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PenFed Credit Union Money Market Certificates 2023 Review

Our review of PenFed Credit Union money market certificates (the equivalent of CDs) covers their interest rates, maturity terms, and early withdrawal penalties.

Credit unions can be a great place to save money while paying fewer fees than you would at a traditional bank.

PenFed Credit Union (short for Pentagon Federal Credit Union) is the second-largest credit union in the U.S.

Membership is open to everyone and it takes $5 to open an account.

PenFed offers money market certificate accounts along with other account options. Share certificates are the credit union equivalent of CD accounts.

Are PenFed Credit Union money market certificate rates worth it? Our review offers a closer look at how these certificate savings accounts work.

Earn More Interest With PenFed Credit Union Money Market Certificate Rates

If you're not up to speed on the basics of CD accounts, here's a quick primer.

These are time deposit accounts, meaning you agree to leave your money in your account for a set time. In return, the bank pays you interest until the CD matures.

Credit unions offer share certificates instead of CDs, but they work the same way. PenFed offers money market certificates with terms ranging from six months to seven years.

Ordinarily, the highest rates are usually reserved for the longest term. With PenFed, you'll get the best rate for your money with a two-year term certificate.

Here are some of the highlights of PenFed Credit Union money market certificates:

  • Multiple terms available with tiered rates
  • Guaranteed returns
  • NCUA-insured savings
  • $1,000 minimum deposit to open

Are PenFed Credit Union money market certificate rates good?

Overall, yes.

Compared to what you might find at other credit unions, traditional banks or even some online banks, PenFed certificate rates are impressive.

In fact, rates are well above the national average CD rates, as measured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Rates are guaranteed so it's easy to estimate how much your money could grow. You can open multiple money market certificates to take advantage of different rate tiers.

That's similar to CD laddering. When you ladder CDs, you open multiple accounts with varying maturity terms.

As each CD rolls over, you can decide whether to cash it out or move it into a new CD. You can do the same thing with PenFed Credit Union money market certificates if you want to continue earning solid rates on your money.

Is There a Penalty for Withdrawing Money Early?

Banks can charge an early withdrawal penalty if you take money out of a CD early. Credit unions can do the same thing if you withdraw money from a certificate account before the term ends.

PenFed Credit Union does charge an early withdrawal penalty. The amount of the penalty depends on the certificate term.

Again, you can easily get around these penalties by setting up a certificate ladder. If one of your certificates matures and you need the money, you can withdraw it penalty-free.

PenFed CU Money Market Certificate Early Withdrawal Penalties

CD Term Penalty
6-month/182-day certificates The most recent 90 days of dividends earned.
12, 15, 18, 24, 36, 48, 60 and 84-month certificates
  • Within 365 days of the open date of the certificate, the penalty will be the last 365 days of dividends earned.
  • After 365 days from the open date of the certificate have elapsed, the penalty will be 30% of the gross amount of dividends that would have been earned if the certificate had matured.

Certificate early withdrawal penalties can be costly, especially when you're earning a higher dividend rate.

So it's important to consider when you might need the money that you're depositing into certificate accounts.

The upside is that you won't pay any monthly maintenance or service fees for PenFed Credit Union money market certificates.

How to Open PenFed Money Market Certificates

Before you can open a money market certificate at PenFed Credit Union, you'll first need to become a member.

You can join the credit union online by filling out the application online. Some of the information you'll need includes your:

  • Name
  • Address and phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number

Again, you only need $5 to join but the minimum deposit for share certificates is $1,000.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) insures PenFed money market certificate accounts. NCUA coverage works like FDIC coverage, in that your deposits are insured in case the credit union fails (which is a rare occurrence).

Once your account is open you can manage your money online or through the PenFed mobile app. You can also bank in person at PenFed branches and ATMs.

Can You Open an IRA Certificate at PenFed Credit Union?

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) offers a tax-advantaged way to fund your retirement goals. Banks can offer an IRA CD option while credit unions can offer IRA certificates.

PenFed offers multiple IRA savings options, including:

  • IRA certificates
  • IRA Premier accounts
  • IRA savings accounts

PenFed IRA certificates come in terms ranging from one to seven years and they earn the same great rates as money market certificates. You'll need $1,000 to open an IRA certificate.

Should you use IRA certificates to save for retirement? Maybe, if you want to earn a guaranteed rate while enjoying some tax advantages.

Just keep in mind that, unlike other certificates or CDs, IRA certificates are subject to IRS annual contribution limits.

What Happens When Your PenFed Money Market Certificate Matures?

You can decide what happens with your PenFed money market certificate at the time you open your account.

Once your certificate matures, you can:

  • Transfer the money to another PenFed account
  • Roll the money over to a new certificate
  • Get a check in the mail
  • Transfer the amount to an external bank account via ACH

PenFed allows you to change your initial selection if you decide you want to do something else. You'll just need to make the change before the CD matures.

Can You Get a Better CD Rate With Other Banks?

Credit unions can offer higher rates than traditional banks, though they don't always keep pace with online banks. PenFed Credit Union is an exception, as certificate rates mirror what you can find at some of the top online banks.

But credit unions aren't always right for everyone. If you're interested in online banking options, here are three possibilities you might consider.

Synchrony Bank CDs

Synchrony Bank CDs have terms starting at three months and extending up to 60 months. In terms of the rates you can earn, they're similar to what you'll get at PenFed with a money market certificate.

There's no minimum balance required to open CDs with Synchrony vs. the $1,000 you'll need for a PenFed certificate. Synchrony also offers multiple CD options, including:

  • IRA CDs
  • No-penalty CDs
  • Bump-up CDs

Aside from CDs, Synchrony Bank also offers high-yield savings accounts, money market accounts and credit cards.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs CDs

Marcus by Goldman Sachs allows you to open CDs with terms ranging from six months to six years. You'll get above-average rates here, comparable to what you'll find at PenFed.

You'll need $500 to open a CD with Marcus, which is less than the $1,000 required for a PenFed money market certificate.

As far as variety goes, Marcus doesn't offer IRA CDs. You can, however, open online savings accounts, investment accounts, loans and credit cards here.

Ally Bank CDs

Ally Bank offers multiple CD options with no minimum deposit requirement. You can open high-yield CDs online in minutes and earn rates that reflect the higher APYs offered at PenFed.

You might consider Ally if you're interested in online banking with the option to invest and save in the same place.

Are PenFed Money Market Certificates a Good Choice for Savers?

Credit unions can offer certain benefits you don't always find at other banks, such as rate discounts on loans or lower fees. PenFed Credit Union is attractive since anyone can join. There are no special membership requirements to meet.

You might consider a PenFed money market certificate if you:

  • Want to try saving at a credit union
  • Have at least $1,000 to open an account
  • Are interested in an IRA certificate option

When comparing certificate accounts, it's important to weigh minimum deposit requirements, fees and interest rates to find the right one.

PenFed Credit Union money market certificates could be a great fit if you're used to traditional banks and want to switch things up.

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