Best reward credit cards for free travel

Don't Waste Your Money

Today's travel cards can be a great way to stretch your dollars, if you pay your balance off every month. But it's downright confusing trying to figure out which offers the best deal.

Our partners at Consumer Reports Magazine have just crunched the numbers, and found some top reward cards for 2013.

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.

Top Airline Cards

Consumer Reports recommends the:

  • 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.

Bank Cards Better For Some

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 perks 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.

As always, don't waste your money.

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