credit card rewards

Credit Card Rewards

Earn cashback, points & more

Spend on one of these cards and it pays you – either in pure cashback or points that can be converted into vouchers for shops, airlines, hotels etc. If you're debt-free and pay off your card every month, you can earn goodies worth £100s each year. Plus our Rewards Eligibility Calculator will show credit cards you've the best odds of getting.

Who's this guide for? People who pay off their credit card balance in full every month who want to be rewarded for their spending.
 

Not what you want? If you're looking to cut debt costs or want other ways to get rewarded for spending, see...
Top Airline Credit Cards | 0% Balance Transfers | 0% Money Transfers | Full Credit Cards Section

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How do reward credit cards work?

Reward cards can be a great way of earning £100s' worth of bonuses/cashback, just for doing your everyday spending. It sounds great – everyone loves something for nothing. But unless you're careful, cards will actually deliver nothing for something, as there are a couple of major holes to watch for. We take you through the top cards and the potential pitfalls below.

The seven need-to-knows

Get it wrong, and you could actually be left out of pocket, so here's all you need to know to get the best from reward credit cards...

  • Getting charged interest almost always scuppers even the very best reward schemes, so quite simply…

    If you want rewards, always set up a direct debit to repay the card in full each month, so there's NO interest.

    By doing this, you've effectively made your credit card a debit card, but one that pays you every time you spend on it. Just make sure you stay within the credit limit or you'll pay charges.

    Sadly, some card providers deliberately miss the 'repay in full' option off their direct debit forms. If so, just write 'pay off in full' and send it in. It should be honoured, but call and check to be safe.

    If you're not sure you can always repay the card in full, DON'T pick a card for rewards. Focus on a card with a lower interest rate instead – see our 0% Credit Cards for Purchases guide.

  • Once you've set up a credit card, every time you use it you get paid. While this isn't an excuse to spend more, it does mean from now on…

    Use the rewards card for ALL normal spending, replacing cash and other debit, credit and charge cards.

    For those who have work expenses they need to reclaim, this can be a powerful way to earn more, at no cost to you, provided you can cope with paying the bill in full each month.

    Do check it's fine with your employer though, as there's a chance it could be seen as a taxable benefit (you'll still be up even if it is).

    Quick questions

  • Some schemes are focused on making people think they're earning large, when actually payouts are pretty paltry, so go through our best buys below meticulously to check which you'll actually get value from. To what extent depends on the type of scheme.

    • Cashback

      This is the most straightforward type of scheme – for every pound spent, you get a certain amount back, eg, 1%. But watch out for tricky terms: cashback tends to be paid annually as credit to your statement, and some cards have a minimum spend requirement to get any cashback.
    • Rewards schemes

      Here you earn days out, flights, holidays and more by getting points – and that's where the problems start, as Martin points out...

    'Always ask what the points are actually worth'

    For a TV programme stunt I was once asked to design a credit card that looked good, but contained hidden, abysmally anti-consumer traps. Many signed up to my fake MACS card (SCAM backwards), which promised TWELVE points per pound spent.

    Most people didn't ask what the points were worth. In fact, they were worth 0.0001p. In other words, nothing. And 12 nothings… is nothing.

    It's this lack of transparency that allows reward schemes to create a magical 'something for nothing' mystique. For example, a Sainsbury's Nectar point is worth 0.5p in store compared to a Tesco Clubcard point worth 1p.

  • boost the value of your points

    By correctly targeting the right rewards to redeem your points on, it's possible to substantially increase the amount. To find out how to do this for all schemes and specific info for Avios, Nectar and Tesco, read our Boost Your Loyalty Points and Avios Boosting Tricks guides.

  • You'll save more by keeping your debts cheap instead of going for reward cards. Every card application has a credit score impact, so make sure your debts are sorted before applying for reward cards (see Best Balance Transfers for help cutting the cost of debt).

  • They're a tool to get you rewards by using them like a debit card and clearing them each month, and we rate them based on that. If you need to borrow as well, you're far better off focusing on getting the lowest interest rates – that'll save you much more money. See 0% Credit Cards for Spending and Best Balance Transfers for more info.

    And when it comes to withdrawing cash the rule is simple – never, ever, ever use these cards for cash withdrawals as you'll often be charged a fee and interest, even if you pay the card off in full.

  • Multiple applications on your credit file can damage your chances of getting future credit so you need to weigh up whether getting one now is going to harm other more important credit applications you may have on the horizon.

    A single application may not kibosh your chance but together with other negatives, may well do. See Credit Score Boosting for more tips.

