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Cashback Credit Cards

5% cashback for first 3 months

Cashback credit cards pay you every time you spend on them, possibly £100s a year. The top card pays 5% cashback for the first three months, others give 3% on fuel and transport spending.

There are also some good fee-free, near-cash reward cards which come close to what cashback cards can offer. We analyse the pros and cons of all.

The best way to use cashback cards

Cashback credit cards are a form of reward scheme, yet rather than giving points, you get cold hard cash, tax-free, every time you spend on the card. Cash is totally flexible - you can spend it on anything - and it's easy to compare, so it comes up trumps for almost everyone.

Use your cashback card for ALL normal spending

Not sure you can repay in FULL every month?

Sort out debts before going for cashback

Never use cashback cards to withdraw cash

Don't use these cards to set up recurring payments

Avoid balance transfers on a cashback card

But before you start mentally counting the cash, ALWAYS follow...

The Golden Rule

Set up a direct debit to repay the card in full each month, so you never pay interest, which would outstrip any gain.

The reason card companies offer cashback or reward schemes is simple. They want to encourage you to spend on the card and pay them interest. The interest cost of all cashback cards dwarfs the cashback you'll earn.

The easy way to pay off IN FULL
Paying off the price tag

The best way to pay off in full each month is via a direct debit. It allows the card provider to take a variable monthly amount to correspond with what you owe it (see the Direct Debit guide).

Sadly, some providers deliberately omit the 'pay off in full' option from direct debit forms, as it means they'll make less money. If so, just write in 'pay off in full' yourself. The firm should honour it, but call after a week or so and check it's worked.

By doing this, you've effectively made your credit card a debit card, but one that pays you every time you spend on it. Always make sure you have enough cash in your account to cover the direct debit.

It may sound obvious, but always stay within your credit limit, else you'll pay charges for busting your limit, which can often be £12 each time.

Best buys The top cashback deals

If you've not had a cashback card before, or are about to embark on some big (but planned-for and affordable) spending, you've a choice between a card that pays the highest short-term bonus rate of cashback (then a decent rate after), or one that pays good long-term cashback.

One thing to consider is whether you want an Amex or a Visa/Mastercard (the former is accepted by fewer retailers). You also need to think about whether you want to pay a fee - the cards with the highest cashback tend to have an annual fee.

Pre-apply to check eligibility with NO credit file mark

You'll see that most cards in this guide have a link to our eligibility checker tool, which we've designed to allow you to see the probability of getting the card.

We do a 'soft' credit search which YOU can see, but lenders CAN'T, so it has no impact on your future creditworthiness - and lets you see the chance of you getting the card without applying for it.

We map the details you give us against lenders' criteria, and show your chances for all the cards on this page that we can do so for. A new development allows us to check without you following a link from a specific card.

Best BuysFee-FREE cashback cards

American Express logo

5% intro cashback + up to 1.25% after

Amex Platinum Everyday*

The American Express* Platinum Cashback Everyday card is the top fee-free card, especially if you've big spending to do in the next few months, as it has a great introductory rate, then tiered ongoing cashback.

Need to knows
  • To get the maximum intro cashback, you need to spend £2,000 within three months.
  • After the intro offer's over, you'll automatically be put onto the tiered spending rates: £0 to £3,500 gets 0.5% cashback (the initial £2k spend counts towards this). From £3,500 to £7,500, you get 1%. All spending above £7,501 gets the full 1.25% cashback.
  • You need to spend at least £3,000 to get any cashback at all.
  • The introductory 5% rate is not available to existing Amex Cardmembers.
  • Set up a direct debit to pay in full every month when you get the card, otherwise any cashback you earn will be quickly eaten up by the 19.9% representative APR.
Eligibility Calculator
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Stats box
  • Cashback: 3mths 5% (max £100) | Tiered up to 1.25% after
  • Paid out: On card anniversary | Max cashback/year: n/a
  • Annual fee: None | Min spend: £3,000 per year
  • Rate: 19.9% representative APR (See Official APR Example)
  • Min income: £20,000
Key questions

How much cashback is possible? Well, there's no maximum, but how much you will get depends on how much you spend...we've listed cashback in this table for different spending amounts.

