Do you remember my recent post “A great deal if you can get it: FNBO TravElite Amex Card“? I wrote about the no-annual-fee travel TravElite card which was available only to those targeted. Now, PenFed has released a nearly identical card that is available to everyone: PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
The PenFed and FNBO cards are strikingly similar:
- Signup Bonus: 25K points after $2,500 spend in 3 months
- No annual fee
- No foreign transaction fees
- Both are American Express cards
- 3X travel; 1.5X elsewhere (note though that the PenFed card offers 4X to some cardholders)
- Global Entry Fee Reimbursement
- $100 annual travel credit
The primary difference between these cards at the moment is that the PenFed offer is available to anyone who becomes a PenFed member whereas the FNBO offer is targeted. Joining PenFed is easy. I spoke with John Kelly (SVP Payment Product & Services at PenFed) who told me that there are many ways to join PenFed (see our Complete Guide for details) and that the option to join by donating $17 to one of two organizations will be built into the application process (I didn’t have a chance to test this when writing this post since the application link was not yet live).
Another big difference between the cards is the earning power. TravElite points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash. PenFed points are worth only .85 cents each when redeemed for gift cards. However, John Kelly tells me that points are worth up to 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel, with an average redemption value around 1.18 cents. Personally, I’d take 1 cent cash over a chance of getting just slightly higher returns for travel, but a 1.18 cent per point redemption is decent if his statistics are accurate. Even better is that the PenFed card offers 4X rewards for travel purchases to those in the military or those with an an Access America Checking account (details about this option can be found in our Complete Guide).
Both cards offer an impressive list of perks for no-fee cards, but the feature I find most compelling in both cards is the annual $100 incidental airline fee credit. Officially, this is just for airline fees that are separate from airline ticket charges. It is likely, though, that anything that works for Amex Platinum card or Premier Rewards Gold reimbursements will work with this card too. For details, see: Amex Airline Fee Reimbursements. What still works? But, this would still be a valuable perk even if the credits only worked for actual airline fees such as baggage fees, flight-change fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases, airport lounge day-passes, pet-kennel fee, and phone reservation fees. Note that this perk is limited to the following airlines: American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Allegiant Air.
There are reports for both PenFed and FNBO that approvals can be difficult for those of us who have lots of cards open, but if you can get approved it seems like a nice easy win that will pay out up to $100 per year with no end date in sight.
For the record, we do not have any affiliate relationship with PenFed or FNBO. I simply believe that these are excellent offers for no-fee cards.