You might have a First National Bank of Omaha credit card and not even be fully aware because their brand is pretty low key. Here’s my analysis of their various card offers…
You will probably be surprised to learn that FNBO is the largest privately-owned bank in the country, as well as a major player in the credit card industry. This means it’s a very different animal relative to the too big to fail Wall Street banks and other major card issuers in the market that are public companies.
You see, not only do they issue First National credit cards, but they are also among the top 3 banks which service cards for other financial institutions and retailers – reportedly over 700 clients use them. This is a fairly opaque behind the scenes operation that most consumers aren’t aware of but it is a very big and profitable business.
For example, if you have a card from Union Bank, it’s actually issued by First Bankcard (FNBO subsidiary). The same can be said about the Overstock.com MasterCard.
Of course, First National also offer cards under their own name. I’ll review each of their offers for you but please be aware that they are known for being quite conservative with it comes to approval. So if you don’t have excellent credit, your odds of qualifying might not be so good.
First National Bank American Express
This credit card has no annual fee and gives cash back of 2% on qualifying gas and grocery purchases, and 1% elsewhere.
Keep in mind that even though it’s branded as an American Express, the card is managed/issued by First National. The AmEx logo just represents the payment network that transactions are processed over. Fortunately, that still entitles cardholders to get the standard AmEx benefits on eligible purchases; extended warranty, purchase protection, travel accident insurance, and auto rental insurance (secondary coverage).
Verdict? This is definitely among the best credit cards out there for those 2 categories. However it still falls short of the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express which gives 3% on the first $6,000 spent per year at US supermarkets; 2% at US gas stations and select US dept stores; 1% on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply. No annual fee.
First National Bank Graphite American Express
This one comes with higher rewards, but at a cost – a $99 annual fee, although it is waived for the first year.
For that you get 3% on airlines, 2% on gas and grocery, and 1% everywhere else. Like the card above, this one also operates over the AmEx payment network, but is not issued by them. You get the AmEx features mentioned above.
Verdict? Ultimately the difference between the Graphite and the other AmEx is the 3% rewards on airlines. Is that worth paying $99/year for? Review my math and see how it fits in with your spending pattern:
- With the average 1% cash back card, if you spend $4,950 per year on airlines you will have earned $49.50 cash back.
- If you spend $4,950 on airlines using this specific First National credit card, your 3% would have earned $148.50 cash back.
- The difference between $148.50 and $49.50 = $99.00 which is the same as the card’s annual fee.
That means if you spend about $5,000+ per year on airlines, then it’s worth paying the $99 for the Graphite AmEx. If not, there’s no point in paying $99 to upgrade your rewards.
Maximum Rewards Platinum Edition Visa Card
Unfortunately this card isn’t nearly as exciting as their AmEx cards. All you get with this card is 1 point per dollar. Granted, there’s no annual fee, but still this is nothing to write home about.
Of course the question is… how much are their points worth? Well you can redeem for merchandise, gift cards, travel, etc. The usual credit card reward options more or less.
The best redemption values come from $50+ gift cards (5,000 pts for $50 gift card = 1 cent per point). If you’re up for travel, it’s possible to get a higher value. Examples:
Those are 4 of 29 different tiers and each of them gives more or less the same – up to 1.20 to 1.25 cents per point. Of course that’s assuming the price of your ticket comes in on the higher end of the tier. If you spend 20,000 points for a $205 plane ticket, that’s not much more than 1%.
Verdict? The biggest disappointment is that there are no special categories for you to earn higher rewards. However on the bright side, the ability for your points to be worth slightly more than 1% (when redeemed for air travel) is definitely nice.
First National Bank of Omaha Discover
Similar to their AmEx cards, transactions on this card are processed over the Discover payment network, but it’s not issued by Discover. So when you call customer support, you are speaking with First National Bank of Omaha.
With no annual fee and up to 5% cash back, this is perhaps the most intriguing offer in this bank’s credit card lineup. Here’s how it works…
On regular spending…
On spending that earns additional rewards…
Now as you notice, the fine print doesn’t actually specify what these “qualifying” transactions are. So I called up First National’s cardholder customer service and asked. The answer? Surprisingly all purchases qualify. I thought it would only be specific categories, but the service rep said that all purchases count. And “Qualification Period” refers to the 12 months, resetting on the date the account is opened.
Verdict? 5% on everything is mighty impressive. It is, but to understand the true cash back value you need to look at the spending requirements to earn that.
Say you spent $20,000 over 12 months, this is what you would have earned:
0.005% x $2,500 = $12.50
1.00% x $7,500 ($2500.01 thru $10,000) = $75.00
4.00% x $3,750 ($10,000.01 thru $13,750) = $150.00, plus the normal 1% = $187.50
1.00% x $6,250 ($13,750.01 thru $20,000) = $62.50
Grand Total = $337.50 cash back for spending $20,000
That equals a 1.69% rebate. Which is obviously great, but if your annual spending is below the sweet spot (the range between $10,000 and $13,750) then none of your spending would have qualified for the extra 4% and therefore, your rebate average would actually be below 1%.
Verdict? Excellent program for anyone who averages at least $1,000+ in monthly spending. However that still won’t beat the cards that give you up to 2% cash back on all spending.
Platinum Edition MasterCard
If you’re rewards chaser, sorry this one is not for you. It doesn’t offer any rewards, but it does come with a relatively low interest rate. There’s no annual fee.
As I write this review the APR ranged from 9.99% to 17.99% (based on your credit score/history). If you came in on the low end of that range, 9.99% is a few points lower than most credit cards these days. Also when I checked, there was a intro APR of 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers.
Verdict? My guess is that the credit score requirements are going to be more lenient on this one, compared to the AmEx and Discover cards. So if your credit isn’t top-notch and you just want a First National Bank credit card, this would probably be the one to apply for.
Platinum Edition Visa Card
This is basically the same as the First National MasterCard, except obviously, this one is branded as Visa.
The interest rate ranges are the same on this one and it also advertised the 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers.
Verdict? A good no-frills card if you are a balance carrier. Like the Platinum Visa card, this is not the best choice for the rewards chaser who pays their bill in full.
First National Bank of Omaha gives good rewards, and when I called them while writing these reviews, I received friendly US-based customer service. Even though their rewards might not be the absolute best, they’re definitely among the best and I think this bank has a bright future. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if 10 or 15 years from now, their credit card popularity rivals Chase, Citi, and the other big boys. Because obviously, the First National credit cards are gunning for that territory given their generous rewards.
Review written or last updated January 23, 2015