Your two best cards: Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard with double points and PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express
Your rewards total: $1,550 in the first year; $2,420 over two years
Your strategy: The PenFed card and the Barclaycard let you use your points for trips on any airline. The PenFed pays an impressive 5 points back on every dollar spent on airfare. If you use it to charge flights but put your other travel expenses and the rest of your charges on the Barclaycard to take advantage of its travel reward of 2 miles for every dollar spent, Consumer Reports Money Adviser says you'll reach the reward totals noted above. The Barclaycard also gives you $400 worth of travel points if you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
You can redeem your Barclaycard points on such sites as Kayak, Orbitz and Travelocity. But the PenFed card requires you to use its agent to book your travel.
THE SMALL-BUSINESS OWNER
You've got a wide range of expenses that include travel, dinners with clients, office supplies, communications costs and advertising. According to a 2012 analysis of more than 12,000 members of Shoeboxed.com, a service that lets small businesses track their spending, the average amount was $2,245 a month. You need cards that earn you cash that you can plow back into your business or provide travel points that you can use for your next business trip.
Your two best cards: American Express SimplyCash business card and Capital One Spark Cash business card
Your rewards total: $710 in the first year; $1,260 over two years
Your strategy: To maximize your rewards, Consumer Reports Money Adviser says to use the AmEx card for 5 percent cash back on your monthly spending on office supplies and telecom expenses (such as your phone and Internet service) and for 3 percent cash back on gas. Your other small-business spending should go on the Capital One card.