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5 credit cards every traveler should consider

If you travel frequently, you might want to shop for a plastic friend with better benefits, such as double points every time you charge your gas.
Image: Credit cards
Frequent travelers can reap rewards with the right plastic.Martin Moxter

We know, you and your credit card have been through a lot together. You used it to buy your new laptop and your vacation to France, to pay the electricity bill and support your weekly Whole Foods habit. There have been good times, like the time your card covered your car rental insurance, or the time you got a $50 gift card in the mail from the company's rewards program.

But ask yourself, what has your credit card really done for you lately? Hiked its annual percentage rate, added mysterious fees, punished you for foreign transactions' on your trip to Mexico? Accept it: This relationship isn't going to work out. It's time to put your spending power into a credit card program that values your thirst for traveling.

Citi Gold/AAdvantage Visa Signature Card
Best for: Domestic travelers who often fly to the same destination.
So you visit your grandmother twice a year in Cincinnati and fly home to Santa Barbara on all major holidays? This Visa card features a Reduced Mileage Awards program that allows cardholders to fly to select AA destinations (for 7,500 fewer miles) on a round-trip ticket. If you spend just $750 on the card in the first four months, American Airlines will award you 20,000 bonus miles. You'll earn one AAdvantage mile for every dollar spent, and there are no blackout dates for travel. Annual fee after first year: $50.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Best for: Globetrotters.
Let's say it together now: no foreign transaction fees. That means you won't be charged extra for using your card anywhere overseas, a crucial benefit for international travelers. The Chase Sapphire Preferred also lets you turn your points into miles with a 1:1 exchange into Continental/United Airlines and British Airways. The introductory offer is tempting: spend $3,000 in the first three months and you'll earn 50,000 miles. Annual fee after first year: $95.

Starwood Preferred Guest/American Express
Best for: Hotel connoisseurs and travelers to Latin America.
Always wanted to stay at the W Barcelona or the St. Regis New York? Starpoints earned on this card can be redeemed at over 1,000 hotels in nearly 100 countries. The first time you use your card, you'll earn 10,000 Starpoints, enough for a free night at a 4-star property You can also transfer your Starpoints on a 1:1 basis into more than 30 frequent-flier programs. Travelers to Central and South America win especially big with this card — Starpoints are instantly doubled if you transfer them into LAN's frequent flier program. Annual fee after first year: $65.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
Best for: Big spenders.
Do you put more than $2,000 a month on your credit card? This program will triple your points when you buy a plane ticket and double your points when you spend on gas and groceries. Because the annual fee is on the steep side, this card is a much better deal if you rack up a lot of charges on your card each month. Your earned points never expire; use them on any airline, anytime, by reserving a flight through American Express Travel, or transfer them into your preferred frequent flyer program. Annual fee after first year: $175.

Continental Airlines OnePass Plus Chase MasterCard
Best for: Continental/United frequent flyers.
The Continental/United frequent flyer program is widely considered one of the easiest to use-it often charges fewer miles to qualify for a free ticket than other programs do and there are fewer blackout dates. The OnePass Plus offers cardholders a free checked bag on any flight in the system (Continental charges $25 for the first checked bag), flexibility to change your reward travel dates for free up to 21 days in advance of travel, and a 25,000-mile bonus when you make your first purchase. Annual fee after first year: $95.

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