PenFed Student Loan Refinance Review

Our Rating: B (Compare)

PenFed may be a good option for borrowers who wish to combine debt with a spouse or assume ownership of a parent loan. One of the largest credit unions nationwide, PenFed services its own loans. U.S. citizenship required.

Loan Limits $7,500 – $500,000
Fixed Rates 3.49% – 5.68%
Variable Rates NA
Terms 5, 8, 12 or 15 years
Min. Credit Score 676* (670 with co-signer)
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*For loans up to $150,000. For loans exceeding $150,000, a credit score of less than 725 or less requires a qualifying co-signer.

Skip to: Rates & Fees | Eligibility Requirements | Repayment Options | Consumer Reviews & Complaints | FAQ

Loan Refinancing Options
Private student loans
Private parent loans (in either name†)
Federal student loans
Federal Parent PLUS loans (in either name)

Parents may refinance in their own names or transfer debt to a child.

PenFed Refinance Rates & Fees

Pentagon Federal Credit Union’s fixed rates are between 3.49% and 5.68%. PenFed appears to no longer offer variable rates.

In 2022, PenFed has raised its disclosed fixed rates. The lowest available fixed rate for new loans is up 20.8% (from 2.89% APR) since the end of last year while the highest fixed rate has increased 14.1% (from 4.98% APR).

Refinance Loan Rates
Term Fixed Rate
5 Year 3.49% – Undisclosed
8 Year 3.74% – Undisclosed
12 Year 3.80% – Undisclosed
15 Year 3.85% – 5.68%

Additional information about PenFed refinance rates:

  • Checking your rate with PenFed will not affect your credit score. They will conduct a soft, not hard, credit inquiry (learn the difference).
  • PenFed does not offer a discount for setting up auto-pay.
  • PenFed offered variable rates until 7/1/2021; it is unclear if variable rates will become available again.

Student Loan Refinancing Calculator

Based on advertised rates, use the calculator below to determine what your new monthly payment and potential savings may be if you refinance with PenFed.

Additional Fees

Beyond interest rates, there are a number of fees a refinance lender may charge up-front or during the loan servicing period. Below is a list of these fees that PenFed does or does not charge.

Fee Type Amount Charged
Application Fee None
Loan Origination Fee None
Disbursement Fee Undisclosed
Prepayment Penalty None
Late Payment Fee $5 to $25 (20% of the finance charge)
Returned Payment Fee Undisclosed
Collection Fee Unspecified
  1. Application fee – fee to apply for rates & approval.
  2. Loan origination fee – fee to create the new loan.
  3. Disbursement fee – fee for distributing funds to lenders to pay off loans that have been refinanced.
  4. Prepayment penalty – fee for making extra payments to reduce a refinance loan balance or pay it off early.
  5. Late payment fee – fee for making a late payment.
  6. Returned payment fee – fee for failed payments due to insufficient funds, also known as a “bounced check.”
  7. Collection fee – fee for collection activity on a defaulted debt. PenFed discloses only that “[i]n the event of a default, the borrower may incur additional collection charges as permitted under applicable law.”

Current Promotions & Offers

PenFed does not typically offer promotions, discounts, or other such benefits. Branch locations sometimes have their own special offers available.

PenFed Refinance Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for refinancing with PenFed, all borrowers must meet the criteria below.

  • Citizenship Requirement: U.S. citizenship.
  • Income Requirement: $42,000 annual minimum for loans up to $150,000, $50,000 annual minimum for loans up to $300,000 -OR- $25,000 annual minimum with a qualifying co-signer.
  • Credit Score Requirement: minimum 670 with a co-signer who has a credit score of at least 720 for loans up to $150,000 or 725 for loans exceeding $150,000; for loans up to $150,000, the minimum credit score with no co-signer is 676; for loans exceeding $150,000, the minimum credit score with no-cosigner is 725.
  • Graduation Requirement: associates’s degree or higher.
  • Location Requirement: none.

Additional restrictions apply for specific individuals and loans.

  • Borrowers are required to be existing PenFed credit union members or join PenFed before loan authorization.
  • PenFed membership requires opening a PenFed savings account with a minimum of $5.

PenFed Student Loan Repayment Options

Lenders vary significantly on the benefits and options provided to borrowers during the loan servicing period. Additionally, benefits may only be available on a case-by-case basis. PenFed offers some relief options.

