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Sam | Edited by Martin

Updated September 2018

Best credit card rewards

Spend on one of these cards and they pay you – either in pure cashback or points which 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.

How do reward credit cards work?

Reward cards can be a great way of earning £100s' worth of bonuses, 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.

Use our eligibility calculator to find cards you're most likely to get, without hitting your credit score

Making an application is recorded on your credit file. While a single one is not a big problem, especially if you've a good credit score, lots in a short time are problematic.

So use our Reward Credit Cards Eligibility Calculator to show cards you're most likely to get, so you don't waste an application. And it's NOT recorded as a hard search on your credit file.

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...

  • Set up a direct debit to repay in full each month so you'll never pay interest, which will dwarf the gain

  • Use the card for all NORMAL spending to max rewards

  • Check the rewards are right for you and the real value of the points

  • First use our eligibility calculator to find cards you're most likely to get...

  • Boost the value of your Avios, Nectar and Tesco points

  • Sort out debts before going for reward cards

  • Don't borrow or withdraw cash on these cards

Top cashback cards

Top cashback cards

These are the top cashback cards available, which have a big intro bonus. For full options see our Top Cashback Cards guide.

amex

Top pick as highest payer, giving up to 5%, but not accepted everywhere

Amex Platinum Everyday*

The American Express* Platinum Cashback Everyday is the top fee-free card, especially if you've big spending to do in the next few months. This is because it has a 5% introductory rate (on your first £2,000 of spending, so max £100), then tiered ongoing cashback.

Need-to-knows
  • You earn 5% for the first three months (max £2,000 spend), then 0.5% cashback on up to £5,000/year & 1% above this.
  • You need to spend at least £3,000 in the year to receive any cashback.
  • It's an Amex, so it's not as widely accepted as Mastercard or Visa (especially in some smaller retailers).
  • Repay in full EVERY month to avoid the 22.9% representative APR as interest will quickly wipe away the cashback gains.

Spend over £9,000 on it a year? In that case, try the Amex Platinum (eligibility calc / apply*). It has a £25 annual fee, but gives the intro 5% rate on up to £2,500 of spending (so max £125) and then tiers up to 1.25% in cashback and so is a winner for bigger spenders. Repay IN FULL or it's 28.2% rep APR (incl fee).

Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Representative variable rate: 22.9% APR (Official APR Example)
  • Cashback: 5% in first three months (max £100), then up to 1% after
  • Annual fee: None
  • Min income: N/A
  • Max cashback/year: None
  • Cashback expiry: N/A
Key question

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

Top airline cards

Airline credit cards and rewards

There are a variety of different schemes, but part of the choice depends on which airlines you prefer and their availability, as often the big gain comes from using credit card points along with points from frequent flying.

Watch out for taxes and charges, though, as all reward schemes make you pay these on top when you book a flight using points, which means in some cases it may be cheaper to fly with a budget airline. Read our Cheap Flights guide.

We've only listed the top fee-free card, but you can earn more airline rewards with other cards which charge a fee. Frequent flyers should read Airline Credit Cards for all our top cards.

BA

Top fee-free card if you like to travel, plus free companion flight at £20k+ spend

BA Amex*

Fancy yourself as a bit of a jet-setter? Then the British Airways Amex* can reward you with free flights. Plus, if you're accepted you'll get 5,000 bonus Avios points if you spend £1,000 in the first three months. You need to be flexible with dates as only a limited number of seats per flight are set aside for Avios customers. You can also get a 'free' companion ticket if you spend £20,000/year on the card (see need-to-knows below).

Need-to-knows
  • You'll earn one Avios point per £1 spent on the card.
  • Spend £20,000/year, and you get one free 'companion ticket' when booking your BA flight with Avios points. The free ticket can be used to get the same ticket type as the cardholder (if you go first class, so do they) – you'll need to pay taxes and charges on top for both tickets.
  • It's an Amex, so it's not as widely accepted as Mastercard or Visa (especially in some smaller retailers).
  • Compare other frequent flyer cards in our Airline Credit Cards guide.
  • See more ways to boost your Avios points.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Representative variable rate: 22.9% APR (Official APR Example)
  • Annual fee: None
  • Reward scheme: BA Miles (Avios points)
  • Points per £100: 100
  • Taxes included? No
  • Points' expiry: Three years after you collect your last. Can I buy extra miles?

