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The top travel rewards cards

You can get a jump on paying for next summer's vacation by using the right card this year. A consumer website ranks cards by the payback per $100 spent.

By Mitch Lipka Jun 5, 2013 1:42PM

Man at concierge © Comstock, Getty ImagesIf you're looking to give your travel plans a boost by earning rewards from a credit card, sorting out which one is the best for you can be complicated.

The folks at took away some of the guesswork by evaluating how quickly your credit card spending can be converted into rewards -- by calculating what it would take to earn a free flight or hotel room. They ranked the cards based on the reward value they deliver per $100 of credit card use.

"We were able to put a real-world value on the points and miles users earn with travel credit cards"'s Tasha Lockyer said. "Clarifying the actual monetary value of these rewards makes it easier for users to compare the cards and choose the best one for their needs."

Each card was ranked based on how much it delivers in hotel and flight rewards. The Barclay Arrival card delivered rewards at a rate of 2%, or $2 per $100 spent, for both flight and hotel rewards. The Capital One Venture Rewards card had the same return.

The Barclay card was given the edge because while it offers other reward options -- including redeeming for gift cards -- users are given a 10% bonus if they use their rewards for travel. That something NextAdvisor described as "a huge benefit we have not seen with any other rewards card." The Starwood card delivered a whopping $2.61 per $100 for hotel rewards, by far the biggest return in either category, and $1.35 per $100 for airline rewards.

Certainly, loyalty is an issue for many consumers, too. If you're invested in a particular airline or hotel chain it can be difficult to change -- or not worth considering at all. And it's a pretty safe bet that when you sign up for a card sponsored by an airline it will be better at producing air travel rewards, with same holding true for hotel-sponsored cards and their rewards.

Here's the rest of the top 10 and their return per $100 spending for air travel and hotel rewards, respectively:

  • BankAmericard Travel Rewards ($1.50/$1.50)
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card from Chase ($1.72/$1.00)   
  • United MileagePlus® Explorer Card($1.75/$0.92)
  • Blue Sky from American Express ($1.33/$1.33)
  • Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage Visa Signature Card ($1.80/$0.84)
  • Hyatt Credit Card from Chase ($0.82/$1.68)
  • Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card ($1.25/$1.25)
Other cards evaluated were the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire, Marriott Rewards Premier from Chase, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, and Gold Delta SkyMiles from American Express.

Most of the cards charge annual fees -- typically after a complimentary first year.

More from MSN Money:

Aug 7, 2013 3:20AM
I compared the barclaycard at nextadvisor.  I compared it to m USBank Flexperks card and decided to stay with USBank; found the redemption rates to be better.  Thanks for the info though - always looking for a better deal.
Jul 30, 2013 12:53AM
That nextadvisor site is helpful, though you might want to also try plugging your personal spending pattern into the rewards calculator at .   

That calculator finds the best card and combinations of cards for your entered spending profile and tells you the dollar value of the rewards you can expect from each card.
Jun 6, 2013 5:23PM
Very informative article. I just visited and signed up for the #1 ranked travel card. There is a lot more information on each of the cards on-site. It appears they also rank other card types too based on value.
Jun 6, 2013 5:21PM
This is a great article with infor
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