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Top cashback credit cards

pound sign

Currently, the top cashback cards are from Amex – they have big intro bonuses and pay good ongoing rates. Visa/Mastercard cashback cards are accepted in more places but the handful currently on the market pay very little. If you're looking for a non-Amex card, you can earn more with a supermarket card

Highest payer with no fee, giving up to 5%. Best if you'll spend less than £10,000 a year – if you'll spend more, it's beaten by the Amex below

The Amex Platinum Everyday (check eligibility / apply*) is the top fee-free card, especially if you've big spending to do in the next few months. It gives 5% back on your first £2,000 of spending in the first three months (max £100 cashback), then up to 1% after.

Important: You need to spend at least £3,000/yr to earn any cashback.

Note: As it's an Amex, it's not accepted everywhere and you won't get the bonus if you've held a personal Amex card in the past two years.

Representative APR (variable): 22.2% APR (Official APR Examples)
Important: Repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest
Cashback: 5% in first three months (max £100), then 0.5% on up to £5,000/yr, 1% above £5,000/yr
Annual fee: None
Min income: N/A

  • The card gives you 5% back on your first £2,000 of spending in the first three months (max £100 cashback).

    After the first three months, you'll get 0.5% cashback if you spend £5,000/yr, and 1% on any spending above this.

    Important: You need to spend at least £3,000/yr to earn any cashback.

    Cashback is paid to your account annually – in the month after your card anniversary date.

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Top payer overall – but charges annual fee. Beats the Everyday above if you'll spend more than £10,000 a year

The American Express Platinum Cashback (check eligibility / apply*) charges a £25 annual fee, but has an intro 5% cashback rate on up to £2,500 of spending in the first three months (max £125 cashback).

After that, it gives 1% back on up to £10,000/yr and 1.25% above this – making this card a winner for bigger spenders.

Again, as it's an Amex it's not accepted everywhere and you won't get the bonus if you've held a personal Amex card in the past two years.

Representative APR (variable): 27.3% APR incl fee (Official APR Examples)
Important: Repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest
Cashback: 5% in first three months (max £125), then up to 1.25% after (see FAQs)
Annual fee: £25
Min income: N/A

  • The card gives you 5% back on your first £2,500 of spending in the first three months (max £125 cashback).

    After the first three months, you'll get 1% cashback if you spend £10,000/yr, and 1.25% on any spending above this.

    Cashback is paid to your account annually – in the month after your card anniversary date.

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

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Top 'close to cashback' deals

Some reward cards give you points on all of your spending. These can come close to cashback cards as they offer the ability to spend the points you earn in a wide variety of places.

Earn 24,000 Nectar points, worth £120 at Sainsbury's/Argos/eBay, plus ongoing rewards

Spend £2,000 on the Amex Nectar card (check eligibility / apply*) within the first three months, and you'll get 20,000 bonus Nectar points, on top of the usual two Nectar points per £1 spent you get with this card. So hit the spending trigger and you'll end up with at least 24,000 points, worth £120 at Nectar retailers such as Sainsbury's, Argos and eBay. Points will usually be credited to your Nectar account within a month of hitting the trigger.

Just do your normal spending on it to get the bonus (it's an Amex, so may not be accepted everywhere), and remember to cancel after one year if you want to avoid the £25 annual fee that kicks in from year two.

Note: You won't get the bonus if you've held a personal Amex card in the past two years.

Representative APR (variable): 27.3% APR incl fee (Official APR Examples)
Important: Repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest
Annual fee: Free in year one, then £25
Standard points earned (excl bonus): Two per £1 spent
Value of one point: 0.5p
Points' expiry: One year if you don't collect or spend any points

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Earn £100 M&S/Amazon voucher or 23,000 Avios/air miles

The Amex Preferred Rewards Gold credit card (check eligibility / apply*) gives an intro bonus of 20,000 reward points if you spend £3,000 in the first three months. This is on top of the usual one point per £1 spent.

Points will be added to your account within one month of hitting the trigger. You can swap every 5,000 points into a £25 voucher for retailers such as M&S, Amazon and Currys – so by hitting the trigger you can get a total of £100 in vouchers, with some points left over. Vouchers arrive by post within 10 days of redemption (except for Amazon which you get instantly online).

Alternatively, you can change the points for 23,000 frequent flyer miles (eg, Avios) or hotel scheme points. 

The card usually has a £140 annual fee, but is fee-free in the first year, so to avoid it, remember to cancel before year two starts.

Note: As it's an Amex it's not accepted everywhere and you won't get the bonus if you've held a personal Amex card in the past two years.

Representative APR (variable): 56.6% APR incl fee (Official APR Examples)
Important: Repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest
Annual fee: No fee in year one, but £140 from year two onwards
Standard points earned (excl bonus): One per £1 on day-to-day spending, two points per £1 spent directly with airlines or in a foreign currency
Value of one point: 0.5p if converted to vouchers (airline/hotel scheme redemption values vary)
Points' expiry: N/A

  • You get two free visits to airport lounges (see affiliated lounges), which you can use for yourself twice on two separate visits, or yourself and one guest for one visit.

