Skip to Main Content

PenFed personal loans: 2024 review

Updated on May 8, 2024

At a glance

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

Find my best rate
Get offers from top lenders
Info
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

Bankrate's Take: PenFed is a credit union serving members all across the nation. The low rates and member benefits help it stand out.

Lender Details

Moneybag

Loan amount

$600 to $50,000

Rates

APR from

7.99%-17.99%

Clock Wait

Term lengths

Up to 60 months

Credit Good

Min Credit Score

700

PenFed is best for people with good credit who need a small loan

PenFed is Bankrate's best good credit loan for 2024, primarily due to its low fees and member benefits. Because many of PenFed's requirements aren't listed, those with good credit and a solid repayment history have the highest approval odds.

PenFed personal loan purposes

PenFed’s website doesn't specify what you can and cannot use the funds for. With amounts up to $50,000, no fees and competitive rates, these loans are well-suited for everything from large purchases and projects to debt consolidation.

However, most lenders prohibit using personal loans for investing, certain business expenses or college tuition. 

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

Where PenFed personal loans stand out 

Low fees: Unlike some lenders, PenFed doesn't charge fees on top of your interest rate. It charges no origination, application or prepayment fees.

Allows joint applications: PenFed allows applicants to apply with a joint borrower who has a higher income or credit score. This can increase your chance of getting approved and scoring a lower interest rate.  

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. If you opt to receive your funds by check, it'll take anywhere from five to seven business days. However, PenFed notes that the actual timing may be longer or shorter depending on your financial institution and exactly when the loan is processed. 

Where PenFed personal loans fall short 

Limited eligibility information: The website's eligibility information is sparse, leaving out requirements like minimum income and debt requirements. That said, you can prequalify without hurting your credit score, so it’s still relatively easy to see your eligibility.

Membership required: PenFed requires personal loan applicants to be credit union members. Membership is open to everyone, but you will need to apply. Plus, if you're approved for membership, you'll need to maintain a PenFed checking account by depositing a $5 minimum amount. 

Middling maximum amount: PenFed's maximum loan amount of $50,000 is average compared to other companies on the market. Many offer borrowing amounts of up to $100,000

PenFed customer experience 

Customer Support

PenFed stands out from the rest for its support options. Members can contact a customer service representative by calling 800-247-5626 Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 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.  

It offers a toll-free teletypewriter (TTY) option for the hearing impaired at 1-800-225-6378. Customers in Eugene, Oregon can use the TTY feature at 541-225-6801.

Digital Experience 

Along with a fully online prequalification and application experience, PenFed’s website features a learning hub that hosts a number of resources and tools. The hub offers financial advice, customer support and information about hardship options.

PenFed also offers a free mobile app — PenFed Mobile. Both Android and Apple users can download the app. However, its ratings are lower than other companies' mobile apps. It's rated 3.1 stars out of 5 on the App Store and 3.5 stars out of 5 on the Google Play store, with most of the negative reviews reporting frequent app outages and crashes. 

What people are saying about PenFed

PenFed reviews are largely positive. It has 1,477 reviews on Trustpilot, of which 82 percent are 5-star ratings and 10 percent are 1-star. Unlike some competitors, PenFed hasn't responded to its negative remarks on the site.

Here is what one 5-star reviewer said about their experience with a PenFed personal loan they took out in December of 2023:

"The process of applying for a loan is quick and easy! They don't ask a bunch of unnecessary questions. They offer a variety of options and have very competitive rates. A decision is received in minutes and funds are available within 2-3 days after approval."

Trustpilot User

Another reviewer appreciated the preapproval process, which can help borrowers understand expected rates ahead of time:

"Preapproval process was great. No credit score ding. Interest rate was very honest. Fast and efficient process. Helped me get another loan when other lenders wouldn't. Great job Penfed CU."

Trustpilot User

Most poor reviews for PenFed reference a challenging online interface and poor customer communication. 

Outlinked content may contain views and opinions that do not reflect the views and opinions of Bankrate. Please see the issuer’s website for updated terms and conditions.

How this lender compares

logo
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7
Bankrate Score
APR from
7.99%-17.99%
Loan Amount
$600 to $50,000
Term Length
Up to 60 months
Min Credit Score
700
logo
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7
Bankrate Score
APR from
8.99% to 29.49%* with autopay
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
7.49%-25.49% *with AutoPay
Loan Amount
$5,000-$100,000
Term Length
24 to 84 months
Min Credit Score
695

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 24.29 percent. Plus, borrowers should consider prequalifying with PenFed first — LightStream doesn't offer the same benefit. 

Read our full PenFed vs. LightStream guide

PenFed vs. SoFi

PenFed and SoFi both offer competitive personal loan interest 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.

Read our full PenFed vs. SoFi guide

Do you qualify for a PenFed personal loan?

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 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.  

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. 

1. Get a quote 

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. 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. 

2. Add information and finalize your application 

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. 

Keep an eye out for any information from PenFed regarding your status and download the mobile app to track your application status. 

3. Review the loan details 

Make sure you understand the interest rate, what your monthly payment will be and total loan costs. Also, watch out for any potential fees, such as late payment charges.

If everything looks good, accept the loan and follow the instructions. Depending on the disbursal method, you could receive the funds in as little as one to two business days. 

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. 

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

Bankrate's trusted personal loans industry expertise

57

years in business

30

lenders reviewed

20

loan features weighed

665

data points collected

Bankrate considers 20 factors when reviewing lenders. Credit requirements, APR ranges, fees, loan amounts and flexibility are all taken into account so that ratings are representative of how competitive lenders are for a wide range of credit profiles and budgets. The Bankrate Score for personal loans 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 considered 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.