Travel cards that save you money

March 8, 2013 2:54:15 PM PST
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.

It's downright confusing trying to figure out which offers the best deal.

"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," Walker said.

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," she 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," Walker said.

Consumer Reports says another plus is 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, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa or MasterCard and the 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 like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold. That's because those cards let you transfer earned points to a number of airlines.

This report is based on an article in the February 2013 issue of Consumer Reports Money Adviser.