  • You can convert points into vouchers for Amazon, M&S and more. Alternatively, you can convert them to frequent flyer or hotel scheme points and add them to your current stash (transfers can take up to five working days). For full options, see the Membership Rewards site.

    Note: Bonus points can take a month to hit your account, but we've seen them applied on the day you hit the trigger.

  • You get a 10,000-point bonus on the anniversary of taking out the card if you've spent more than £15,000. Remember, if you keep the card into a second year, you'll pay the £140 annual fee, though if you cancel it before the year is up you'll get a pro-rata refund.

    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 they'll get 6,000 bonus points and you'll get 2,000 extra points – as long as you spend £3,000 within three months.

  • Yes, but you'll receive slightly less than you'd get exchanging for vouchers. 1,000 points gives £4.50 'cashback' vs £5 in vouchers – so it's not the best use of them.

  • Yes – additional guests or visits cost £20 charged to your Amex.

  • Gift cards are sent by post (within 10 working days of redemption) or email.

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Earn £25 M&S/Amazon voucher or 7,000 Avios/air miles

If you won't hit the spending trigger on the Gold card above, or you want a card that's fee-free all the time, this could suit you better. Spend £2,000 on the Amex Rewards credit card (check eligibility / apply*) in the first three months and you'll get 5,000 bonus points (on top of the usual one point per £1 spent).

Points will be added to your account within one month of hitting the trigger. You can redeem them for £25 gift cards for stores such as M&S, Amazon or Boots, or convert them into frequent flyer points (eg, Avios). Gift cards arrive by post within 10 days of redemption (except for Amazon which you get instantly online).

Note: As it's an Amex, it's not accepted everywhere and you won't get the bonus if you've held a personal Amex card in the past two years.

Representative APR (variable): 22.2% APR (Official APR Examples)
Important: Repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest
Annual fee: None
Standard points earned (excl bonus): One per £1 spent
Value of one point: 0.5p if converted to vouchers (airline/hotel scheme redemption values vary)
Points' expiry: N/A

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Top supermarket and store-specific cards

Some cards give boosted rewards, vouchers or cash for certain retailers or when spending in a particular store. They can be useful if you're a creature of habit, and like to do your weekly shop at the same place every week.

Nectar members only. Earn 10,000 bonus Nectar points worth £50 at Sainsbury's/Argos/eBay – but you CAN'T get the card if you're self-employed

With the Sainsbury's Bank Nectar Reward card (apply, it's not in our eligibility calculator), you can earn Nectar points on all purchases. Plus, spend £400+ at Sainsbury's, Argos or Tu Clothing in the first two months and you'll get 10,000 bonus Nectar points, worth £50. 

The points will be credited to your Nectar account 60 days after the end of the two-month period. 

You'll only be able to apply for this card if you've had a Nectar card for six months or more and unfortunately Sainsbury's won't currently accept you if you're self-employed.

You could also get up to 17 months 0% on spending (some poorer credit scorers will get 14 or 12 months 0%), but only use this if you're disciplined and can fully repay within the 0% period.

It's also worth looking at the Amex Nectar card, which offers a 20,000 Nectar-point intro bonus and ongoing points, as it could be a better option.

Representative APR (variable): 20.9% APR (Official APR Examples)
Important: Repay in full before end of 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least monthly minimum) then clear IN FULL every month if you continue spending on it
Annual fee: None
Standard points earned (excl bonus): Two per £1 spent in Sainsbury's, one per £5 elsewhere
Value of one point: 0.5p
Points' expiry: None unless account is closed

New. Get a £30 Amazon voucher, plus points on spending

The Amazon Platinum card (apply, it's not in our eligibility calculator) is a good deal for Amazon shoppers. If approved, you get a free £30 voucher to spend at Amazon. This will be loaded to your Amazon account automatically.

You'll also earn points when you spend on your card – you'll get 75 points per £100 spent at Amazon (150 points for Prime members) and 25 points per £100 spent elsewhere. Earn 1,000 points and they're converted into a £10 Amazon voucher, added to your account a few days after your statement date.

Important: If you're accepted, the card will be set as your default payment method on Amazon. This is good for earning points on things you would've bought anyway, but don't use it as an excuse to overspend.

Representative APR (variable): 21.9% APR (Official APR Examples)
Important: Repay in full before end of 3mth 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least monthly minimum), then clear IN FULL every month if you continue spending on it
Annual fee: None
Standard points earned: 0.75 points per £1 spent at Amazon (1.5 for Prime members), 0.25 points per £1 spent elsewhere
Value of one point: 1p

Earn £20 in John Lewis/Waitrose vouchers, plus ongoing points on spending

The Partnership credit card (check eligibility / apply*) gives newbies 2,000 bonus points – worth £20 to spend at John Lewis or Waitrose – if you apply by 31 Jan 2021 and spend £250 at either store within 90 days. 

