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 rewards, see...
Top Airline Credit Cards | 0% Balance Transfers | Full Credit Cards Section

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How do reward credit cards work?

Essentially, they're quite simple. You just do your everyday spending on them and, in return, you get cashback or points which you can turn into vouchers, or money off at various shops. Reward cards can be a great way of earning £100s' worth of bonuses/cashback.

It sounds great – everyone loves something for nothing. But unless you're careful, cards will actually deliver nothing for something, as you may get hit with interest if you don't pay them off IN FULL every month. Some cards even impose a minimum spend to get the rewards – so always read carefully before choosing a card and make sure it'll work for you.

We take you through the top cards and the potential pitfalls below.

The five reward card 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 when you set up your direct debit. If it's not there, call the lender and ask them to make sure the direct debit is set up to pay off in full.

    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% Spending Credit Cards 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).

    Can I add an additional cardholder to my account to boost cashback?

    Yes, you can. By doing so, both your spending is eligible for cashback. Remember, with credit cards there's no such thing as a joint card – it's your card and you're giving them permission to spend on it. Any spending is yours to pay off, not theirs.

  • 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 can start. Always ensure you know what a point is worth.

      Generally, most cards in this guide have one point being worth between 0.5p and 1p. If you're not sure, check BEFORE you take the card out.

    boost the value of your points

    Boost the rewards you get

    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.

    Multiple applications on your credit file in a short space of time can damage your chances of getting future credit, so you need to weigh up whether getting a reward card now could harm other, more important credit applications you may have on the horizon (like a debt-cutting card – see Best Balance Transfers).

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

  • 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.

The top-paying rewards cards are from Amex

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If you're looking for a cashback or reward card, your best bet is likely to be a card from American Express' range – they have big intro bonuses and give unbeatable ongoing rewards when compared with the rest of the market.

We list our top picks below. But first, a couple of important points:

  • Amex isn't as widely accepted as Mastercard or Visa
  • You won't get the intro bonuses below if you've had a personal (ie, not business) Amex in the last two years

If this applies to you, or if you need a backup card for when Amex isn't accepted, check out the top non-Amex cards below.

Top Amex reward credit cards for new cardholders (i)



Platinum

Cashback Everyday

 

- 5% cashback for first 3mths/max £100
- Then 0.5% cashback up to £10,000 spent
- Then 1% cashback on £10,000+
- Cashback paid annually
- No fee
- Fail to repay fully and it's 22.2% rep APR

The top-pick cashback card if you'll spend under £10,000/yr.
 

This card pays an introductory 5% cashback rate. After that, you get 0.5% back on spending up to £10,000 (up to £5,000 until 4 Aug), and 1% above that. However, if you spend less than £3,000/yr you won't get any cashback at all.

It's likely the top cashback card for most, but if you'll spend £10,000+ a year, the Amex Platinum below will beat it.

Check eligibility Apply*



Preferred Rewards Gold
 

- 20,000 pt bonus on £3k spend in first three months
- 1 pt per £1 spent

- 1 pt = 0.5p (vouchers), 0.8p (Nectar)
- Two free visits per year to airport lounges
- No fee in year one, then £140/yr
- Fail to repay fully and it's 56.9% rep APR, incl fee

Earn points to convert into rewards – its intro bonus is worth up to £184 in Nectar points, a £100 M&S/Amazon vch or 23,000 airline/hotel points. 

As its points value depends on your choice of reward, it's a tricky card to compare to cashback. However, spend £3,000 in the first three months and you'll have 23,000pts, which you can exchange for £184 in Nectar points, a £100 voucher or 23,000 airmiles/hotel points (eg, Avios, Virgin Red and Hilton Honors). Full rewards point info

 

A hefty £140/yr fee kicks in from year two, so diarise to cancel before then if you want to avoid it.

Check eligibility  Apply*
The next best Amex reward cards. Here are quick details of three alternatives. 

Platinum Cashback
 

- 5% cashback for first 3mths/max £125
- Then 0.75% cashback on up to £10,000 spent
- Then 1.25% cashback on £10,000+ 
- Cashback paid annually
- £25/yr fee
- 27.3% rep APR incl fee

The top cashback card when spending over £10,000/yr. 
 

This card has a £25/yr fee, but it pays 5% for the first three months (or a max £125), and then 0.75% (1% until 4 Aug) up to £10,000 and 1.25% above this. So it's a winner for bigger spenders, beating Amex's similar Everyday card above.
 

Check eligibility Apply*

Nectar
 

- 20,000 Nectar pt bonus on £2k spend in first two months
- 2 pts per £1 spent
- 1 pt = 0.5p at Nectar partners

- No fee in year one, then £25/yr
- 27.3% rep APR incl fee

The top card for ongoing Nectar points, plus an intro bonus worth £120. 
 

Spend £2,000 in the first two months and you'll earn 24,000 Nectar points, worth £120 at Nectar retailers such as Sainsbury's, Argos and eBay. Or you can swap them for Avios points (400 Nectar = 250 Avios). 

Check eligibility Apply*

Rewards
 

- 5,000 pt bonus on £2k spend in first three months 
- 1 pt per £1 spent

- 1 pt = 0.5p (vouchers), 0.8p (Nectar)
- No fee
-  22.2% rep APR

A similar points card to the Amex Gold above, but fee-free. 
 

