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PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card: Earn Top Rewards on Gas, Dining and Groceries

There's a welcome bonus, balance transfer offer and no annual fee -- but it's unclear how much points are worth.

CNET’S PICK
Platinum Rewards Visa Signature®  Card

Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

7.75/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
15,000 Points 15,000 Bonus Points when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days
Annual fee
$0
APR
17.99% Variable
Rewards rate
1x – 5x 5x Points on gas paid at the pump and EV charging stations; 3x Points at the supermarket (including most Target and Walmart locations), restaurants, and TV, radio, cable, streaming services; 1x Points on all other purchases
Rewards Rate
5x
5x Points on gas paid at the pump and EV charging stations
3x
3x Points at the supermarket (including most Target and Walmart locations), restaurants, and TV, radio, cable, streaming services
1x
1x Points on all other purchases

If you’re spending a lot of cash on getting from here to there, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card can make the journey more rewarding. The card offers 5x points for gas at the pump and electric vehicle charging stations.

The 5x payout goes head-to-head with some of the best gas credit cards -- and your earning potential isn’t limited to your time behind the wheel. You’ll also earn 3x points on just about everything you eat; the bonus payout applies to supermarkets -- including most Target and Walmart locations -- and restaurants. Plus, you’ll earn 3x points on TV, cable, radio and streaming services. All other purchases qualify for 1x point per dollar spent.

Other notable perks include a 15,000-point welcome bonus offer after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days and an introductory APR for balance transfers. All these perks come with a price tag worth celebrating: This card has no annual fee and you won’t pay foreign transaction fees if you’re traveling outside the US. 

There’s one catch: To apply for this card, you must also be a PenFed Credit Union member. Signing up is simple, though. Membership is open to everyone, and to get started, you need to deposit $5 into your new PenFed account. It’s worth noting that PenFed offers some of the best money market certificate rates available (a savings vehicle similar to a certificate of deposit), free checking accounts and other tools that can be a great match if you need a new place to stash your cash. But if you’re not interested in setting up a new account, there are other rewarding credit cards with a wider range of redemption options and more clearly defined point valuations to consider.

Rewards

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature delivers the biggest rewards for the activity you may do on a daily basis -- driving. You’ll earn 5x points on gas paid for at the pump -- don’t pay inside the station if you want to make sure you rack up the extra points. If you drive an electric vehicle, you’ll also qualify for 5x points on EV charging station purchases.

This is also a great card to have when buying groceries at grocery stores or dining out at restaurants, since you’ll earn 3x points for each. This payout structure puts the PenFed Platinum in the same category as one of the best restaurant credit cards: the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card, which earns 4x points on dining and restaurant delivery but a smaller payout on gas stations (2x points). 

You’ll also earn 3x points in these categories with the PenFed card: cable, TV, radio and streaming services. All other purchases qualify for 1x point per dollar. 

While the 5x and 3x bonus categories seem headline-worthy, there is a huge question mark around points values with this card. CNET reached out to PenFed to get the point valuations for this card but has so far received no response. The program’s terms and conditions fail to spell out a clear cash-equivalent valuation. And, with no option to convert your points to cash back, it’s difficult to estimate the actual value of this card.

Rewards redemption

As you stockpile points with a PenFed Platinum Rewards, you’ll have a range of ways to cash them in -- booking travel, getting gift cards from a range of merchants, shopping in the credit union’s rewards portal, using them at the Apple Store or donating them to charity. However, the lack of a simple and straightforward cash-back redemption is a big downside for this card. Some cardholders prefer the ease of statement credits or cash deposits into their bank accounts. If that’s you, this card isn’t the right pick. You’re better off with a cash-back credit card instead.

Welcome bonus

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature comes with a welcome bonus offer: Spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 90 days, and you’ll get 15,000 bonus points in your account. While it’s great to see a card with no annual fee come with an extra upside, this offer pales in comparison to the best sign-up bonuses available right now. For example, cardholders who open the Chase Freedom Flex℠* can score a $200 bonus when they spend $500 in the first three months. If you’re willing to wait a bit longer, the Discover it® Cash Back* also offers a potentially lucrative end-of-year payday by matching your full cash back from your first year of earning rewards.

Introductory balance transfer APR

If you’re carrying a sizable chunk of debt on another credit card, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature’s introductory balance transfer offer can make a meaningful difference in managing your money. You’ll have to make the transfer within the first 90 days of opening the card and pay a 3% balance transfer fee (a standard fee among top balance transfer cards) to lock in an introductory 0% APR for 12 months (then 17.99% APR). If you’re thinking about taking advantage of this offer, though, you should have a firm strategy in place for paying off that debt in full within the 12-month period.

0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days after account opening. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%. A 3% balance transfer fee applies to each transfer. This transaction is subject to credit approval. If you take advantage of this balance transfer, you will immediately be charged interest on all purchases made with your credit card unless you pay the entire account balance, including balance transfers, in full each month by the payment due date.