Annual spend £3,000 £5,000 £10,000 £20,000
Year one cashback (incl bonus) £49 £88 £178 £303
Years 2+ cashback £15 £32 £88 £213

How does this card compare to the Amex Platinum? This card is very similar to the Amex Platinum below, but differs in the fact that it has no annual fee. While the Amex Platinum pays an ongoing 1.25% cashback after the intro period, this card has tiered rates of cashback up to 1.25%.

This means the Platinum Everyday card beats the £25 annual fee Amex Platinum if you spend £5,000 or less, but for higher spenders, the card with the fee works out as more profitable.

Is more cashback possible? Users of cashback sites (which are free to join) may be able to get even more cashback when they sign up. If you're new to cashback sites, read the Top Cashback Sites guide for an explanation and key warnings.

Another way to maximise the cashback is - if you're in a trusting relationship - to give someone else an additional card on your account. For example, Janet applies, making John 2nd cardholder so both get the intro 5% cashback. John applies, doing the same, to bag another three months' 5%. After that, just use one person's card for the 1.25% cashback.

I've heard Amex isn't accepted everywhere? Amex tends to charge retailers more for accepting their cards when you pay than Mastercard or Visa. This means it can afford to give you more cashback, but also means it's accepted less, especially by smaller businesses.

Capital One Classic Extra Cashback Card

For those with poor history: 0.5% cashback + £10/yr bonus

Capital One Classic Extra*

The Capital One* Classic Extra is one of the few cards that has the cashback perk, but that also allows people with a patchy or limited credit history to apply for it. However, it also pays a lower cashback rate than many other cards in this guide.

Need to knows
  • There's a £10 annual bonus credit for customers who make all bill payments on time, which helps to supplement the cashback.
  • If you've a poor credit history, defaults and CCJs need to be more than a year old.
  • Credits limit are low; you'll get between £200-£1,500 so it's difficult to earn lots of cashback.
  • The interest rate is a huge 34.9%, so it's even more vital that you ALWAYS repay in full.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Cashback: 0.5% + £10 bonus
  • Paid out: Every January
  • Max cashback/year: Unlimited
  • Annual fee: None | Min spend: n/a | Card issuer: Mastercard
  • Rate: 34.9% representative APR (See Official APR Example)
  • Min income: n/a
Key questions

How much cashback can I actually earn? We've worked out how much cashback you'd get from different levels of spending. Bear in mind that your credit limit's likely to be low, so this will limit the cashback you can earn.

Annual overall spend £3,000 £5,000 £10,000 £20,000
Yearly cashback £15 £25 £50 £100

When do I get the cashback & bonus? The cashback is paid in January, as is the annual bonus. The first bonus will be proportionate to how long you've had the account, so if it's been open six months, you'll get £5. To be eligible you must make your monthly payments on time, though this should be the case anyway.

Best BuysHigh level cashback cards - with a fee

American Express logo

Big 5% intro cashback, then 1.25% on everything afterwards

Amex Platinum*

Get the American Express* Platinum Cashback card, and you'll get a max of £125 cashback in the first three months (5% on up to £2,500 spending). After that, all spending attracts one flat rate of cashback, but there is an annual fee to contend with that you'll have to factor in.

Need to knows
  • After the intro period, all spending attracts a good 1.25% cashback.
  • There's an annoying £25 annual fee.
  • If you spend over £10,000 in a year, you'll get 2.5% cashback in your anniversary month.
  • Ensure you repay in full every month to avoid the 14% interest on spending, which'll quickly wipe out cashback gains.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Cashback: 3mths 5% (max £125) | 1.25% after.
  • Paid out: On card anniversary | Max cashback/year: n/a
  • Annual fee: £25 | Min spend: n/a
  • Rate: 18.7% representative APR incl £25 fee - spending is charged at 14% (See Official APR Examples)
  • Min income: £20,000
Key questions

How much cashback is possible? Well, there's no maximum, but how much you will get depends on how much you spend...we've listed cashback in this table for different spending amounts.

