(MoneyWatch) Like mammals and surgeons, credit cards have specialized. Every card is not interchangeable; if you're looking for one that offers the most airline miles, it won't be the same card that optimizes for low interest rates, purchase insurance, or other rewards. Recently, finance site CardHub released its list of the best travel credit cards of 2012, and it's a great read for anyone who spends a lot of time on the road for business or pleasure.
CardHub highlights six credit cards. Three are identified with offering the best initial bonus, and the remaining three have the best ongoing rewards. Here's the overview:
Best Initial Bonus
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 40,000 bonus points. The reward kicks in after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. There is no annual fee for the first year, nor are there foreign transaction fees for purchases made abroad.
The British Airways Credit Card provides 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase and up to 50,000 additional miles. There are no foreign transaction fees and can be used to make chip-based purchases in Europe, but do be prepared for a $95 annual fee right out of the gate.
The Hilton HHonors Surpass Credit Card delivers 60,000 bonus points (40,000 after first purchase and 20,000 after $3,000 in charges). You'll pay a $75 annual fee and a 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee.
Best Ongoing Reward
The Capital One Venture Card pays a $100 initial bonus and then 2 percent cash back across all purchases when you redeem miles for travel-related purchases. The Venture Card charges no foreign transaction fees, and there's no annual fee the first year.
The PenFed Platinum Rewards offers 5 points per dollar spent on gas, 3 points per dollar on groceries, 1 point per dollar on everything else, and offers a $250 initial bonus. There is no an annual fee or foreign transaction fees. To take advantage, you need to belong to the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which costs a one-time $15 fee.
The American Express Blue Cash Preferred charges a $75 annual fee, but in return you get a $150 initial bonus, 6 percent cash back at supermarkets, 3 percent cash back at gas stations and department stores, and 1 percent cash back everywhere else. On the downside, American Express does charge a 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user 401K.