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Travel Tip: Fine Print On Rewards Cards

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Did you know that 52 percent of air miles are actually earned…on the ground?

I’m talking about credit card rewards.

But here’s what you need to know before you sign up.

Rewards cards come in a lot of shapes and sizes: There are branded cards that accrue miles on specific airlines, like the Delta Skymiles card and the Citi AAdvantage card.

And there are cards that earn points, which can be redeemed for items like airline tickets, hotel stays and car rentals.

There is no rule of thumb of who should apply for what card. But here’s what to keep in mind…

What kind of purchases are you making? If you’re spending $5,000 a year at one point per mile, it will take you 5 years to accrue enough miles for a bottom-tier ticket.

Is there an annual fee? It can make sense for business travelers, but if you’re a casual traveler, is that $50 a year worth it? If not, look at no-fee cards.

Can you pay your balance each and every month? If not, the interest alone will wipe out the benefits of accrued awards.

Learn more about these issues in our Mileage & Rewards program.

To find hints about good ways to pay when you’re on the road, check out the Money, Currency & Credit section.

And of course, you can always check out more Travel Tips here.