Annual spend £3,000 £5,000 £10,000 £20,000
Year one cashback (after fee, incl bonus) £41 £84 £194 £319
Years 2+ cashback (after fee) £13 £38 £110 £245
Assumes spending equally split over 12 months

How does this card compare to the Amex Platinum Everyday? This card is very similar to the Amex Everyday above, but differs in the fact that it has an annual fee, plus higher rates of cashback on spending after that. This card pays an ongoing 1.25% cashback after the intro period, the Amex Everyday has tiered rates of cashback up to 1.25%.

And, while the flat rate after the intro rate is a bonus, the annual fee wipes away some of the gain. If you spend less than expected, you'd still be hit with the fee, making it less profitable. If you're not sure you're going to spend big, then try the Everyday.

Is more cashback possible? Users of cashback sites (which are free to join) may be able to get even more cashback when they sign up. If you're new to cashback sites, read the Top Cashback Sites guide for an explanation and key warnings.

Another way to maximise the cashback is - if you're in a trusting relationship - to give someone else an additional card on your account. For example, Janet applies, making John 2nd cardholder so both get the intro 5% cashback. John applies, doing the same, to bag another three months' 5%. After that, just use one person's card for the 1.25% cashback.

I've heard Amex isn't accepted everywhere? Amex tends to charge retailers more for accepting their cards when you pay than Mastercard or Visa. This means it can afford to give you more cashback, but also means it's accepted less, especially by smaller businesses.

Santander

Up to 3% cashback + 23 mths 0% on spending

Santander 123 Cashback*

The Santander 123* credit card pays cashback on some everyday spending, 3% on rail travel and petrol, 2% in department stores, and 1% in supermarkets. So, if you have a big supermarket shop each week, and do a lot of driving, this could be the card for you. But, before applying, make sure that the cashback that you get will more than cover the £24 annual fee.

Need to knows
  • Cashback's paid at 3% on petrol/transport, 2% in dept stores and 1% in supermarkets.
  • This card has 0% on purchases for the first 23 months.
  • It also has an annoying £24 annual fee.
  • After the 0% period, you'll be charged 12.7% interest on any remaining balance or any future spending that's not paid off in full each month.
  • The fee on this card is refunded for the first year if you also open the Santander* 123 current account. See the Best Bank Accounts guide for full details.
  • One downside is that any spending outside the selected categories gets NO cashback (along with any fuel and transport spending over £300/mth).
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Cashback: 3% on petrol/transport, 2% in dept stores, 1% in supermarkets. NONE elsewhere
  • Paid out: Monthly
  • Max cashback/year: n/a (but £9/mth on petrol/transport)
  • Annual fee: £24/year | Min spend: n/a | Card issuer: Mastercard
  • Rate: 16.5% representative APR (incl fee). 12.7% interest on spending (See Official APR Examples)
  • Min income: £7,500
Key questions

Which retailers qualify for the cashback spend? We've an edited list here. It's not comprehensive, so check local outlets:

  • Fuel and transport: 3%. Includes BP, Shell, Esso, Texaco, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, National Rail and Transport for London (excludes newsagent top-ups).

  • Dept stores: 2%. Includes Debenhams, House of Fraser, John Lewis, BHS.

  • Supermarkets: 1%. Includes Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Waitrose, M&S.

How much cashback could I get? We've analysed how much cashback you might get depending on how much you spend in each of the categories...

Annual overall spend £3,000 £5,000 £10,000 £20,000
Yearly cashback after fee (assumes 10% supermkt, 10% transport, 5% dept store spend) £9 £1 £26 £76
Yearly cashback after fee(assumes 30% supermkt, 30% transport, 10% dept store spend) £18 £46 £116 £184
Yearly cashback after fee (assumes 30% supermkt, 50% transport, 10% dept store spend) £36 £76 £134 £184

Best Buys 'Close to cashback' deals

Some reward credit cards come close to cashback cards, especially those where you can spend points in huge stores that stock a wide range of goods. These are the best, where the returns get close to cashback cards.

