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ShopSmart: How To Nab A Free Flight

Tips for earning the most free travel over time; Plus, airline and bank cards that go a long way toward a free flight

YONKERS, N.Y., March 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Airline credit cards and bank cards often offer points toward free air travel, but some will earn card users more free travel than others over time.  The April 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, features tips for deciding which card to use when looking for discounted travel and highlights some of the best airline and bank card reward formulas currently available. 

"You've got more options than ever for credit cards that let you rack up points for free travel," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "But finding one that will score you free tickets the fastest can be tricky. Depending on your travel and spending patterns, sometimes airline cards are best but sometimes you're better off with bank cards."

Bank Cards vs. Airline Cards

ShopSmart recommends airline cards for the following types of users:  Those who are loyal to a particular airline and who travel a lot; those who want a free trip fast; and those who like to wheel and deal.  Frequent-flyer miles earned by traveling with an airline and its partners can often be combined with points earned by purchases – and there are perks such as free checked bags.  Airline cards usually aren't as generous with points, but may be worth it for those who can score a decent up-front bonus.  Airline card users should check offers listed on an airline's website and use them as a starting bid when calling the airline directly to negotiate a deal or to ask for double points.  A notable caveat: Blackout dates and other restrictions can be an issue with airline cards.

Bank cards are better suited for these types of travelers:  Those who fly based on price; those who don't want to deal with blackout dates and other restrictions; and those enrolled in many frequent-flyer programs.  Users can earn points on purchases and spend them on any airline they choose – points are usually tied to the price of the ticket, so the lower the price, the fewer the points needed.  Bank cards are a better option for those concerned about when they can fly and how much time they have to use their points.  Some cards allow users to transfer earned points to a variety of airline programs.

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