Credit card rewards
Earn cashback, points & more
Spend on one of these cards and it pays you – either in pure cashback or points that convert into vouchers for shops, airlines, hotels and more. If you're debt-free and pay off your card every month, you can earn goodies worth £100s each year. Plus our Reward Credit Card Eligibility Calculator will show 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.
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'll likely 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.
What types of reward cards are there?
There are several types of reward credit cards available including...
- Cashback credit cards. Get a percentage of the amount you spend back, usually as credit added to your card balance annually or monthly. You may get a flat cashback rate across everything you pay for, or differing percentages depending on where you shop. The amount of cashback you can earn is often capped.
- General points credit cards. Collect points that can be exchanged for perks, vouchers, or goods and services.
- Supermarket / department store reward scheme cards. Earn points whenever you spend on your card which you can then use with your chosen store.
- Travel and airmile credit cards. Earn points you can exchange for flights or discounts on upgrades, hotels, and airport lounges. See our top airline credit cards picks.
The five reward card need-to-knows
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 interest doesn't wipe the gain.
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 that you'll always be able to repay the card in full, DON'T pick a reward card. Focus on a card with a lower interest rate instead – see our 0% spending credit cards guide.
Once you've got a reward credit card, you get paid almost every time you use it. 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.
Can I add an additional cardholder to my account to boost cashback or reward points?
Yes, you can. Though 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.
3. Check the rewards are right for you and the real value of the points (then see if you can boost it)
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. Broadly, there are two types of scheme...
- Cashback. This is the most straightforward type of scheme – for every pound spent, you get a certain amount back, for instance, 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 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.
All credit card applications have a slight short term negative impact on your credit worthiness, 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 mortgage.
A single application may not kibosh your chances, but together with other negatives, it may well do. See Credit score boosting for more tips.
Additionally, if you’ve debts elsewhere, you'll save more by keeping your debts cheap instead of going for reward cards. See Best balance transfers for the top credit card debt-cutting cards and Debt problems for full step-by-step help.
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.
See which reward credit cards you've the best chance of getting, in your own personal best-buy table.
Usually, applying for a new card is the only way to know if you'll be accepted for it or not. Yet that marks your credit file, affecting your ability to get future credit. To help, our tool uses a 'soft search' to find your chances of acceptance before applying.
Check your chance of acceptance
Amex offers the top-paying rewards cards
If you're looking for a cashback or reward card, your best bet is likely to be a card from American Express' range. We've selected our top picks below as they have big intro bonuses and/or give unbeatable ongoing rewards when compared with the rest of the market.
Though note 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 (not business) Amex in the last two years
If this second point applies to you, or if you need a backup card for when Amex isn't accepted, check out the top non-Amex cards below.
|These cards have no ongoing fees and give decent cashback/rewards.|
Get 5% cashback for the first three months, then ongoing cashback of up to 1% – though you must spend £3,000+ per year to get any cashback. After the first three months, you get 0.5% cashback on the first £10,000 spent each year and 1% back on all spend over £10,000.
- 0.5% cashback on first £10,000 spend
- 31% rep APR
Get 10,000 bonus Amex points if you spend £2,000+ in the first three months – which can be converted into many different rewards. This card gives one Amex point per £1 spent.
Amex points can be used in a variety of ways – including converting them into Nectar points, which, via our trick, can be boosted beyond their usual value. Hit the £2,000 trigger and you'll have 12,000 points, which could get you £80 in Nectar points, £50 in vouchers (including Amazon and M&S), or 12,000 airline/hotel points (including BA and Virgin).
- 31% rep APR
|These cards give bigger cashback/rewards than the cards above.|
Get 25,000 bonus Amex points if you spend £3,000+ in the first three months – though there's a hefty £195 annual fee from year two. Plus, get a further 5,000 points if you spend on the card (even 1p) 15 months later. This is in addition to an ongoing one point per £1 spent and 2,500 points every time you spend £5,000 (max 12,500 bonus points per year). You also get four free visits to airport lounges each year and £5 cashback on two £5+ Deliveroo orders a month.
Amex points can be used in a variety of ways – including converting them into Nectar points, which, via our trick, can be boosted beyond their usual value. Hit the £3,000 trigger and you'll have 28,000 points, which could get you £185 in Nectar points, £140 in vouchers (including Amazon and M&S), or 28,000 airline/hotel points (including BA and Virgin).