Amex Preferred Rewards Gold Card

Spend £2,000 and get £100 back in vouchers

Amex Gold*

Surprisingly, this is a charge card, not a credit card. But if you're accepted for the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold* card, and spend £2,000 within the first three months, you'll get a bonus 20,000 Rewards points, which you can swap for a variety of vouchers, or even cashback.

Need to knows
  • Because it's a charge card, you HAVE to pay it off each month, there's no credit facility.
  • If you don't pay it off, you'll get a £12 late fee, and a mark on your credit file.
  • The card usually has a £125 annual fee, but for now is fee-free in the first year. To avoid paying £125, diarise to cancel before year two starts.
  • You earn 1 point per £1 spent on your card. This is boosted to 2 points per £1 when spending on travel (plane fares, rail fares etc) and when spending abroad. You also earn 2 points per £1 on petrol and supermarket spending for the first year.
  • You can convert your points into gift cards for Amazon, M&S, Homebase, House of Fraser, PC World and more, though retailers vary.
  • Alternatively, you can convert them to frequent flyer or hotel scheme points and add them to your current stash.
  • Amex says that you get the points as soon as you hit the spending trigger, though they can take up to a month to arrive in your Cardmember account.
Eligibility Calculator
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APPLY*
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Stats box
  • Cashback: 1% (plus 20,000 bonus points)
  • Paid out: Monthly
  • Max 'cashback'/year: Unlimited
  • Min spend: £2,000 for bonus | Card issuer: Amex
  • Annual fee: No fee in year one, but £125 from year two onwards
  • Min income: £20,000
Key questions

What rewards can I get from this card? We've analysed how much you might get back from different levels of spending...

Annual overall spend £3,000 £5,000 £10,000 £20,000
Points earned, incl bonus 24,500 27,500 35,000 50,000
Converting to vouchers £100* £125* £175 £250
Assumes 50% of spending on petrol, supermarkets, travel & abroad and 50% elsewhere
* = doesn't use the entire points total

How can I further boost points? Ensure as much as possible of your spending is on the double points categories. You also get a 7,500 points bonus on the anniversary of taking out the card, but remember if you keep the card into a second year, you'll pay the £125 annual fee.

You can also boost your points by getting a supplementary card (for a partner/friend), whose spending will then earn points. The first card is provided free, though any more will cost £45.

Plus, if you have a friend who has the card, get them to recommend you, and both you and they get 2,000 bonus points.

M&S Credit Card

Get M&S Rewards while you spend

M&S*

If you're a die-hard M&S shopper, this could be the ideal card for you. This M&S* credit card gives reward point when you spend anywhere, and doubles them if you spend at M&S. Plus, the card also has 19 months 0% on spending - perfect if you've big purchases planned.

Need to knows
  • You'll receive 500 bonus points, worth £5 on your first spend in M&S stores.
  • You'll earn 1 point for every £1 spent in M&S stores and 1 point for every £2 spent elsewhere.
  • Points are converted into Marks & Spencer vouchers four times each year.
  • After the 0% period ends, all spending is charged at 16.9% interest.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Cashback: 0.5%
  • Paid out: Quarterly
  • Max cashback/year: Unlimited
  • Annual fee: None | Min spend: n/a | Card issuer: Mastercard
  • Rate: 16.9% representative APR (See Official APR Example)
  • Min income: n/a
Key questions

What rewards can I get from this card? We've analysed how much you might get back from different levels of spending...

