First National Bank of Omaha is the largest, privately owned bank holding company in the United States. Family owned since its founding in 1857, the company has thrived through multiple generations, and now reports assets of just over $17 billion.
First National Bank is primarily a credit card lender, having started at the dawn of the industry in 1953. It was the seventh bank in the United States, and the first bank in the Midwest, to issue credit cards to its customers.
Later, in the 1970s, it won in a landmark Supreme Court case for credit card issuers in the United States on whether interest rates should be capped by the state in which a bank operated, or by the laws of the state in which the customer resided. (The Supreme Court ruled that national banks could charge rates based on the state in which they operated, thus First National Bank of Omaha could charge interest rates that were legal in Nebraska despite their illegality in other states.)
To this day, First National Bank of Omaha is a major credit card issuer. The company issues cards up and down the credit spectrum, from ultra low-interest cards for prime customers and secured cards for people with no or low credit scores.
First National Bank Secured Visa Credit Card
For people with low- or no credit, First National Bank offers a secured credit card with limits ranging from $300 to $5,000, based on your deposit. A secured credit card functions just like a typical unsecured credit card, with the exception that you must put up collateral in an amount equal to your credit line. Thus, if you want a secured card with a $1,000 limit, you'll need to give First National Bank a $1,000 deposit.
The benefit is that virtually anyone can get approved for a secured card, since the bank takes no risk in issuing one. (If you don't pay on time, the bank will simply use your deposit to cover your outstanding balances.) In addition, a secured card reports your payments to the credit bureaus as if it were an unsecured card, which can be helpful for those who wish to build or repair their credit score.
In due time, and with a good history of on-time payments, First National Bank will return your deposit so that your card is completely unsecured. Its website suggests that it will consider its secured card users for an unsecured card after 11 months of on-time payments.
Unfortunately, secured cards come at a cost. First National Bank's secured card, like many, carries an annual fee of $29 per year. In general, credit card companies make little, if anything, from normal fees and interest charges on low-limit secured cards -- the annual fee is their primary profit driver.
First National Bank's Prime Credit Cards
For those with above-average credit scores, FNBO is one of the best lenders in the low-interest category. Its top prime card provides 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and an interest rate of just 6.25% per year, based on a premium of 3 percentage points over the current Prime rate of 3.25%. The card carries no annual fee, and you can redeem your rewards in increments of $25.00.
Select customers are also invited to a so-called "Prime for Life" card, which offers an interest rate equal to the prime rate (currently 3.25%) for life. This card, however, carries an annual fee of $89, which may make it uneconomic for borrowers who do not carry a balance, or only carry small balances from month to month. If you don't carry a balance, you can ignore the interest rate all together -- when you pay in full each month, you'll never be charged a dime in interest.
Some words of caution
Some customers report that First National Bank of Omaha is a particularly conservative credit card issuer. As a result, it tends to issue cards with lower credit lines than other institutions, while others report that the company has a tendency to lower credit limits with little notice. In addition, it manually reviews all applications, so don't expect an instant approval.
Of course, given that its rates are much lower than the industry average, it has to be conservative in who it lends to, and on what terms. The company's prime cards carry interest rates that are roughly half the recently reported BankRate average of 11.62% for cards in the "low interest" category.