- 88.8% rep APR
|Get 5% cashback for the first three months, plus up to 1.25% cashback after – though there's a £25 annual fee. If you'll spend over £10,000 a year and you want to earn cashback, this'll pay more than the Amex Everyday above, even after the fee, as the cashback rates are higher.|
|Get 20,000 bonus Nectar points if you spent £2,000 in the first three months – there's a £25 annual fee from year two. If you hit the £2,000 trigger you'd have 24,000 Nectar points, worth £120 at Nectar retailers such as Sainsbury's, Argos and eBay. Alternatively, they could be converted into 15,000 Avios. Plus you also get ongoing points.|
- 37.8% rep APR
Best non-Amex cards
As we say above, the top-paying credit cards are all from American Express. But if you already have an Amex, can't get one, or need a backup for when it's not accepted, there are a couple of decent options – mostly from supermarket chains. We've selected these cards as they give the best returns when used at those stores, but do give some points if used elsewhere.
Important. The cards below sometimes offer 0% on new spending for a number of months. If you plan on using the card for everyday spending, it's best to ignore this and continue to pay it off IN FULL every month. However, if you NEED to borrow for a planned, affordable, one-off purchase, such as to replace a broken appliance, there's no cheaper borrowing – provided you borrow as little as possible and only an amount you can pay back during the 0% period.
A current account from Chase currently beats the Amex Platinum Cashback Everyday card above if you don't take into account Amex's intro bonus, or you won't meet the Amex's minimum spend. Unlike the other options in this guide, it's a debit card rather than a credit card, so you'll need to top up the account in advance to be able to spend.
Get a 1% cashback for at least a year with Chase's app-only current account. You get 1% cashback on most debit card spending (max £15/month), though there are some exclusions. There's no minimum pay-in required in the first year, but you'll have to pay in £500+/month after that to continue getting cashback. To use Chase, you'll need a device with at least iOS 14.1 or Android 8.1.
Its debit card is also a top pick for overseas use, giving near-perfect rates, and you can also open a linked easy-access saver paying 4.1% AER interest on up to £500,000 – a decent rate, though it can be beaten.
- Fee-free overseas spending & ATM withdrawals
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.
Reward cards FAQs
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 (so if you opt for the Chase card, you won't get it), 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.
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.
This largely comes down to two things – which rewards you value and which cards will accept you.
Generally speaking, reward credit cards either offer cashback on spending or award you loyalty points as you spend, which you can typically convert into vouchers or air miles. Take a look at our top-pick cards above to compare the rewards on offer, and decide which you would make use of the most.
Our Reward Credit Card Eligibility Calculator will then show you the acceptance odds for most of the top cards before applying. Usually the best bet is to go for the card with the best acceptance odds that meets your needs.
Once you have a card and to max rewards, do all your normal spending on it – though it's not an excuse to overspend. But if you don't always repay in full (or can't), then don't bother as the interest will dwarf the rewards.
Reward cards give you cash or loyalty points when you spend on them. So as long as you repay them IN FULL each month (preferably by direct debit so you never forget) and don't bust your credit limit, you neuter the 'debt element' of the card, and just have plastic that pays you to spend on it.
You'll find our top-pick reward cards above, though you'll need to compare them to determine which rewards you value the most. Our Reward Credit Card Eligibility Calculator will then show you the acceptance odds for most of the top cards before applying.
Amex points give you a choice of rewards (with varying values), so what to go for will come down to both your preferences, and how best to maximise the value. You should receive points within a couple of days after spending, though they can take up to 30 days.
Here are the main uses of Amex points:
- Convert them Nectar points. One Amex point is worth 0.5p. However, you can boost this to 0.67p via our trick. Nectar points can be spent at any Nectar partners, including Sainsbury's, eBay, and Argos.
- Use them to buy shopping vouchers/gift cards. One Amex point is worth 0.5p. Choose from retailers such as Amazon, M&S and Currys.
- Use your points to pay online. One Amex point is worth 0.45p. Choose from retailers such as Aldi, Asda and Boots. Generally you'll be offered this way to pay at the till when you check out on the retailers' sites.
- Airmiles/hotel points. The value of each Amex point varies depending on the scheme – choose from Avios, Virgin Red, Hilton Honors, and more.
You can see a full list of ways to redeem your points on the Amex Membership Rewards site.
But, there's a trick that means you can actually get 1.33 Nectar points for every Amex point you have, though you have to convert Amex points to Avios points, and then to Nectar points.
Here's how to do it:
- Swap your Amex points for Avios via the American Express website.
- Link your Nectar and British Airways Executive Club accounts, which can be done on the Nectar or British Airways Executive Club websites. Both are free to join if you're not already a member.
- Finally, convert your Avios to Nectar points via the British Airways website. You can only covert in multiples of 300 Avios (300 Avios = 400 Nectar points).
You can then spend the Nectar points at any Nectar partner, including Sainsbury's, eBay, and Argos.
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