Best credit cards to use for travel and rewards, from Card Hub

Los Angeles Times Daily Deals and Travel Blogger, which compares and rates credit-card offers, has identified its favorite travel credit cards for 2013. Topping the list are the Capital One Venture Card, Blue Cash Preferred from American Express and the PenFed Platinum Rewards Card issued by the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

Credit cards make sense for travelers for many reasons, including getting free or low currency exchange rates when abroad, free rental-car insurance coverage and reward bonuses earned for dollars spent. But there’s a word of caution that comes with this too.

Reward cards work well for those who pay their bills in full, Card Hub Chief Executive Odysseas Papadimitriou said in a statement. Otherwise, folks are better off with a 0% interest rate offer (Citi Diamond Preferred Card and the Slate Card from Chase don’t charge interest until after at least a year) that allows them to pay off a vacation over time. (All of this assumes you have good credit and qualify for the cards in the first place.)


Back to the cards with the best rewards:

--Capital One Venture card offers 2% cash back on all purchases and free foreign transactions. You don’t pay the $59 annual fee until the second year.

--Blue Cash Preferred takes a tiered approach with 6% back on groceries, 3% back on gas and department store purchases and 1% on other expenses. It has a $75 annual fee and charges 2.7% for foreign transaction fees.

--PenFed Platinum Reward Card is open to all who qualify and operates on a point system that allows you to redeem points for credit at 1% rate of what you spend. No annual fee, though there may be a $10 membership charge.

Card Hub also singled out Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard, Hilton HHonors Surpass Credit Card and Club Carlson Premier Rewards Card as the best cards to use for a one-time initial bonus when you charge a certain amount.

It notes, according to a Card Hub first-quarter report, “the average cash-back initial bonus is nearly 34% more valuable than last year and points/miles bonuses are up about 14%.”

For more on credit card rankings and comparing credit card offers, go to Card Hub’s website.

Follow us on Twitter @latimestravel, like us on Facebook @Los Angeles Times Travel.