Banking » Reviews » PenFed Access America Checking Review
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PenFed Access America Checking Review

The PenFed Access America is an interest-bearing account that offers APY on balance, early payday, debit card, and check-writing options.
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: January 1, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: January 1, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

We earn a commission from our partner links on this page. It doesn't affect the integrity of our unbiased, independent editorial staff. Transparency is a core value for us, read our advertiser disclosure and how we make money.

PenFED Access America Checking

Fees

$10 Can be waived if you have monthly direct deposits of at least $500 or you maintain a daily balance of at least $500

Minimum Deposit

$25

Our Rating

4.3
4.3/5

APY Checking

0.15% – 0.35%

PenFED Access America Checking

Fees

$10 Can be waived if you have monthly direct deposits of at least $500 or you maintain a daily balance of at least $500

Minimum Balance

$25

Our Rating

4.3
4.3/5

APY Checking

0.15% – 0.35%

PenFed is one of the largest credit unions in America and it offers a decent variety of products. One of its stand out products is the Access America Checking account. This is an interest bearing checking account which offers many of the features that you’d expect from a traditional bank checking account.

Additionally, account holders can earn cash back when they use PenFed’s rewards card. This is an impressive feature set, which we’ll explore in more detail to help you determine if this account is a good fit for you.

PenFED Access America Checking Features

Explore the features of PenFED Access America Checking Account:

The Access America Checking account is interest bearing with a two tiered rate. If you have less than $20,000 in the account, you could earn the lowest tier, while the highest tier is available for balances of $20,000 to $50,000. The current rates are 0.15% – 0.35% APY.

To qualify for receiving interest on your balance, you must have a recurring direct deposit of at least $500 per month

The account does have a $10 monthly maintenance fee, but it can be waived if you have monthly direct deposits of at least $500 or you maintain a daily balance of at least $500.

If you set up a direct deposit to receive your salary, you can access your paycheck up to two days early. Once PenFed receives the direct deposit information from your employer, it will make your pay available in your account up to two days early.

PenFed supplies a Visa debit card for free with this account that is enabled for touchless use in store purchases. There is also protection in place, so if your card is stolen or lost, you won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges.

Unlike many checking accounts, PenFed still provides check writing capabilities with the Access America Checking account. You can order checks in a branch, by phone or online. Your first 50 checks will even be delivered free of charge.

You can manage your account 24/7 using the PenFed official website or the credit union’s app. The app also features mobile check deposit. This means that you can view transactions, check your balance or manage any other aspect of your account while on the go or from the comfort of your own home.

PenFed has NCUA insurance, which provides its customers with up to $250,000 of coverage. This is similar to the FDIC coverage available with bank accounts. In the event that PenFed should fail, you can recover your account balance up to the $250,000 limit.

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Fees:
No monthly fees No monthly fees and no overdraft fees. Plus get reimbursed for ATM fees with an active account 
Rewards:
Up to 2% cash back Up to 2% cash back on common everyday expenses for active accounts with monthly $1,000 direct deposit, and up to 1% cash back for other purchases 
Promotion:
$300 Use Promo Code “AXOS300” for a $300 bonus when you apply for a Rewards Checking account
Up to 3.30% APY
to get the maximum rate (up to $50,000) you'll need monthly direct deposits of $1,500 (0.40% APY), 10 transaction on your debit card (+0.30% APY), average daily balance of $2,500 on Axos Invest Managed Portfolio (+1.00% APY), average daily balance of $2,500 on Axos Invest Self Directed Trading Account(+1.00% APY) and make full monthly payment on loans (mortgage, personal and auto) with Axos account (+0.60% APY).

