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6 best credit cards for summer travel

Some are offering very lucrative sign-up bonuses and others have excellent continuing rewards that set them apart.

By MSN Money Partner May 18, 2012 11:07AM

This post comes from Odysseas Papadimitriou at Card Hub.

 

Card Hub on MSN MoneyThere's no shortage of studies out there predicting that consumers will travel more this summer than last. Yet making ends meet could prove tough, given the high price of gas over the past few months and the still-recovering U.S. economy. That's where the hundreds of dollars in rewards bonuses being offered by credit card companies to new customers with excellent credit come in.

Image: Credit card (© Corbis)So which cards offer the most lucrative initial bonuses? After comparing more than 1,000 credit card offers, Card Hub has identified the following cards as being the most valuable for summer travelers.

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Recommended for all travelers

 

Charging $3,000 to this card during the first three months gets you 40,000 bonus points that can be redeemed for $500 in travel booked through Chase's Ultimate Rewards program or a $400 statement credit. You don't have to worry about the Sapphire Card's value being diminished by fees, because Chase waives its $95 annual fee during the first year and does not assess a surcharge for international purchases. (Post continues below.)

British Airways Credit Card

Recommended for jet-setters

 

You might assume this card to be solely for those with international travel destinations, but British Airways' partnership with American Airlines makes its 50,000- to 100,000-mile initial bonus appealing to anyone trying to save money on airfare this summer. The 50,000 Avios miles you receive after your first purchase are redeemable for either one round-trip trans-Atlantic flight or two round-trip cross-country domestic flights. While cardholders do have to pay a $95 annual fee, they don't have to worry about foreign transaction fees should they venture abroad.

Hilton HHonors Surpass Credit Card

Recommended for those with a "suite" tooth

 

The combination of a 60,000-point initial bonus and Hilton's 3,750 properties worldwide makes this card a great option for people looking for a place to stay during their travels. You get 40,000 points after your first purchase and 20,000 more when you've spent $3,000. Depending on how nice a hotel you wish to stay in, that's enough for one to eight free nights. This card charges a $75 annual membership fee and a 2.7% foreign-transaction fee, so don't take it with you if you book a stay abroad.

PenFed Platinum Rewards Card

Recommended for road trippers

 

While gas prices have fallen in most states, a visit to the pump is still pretty expensive. The PenFed Platinum Rewards Card, which Card Hub named the best gas rewards credit card for 2012, is therefore an attractive option for anyone driving to a vacation destination this summer. It offers five points per dollar spent on gas at any station, three points per dollar at supermarkets, one point per dollar everywhere else, and a $250 initial bonus. While cardholders don't have to pay an annual fee, you do have to join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which anyone can do for $15.

 Now that you're familiar with the best initial bonuses on the credit card market, here's a look at a couple of cards that will prove fruitful both this summer travel season and beyond. Both have decent initial bonuses, but their excellent continuing rewards are what set them apart.

 

Capital One Venture Card

Recommended for frequent travelers

 

The simplicity and value of this card's continuing rewards -- 2% cash back on all purchases when you redeem miles for travel-related charges -- have long made it a favorite of frequent travelers. Its $100 initial bonus, no first-year annual fee ($59 thereafter), and no foreign transaction fees make it immediately beneficial as well.

 

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Recommended for traveling chefs

 

The Blue Cash Preferred is one of the best everyday rewards credit cards on the market because it offers 6% cash back at supermarkets, 3% at gas stations and department stores, and 1% everywhere else. It's therefore a perfect choice for people who plan on cooking their own meals while on vacation. While this card does charge both a $75 annual fee and a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, the $150 initial bonus you get for spending $1,000 during the first three months effectively invalidates these costs

 

Now that you know Card Hub's picks for the best travel credit cards, all that's left to do is pick your card, apply and send your new credit card company a thank-you postcard from your favorite vacation spot.

 

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