Saving a Buck: Best travel, bank 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 every month.

But it’s downright confusing trying to figure out which offers the best deal.

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,” she said. “Which type is best for you depends on what kind of traveler you are.”

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

“Airline cards are also good if you want a free trip fast,” she 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.”

Top airline cards:

  • Delta Sky Miles American Express Gold
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa
  • U.S. 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,” she said. “They let you earn rewards on the purchases you make, then use them to buy tickets on any airline.”

Consumer Reports said another plus to bank cards, they are not subject to blackout dates and points don’t generally expire.

Top bank cards:

  • American Express Premier Rewards Gold
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa or Mastercard
  • Penfed Premium Travel Rewards American Express

A real benefit with all three, 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, you’re probably better off with one of the high-end American Express bank cards like the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold.

Those cards let you transfer earned points to a number of airlines.