The Basics 4 ways to snag the best reward card

To maximize your payoff, do the math. Size up your own travel and spending habits, as well as the rebates, rewards and rules.

By Liz Pulliam Weston

Years ago, credit card reward programs were simple: There werent any.

Then Discover came along with its cash-back offer, and airlines hooked up with banks to issue credit cards that earned frequent flier miles.

Today, consumers face a bewildering array of ways to earn, and spend, credit card rewards:

* A credit card can contribute to a retirement account, score theme-park tickets or knock thousands off the price of your next car.
* You can convert miles into hotel stays or restaurant meals -- or use them where you stay and eat to earn extra miles.

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