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PenFed Personal Loans: 2024 Review

Updated on June 14, 2023
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At a glance

Bankrate 2024 Awards Winner: Best personal loan for borrowers with good credit

4.7
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
Bankrate Score
Caret Down
Availability
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0
Affordability
Rating: 4.8 stars out of 5
4.8
Customer Experience
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7
Transparency
Rating: 4.2 stars out of 5
4.2

About Bankrate Score

PenFed Credit Union has been in business since 1935 and serves 2.5 million members nationwide. As well as operating across the United States, it has locations in Guam, Puerto Rico and Okinawa. While PenFed Credit Union personal loans can be used for nearly every legal expense, you must be a member of the credit union to be eligible.
Moneybag
Loan amount Up to $50,000
Rates
APR from 7.99%-17.99%
Clock Wait
Term lengths Up to 60 months
PenFed Credit Union is best for people with good credit who need a small loan.

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Best for people with good credit who need a small loan

PenFed is best for borrowers who need to borrow less than $50,000 and are in good financial shape. Because many of PenFed's requirements aren't listed, those with good credit and a solid repayment history have the highest approval odds.

PenFed pros and cons

PROS

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    Low fees.

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    Joint applications.

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    Quick funding.

CONS

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    High minimum credit score.

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    Low maximum loan amount.

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    Membership required.

Do you qualify?

The credit union's eligibility qualifications aren't listed on its website, but personal loan lenders and credit unions generally require the following. 

  • Good to excellent credit score: Those with scores of 700 or more are most likely to be approved, but those with higher scores will be offered the most favorable rates. 
  • Strong credit history: Those with a thin or less-than-stellar credit history may need to enlist the help of a co-borrower to get approved. 
  • Low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Your DTI ratio is determined by dividing your total debts by your gross monthly income. Lenders typically favor those who have a DTI no greater than 36 percent.  

What PenFed doesn't allow loan funds to be used for

PenFed doesn't specify exactly what you can't use the funds for. However, most lenders prohibit using personal loans for investing, certain business expenses or college tuition. 

The use requirements vary by lender, so read the terms and conditions carefully before accepting your offer.

How this lender compares

logo
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7
Bankrate Score
APR from
7.99%-17.99%
Loan Amount
Up to $50,000
Term Length
Up to 60 months
Min Credit Score
Not disclosed
logo
Rating: 4.8 stars out of 5
4.8
Bankrate Score
APR from
8.99%–29.49%
Loan Amount
$5,000–$100,000
Term Length
24 to 84 months
Min Credit Score
680
logo
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7
Bankrate Score
APR from
7.99%-25.49% *with AutoPay
Loan Amount
$5,000-$100,000
Term Length
24 to 84 months
Min Credit Score
Not disclosed

PenFed vs. SoFi

PenFed and SoFi both offer competitive rates for borrowers in good financial shape. But SoFi stands out among the rest due to its protections and benefits. Even so, those who are already members of PenFed may want to consider borrowing within the credit union, as they'll gain access to exclusive member benefits.
 

PenFed vs. LightStream

PenFed and LightStream are strong contenders for those with excellent credit. They offer similar APR ranges, although PenFed comes out ahead of LightStream's maximum APR of 25.49 percent. Plus, borrowers should consider prequalifying with PenFed first — LightStream doesn't offer the same benefit. 

PenFed Credit Union: In the details

What we like and what we don’t like

Like every lender, there are both drawbacks and advantages to borrowing a personal loan with PenFed. Here's what to know about the company before signing on the dotted line. 

What we like 

  • Low fees: PenFed doesn't charge fees that detract from the overall value of the loan, like origination, application or prepayment fees.
  • Allows joint applications: Applicants can add a co-borrower to increase their chances of scoring a better rate or getting approved. 
  • Fast disbursement: Depending on the time of day that your loan is processed, you could receive your funds as early as the next business day if you choose direct deposit. 