It also gives 1.25 points per £1 spent at John Lewis/Waitrose (doubled in your first 90 days if you’re signed up to the free My John Lewis or My Waitrose schemes) and 0.25 points for every £1 you spend elsewhere. Points are converted to John Lewis/Waitrose vouchers and sent to you three times a year (in February, June and October).

While it’s a good offer if you’d spend £250 at these stores anyway, don’t use the bonus as an excuse to spend more than you usually would.

Representative APR (variable): 18.9% APR (Official APR Examples)
Important: Repay in full before end of 9mth 0% period to avoid interest (always pay at least monthly minimum), then clear IN FULL every month if you continue spending on it
Annual fee: None
Standard points earned (excl bonus): 1.25 per £1 spent at John Lewis/Waitrose, 0.25 per £1 spent elsewhere
Value of one point: 1p
Points' expiry: Two years

See how likely it is you'll get this card

MSE's Eligibility Calculator

Or just go straight to the lender

Apply*

Don't shop at any of the stores above? Other reward cards

If you don't shop at one of the supermarkets or stores above, here are some quick details of two other cards to consider.

Card Rewards Value of one point  Rep APR†
M&S Bank
Apply via eligibility calculator (i)

- Coupon for 500 bonus points on your first spend at M&S

- 2 points per £1 at M&S in first year, 1pt per £1 from year 2

- 1 point per £5 elsewhere

1p 19.9%
Tesco 
Check eligibility / Apply*

- 1 point per £4 at Tesco

- 1 point per £8 elsewhere 

1-3p (See how to boost points) 19.9%

†If not repaid. Representative variable APR, your interest may be different. (i) M&S Bank has asked we direct people to our eligibility calculator, so only those more likely to be accepted will actually apply, reducing demand and enquiry calls, as it's already overcapacity and needs to prioritise coronavirus help for vulnerable people. 

Cashback sites may pay you for signing up

As an extra boon, members of specialist cashback websites can be paid when they sign up to some financial products. Do check that it's exactly the same deal though, as terms can be different. And remember the cashback is never 100% guaranteed until it's in your account. 

For full help to take advantage of this and the pros and cons, see our Top Cashback Sites guide.

Coronavirus credit card help

If you're struggling to pay off debt on an existing credit card due to coronavirus, lenders should provide support. What's available depends on whether you've already had help:

For the latest updates and full information on the support available, see our coronavirus finance and bills help guide.

Reward cards Q&A

  • It depends. You should always concentrate on repaying your debts, but if they're at 0% (in the form of, for example, a 0% spending or balance transfer card) then it's less of a problem – as long as you're certain you can repay them by the end of the 0% period.

    The golden rule for reward cards (hopefully it's large enough at the top of this guide) is always pay the card off in full at the end of the month. So if you have one card for rewards you do that with, and a separate card for your debts you should be OK.

  • There's another big bonus to using a rewards 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. It means that if you buy something costing between £100 and £30,000, here or abroad, and pay on a credit card, 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. If a retailer were to go kaput, you'd still be able to claim your money back from the card company.

    But, be aware of using PayPal to pay on a credit card, as you'll lose this valuable Section 75 protection. Read the full guides to Section 75 refunds and using PayPal to pay on a credit card.

  • Sometimes, but there's little point in doing so – you don't earn points on balance transfers.

    Many reward credit cards try to tempt you with competitive balance transfer offers – they want you to spend and shift debts to them. It'll end up costing you as you're unlikely to be able to afford to repay the card in full. Instead use a separate card for balance transfers.

  • The second source of income for card companies is the retailer. When you pay on a credit card, the card company gets between 0.1% and 0.3% of what you spend from the shop/restaurant and this will often cover the cashback.

    Therefore, in a way, all you're doing is getting back the extra that's been factored in to pricing for all customers to cover credit card costs.

    Generally, the bigger the retailer the less it pays, as it has more negotiating power with Visa or Mastercard. Also it's worth noting Amex tends to charge retailers more, one of the reasons some smaller companies don't accept it.

  • As many as you're accepted for – there's no limit. Though of course, every card application has a small impact on your credit score. So the more you have, the less likely you are to be accepted for more cards.

    Don't apply for lots if you may need credit for something important such as a mortgage or a balance transfer card. Full info in our Credit Rating guide.

  • If you spend a substantial amount of money in a store then it certainly is worthwhile. But don't let this blind you for the rest of your spending: make sure you maximise what you get elsewhere too (it may be worth having two cards).

    Also remember that lots of cards use a 'double earn' promise, so it looks like you get more points using your credit card in the linked store, but actually you would've got the same just using its normal loyalty card. See our Loyalty Points guide for a full explanation.

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