFed Power Cash Rewards offer a welcome bonus?

Yes, the PenFed Power Cash Rewards has a welcome bonus of $100.

tips_and_updates Fun fact

More than half (55%) of the consumer cash back credit cards we track in the database offer a welcome bonus, ranging from $30 up to $300. The average sign-up bonus for new cardholders is $197, with the median being $200.

How much cashback can I earn with the PenFed Power Cash Rewards?

The average American that spends $1000 per month will earn $180.00 in cash back per year using the PenFed Power Cash Rewards. For comparison, the average annual rewards payout from the cashback credit cards in the database is $191.26, and $180 is the median.

These calculations are based on average consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the reward payout rates from the providers we track. Of course, you’re so much more than an average data point (aka “consumer unit,” in BLS parlance). The amount you can earn in cashback rewards using the PenFed Power Cash Rewards depends entirely on your unique spending habits.

Find out exactly how much you’ll rake in with the PenFed Power Cash Rewards by tailoring the spending inputs in the calculator above.

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The results of the Credit Card Rewards Calculator are based on the monthly spending amounts you enter and the annual dollar value of the rewards each credit card program pays per $1 spent. Credit card companies often express this payout amount as a percentage (e.g., 1.5% of every dollar spent) or on a points basis (e.g. ,1.5 points for every dollar spent). We converted all of them to a dollar amount (“Cash Back Per Year”) to make comparing offers easier.

To calculate the amount of cash back you could earn per year, we factored in:

  • Spend category inputs: The default dollar values for each “Spend Category” in the Best Cashback Credit Cards tool — gas, groceries, travel, restaurant, entertainment, pharmacy, other — are based on average American spending data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also include additional spend categories (such as streaming services, online shopping, utilities, transit, Amazon and more) to help you see which rewards cards are most closely aligned with your actual spending patterns. We encourage you to customize the monthly spend inputs for the most accurate results.
  • Tiered rewards rates: If a rewards credit card pays higher cashback rates on certain spending categories (also called “Bonus Rewards”), that difference is reflected in the total “Cash Back Per Year” tally.
  • Rewards spending caps: Some cards impose category- or time-based limits (monthly, quarterly, annually) that affect the amount of rewards you can earn. For example, a card may pay 3% cash back on groceries on up to $1,000 of spending each quarter, then revert to the base/default rewards rate until the following quarter. We accounted for bonus spending caps and timeframe in the calculations.
  • Default rewards rates: Purchases that exceed a spending cap are usually subject to a lower default rewards rate (e.g., 1% or 1.5%). We mathed that out too.
  • Annual fees: If a rewards card charges an annual fee, we deducted that amount from the “Cash Back Per Year” total to provide a true accounting of a card’s annual rewards payout.

What’s not included in the “Cash Back Per Year” total is the cash value of any sign-up/introductory bonus. We highlight any Welcome Bonus separately. While sign-up bonuses can be the most lucrative part of getting a new cashback rewards credit card, not everyone will want or be able to do what it takes to earn the extra cash. (It usually requires spending a certain amount in a specified time period after the card is activated.)

About the Editorial Team

Dayana Yochim
Dayana Yochim

Dayana Yochim has been writing (articles, books, podcasts, stirring speeches) about personal finance and investing for more than two decades, focusing on bringing clarity and the occasional comedic aside to what is often a murky, humorless topic. She’s written for NerdWallet, The Motley Fool,, Woman’s Day, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and been a guest expert on "Today," "Good Morning America," CNN, NPR and wherever they’ll hand her a mic.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is Managing Editor for Reink Media Group and the lead editor for content on Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

Andrea Coombes
Andrea Coombes

Andrea Coombes has 20+ years of experience helping people reach their financial goals. Her personal finance articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, Forbes, and other publications, and she's shared her expertise on CBS, NPR, "Marketplace," and more. She's been a financial coach and certified consumer credit counselor, and is working on becoming a Certified Financial Planner. She knows that owning pets isn't necessarily the best financial decision; her dog and two cats would argue this point.