What we don't like 

  • Limited eligibility information: The website's eligibility information is sparse at best, leaving out requirements like minimum income and credit requirements. 
  • Membership required: PenFed requires membership to get approved for a personal loan, which includes opening and maintaining a savings account with the company. 
  • Low maximum amount: PenFed's maximum loan amount of $50,000 pales in comparison to most lenders' maximum borrowing amount of $100,000 or more.

How to contact PenFed

Members can contact a customer service representative by calling 800-247-5626 during the following hours.

  • Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET.
  • Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET.
  • Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET.

You can also get in contact with the credit union through its secure online messaging platform. Borrowers can also receive support through the company's 24/7 help center,  either by typing a message for the next available agent or by viewing the frequently asked questions page.  

How to apply for a personal loan with PenFed

You can apply for a PenFed personal loan before becoming a member, but you must become a member to view your terms. The application process can be completed online or in person at one of its brick-and-mortar locations. 

Before applying, have your employment and annual income documentation on hand, as well as an official government ID, to ensure a smooth and easy process. 

  1. Go to the "Personal Loans" tab in the "Loans" section.
  2. Click on the green "Check your rate" button. If you're already a member you can choose to log in and if you're not yet a member, PenFed will create your membership alongside your loan application. 
  3. Follow the application prompts. Be prepared to upload personal documentation and state the reason for your application, as well as basic details like your requested loan amount and term. 
  4. Keep an eye out for any information from PenFed regarding your status and download the mobile app to track your application status. 
  5. Depending on the disbursal method you choose, you could receive the funds in as little as one to two business days. 

Should your application time out, you can pick up where you left off later through a one-time verification code that will be sent to you via text message.

Features and additional perks

There are a few perks that come with borrowing from PenFed. For one, prospective borrowers can choose to prequalify, which lets them see what rates they qualify for without a hard credit check. 
 
The credit union also offers a financial hardship assistance program for those who have experienced temporary or permanent hardship, like loss of income or employment.  Among other benefits, PenFed offers relief-based modified loan details, alternative repayment options and a forbearance plan. 
 
After applying for financial assistance, borrowers will be matched with a Loss Mitigation Analyst. The analyst comes at no extra cost and works with the borrower to determine the best repayment route. 

Fees and penalties

PenFed Credit Union doesn’t charge an origination fee for personal loans. In addition, it touts that it has no hidden fees for personal loans. There is also no penalty for paying the loan off early.

There are two fees that borrowers should know about:

  • A $29 charge for late loan payments.
  • A $30 charge for a returned loan payment, check or ACH.

PenFed frequently asked questions

How Bankrate rates PenFed

Overall Score 4.7 Explanation
Availability 5.0 Same-day funding and a low minimum loan amount earn PenFed a high score.
Affordability 4.8 Two fees — late and returned payment — reduce PenFed's score, but not by much.
Customer Experience 4.7 Assistance seven days a week, a website and a mobile app make for a top-tier score.
Transparency 4.2 PenFed doesn't clearly list its credit requirements on its site, but it does offer prequalification.

Methodology

To select the top personal loan lenders, Bankrate considers 20 factors. These factors include credit requirements, APR ranges, fees, loan amounts and flexibility to account for a wide range of credit profiles and budgets. Bankrate reviewed over 30 lenders and gave each a Bankrate rating, which consists of four categories:

  • Availability: What the minimum loan amounts are, its eligibility requirements and loan turnaround are considered in this category.
  • Affordability: The interest rates, penalties and fees are measured in this section of the score. Lower rates and fees and fewer potential penalties result in a higher score.
  • Customer experience: This category covers customer service hours, if online applications are available, online account access and mobile apps.
  • Transparency: This category is measured by how accessible credit requirements, rates and fees are on the lender's page. We also took into account whether prequalification was available, as all these factors are key for consumers to make an informed decision.

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the lender’s website for the most current information.