Deferment & Forbearance

PenFed does not advertise deferments or forbearance but does disclose a willingness to consider deferment under certain circumstances and on a case-by-case basis.

Condition Coverage
Returning to grad school Undisclosed
Disability rehabilitation Unspecified
Active military duty Undisclosed
Involuntary unemployment Unspecified
Economic hardship Unspecified
Natural disaster Undisclosed
Temporary hardship Unspecified

Additional Options

PenFed may offer other opportunities for relief or contract modification.

  • Co-signer release may be available after 12 consecutive qualifying payments.
  • Death / disability discharge is available in the unfortunate circumstance that a borrower passes away or suffers total permanent disability.

PenFed Reviews, Complaints & Lawsuits

Beyond our own findings, our team also collected the most genuinely insightful customer experiences available, including any instances of legal action against the company in which the details became public.

PenFed Online Reviews

Below are 3 samples of PenFed customer reviews we found on public forums, included here for their value as unedited, uncensored, and unsolicited user experiences. Note that these reviews are unverified, may include inaccuracies, and may provide outdated information (about rates, bonus offers, etc.).


“I recently refinanced a student loan with PenFed. I managed to get my 6% loan refinanced for 4%. Their portal seems not very advanced, but they offered me one of the lowest rates I could find compared to others. I also signed up for the 8 year plan. If I did the 5 year plan, I could have received a 3.75% rate; however, the monthly payment was too high to make it worth it. I have not had any issues with them these past few months.”MikeIzSuave on reddit, 7/14/2020


“Hey I actually just refinanced with PenFed (through [a marketplace lender]) and was quoted 1.6% variable. I also noticed the paperwork that said minimum of 2% which didn’t make sense since they quoted the 1.6%. I went ahead and followed through with the loan and it finally posted in the past few days and it’s already gone down to 1%. So I don’t really know what the minimum 2% refers to but it seems like mine has been below that without a problem so far. You may want to clarify with PenFed before signing though.”parkit on reddit, 5/16/2020


“Penfed has some issues on the front end.

I was declined a refi of $30K for a 5 year loan reason being my income to debt ratio was “bad”. I inquired and inquired and for some reason they had that I earned $1100 per month. How they arrived at that I don’t know as they had the copies of my paystubs at $3300 bi weekly……..

In the end it all worked out but yes, they aren’t on top of things.”retiredjg at Bogleheads.org, 6/18/2014


More (unfiltered) customer reviews of PenFed are available at TrustPilot.com (4.6 out of 5) and ConsumerAffairs.com (2.7 out of 5).

PenFed Consumer Complaints

As consumer finance companies, student loan refinancing lenders fall under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal agency. As part of its mission, the CFPB allows consumers to log official complaints. These complaints are publicly available on the CFPB official website.

Since December 14, 2011, consumers have submitted 2,763 complaints about Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) to the CFPB for an average of one (1) complaint every 33 hours; that is 37 times faster than the average daily complaint rate among reviewed lenders. Among the complaints with narratives, at least 0.8% specifically reference student loans or student loan refinancing.

In 2022, PenFed’s consumer complaint rate is more than three (3) times what it is in an average year as of this writing. In 2021, PenFed received 649 complaints, which is 142.8% higher than its average annual complaint rate.

Also in 2021, consumers filed the equivalent of one (1) complaint for every $1.587 million of corporate revenue or one (1) complaint for every four (4) employees.

The allegations made in these complaints are unverified, are not necessarily representative of all consumers’ experiences with PenFed, and may contain outdated information (about rates, bonus offers, etc.). Note that a lender with a large customer base is likely to have a higher number of complaints when compared with smaller lenders.

Line Graph: Consumer Complaints About PenFed, Public Complaints Filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, from December 2011 (5) and the years 2012 (69), 2013 (123), 2014 (103), 2015 (115), 2016 (161), 2017 (203), 2018 (277), 2019 (280), 2020 (508), and 2021 (649)

Below we’ve included three (3) of the most recent complaints (as of this writing) related to student loans and/or debt collection and in which the consumer consented to share their details.