The initial 7,000 points you'd get if you spend £2,000 in the first two months would get you £56 in Nectar points, 7,000 airmiles or a £25 voucher. Full rewards point info.

Check eligibility Apply*

(i) You won't get the intro bonus if you've held a personal Amex card in the past two years.|See all official APR examples.

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Top non-Amex reward credit cards

As we say above, the top-paying cards are all from American Express. But if you already have an Amex, can't get one, or need a back-up for when it's not accepted, there are a few decent options – mainly from supermarket chains. They give the best returns when used at those stores, but do give some points if used elsewhere.

Important. All the cards below also offer 0% on new spending for a certain number of months. If you plan on using the card for everyday spending, it's best to ignore this and continue to pay IN FULL each month. However, if you NEED to borrow for a planned, affordable, one-off purchase eg, replacing a broken fridge, there's no cheaper borrowing – provided you borrow as little as possible and only an amount you can pay back during the 0% period.

Top non-Amex reward credit cards for new cardholders


 

Sainsbury's Bank

Must have held a Nectar card for 6mths+

- 10,000 bonus pts on £400+ spend
- 2 pts per £1 spent at Sains/Argos etc
- 1 pt per £5 spent elsewhere

- 1 pt = 0.5p at Nectar partners

- No fee

- Up to 17mths 0% on spending, 20.9% rep APR after 

Top non-Amex for Nectar collectors, plus there's a potential £50 Nectar point bonus.

 

If you're after Nectar points, but can't get or don't want the Amex Gold or Amex Nectar above, this card is the next best.

 

It pays 2 points per £1 spent at Sainsbury's, Argos, Habitat and Tu Clothing, plus gives a 10,000 point bonus (worth £50) if spending £400+ at these brands in the first two months.

 

Points can be spent at Nectar partners such as eBay, or you can swap for BA airmiles (400 Nectar = 250 Avios).

TABLE_CELL_STYLE

Apply



 

M&S Bank

- Get £25 cashback when you spend £100+ in first 90 days
- 1 pt per £1 spent at M&S
- 1 pt per £5 spent elsewhere
- 1 pt = 1p at M&S
- No fee

- 20mths 0% spending, then 21.9% rep APR 

Top card for M&S shoppers, with £25 cashback when you spend £100+ in the first 90 days, plus ongoing points.

Provided you've not had an M&S Bank credit card in the last 12 months, the cashback is added within 60 days of hitting the trigger. 

You'll also earn 1 point per £1 spent at M&S, with points converting to M&S vouchers every three months.

Check eligibility Apply*



Amazon Platinum


- £20 Amazon voucher on acceptance
- 0.75 pts per £1 spent at Amazon (1.5pts/£1 for Prime members)
- 0.25 pts per £1 spent elsewhere
- 1 pt = 1p at Amazon
- No fee
- 3mths 0% spending, 21.9% rep APR after

Top rate for Amazon Prime members. Points convert to Amazon vouchers, plus bonus £20 on acceptance.

If you frequently shop at Amazon and are already a Prime member (or/and can justify the fee elsewhere), this card offers the top rate per £1 spent, at an equivalent 1.5% back. 

 

This is the highest ongoing rate of all cards in this guide, though it can be beaten by Amex cashback if you're not a Prime member.

Points convert to Amazon vouchers every time you earn 1,000pts.

TABLE_CELL_STYLE Apply
Next-best non-Amex reward cards. Here are quick details of two alternatives.

John Lewis

-
 5 pts per £4 at John Lewis or Waitrose

- 1 pt per £4 spent elsewhere

- 1 pt = 1p at John Lewis
- No fee

- 9mths 0% spending, then 18.9% rep APR

No bonus, but decent rate of points if you're a frequent John Lewis or Waitrose shopper. 

Points are converted to John Lewis vouchers three times a year. 

Check eligibility Apply*

Tesco Bank

- 1 Clubcard pt per £4 spent at Tesco

- 1 pt per £8 spent elsewhere

- 1 pt = 1p-3p at Clubcard partners
- No fee

- Up to 20mths 0% spending, then 20.9% rep APR.

Good for Tesco shoppers wanting extra Clubcard points.

 

This card gives an extra point for every £4 spent at Tesco, so five points including the standard 1pt per £1 you'd get from your Clubcard anyway. The secret to this card is getting the most from your points – see boost points for full help. 

Check eligibility Apply*

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. Yet the blanket payment holiday help that used to be available has ended.

So if you're struggling to pay your credit card debt now, or you're coming off an agreed payment holiday, lenders are now supposed to provide 'tailored support'. Under this, you could be offered a (further) payment holiday or a period of reduced payments, reduced interest or a repayment plan – lenders should take into account how much you can afford and how your finances are likely to change in the near future.

Providers are expected to report any support they give you to credit reference agencies, which could affect your future creditworthiness. Yet don't let that put you off from contacting your provider – missing payments or defaulting is likely to have a far worse impact.

For the latest updates and full information on the support available, see our Coronavirus Finance & Bills Help guide.

Reward cards Q&A

  • 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.

    However, Section 75 protection doesn't apply to additional cardholders – so ensure that any big purchases are made by the main cardholder.

    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.

  • While customers paying interest is a big source of income for the card company, it's not the only one.

    The second is the retailer. When you pay on a credit card, the card company gets a small percentage 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.

    It's worth noting that Amex tends to charge retailers more than they pay when you use a Mastercard or Visa, which is 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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