Federal credit unions are one of the more flexible options for personal loans — and both First Tech and PenFed offer solid products. You will need strong credit to qualify. But if you do, you will have access to personal loans with competitive rates and generous repayment terms.

First Tech vs. PenFed at a glance

Both credit unions require you to be a member to borrow a personal loan. However, there are a few major differences you should know before opening an account.

First Tech PenFed
Bankrate Score 4.6 4.7
Better for Unexpected or emergency expenses Competitive rates
Loan amounts $500 to $50,000 Up to $50,000
APRs As low as 8.94% 7.99% to 17.99%
Loan term lengths 24 to 84 months Up to 60 months
Fees Optional fees Optional fees
Minimum credit score 695 700
Time to funding As soon as the same business day As soon as the next business day

First Tech personal loans

First Tech services residents of Lane County, Oregon. But even if you don’t live or work in this area, you can still qualify for membership by joining the Financial Fitness Association or Computer History Museum. It is one of the few lenders that offers personal loans as small as $500. Combined with the potential for same-day turnaround, First Tech is a great option if you have an emergency expense.

Its terms are also generous. You may have up to 84 months to repay your loan. For larger amounts, this can help make your monthly payments more manageable. But keep in mind that the longer your loan term, the more interest you will pay.

Still, there are a few downsides. It has a higher starting rate than PenFed. If you have good to excellent credit, you may be able to score a lower APR with PenFed or another top personal loan lender. And there is no ability to add a co-borrower.


  • Low starting amount.
  • 10-day grace period.
  • Quick funding timeline.


  • Higher starting APR.
  • Membership required.
  • No option to add a co-borrower.

PenFed personal loans

PenFed operates across the United States and a few of its territories. It has some of the lowest starting rates on the market, and because it is a federal credit union, its APR is capped at a low 17.99% percent. Online lenders and banks don’t have that limit, so you may see rates in the 20 percent or higher range if you don’t have good to excellent credit.

It also has a quick funding timeline. It can take as little as one business day to process and fund your loan. That’s not as fast as First Tech, but it’s still faster than many other lenders.

You even have the ability to submit a joint application with a co-borrower, which is something many other lenders don’t offer. A co-borrower will have equal access to the funds, but the lender may not provide better terms or rates for joint applicants.


  • Joint applications accepted.
  • Lower starting APR.
  • Quick funding timeline.


  • Requires strong credit.
  • Membership required.
  • Hefty late and NSF fees.

How to choose between First Tech and PenFed

Despite a few surface-level similarities, First Tech and PenFed are better for different types of borrowers. First Tech is good for covering emergency expenses, while PenFed may be the better option if you need to add a co-borrower.

First Tech has quick turnaround for emergencies

First Tech is one of only a handful of lenders that is able to fund your loan the same day you apply. While there are conditions — like applying early in the day — it is a good option if you need immediate funding. However, you may need to already have an account in place to take advantage of the quick turnaround. Otherwise, it may take a day or two, just like with most other lenders.

PenFed has competitive rates

PenFed offers one of the lowest starting rates on the market. While not everyone will qualify for it, you may be able to take advantage of the low APR if you have an excellent credit score. You can also apply with a well-qualified co-borrower. And even though its funding timeline is slightly longer than First Tech, you can still expect your loan to be processed quickly, so it may still be a good option for emergencies.

Compare lenders before applying

Both First Tech and PenFed offer competitive rates — although PenFed just barely beats out First Tech. No matter which you choose, be prepared to open an account if you want to apply. You should also compare other lenders to ensure you are getting the lowest rate for your financial profile.