Which rewards travel credit cards are the best?

March 18, 2013 4:57:08 PM PDT
We just got through Spring Break, but you might already be thinking about your summer vacation plans. So how about stretching your travel dollars with a rewards travel card?

Today's travel credit cards can be a great way to save big; of course that is if you pay your balance off every month. But it's downright confusing trying to figure out which offers the best deal. So Consumer Reports Money Adviser crunches the numbers for you.

Dreaming of a vacation on a sunny beach or a ski trip to the Rockies? The right travel card can help get you there. But which give the best award travel and great travel deals?

Consumer Reports Money Adviser's Amanda Walker did some digging.

"You can choose either an airline card or a bank card. Which type is best for you depends on what kind of traveler you are," said Walker.

Choose an airline card if you travel a lot on one particular airline.

"Airline cards are also good if you want a free trip fast. While they're not usually as generous with rewards as bank cards, you can sometimes score a bonus as high as 50,000 points when you sign up," Walker said.

Some good airline cards are: Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa and US Airways Dividend Miles Premier World MasterCard. For every dollar spent with the airline, you get two miles or two points.

"If you don't fly a particular airline, a bank card is the way to go. They let you earn rewards on the purchases you make, then use them to buy tickets on any airline," said Walker.

Consumer Reports says another plus is that bank cards are not subject to blackout dates and points don't generally expire.

Some good bank cards are: the American Express Premier Rewards Gold, Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa or MasterCard and PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express. A real benefit with all three is that there's no annual fee the first year.

Choose a travel card wisely, and a great vacation could well be within reach.

If you're a member of several frequent flyer programs, Consumer Reports says you're probably better off with one of the high-end American Express bank cards like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold. That's because those cards let you transfer earned points to a number of airlines.
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