Other perks and features

Since this card is part of the Visa Signature lineup, you’ll get some extra perks that may come in handy in certain situations. When you’re traveling, you’ll be able to score complimentary breakfast and room upgrades at hotels (when available) that are part of the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. The collection includes more than 900 properties like The Pierre in New York, the Shangri-La in Vancouver and the St. Regis in Bali. Plus, you’ll have access to the Visa Signature Concierge to help arrange your plans wherever you go.

Additionally, you get purchase security for certain items that you buy using the card. For example, if you buy an iPad that gets stolen, you might be able to get reimbursed. There are a lot of certain caveats that apply to purchase security, though, so this isn’t a standalone reason to get this card.

Alternative cards

Citi Custom Cash® Card

The Citi Custom Cash Card* adjusts to your spending habits to give you 5% cash back on the first $500 of purchases each billing cycle (then 1%) in your highest eligible spending category. So, for example, if you spend $500 on gas stations in May and $500 in June, you could earn $25 in cash back each billing cycle. While the $500-per-billing cycle limit is a drawback, it can still add up to $300 in cash back each year. Plus, you’ll earn the standard 1% cash back on all your other purchases.

The Custom Cash Card also has a welcome bonus of $200 when you spend $1,500 on the card within the first six months after you open it (fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou points that can be redeemed for $200 cash back) -- a very accessible spending threshold. And just like the PenFed card, there’s no annual fee. However, if you plan on traveling outside the US, the PenFed card may be the better pick: The Citi Custom Cash Card has a 3% foreign transaction fee. 

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

If you’re interested in gas and restaurant rewards and also love to shop at Costco, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi* may be well worth the $60 annual Costco membership fee. The card has similar bonus categories to the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card: 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases up to $7,000 per year (then 1%), 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel spending, 2% cash back on purchases at Costco and at Costco.com and 1% cash back on everything else.

While the 4% cash back on fuel looks lower than the 5x point payout with the PenFed card, the ability to redeem these rewards for cash back is good, and the $7,000 maximum isn’t much to worry about unless you drive significantly more than the average American. Plus, since the PenFed card’s rewards valuation is unclear, it’s tough to say if 5x points is better than 4% cash back in this case.

The main drawback of the Costco Anywhere Visa compared to the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature is its lack of a welcome bonus.

CNET’S PICK
Platinum Rewards Visa Signature®  Card

Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

7.75/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
15,000 Points 15,000 Bonus Points when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days
Annual fee
$0
APR
17.99% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Rewards rate
1x – 5x 5x Points on gas paid at the pump and EV charging stations; 3x Points at the supermarket (including most Target and Walmart locations), restaurants, and TV, radio, cable, streaming services; 1x Points on all other purchases
Citi Custom Cash® Card
Learn More

Citi Custom Cash® Card

7.5/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
$200 Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
Annual fee
$0
APR
19.24% – 29.24% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 15 months on purchases
Rewards rate
1% – 5% Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.; Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
Learn More

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

5/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
No current offer
Annual fee
$0
APR
20.49% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Rewards rate
1% – 4% 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter; 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com; 1% cash back on all other purchases

FAQs

If you’re carrying a large balance on another credit card, transferring that balance to a new card with a 0% introductory APR offer could save money in interest. However, you need to understand that a balance transfer typically isn’t free -- most cards charge 3% of the amount you’re transferring. So, if you’re transferring a balance of $10,000, you would pay $300 upfront. That cash can be worth it though, if you’re moving a balance from a high APR card.

The best balance transfer credit cards offer introductory APR periods as long as 21 months, giving you more time to pay off your debt.

Across most of the industry, points are generally worth 1 cent each when you convert them to cash back. However, point valuations ultimately depend on your card, your loyalty program and your plan for redeeming them. With some credit card programs, you can get the best return on cashing in points by transferring them to an airline to book a business-class seat.

Credit card issuers offer welcome bonuses to attract new customers. For example, a card might promise 20,000 points for new customers in exchange for spending a certain amount of money in a limited timeframe. The issuer wants to get you into the habit of using that card every time you make a purchase. It’s important to recognize that a welcome bonus of a few hundred bucks sounds appealing, but you need to stay diligent about paying off your balance in full every month. If you wind up carrying a balance down the road, you’re simply handing that bonus back to the credit card company through your monthly finance charges.

*All information about the Chase Freedom Flex, Discover it Cash Back, and the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi and Citi Custom Cash Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

David McMillin writes about credit cards, mortgages, banking, taxes and travel. Based in Chicago, he writes with one objective in mind: Help readers figure out how to save more and stress less. He is also a musician, which means he has spent a lot of time worrying about money. He applies the lessons he's learned from that financial balancing act to offer practical advice for personal spending decisions.