FNBO axing La Quinta card, converting cardholders to BucksBack

Holders of the First National Bank of Omaha La Quinta Returns Credit Card are being informed by mail (see the letter on Reddit) that FNBO is ending its relationship with La Quinta on Sept. 19, 2017.

If you have this card, you’ll be automatically converted to the BucksBack card which, interestingly, is no longer available to the general public.

Here’s what the change means for you.

The transition

  • Starting Sept. 20, 2017, you’ll no longer earn La Quinta rewards points with the card. Any spending you do on your La Quinta Returns credit card will earn rewards in the BucksBack system (more on that below).
  • Your physical BucksBack card will arrive in the second half of October 2017.

There’s no news as of yet if another issuer will release a co-branded La Quinta rewards card. Any La Quinta points you’ve previously earned with your card will be fine, as they automatically would have been deposited into your La Quinta rewards account anyway.

What’s the BucksBack card?

The BucksBack card is a cash-back product from FNBO. It was a limited-time-only 2 percent cash-back product offered back in 2015. Public applications closed for the BucksBack card at the end of 2015. So, if you have the La Quinta card, you’re essentially getting a card that nobody else can apply for.

Here are the details on the BucksBack card

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 2 points per dollar spent on most purchases. Each point is worth 1 cent each, so you’re earning 2 percent cash back.
  • Redeem in increments of 2,500 points (worth $25). You can redeem for an account statement credit, an ACH deposit into a checking/savings account, or a check sent by mail.

For comparison, here are the details on the La Quinta Returns card:

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 5 LQ points per dollar on LQ stays; 2 points per dollar on car rentals, gas and dining; 1 point on general spending
  • Points were redeemable for free nights or transfers to La Quinta’s travel partners.

A favorable conversion?

The BucksBack card earns you points that are worth 1 cent each, plain and simple. That’s a bit hard to compare to a program that earns you hotel points (which fluctuate in value depending on how you redeem). But let’s do the math on a few examples:

  1. A reward night at the La Quinta El Paso Airport hotel on Oct. 15, 2017 can be had for 6,000 points or $52.70, for a per-point value of 0.87 cents each.
  2. A reward night at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Manhattan on Dec. 31, 2017 can be had for 24,000 points or $470, for a per-point value of 1.9 cents each.

As you can see, point value fluctuates based on the price of the hotel you book (which, in turn, fluctuates by date).

As for return on spending, you get 2 percent cash back with the BucksBack card. With the La Quinta card, you might have been able to beat that IF you spent a lot at La Quinta properties (and got 5 points per dollar) and then redeemed those points strategically. However, you’d also be contending with room availability and whether you had enough points to redeem for a free night. The BucksBack card, with its ability to always redeem in increments of 2,500 points, makes redemptions a bit easier.

So, in sum, you may miss your La Quinta card if:

  • You frequently paid for La Quinta stays with your card or spent a lot in the bonus categories
  • You enjoyed redeeming for high-cost properties (to maximize point value)

You’ll likely be happy with the transition to BucksBack if you

  • Do the majority of your spending outside La Quinta
  • Frequently burned your La Quinta points at low-cost properties (and therefore got a poor redemption value)

All in all, the switch to BucksBack isn’t a bad one, considering that flat 2-percent cash-back cards are still somewhat rare.

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