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 you can 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.

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

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.

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 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.

    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 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.

  • 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.

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. 

Best Amex reward credit cards for new cardholders (i)



Platinum C
ashback 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 26% rep APR

A winner if you're after cashback, with no fee to pay.
 

This is likely the top cashback credit card for most, as it's fee-free, and has a good introductory rate, with decent ongoing cashback. However, if you spend less than £3,000 a year you won't get any cashback at all.

If you'll spend £10,000+ a year, the Amex Platinum below will beat it. Alternatively, Chase's current account offers 1% cashback – though it's via a debit card rather than credit card, and it's only for a year.

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 in vouchers or 0.8p in Nectar pts)

- Two free visits per year to airport lounges

- £5 cashback on two £5+ Deliveroo orders per month
- No fee in year one, then £140/yr
- Fail to repay fully and it's 61.8% rep APR, including fee

Earn rewards rather than cashback – this card has the highest intro bonus in this guide, worth up to £184.

 

As its points value depends on your choice of reward, it's a tricky card to compare to cashback options. However, spend £3,000 on this card in the first three months and you'll bag a total 23,000 points. These can be exchanged for £184 in Nectar points (via a trick), £100 in vouchers or 23,000 airmiles/hotel points (including Avios, Virgin Red and Hilton Honors). See full rewards point info, including the Nectar trick.

 

You can also get £5 cashback on two £5+ Deliveroo orders per month.

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
- Fail to repay fully and it's 31.3% rep APR including fee

A good cashback card for big spenders. If you'll spend over £10,000 per year and you want to earn cashback, this a good card to go for. While you'll pay a fee, you'll earn a higher rate of cashback than you get with the Amex Everyday card above. 
Check eligibility Apply*

Nectar
 

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

- No fee in year one, then £25/yr
- Fail to repay fully and it's 31.3% rep APR incl fee

Earn ongoing Nectar points, plus an intro bonus worth £120. This card's a good pick for avid Nectar collectors, earning you points on all your spending. Plus spend £2,000 in the first three 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

- 10,000 pt bonus on £2,000 spend in first three months
- 1 pt per £1 spent (
1 pt = 0.5p in vouchers or 0.8p in Nectar pts)

- No fee
- Fail to repay fully and it's 26% rep APR

A similar points card to the Amex Gold above, but fee-free. This card has the lowest intro bonus of the Amex cards here, but as it doesn't charge a fee it's still a solid option. The initial 12,000 points you'd get if you spent £2,000 in the first three months could net you £96 in Nectar points (via a trick), 12,000 airmiles or a £50 voucher. See full rewards point info, including the Nectar trick.
Check eligibility Apply*

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

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Best non-Amex reward credit 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 few 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. Most of 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 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.

Best non-Amex reward credit cards for new cardholders


 

Sainsbury's Bank Mastercard

Must have a Nectar card

- 8,000 bonus pts on £400+ spend at Sainsbury's/Argos in first 2mths
- 2 pts per £1 spent at Sainsbury's/Argos (until 31 October), 1 pt per £5 spent elsewhere (1 pt = 0.5p at Nectar partners)
- Up to 17mths 0% on spending, 20.9% rep APR after

An intro bonus worth £40, plus good for regular Sainsbury's shoppers.

If you spend £50+ a week at Sainsbury's anyway, shift that to this card and you'll get the bonus worth £40, plus ongoing points. Points can be spent at Sainsbury's and Nectar partners such as eBay, or you can swap them for BA airmiles (400 Nectar = 250 Avios).

 

Though – if you're eligible – you can earn more Nectar points with the Amex Gold or Amex Nectar cards.

Apply



Lloyds Bank Mastercard


- £20 bonus cashback when you spend £1,000+ in first 90 days

- 0.25% cashback on all spending up to £4,000/yr and 0.5% above

- Cashback paid annually in January

- Fail to repay fully and it's 19.9% rep APR

Earn cashback on all spending, plus an easy £20 intro bonus.

 

Cashback cards are a relatively rare breed, so this is a decent option if you'd rather have cash over vouchers. You also get a £20 bonus if you spend £1,000 in the first three months. 

 

The rates are tiered, so you earn more if your annual spending exceeds £4,000 – but don't use this as an excuse to overspend. 

Note: Lloyds' sister bank Halifax (apply) also offers the exact same deal.

Apply
The next best non-Amex reward cards.

M&S Bank

 

- 2 pts per £1 at M&S in 1st year (then 1 pt/£1 at M&S), 1 pt per £5 spent elsewhere (1 pt = 1p at M&S)

- 12mths 0% spending, then 19.9% rep APR

A good option for frequent M&S shoppers, plus earn double points in year one. 

Points automatically store up and convert to M&S vouchers in February, May, August and November, provided you've earnt at least 200 points (worth £2) in each period.
Check eligibility Apply*

Asda Money

- 1% back in Asda pounds for spending at Asda, 0.3% for spending elsewhere

- Fail to repay fully and it's 22.9% rep APR

Earn an ongoing 1% back at Asda.

 

You'll earn Asda pounds which you'll need to convert into discount vouchers you can then use at Asda online or in store. Asda pounds expire after six months, so make sure you convert them before this (you'll need to download the Asda Rewards app to do this).

Apply

Tesco Bank Mastercard


- 1 Clubcard pt per £4 spent at Tesco, 
1 pt per £8 spent elsewhere (1 pt = 1p-3p at Clubcard partners)

- Up to 23mths 0% spending, then 20.9% rep APR.

No bonus, but 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*

Best reward debit card

A current account from Chase currently beats the Amex Platinum Cashback 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.

Though unlike the free Amex cashback card above, Chase's cashback only lasts twelve months, so if you want to keep on earning cashback, diarise when it ends to review your options.

Top reward debit card for new cardholders



Chase Bank Mastercard*

- 1% cashback for 12mths

- Fee-free overseas spending & ATM withdrawals

Get 1% cashback for a year with Chase's app-only current account. 

The 12 months start from the date you activate cashback in the app, though there are a few cashback exclusions. Cashback can be transferred from the 'Rewards' section of the Chase app to the main account balance whenever you like. 

 

Its debit card is also a top-pick for overseas use, so it's a strong account. If you're thinking of switching to Chase, or using it as your main bank account, read our full Chase review.

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.

Reward cards Q&A

  • Do I get Section 75 protection on these cards?

    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.

    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.

  • How do card companies make money if I always repay?

    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.

  • How many reward cards can I have?

    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.

  • Is it worth going for a card that gives bigger rewards in one store?

    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. 

  • Which credit card is best for me?

    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 airmiles. 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.

     

  • What credit card has the best 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.

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