Complaint 5464612
4/19/2022
New York

“>Multiple hard inquiries were pulled by Pentagon Federal Credit Union ( PenFed ) for same credit application using XXXX ( XX/XX/21 ; XX/XX/21 ) >Applied for HELOC with PenFed ( XX/XX/21 ) >Before applying was told full process takes approximately Approaching 60 days, critical items remained undone, including the appraisal >Underwriters said credit score is good for 120 days, possible will need to pull again >To avoid being penalized for another hard inquiry, I authorized pull within 45 days of first >Credit was pulled 46 days after the first, falling outside of the shopping window >Received an email from PenFed Mortgage COO acknowledging their inability to provide the level of service and speed to close. Hiring people and working weekends ( XX/XX/21 ) >Closed the loan 89 days after application ( XX/XX/21 ) >I filed a dispute with XXXX but their automated process for inquiry disputes did not enable me to provide context, argument, or support >I called PenFed and bounced around 6 different agents resulting in my information being passed along to management for further contact”


Complaint 5455816
4/17/2022
Texas

“On XX/XX/2020 two dispute and validation letters was delivered to the company via USPS Certified Mail # XXXX / XXXX. Reviewed my credit report 45 days later which showed the reporting of my accounts as delinquent without the required disputed designation pursuant to FCRA 623 ( a ) ( 3 ).”


Complaint 5429476
4/10/2022
Massachusetts

“After filing a complaint with the CFPB the company responded and requested that i file an application for hardship along with a statement and return same. I followed the companies request and received a denial notice stating i needed to submit further documentation in regards to my situation. I completed a hardship form from there site along with a statement as they requested. I am in fear that my vehicle will be repossessed at this point and i only want to work out a solution to keep the vehicle and get back on track with the payments. I am unable to come up with three months of payments and i am sure i will be receiving a ” Right to Cure Notice ” from Pentagon Federal Credit Union. This is there response : Dear XXXX XXXX XXXX, Thank you for contacting us about your loan ( s ). Based on a review of the information you provided to us on your Financial Hardship Application received on XX/XX/XXXX, your request for assistance is incomplete and requires additional information from you. In order to complete your application, please provide the following forms, documentation or information : Completed PenFed Financial Hardship Application : Detailed explanation of hardship as requested on page one of the Hardship Application. The Used Vehicle Refinance Loan account that you are requesting assistance on was just taken out in XXXX of XXXX, and we have received only received 2 payments on the account ; in order for us to offer assistance on the account we need to better understand what has changed with your finances in that short time to cause the financial hardship. Your explanation provided states the hardship had not began in XX/XX/XXXX. Documentation to verify your stated hardship reason dated within the last 90 days : Documentation verifying how the XXXX or XXXX caused your financial hardship ( ex : unpaid leave/FMLA, unemployment, reduction in income, medical bills, etc ) **please do not send detailed medical information** **DOCUMENTS MUST BE DATED WITH THE LAST 90 DAYS TO BE CONSIDERED VALID** The necessary documents and/or information to make your application complete must be received by XX/XX/XXXX. Please do not send documents directly to your analyst as it does result in excessive delays for review. You may send them via upload on the website through your online account, fax to XXXX, email to XXXX, or by mail to : Pentagon Federal Credit Union / Attn : XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX, VA XXXX PLEASE DO NOT SEND DOCUMENTS TO ME DIRECTLY AS IT DOES RESULT IN UNNECESSARY DELAYS. ALL DOCUMENTS ARE REVIEWED IN THE ORDER OF RECEIPT. Sincerely, XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXXXXXX XXXX : ( XXXX ) XXXX ext XXXX | F : ( XXXX ) XXXX XXXX | XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX, OR XXXX XXXX XXXXXXXX”


For a complete list of complaints made against PenFed in the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database, click here.

PenFed Lawsuits

Note that while this information is updated regularly, ongoing legal action is subject to change.

Nyjah Ross et al., v. Pentagon Federal Credit Union, et al., Case No. 1:20-cv-00281-RDA-JFA

In March 2020, Nyjah Ross and Thomas Castelli filed a class action complaint against PenFed alleging violation of Regulation E of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA).[1]

Specifically, plaintiffs claim they were charged multiple non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees for the same electronic transaction and were also charged NSF fees when their accounts did have sufficient funds to cover the transaction. This is the second civil action against PenFed for apparent violation of its own account agreement regarding NSF charges to borrowers.

The case has been assigned to US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Rossie D. Alston presiding, and is presumably ongoing.[2]

Tiffany Neal v. Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Case No. ELH-18-451

Plaintiff Tiffany Neal, a disabled veteran, filed a civil action suit against PenFed in August 2019, alleging the credit union violated EFTA as well as multiple sections of the State of Maryland’s Breach of Contract law.

