Consumer Reports reviews travel cards for getaway deals

Airline and bank cards reviewed

SAN DIEGO - Daylight saving time will have families thinking about summer vacations, and Consumer Reports money advisors crunched the numbers for the best bank and airline cards to stretch the family budget.

Travel cards can be a great way to save money, if you pay your balance off every month. In some cases, members are eligible for free flights by using the cards.

Consumer Reports reviewed airline cards and bank cards, and 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.

Consumer Reports lists the top airline cards as 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, Consumer Reports researchers advise 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 said another bonus of bank cards is they are not subject to blackout dates. Also, points don't generally expire.

Researchers listed good bank cards as American Express Premier Rewards Gold, Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa or MasterCard and PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express.

A benefit with all three bank cards is there's no annual fee the first year.

If you're a member of several frequent-flyer programs, Consumer Reports said 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.

Choose a travel card wisely and a great vacation could well be within reach.

Complete ratings and recommendations are available to Consumer Reports subscribers at

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