Promotion:
Up to $4,000 New customers may earn up to $4,000 when they open an eligible HSBC Premier checking account from January 8, 2024 through March 27, 2024 and complete qualifying activities:

• Receive a cash bonus of $1,500 when you deposit or invest $100,000 – $199,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $2,000 when you deposit or invest $200,000 – $299,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $2,500 when you deposit or invest $300,000 – 499,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $3,500 when you deposit or invest $500,000+

• Earn an extra $500 when you set up recurring monthly Direct Deposits totaling at least $5,000 for 3 months
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Get access to wealth products, insights and advice from an HSBC Financial Professional through HSBC Securities (USA) Inc
Advertiser Disclosure
The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.
Top Offers From Our Partners

Chase_logo

Promotion:
$300 New Chase checking customers enjoy a $300 bonus when you open a Chase Total Checking® account and make direct deposits totaling $500 or more within 90 days of coupon enrollment.. Expired on 4/17/2024
Chase Overdraft Assist
With Chase Overdraft AssistSM, you won’t be charged an Overdraft Fee if you’re overdrawn by $50 or less at the end of the business day OR if you’re overdrawn by more than $50 and you bring your account balance to overdrawn by $50 or less at the end of the next business day

UpgradeLogo

Fees:
No monthly fees No monthly fees and no overdraft fees. Plus get reimbursed for ATM fees with an active account 
Rewards:
Up to 2% cash back Up to 2% cash back on common everyday expenses for active accounts with monthly $1,000 direct deposit, and up to 1% cash back for other purchases 
Promotion:
$300 Use Promo Code “AXOS300” for a $300 bonus when you apply for a Rewards Checking account
Up to 3.30% APY
to get the maximum rate (up to $50,000) you'll need monthly direct deposits of $1,500 (0.40% APY), 10 transaction on your debit card (+0.30% APY), average daily balance of $2,500 on Axos Invest Managed Portfolio (+1.00% APY), average daily balance of $2,500 on Axos Invest Self Directed Trading Account(+1.00% APY) and make full monthly payment on loans (mortgage, personal and auto) with Axos account (+0.60% APY).

Promotion:
Up to $4,000 New customers may earn up to $4,000 when they open an eligible HSBC Premier checking account from January 8, 2024 through March 27, 2024 and complete qualifying activities:

• Receive a cash bonus of $1,500 when you deposit or invest $100,000 – $199,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $2,000 when you deposit or invest $200,000 – $299,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $2,500 when you deposit or invest $300,000 – 499,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $3,500 when you deposit or invest $500,000+

• Earn an extra $500 when you set up recurring monthly Direct Deposits totaling at least $5,000 for 3 months
Wealth Products & Advice
Get access to wealth products, insights and advice from an HSBC Financial Professional through HSBC Securities (USA) Inc
Advertiser Disclosure
The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.

Is It the Right Choice for You?

No financial product or service is without faults, so answering this question is not straightforward. Whether you consider the account good will depend on your specific preferences and needs.

However, we can highlight the pros and cons of this account to help you decide.

Pros
Cons
Reasonable Qualifications for Interest
Limited Branch Network
Large ATM Network
Monthly Maintenance Fee
Credit Card Perks
Membership Required
Potential for an Overdraft Facility
Hundreds of Branches

Many interest bearing checking accounts have high minimums to qualify for the advertised APY. 

However, to receive interest on your balance with the Access America Checking account you only need to have direct deposits of at least $500 per month.

However, instead of getting quite low rate on your balance, you may want to check out PenFed CD rates, which offer competitive rates on deposits.

PenFed credit unions members can enjoy access to a large ATM network with more than 85,000 fee free machines. 

This includes CO-OP and Allpoint ATMs, so it should be fairly easy to find a no surcharge machine in your local area. Just bear in mind that PenFed will not reimburse any out of network ATM fees, so check carefully before you use an ATM.

If you have an Access America Checking Account, you’ll enjoy a preferential rewards rate with the PathFinder Rewards Visa credit card.

Instead of the 3 points per dollar on travel purchases, you’ll receive four. Additionally, as long as you maintain your Access America Checking Account, the credit card’s annual fee is waived.

PenFed offers a line of credit to provide overdraft protection with the Access America Checking account.

