The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card offers comprehensive benefits for a card with no annual fee:
- No annual fee
- No foreign transaction fees
- $100 annual travel benefit: Up to $100 per calendar year in incidental fee reimbursements
- $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck every 5 years
- Earn 3X or 4X points for travel; 1.5X everywhere else
(Earn 4X for travel as an Access America Checking account holder or as a member of the military; 3X otherwise)
- Travel Insurance:
- Baggage loss & delay insurance (6 hour delay)
- Travel accident insurance
- Travel & emergency assistance
- Car Rental loss & damage insurance (secondary)
- Trip cancellation & interruption
- Other Travel Benefits:
- Luxury Hotel Privileges (breakfast for 2, plus other perks)
- Hotel Privileges (special amenities at select properties)
- Shopping Benefits:
- Amex offers (enroll here)
How to sign up for the card
Simply click here to begin the signup process. A reader has reported that he was able to fund $500 when opening the account with an Amex credit card, and he did earn rewards for the “purchase”.
How to join PenFed
Joining PenFed is easy, but it does require membership in any of a number of organizations. If you are a member of the military, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, the easiest option is baked right into the PenFed credit card application: donate $17 to National Military Family Organization or Voices for America’s Troops. More info can be found on PenFed’s site: Ways to Become a Member.
How to earn 4X for travel
Access America Checking account holders and members of the military automatically earn 4X rewards when using this card to pay for travel. Access America Checking is free with a daily balance of $500 or more, or a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more. The signup page for Access America Checking can be found here.
Cardmembers who qualify for 4X travel rewards do not have to do anything special to enroll. 4X rewards for travel should be earned automatically.
What purchases count as travel?
Travel includes purchases on:
- Car Rental
- Travel Agency
- Commuter Transportation
- Bus Lines
- Tour Operators
Specifically, eligible travel purchases will be based on the MCC (Merchant Category Codes) as defined below:
- Commuter Transportation MCC 4111
- Rail MCC 4112
- Taxi/Uber/Lyft MCC 4121
- Bus Lines MCC 4131
- Cruise MCC 4411
- Air MCC 4511, 4582
- Travel Agency MCC 4722
- Tolls MCC 4784
- Miscellaneous (Transportation and Travel Arrangements) MCC 4789, 5962
- Hotel MCC 7011
- Trailer Park/Campgrounds MCC 7033
- Car Rental MCC 7512, 7513, 7519
- Tourist Attractions MCC 7991
What are points worth?
When redeemed for gift cards, points are worth .85 cents each towards the gift card value. When redeemed for hotels, points are worth up to 1.25 cents each. PenFed claims that hotel rewards average approximately 1.18 cents per point. Given these valuations, the card earns the following rebates as a percentage of dollars spent:
- 4X = 3.4% when redeemed for gift cards; ~4.72% when redeemed for hotels
- 3X = 2.55% when redeemed for gift cards; 3.54% when redeemed for hotels
- 1.5X = 1.275% when redeemed for gift cards; 1.77% when redeemed for hotels
When redeeming points for travel, it is possible to use a mix of points + cash (in case you don’t have enough points to cover the entire purchase).
How to earn the $100 annual travel benefit
Each calendar year, the cardholder can earn up to $100 in statement credits as rebates towards incidental airline fees. Qualifying purchases are rebated automatically (up to the $100 per year max). Note that spend on an authorized user card can qualify for these credits but the $100 per year limit is across all cards, not per card. In other words, you cannot earn additional credits by adding authorized users.
Qualifying airlines include American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Allegiant Air.
Qualifying airline fees include non-ticket charges made directly by airlines such as baggage fees, flight-change fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases, airport lounge day-passes, pet-kennel fee, and phone reservation fees.
Non-qualifying purchases include: airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets.
Note that some purchases listed as non-qualifying are known to trigger airline fee reimbursements anyway. For the latest information about what works and what doesn’t, please see: Amex Airline Fee Reimbursements. What still works?
How to earn the $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck reimbursement
Simply use your card to pay the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Reimbursement is automatic. You can get reimbursed once every 5 years. Authorized user cards do not get additional reimbursements.
Other Interesting Perks
Amex Offers: Cardholders are eligible to sign up for Amex Offers. Amex Offers are usually automatic rebates for spending a certain amount of money with a specific merchant. For example, you may get an offer to “Spend $50 or more at Lowe’s and get $10 back.” For details see “Awesome Amex Offers and how to get them.” and “Current Amex Offers.”
Taste from American Express Invites: Book a hotel from Amex’s Taste collection and automatically get a perk at the restaurant such as a free appetizer, free drink per person, or a discount off the bill. Details can be found here.
Vacation Package Discount: $100 off vacation packages of $2,000 or more.
Even more info
More details about this card can be found here: americanexpress.com/us/network/penfedpathfinder/