Consumer Reports rates the best travel cards

      Getting the most for your money is just common sense. Today's travel cards can be a great way to stretch your dollars,that is if you pay your balance off every month. But it's downright confusing trying to figure out which offers the best deal. Consumer Reports Money Adviser crunches the numbers for you.

      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. 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. Though they are 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.

      Some good airline cards are

      Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold
      Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa
      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. Those let you earn rewards on the purchases you make, then use them to buy tickets on any airline.

      Consumer Reports says other pluses are that bank cards are not subject to blackout dates and points don't generally expire. Some good bank cards are

      American Express Premier Rewards Gold
      Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa or MasterCard
      PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express

      A real benefit with all three is 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, such as the Amex Premier Rewards Gold. That's because those cards let you transfer earned points to a number of airlines.


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