This is subject to status, but if approved, if you’re about to slip into the red, the transactions will be taken from your line of credit, preventing the account from going overdrawn, saving you overdraft fees.

This follows on from the previous point, but while Capital One may not have the largest bank branch network in the U.S, it does maintain hundreds of branches and a growing number of Cafes.

PenFed only has 50 branches throughout the U.S. So, if you prefer face to face customer support, you may have difficulty finding a branch in your local area.

While it can be waived in one of two ways, the Access America Checking account does have a $10 monthly maintenance fee.

This account is not simply available to everyone. You must be a member of the PenFed credit union to qualify.

If you’re not a member of the armed forces, a veteran or member of an organization related to national defense, you’ll need to open a regular or premium savings account and fund it with at least $5.

Who Should Consider Opening an Access America Checking?

If you’re still unsure if the Access America Checking account would be a good fit for you, we’ll explore the types of customers who are best suited to this account.

  • Those who have at least $500 of direct deposits per month: You’ll need regular direct deposits of at least $500 per month to qualify to receive interest on your balance. This will also help you to have the monthly maintenance fee waived.
  • Those who don’t need in person support: Although PenFed does have some branches, with only 50 locations, it is unlikely that you will have ready access to one. So, you need to be comfortable with managing your account online and via the app, with phone support.
  • Those interested in PenFed Pathfinder Rewards: If you already have or are considering a Pathfinder Rewards credit card, you’ll get a preferential rate if you hold an Access America Checking account.
PenFED Access America Checking benefits
PenFED Access America Checking benefits include tiered APY on balance, check writing capability, early payday and two options to waive monthly fee (Photo by rafapress/Shutterstock)

Is PenFed a Good Credit Union to Work With?

PenFed is one of the largest credit unions in America and it also has an excellent reputation. On consumer review platforms, such as Trustpilot, there are numerous comments praising PenFed’s ease of application and use. While many credit unions have stringent membership requirements, PenFed is available to anyone.

One of the main benefits of PenFed is that it also offers a decent product line including a variety of checking, savings, and money market accounts, credit cards, loans, and mortgages. This means that there is the potential to move all of your banking to one financial institution.

However, if you prefer in person support, you may find the PenFed branch network a little lacking.

How to Open a PenFed Access America Checking Account?

You will need to become a member of PenFed credit union to open an Access America Checking account, but PenFed has incorporated this into the application process to make it easier for potential customers.

  1. Navigate to the Access America Checking Page: On the PenFed official website, you can find the Access America Checking account page under the “Checking & Savings” tab on the top bar. From this page, you can check all the details for the account and if you’re ready to proceed, click the green “Open Now” button.
  2. Confirm Membership Status: The first screen you’ll see asks you to confirm if you’re already a PenFed member by logging in. Alternatively, you can click the blue “join now” button. Existing members will have numerous details on the application form auto filled according to their membership profile.
  3. Complete the Application: This is quite standard and if you’ve already opened a bank account online, it should seem familiar. You’ll need to complete all of the mandatory fields including your full name, date of birth, address, email, phone number and Social Security Number.
  4. Fund your Savings Account: If you don’t qualify for PenFed membership via the armed forces or associated memberships, you’ll need to open a PenFed savings account with at least $5. The funding screen for this is the last stage of the application.

FAQs

Yes, the account is interest bearing with two tiers, depending on your balance. However, to qualify to receive interest, you need to have at least $500 in direct deposits per month.

PenFed does not currently have any promotions for new customers including those applying for the Access America Checking account.

You can visit a local branch to close your account, but if this is not possible, the easiest way is to call the PenFed customer support helpline. A PenFed representative will be able to confirm your closure request and initiate the closure process.

How We Review Checking Accounts: Our Methodology

The Smart Investor team has conducted a comprehensive review of checking accounts offered by various banks, taking into account several key factors to provide a thorough evaluation. Here's how we rated them across four important categories:

  • Checking Account Features (60%): We meticulously assessed the features and benefits associated with each bank's checking accounts. Factors considered include account fees, minimum balance requirements, ATM access, overdraft protection, online and mobile banking functionalities, and additional perks such as rewards programs. Higher ratings were awarded to banks offering a wide range of features and benefits that cater to diverse customer needs, ensuring convenience and flexibility in managing finances.

