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5 credit cards with big summer travel rewards

In the depths of winter, many Americans are daydreaming about their summer travel plans. To save money on your warm weather getaways, now is the time to consider applying for a credit card that can offer summer travel rewards and benefits.

If you're considering adding a rewards credit card to your wallet's arsenal, keep in mind that these cards are best suited to cardholders who don't carry a balance from month to month, as any interest charges you'd incur can outweigh the rewards the cards offer. These cards also generally come with higher interest rates than standard credit cards. Before you apply for any new credit card, you should check your credit scores to see if you can qualify for the best interest rate possible. You can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

This winter, there are five credit cards that will help you get where you want to go this summer, and save you money once you get there.

1. Barclaycard Arrival Plus

This card offers new cardholders 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within 90 days of account opening. These miles are worth one cent each as statement credit towards any travel expenses, and cardholders receive a 10% mileage rebate on redeemed miles. Therefore, the total value of these bonus miles is $444. In addition, cardholders earn double miles on all purchases with no limits. When traveling overseas, cardholders will benefit from having an EMV smart chip that is compatible with the Chip and PIN implementation, not just Chip and Signature, and no foreign transaction fees. There is an $89 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.

2. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card from Chase

This card offers new customers 50,000 Rapid Rewards points when they spend $2,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. These 50,000 points are worth $700 in award tickets in their "Wanna Get Away" fare class on any flight. In fact, there are no change or cancellation fees for these awards, so it results in very flexible tickets. In contrast, traditional airline awards can be very hard to find, and travelers can face huge fees should they need to change or cancel their flights. Finally, this credit card offers points that bring cardholders nearly halfway to the 110,000 points needed for a Companion Pass, which is good for unlimited free travel for a designated person on a revenue or award ticket (except for taxes). There is a $69 annual fee for this card.

3. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Hotels and American Express offer this card that earns points in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. New applicants receive 10,000 points after their first purchase, and another 15,000 points after using their card to make $5,000 in purchases within six months of account opening. Starwood points can be used to book award nights at Starwood Properties, which include Westins, Sheratons and other brands, starting at just 2,000 points a night. In addition, these points can be transferred to airline miles with more than 30 different carriers, making it one of the most valuable loyalty programs offered. There is a $65 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.

4. The Discover It Card with 14 months of interest-free financing

If you need to reserve your summer travel now, but need some time to pay for the purchases, then you can use a card with a promotional financing offer like the Discover it card. New applicants receive 14 months of 0% APR financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee. This card also offers 1% cash back on all purchases, and an additional 4% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made each quarter at eligible retailers. For the first quarter of 2015, qualifying purchases include gas stations and ground transportation including buses, taxis and trains. There is no annual fee for this card.

5. BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card from Bank of America

If you are planning on traveling overseas this summer, and are on a tight budget, then you need a card with no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and EMV smart chip compatibility. That narrows down your choices to just a few cards including the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card from Bank of America. In addition to having all of those features, cardholders earn 1.5 points per dollar spent, and points can be used for travel anywhere, any time with no blackout dates. In addition, new cardholders can receive 10,000 bonus points when they use their card to spend $500 on purchases within their first 90 days of card membership.

Note: It's important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for creditcards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with creditcard issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/