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PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card: A Powerful Cash-Back Card With No Annual Fee

If you open a checking account at PenFed, this card can boost your everyday spending.

CNET’S PICK
Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Intro Offer
$100 $100 Bonus Offer Statement Credit When you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days
Annual fee
$0
APR
17.99% Variable
Rewards rate
1.5% – 2% 2% Cash Back on all purchases for PenFed Honors Advantage Members; 1.5% Cash Back on all purchases made with your card
Rewards Rate
2%
2% Cash Back on all purchases for PenFed Honors Advantage Members
1.5%
1.5% Cash Back on all purchases made with your card

When you’re comparing credit cards, it’s easy to get lost in a maze of bonus categories, point valuations and maximum spending thresholds. With the Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card, you’ll always know how much you’re earning. This card has a straightforward rewards structure: 1.5% cash back for regular PenFed members and 2% cash back if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage member  


The elevated 2% cash back rate for Honors Advantage members puts the card in the same family as some of the best cash-back credit cards. And we also like that it’s easy to become an Honors Advantage member -- you either need a checking account at PenFed or you need to be a qualifying military service member. 

Plus, there’s no annual fee, so every cent of cash back you earn is all upside -- as long as you don’t carry a balance. However, the card’s welcome bonus falls short of catapulting the Power Cash Rewards card to leader-of-the-pack status. 

Figuring out whether the PenFed Power Cash Rewards card is the right pick for you isn’t just about the credit card rewards potential, though. Since the top cash-back rate applies to Honors Advantage members, you’ll need to think about whether the credit union is the right place to park your money. Depending on how you spend your cash, you may want to consider other credit cards instead.

Rewards

Earning rewards with the PenFed Power Cash Rewards is simple. You’ll receive 1.5% cash back on every purchase, which puts the card in the same territory as the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card*.

And if you become a PenFed Honors Advantage member, you’ll earn an even higher flat-rate on all purchases -- 2% cash back  -- a rate that puts this card on the same level as the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, which earns 2% cash rewards on purchases, and the Citi Double Cash® Card, which earns 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy, plus an additional 1% when you pay for those purchases)

Rewards redemption

The PenFed Power Cash Rewards card stands out among the rest of the PenFed lineup. While the Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card and PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card reward you in points, the Power Cash Rewards card offers cash back. 

You can redeem your cash back in three ways: as a statement credit, deposit into a PenFed account or a transfer to an external account.

The cash-back-only redemption options may sound restrictive, but this card might offer more value for your dollar than some of PenFed’s points cards. Cash-back is always worth 1 cent per dollar spent, while PenFed points can be worth less than 1 cent, depending on the redemption value. So, if you’re committed to opening a card at the credit union, this cash-back card offers a surefire way to maintain the 1 cent value.

Welcome bonus

If you spend $1,500 on purchases on this card in the first 90 days, you’ll get a $100 bonus offer statement credit. While this is a decent and easy-to-reach welcome offer, it pales in comparison to some of the best credit card welcome bonuses.

For example, if you spend one-third of this amount ($500) with the Chase Freedom Flex℠* in the first three months, you’ll get a welcome bonus that’s double PenFed’s offer -- $200. So, if you’re looking for a big payoff from spending with a new card, you’re better off looking elsewhere. For instance, if you’re a frequent traveler, PenFed’s travel-focused Pathfinder Rewards card offers a 50,000 point welcome bonus, worth up to $500 in value, after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days.

That said, since a welcome bonus is a one-time offer, we don’t recommend choosing a credit card solely based on this factor. Instead focus on finding a card that best suits your regular spending habits, to help you earn rewards on purchases you’re already making.

Introductory balance transfer offer

If you’re carrying a sizable balance on another credit card, the PenFed Power Cash Rewards lets you transfer existing debt onto this card, while allowing you to repay it during a promotional period, interest-free.

