Venture Rewards from Capital One Financial Corp. and Discover Financial Services’ Escape represent the top travel rewards cards, a new report suggests.

To conduct its research, independent consumer information site Next Advisor compared separated hotel and flight bookings at two different times of the year, then it used a formula to calculate which rewards card gave users the most value from its points or miles system. Annual fees and annual percentage rates were not factored in, Erik Larson, NextAdvisor president, tells PaymentsSource.

San Francisco-based NextAdvisor released the results March 19 (see report).

“It is pretty competitive,” Larson says. “In customer acquisition, in interest rates, rewards–especially with the economy getting better and consumer credit looking better. If issuers haven’t changed in the last year or two, maybe they should if they want to be competitive.”

Both the Venture Rewards and Escape cards gave users $2 in actual monetary value per $100 spent, but Escape placed second because Discover cards are accepted at fewer vendors than are those carrying the Visa brand, as Venture Rewards does.

The Escape Card comes with a $60 annual fee, while Venture Rewards is free for the first year and $59 annually thereafter.

Third place went to the American Express Co.’s Starwood Preferred Guest Card, which for every $100 charged returned $1.30 for airline use and $2.50 for hotel use.

Still, consumers traveling abroad should have more in mind than rewards when considering payment cards, Madeline Aufseeser, senior payment card issuing analyst for Boston-based Aite Group, tells PaymentsSource.

“It’s really worthwhile to have a card with a chip on it, an EMV card,” she says. “There are a lot of places today that no longer only accept a mag-stripe card.”

Credit card rewards programs have not been affected by lower debit-transaction fees the way debit card rewards programs have, but credit cards are not far behind in also moving to merchant-funded rewards to offset costs, Aufseeser says.

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