  • Customer Experience (20%): A positive customer experience is essential in banking, so we evaluated each bank's performance in this area. This included assessing the ease of account opening, quality of customer service, availability of support channels, and overall user satisfaction. Ratings were based on factors such as responsiveness, efficiency, and the bank's commitment to meeting customer needs, ensuring a seamless and satisfactory banking experience.

  • Diversity of Other Financial Products (10%): We also considered the diversity of other financial products offered by each bank, such as savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and investment options. Higher ratings were given to banks with a comprehensive suite of financial products, allowing customers to meet their various banking and financial needs in one place.

  • Bank Reputation (10%): The reputation of a bank is a crucial factor in decision-making. We examined factors such as financial stability, regulatory compliance, and public perception to determine each institution's overall trustworthiness and reliability. Higher ratings were assigned to banks with strong reputations, reflecting their credibility and ability to inspire confidence among customers.

By considering these categories and assigning appropriate weights to each, our review aims to provide valuable insights to help individuals make informed decisions when selecting a checking account

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Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
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Top Offers From Our Partners

Chase_logo

Promotion:
$300 New Chase checking customers enjoy a $300 bonus when you open a Chase Total Checking® account and make direct deposits totaling $500 or more within 90 days of coupon enrollment.. Expired on 4/17/2024
Chase Overdraft Assist
With Chase Overdraft AssistSM, you won’t be charged an Overdraft Fee if you’re overdrawn by $50 or less at the end of the business day OR if you’re overdrawn by more than $50 and you bring your account balance to overdrawn by $50 or less at the end of the next business day

UpgradeLogo

Fees:
No monthly fees No monthly fees and no overdraft fees. Plus get reimbursed for ATM fees with an active account 
Rewards:
Up to 2% cash back Up to 2% cash back on common everyday expenses for active accounts with monthly $1,000 direct deposit, and up to 1% cash back for other purchases 
Promotion:
$300 Use Promo Code “AXOS300” for a $300 bonus when you apply for a Rewards Checking account
Up to 3.30% APY
to get the maximum rate (up to $50,000) you’ll need monthly direct deposits of $1,500 (0.40% APY), 10 transaction on your debit card (+0.30% APY), average daily balance of $2,500 on Axos Invest Managed Portfolio (+1.00% APY), average daily balance of $2,500 on Axos Invest Self Directed Trading Account(+1.00% APY) and make full monthly payment on loans (mortgage, personal and auto) with Axos account (+0.60% APY).

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Promotion:
Up to $400 Open a new, select Virtual Wallet product and receive $500/$2,000/$5,000 or more in qualifying monthly direct deposits within 60 days to earn a $100/$200/$400 bonus.
Subject to state availability
PNC Virtual Wallet ® is available in AL, AZ, CA, CO, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, NC, NJ, NY, NM, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WI, and WV. Virtual Wallet ® is offered in the state of MO with the exception of the Greater Kansas City area. Product availability may vary based on where you open your account and the Zip code of your primary

Promotion:
Up to $4,000 New customers may earn up to $4,000 when they open an eligible HSBC Premier checking account from January 8, 2024 through March 27, 2024 and complete qualifying activities:

• Receive a cash bonus of $1,500 when you deposit or invest $100,000 – $199,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $2,000 when you deposit or invest $200,000 – $299,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $2,500 when you deposit or invest $300,000 – 499,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $3,500 when you deposit or invest $500,000+

• Earn an extra $500 when you set up recurring monthly Direct Deposits totaling at least $5,000 for 3 months
Wealth Products & Advice
Get access to wealth products, insights and advice from an HSBC Financial Professional through HSBC Securities (USA) Inc
Advertiser Disclosure
The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.
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