Are you in the market for a travel rewards credit card but you aren’t sure which card is best? If you fly on Delta Airlines most of the time, then the Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express card might be your best choice because you receive priority boarding and your first checked bag free as a cardholder. If you aren’t tied to a single airline, though, then the Barclay Arrival World MasterCard is your best bet this year.

NextAdvisor.com staffers compared the benefits of more than a dozen different travel rewards credit cards using set criteria. The team looked at the costs of booking a hotel stay with each card, the point exchange value of booking actual flights and then used this data to assign a points value. The points value was derived from a simple mathematic formula: points value = reward price/ number of points required to purchase.

After combing through all of the data, the Barclay Arrival World MasterCard came out on top and was named the best travel rewards credit card for 2013. Although the points values were the same as last year’s winner, the Capital One Venture Rewards card, a few features unique to the Barclay card led to the number one ranking.

The Barclay Arrival card combines the benefits of a traditional travel rewards card with the flexibility of a cashback card. Points accumulated on the card can be redeemed for travel or be used as a statement credit. As an added incentive for using the points to book travel, Barclay rewards its customers with a 10 percent point bonus for travel redemptions. If you use 10,000 points to book a flight, you will receive a 1,000-point bonus. 

Another unique perk of the Barclay Arrival card is the 40,000-point bonus that is awarded if the cardholder spends $1,000 in three months. Erik Larson, president and founder of NextAdvisor.com, is a fan of this perk, “$400 for spending $1,000 on your card in three months is a pretty good deal.” Larson isn’t sure how long Barclay will be offering this 40,000-point bonus so it is something that interested cardholders should take advantage of now, before it is too late.

These rewards sound great, but what if you don’t travel often? That’s no problem. “It doesn't matter what you spend your money on, you can use your rewards for travel,” said Larson. “Even if you take a vacation once a year, and that's the only time you travel all year, these cards are a great way to earn really valuable rewards that you can use on that vacation.”

NextAdvisor ranked 15 travel rewards credit cards, each with different perks and while some perks may be great for you, they may be worthless to the next consumer. So, I asked Larson what advice he would give to consumers shopping for a travel rewards credit card. 

If you want a travel rewards card but you aren’t sure how you’re going to use it, you will want to go with “a more flexible card, where you can redeem it for any travel, like the Barclay Arrival card or the Capital One Venture Rewards card,” Larson suggested. "Work backwards from how you're going to redeem those miles or points and that will probably lead you to the card that makes the most sense." Sound advice.

For more information on the Barclay Arrival card or any of the 15 credit cards Larson’s team evaluated, visit the NextAdvisor.com’s Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis website.

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