This card offers 0% introductory APR offer for balance transfers for 12 months after account opening, then a non-variable APR of 17.99% thereafter. Each transfer has a 3% fee**. As long as you make the balance transfer within the first 90 days, you’ll get 12 months to pay off your bill without accruing interest in the meantime. It’s a solid offer, but if you need more time to pay off your debt, you’re better off comparing the best balance transfer cards that come with longer 0% introductory APR periods -- some for both balance transfers and new purchases. However, there are a few no balance transfer fee cards that have the same amount of time without paying a balance transfer fee. 

**0% Balance Transfers Promo APR for 12 months, 3% fee applies to each transaction. Subject to credit approval. 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

The Power Cash Rewards doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, so it’s a good credit card to use if you’re traveling internationally. The Visa Signature branding also gets you complimentary breakfast, room upgrades (when available) and other VIP guest amenities as part of the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. 

Comparable cards

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card shares the most headline-worthy piece of the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Card -- its rewards rate.

You’ll earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases and you won’t pay an annual fee. In most other departments, the Active Cash Card beats PenFed’s card perks. The Active Cash welcome bonus is twice as big: $200 cash rewards for spending $500 in purchases in the first three months.

Plus, there’s a 0% introductory APR for 15 months from account opening that applies to qualifying balance transfers and new purchases (20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR thereafter). If you’re planning to use either of these cards to pay off debt, you’ll get more time to repay a balance with the Active Cash Card. However, if you’re planning on traveling outside the US, the Active Cash Card isn’t a great choice, since it charges a 3% foreign currency conversion fee. 

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases, so it’s a great competitor to the PenFed Power Cash Rewards for non-Honors Advantage members.

Additionally, the Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card is a better option for travel. You’ll earn 5% on hotels and rental cars booked through the Capital One travel portal. The Quicksilver Cash Rewards has a bigger welcome bonus, too, and it’s easier to reach. You’ll score a $200 cash bonus when you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. If you’re looking to take advantage of a balance transfer option, the Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card gives you more time to chip away at your past debt. Its 0% introductory APR offer is 15 months on new purchases and balance transfers (19.99% to 29.99% variable APR thereafter).

How the Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card compares to other cards

CNET’S PICK
Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Intro Offer
$100 $100 Bonus Offer Statement Credit When you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days
Annual fee
$0
APR
17.99% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Rewards rate
1.5% – 2% 2% Cash Back on all purchases for PenFed Honors Advantage Members; 1.5% Cash Back on all purchases made with your card
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Apply Now

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

9.5/10 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 cash rewards Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months. Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
Annual fee
$0
APR
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Rewards rate
2% Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Apply Now
On Wells Fargo’s secure website
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Learn More

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit 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 a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$0
APR
19.99% – 29.99% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Rewards rate
1.5% – 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply; Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

FAQs

When it comes to flat-rate cash-back credit cards, 2% is the best cash-back rewards rate you’ll find on everyday spending. However, it’s important to think about your overall spending habits to find the right credit card. Some cash-back credit cards offer rewards at a higher rate on bonus categories. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 6% cash back on groceries at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 3% at U.S. gas stations and transit services while earning just 1% cash back on other purchases (terms apply). Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. So, you need to do the math to figure out if a flat-rate 2% cash-back card across the board, or another card like the PenFed Power Cash Rewards, is a better fit for your wallet.

Whether you earn cash back or points depends on your credit card’s redemption options. The majority of credit card points are equivalent to 1 cent in value, but some points can be worth more. For example, you can redeem points for travel at a higher rate with some of Chase’s premium credit cards. However, if you don’t plan to travel often, getting cash back is a simple and straightforward way to redeem rewards.

Yes, you can find some rewards credit cards at credit unions. For example, PenFed Credit Union’s offerings include the Pathfinder Card, which offers 4x points on travel for PenFed Honors Advantage members, while the Power Cash Rewards, earns an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases for PenFed Honors Advantage members. The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card* earns 2.5% cash back on your first $10,000 of qualifying spending per statement cycle. These credit unions don’t have the big brand recognition of traditional major banks, but are worth considering, particularly if you’re looking to access to higher savings rates.

*All information about the Chase Freedom Flex, Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, and the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature 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.