Listen weekdays from 1-3pm ET
(No audio? Try our help)
Recent shows | More media

Listen Live: Mon-Fri 1-3pm ET

Posted: 10:10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 13, 2014

The 7 Best Travel Reward Cards

  • comment(12)

By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


Looking for the best travel reward cards? I want to share results of a new NextAdvisor study that names cards offering the best dollar value per point or mile.

  1. Barclayscard Arrival World MasterCard with double points (Earn $2 for a flight or hotel for every $100 spent)
  2. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (Earn $2 for a flight or hotel for every $100 spent)
  3. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express ($1.35 for flight and $2.61 for hotel)
  4. BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card ($1.50 for flight and hotel)
  5. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card from Chase ($1.72 for flight and $1.00 for hotel)
  6. United MileagePlus Explorer Card ($1.75 for flight and 92 cents for hotel)
  7. BlueSky from American Express ($1.33 for flight and hotel)


Now, on to a different question...

WHO ARE THE BEST AND WORST AIRLINES FOR MILES REDEMPTION?

According to a recent study I read about in The Wall Street Journal, the hardest major airline to redeem miles on is US Airways, followed by Delta. You have a 36% chance of being able to redeem as you wish with those airlines, which is pathetic. The best airline for redeeming miles? Southwest, with a 100% redemption rate, followed closely by AirTran with a 95% redemption rate.

Meanwhile, if you have frequent flier miles that you can't seem to use...

HOW TO FIGURE OUT THE BEST WAY TO USE YOUR MILES OR POINTS

Free websites like GoMiles.com (recently acquired by Traxo.com) and AwardWallet.com will take a scalpel to your rewards account to tell you the best use of your miles or points for a particular airline or hotel .

You give these sites access to your loyalty accounts and they alert you to deals, warn you if miles are expiring, and tell you about the best uses of miles at that moment. It's a great way to leverage the value in those miles, though not every site participates with every airline's loyalty program.

People usually try for domestic upgrades to first class. But as a general rule, the best use of frequent-flier miles is for front of the plane travel overseas. That often means Asia (from the Eastern half of the U.S.) and Europe (from the Western U.S.,) plus the Southern hemisphere (from anywhere in the country.)

Both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are hostile to the idea of people using these sites mentioned above because they claim, among other things, that they own the frequent-flier mile account passwords.

The truth is the travel provider can raise the cost of a reward like a flight or a hotel stay anytime they want. That's why you should always use a cash-back rewards card rather than a travel card; there's no devaluation or expiration date on cash!

For further reading:

 

  • comment(12)