Specifically, Neal alleges PenFed “unlawfully withdrew disability benefits from her PenFed account to offset Neal’s overdue loan payments.”[3]

This case has been assigned to United States District Court, District of Maryland’s 4th circuit court, Judge Ellen L. Hollander presiding, and is presumably ongoing.[4]


Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most common questions consumers have about student loan refinancing with PenFed.

  • Is PenFed good for refinancing student loans?
    PenFed may be a good option for borrowers who wish to assume ownership of a parent loan or combine student debt with a spouse; this is especially true of financially established and secure borrowers who are or want to become members of Pentagon Federal Credit Union.
  • Does PenFed have a minimum credit score requirement to refinance student loans?
    Yes, PenFed has a minimum credit score of 670 with a co-signer. To refinance up to $150,000 in student loans, a co-signer must have a minimum credit score of 720; to qualify without a co-signer, the borrower must have a credit score of 676 or higher. To refinance more than $150,000, a co-signer must have a minimum credit score of 725; to qualify without a co-signer, the borrower must also have a credit score of 725 or higher.
  • Are PenFed loans federal?
    No, PenFed loans are not federal. PenFed has no affiliation with the federal government or the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Does PenFed charge a prepayment penalty?
    No, there are no penalties for early payments or repaying a loan in full before its term is over.
  • Does checking your rates with PenFed hurt your credit score?
    PenFed performs a soft credit check for their prequalification process, which will not hurt your credit score. If you proceed with an application, however, PenFed will perform a hard credit check that may affect your credit score.
  • Is PenFed a bank?
    No, PenFed is not a bank; it was among the first credit unions founded under the Federal Credit Union Act as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1935.
  • Can I refinance a PenFed loan?
    Yes, you can refinance a PenFed student loan or a student loan from another private lender. There is no limit to the number of times a borrower may refinance with PenFed. Note, however, that every new line of credit requires a hard credit check that may affect your FICO score.
  • Can I refinance just some of my loans with PenFed?
    Yes, you can refinance some, all, or just one of your qualifying student loans with PenFed. You may choose to refinance your private loans only or refinance private and federal loans together.
  • Can I refinance loans that have already been refinanced?
    Yes, you can refinance loans as many times as you want with PenFed. Note that each time you refinance, you will have to submit a new application; every application requires a hard credit check that may affect your credit score.
  • Can my spouse and I refinance our loans together with PenFed?
    Yes, PenFed evaluates spouses together and allows them to combine debt. Spouse co-signers are exempt from co-signer release; 67% of co-signed PenFed student loan refinances are spousal loans.
  • How long does it take to refinance with PenFed?
    PenFed does not specify a full timeline but estimates 3-14 days for disbursement, with the first payment due 30 days after that.
  • Who services PenFed refinance loans?
    PenFed services all their own student refinance loans.
  • Does PenFed offer a grace period?
    No, PenFed does not offer a grace period.
  • Can I get any special rates or discounts with PenFed?
    PenFed does not advertise any discounts or rate reductions. Branch locations may offer their own promotions.
  • What happens if I file for bankruptcy?
    PenFed does not specify what action the lender will take but cautions that borrowers who file for bankruptcy “may still be required to pay back [their] loan.”[5]
  • Does PenFed partner with any major student refinance lender marketplaces?
    PenFed partners with Credible as part of its multilender marketplace. INvestEd and Purefy also advertise PenFed as a featured lender.

Compare Student Loan Refinance Reviews

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LendKey B+
College Ave B
PenFed B
SoFi B
Earnest B-
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INvestEd B-
MEFA B-
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Yrefy B-
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Juno D+
Discover D
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PNC Bank D-
NaviRefi F

Sources

  1. Truth In Advertising, Case 1:20-cv-00281-RDA-JFA
  2. Justia Docket & Filings, Ross et al v. Pentagon Federal Credit Union et al
  3. Casetext, Neal v. Pentagon Fed. Credit Union, Civil Action No. ELH-18-451
  4. Govinfo, Content Details: 18-451 – Neal v. Pentagon Federal Credit Union
  5. Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Refinance Student Loans
  6. PenFed, Student Loan Refinancing Overview
  7. PenFed, Eligibility Criteria
  8. Jacksonville University, The More You Know: Great Advice for Grad and Pro 2020
  9. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Consumer Complaint Database
  10. Dun & Bradstreet, Business Directory: Pentagon Federal Credit Union
  11. Better Business Bureau, Search Businesses and Charities