Annual overall spend £3,000 £5,000 £10,000 £20,000
Vouchers earned per year £22.50 £37.50 £75 £150
Assumes 50% of spend done at M&S and 50% elsewhere
Tesco Clubcard Credit Card

Up to 1% back to spend on days out, restaurants, hotels, mags & more

Tesco*

The Tesco Clubcard Credit Card* gives Clubcard points when you spend on it. This can't be converted into cashback, but can be converted into such a wide range of rewards, that we've put it in this 'close-to-cashback' section.

Need to knows
  • You get one Clubcard point for every £4 spent, or 5 points per £4 if shopping in Tesco.
  • One point is worth 1p (so just a 0.25% return) if spent in-store at Tesco, but boosts to up to 4p (so 1%) if redeemed for some of Tesco's special Clubcard Rewards vouchers. For more details on boosting Tesco Clubcard points, read the Loyalty Points guide.
  • You get 19 months 0% on spending, but after this the representative rate is 18.9% APR.
ELIGIBILITY CHECK NOT AVAILABLE
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Cashback: up to 1%
  • Paid out: when redeemed
  • Max cashback/year: Unlimited
  • Annual fee: None | Min spend: n/a | Card issuer: Mastercard
  • Rate: 18.9% representative APR (See Official APR Examples)
  • Min income: £5,000
Key questions

What rewards will this card give me? We've analysed what you'd get in vouchers for different levels of spending...

Annual overall spend £3,000 £5,000 £10,000 £20,000
Vouchers earned per year £7.50 £12.50 £25 £50
Remember, for some Rewards, vouchers can be redeemed for up to four times their face value

If you prefer other schemes, like collecting Avios or Nectar points, then see the Credit Card Rewards and Airline Credit Cards guides for more information.

Cashback cards

Video guide

Video courtesy of It Pays To Watch, Channel 5 Originally broadcast in April 2008

Can you get more free cash from credit card companies?

Free cash from credit cardsCredit card companies throw serious cash at marketing in order to get their cards in our pockets. For those who don't need to borrow, it's possible to ride this wave of freebies to be quids in. There are two other ways to make money from credit cards.

  • Stoozing
    This is an advanced technique where you take advantage of the fact that many credit cards lend money for a short time at 0% interest. Spend on that card instead of your debit card, then stash your salary in a high interest account and you'll be quids in. Full Guide: Stoozing
  • Credit card freebies
    Many credit cards offer incentives like gift cards or vouchers for free flights if you sign up to the card. Therefore, if you've a good credit score, just take advantage by signing up, even if you don't want the card. Full Guide: Credit Card Freebies

Think before adding the 'insurance'

Thinking about payment protection insurancePayment protection insurance is commonly sold with credit cards - the idea is it'll make some payments for you, usually for a year, if you are unable to (eg, if you lose your job).

But in many cases it has been mis-sold - borrowers didn't realise they were signing up for it, or it was totally unsuitable for them - and some big lenders have been fined.

The protection isn't always bad, though policies sold with cards are often overpriced (you pay a monthly amount depending on the size of your balance). If you want it, compare the lender's cover with standalone providers such as Paymentcare or Best Insurance.

Always be vigilant to check you aren't getting more than you bargained for when you fill in the application, then check your statement each month to check you aren't inadvertently paying for extras if you didn't ask for them.

There's extra protection on all spending too...

There's another big bonus to using a cashback card - you actually have far more consumer protection. This all comes about due to what's called Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which says...

75. (1) If the debtor under a debtor-creditor-supplier agreement falling within section 12(b) or (c) has, in relation to a transaction financed by the agreement, any claim against the supplier in respect of a misrepresentation or breach of contract, he shall have a like claim against the creditor, who, with the supplier, shall accordingly be jointly and severally liable to the debtor.

Which, of course, reads like gobbledegook. Yet in a nutshell, it means:

Buy something costing over £100, here or abroad, and pay on a credit card, and the card issuer's equally liable if something goes wrong.

Now, this protection only applies to credit cards, not debit cards or any other plastic and it's hugely important, especially in the current credit crunch climate. If you ordered something and if the retailer went kaput, you'd still be able to claim your money back from the card company. Read a full guide to Section 75 refunds.