Travel cards can help stretch vacation dollars

Consumer Reports compares bank cards, airline cards


SAN ANTONIO - If you're dreaming of a sunny beach or ski trip, the right travel card can help you get there.

Consumer Reports crunched the numbers to see which type helps you get a good deal and save money.

"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  Amanda Walker, Consumer Reports' money adviser.

If you travel a lot on a particular airline, an airline card is best.

"Airline cards are also good if you want a free trip fast," Walker said. "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."

Some good airline cards are Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa and US Airways Dividend Miles Premier World MasterCard, according to Consumer Reports.

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," Walker said. "They let you earn rewards on the purchases you make, then use them to buy tickets on any airline."

They are also not subject to blackout dates and points generally do not expire.

Some good bank cards are the American Express Premier Rewards gold, Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa or MasterCard and the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards Express, according to Consumer Reports.

There is no annual fee the first year with all three cards.

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

Travel cards can help you stretch your dollar, but only if you pay off your balance every month.

For a list of recent stories Marilyn Moritz has done, click here.


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