Top supermarket and stores' loyalty 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.

Sainsburys Credit Card

Possible £37.50 bonus Nectar pts

Sainsbury's Nectar* 2 pts per £1 spent in Sainsbury's

If you shop at Sainsbury's and have a Nectar card then the Nectar Dual* credit card gives you a boost on the Nectar points you earn when shopping there. Plus, you'll get 750 bonus Nectar points worth £3.75 each time you spend £35+ in Sainsbury's in the first two months (max 7,500 points, worth £37.50). Doing a big shop? Split it into smaller £35 chunks to max the bonus.

On top of this, there's also a decent 29 months 0% on spending, but only use this if you're disciplined and can fully repay at the end of the 29 months.

Need-to-knows
  • You can also shop online at Sainsbury's to trigger the points bonuses, but buying anything (incl fuel) at Sainsbury's petrol stations doesn't count.
  • As well as the bonus, you get two Nectar points for every £1 you spend in Sainsbury's, or one Nectar point for every £5 elsewhere.
  • Usually one Nectar point is worth 0.5p and you can spend them on anything in the Nectar range (see Loyalty Schemes for ways to max 'em).
  • The bonus points will be added to your Nectar account within 60 days of the end of your two-month period.
  • After the 0% period ends, you'll be charged 19.9% representative APR if you don't pay the card off in full at the end of each month.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Representative variable rate: 19.9% APR (Official APR Example)
  • Annual fee: None
  • Reward scheme: Nectar points
  • Value of one point: 0.5p
  • Points' expiry: None unless account is closed
  • Points per £100: Up to 200
amex

Get a £25 M&S vch, plus earn pts for spending, equiv to 2% in first year

M&S Bank*

Accepted new M&S Bank* cardholders who apply via our link can get a free £25 to spend in its stores on almost anything (incl clothes and food). It's split into two parts...

- £20 in M&S pts. Awarded the first time you use the card anywhere for any amount within 90 days.
- Plus extra £5 M&S vch. You're sent a coupon with the card. Just swipe it or use online with your card to buy most things at M&S for any amount and you get another £5 of points.

Just ensure you never withdraw cash (it's expensive) and repay the card IN FULL each month to avoid the 19.9% rep APR interest, and as long as you'd do the spending anyway it won't cost a penny.

Need-to-knows
  • Points-related vouchers are credited to your account within 30 days of your first purchase and will be sent in your next available quarterly reward mailing.
  • You cannot get the card if you're an existing M&S Credit Card holder or if you've held a credit card with M&S Bank within the past 12 months.
  • There's a six-month 0% period on spending with the card, a nice bonus, but don't feel you need to use it. If 0% spending is what you're looking for, see our 0% spending guide.
  • Outside of the six-month 0% period, you'll pay 19.9% rep APR.
  • Always pay at least the minimum monthly repayment, or you'll lose the 0% deal.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Representative variable rate: 19.9% APR (Official APR Example)
  • Annual fee: None
  • Reward scheme: M&S points
  • Value of one point: 1p
  • Points' expiry: Points last two years
  • Points per £100: 200 in M&S (first year); 20 elsewhere

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

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

Card (APR†) Bonus Points per £100 Value of one point Eligibility Calculator

Amazon Halifax

(21.9%)

£20 Amazon gift card straightaway 75 at Amazon; 50 elsewhere 1p -

Asda*

(19.9%)

N/A 1% 'cashback' at Asda, 0.2% elsewhere (1) N/A You can use our eligibility calc

John Lewis/Waitrose*

(18.9%)

£10 J Lewis/Waitrose vch if you spend £500 in first 90 days 100 at J Lewis/Waitrose, 50 elsewhere 1p at J Lewis/Waitrose You can use our eligibility calc
Representative variable APR, your interest may be different. (1) You don't get points, just 'cashback' which can only be redeemed as vouchers to spend at Asda.

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 points earned in a wide variety of places.

Amex Preferred Rewards Gold Card

Get £100 M&S/Amzn vch or 20,000 Avios for normal spending + 2 free airport lounge passes

Amex Gold*

If you're accepted for the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold* credit card, and spend £2,000 within the first three months, you'll get a bonus 20,000 reward points, equal to £100 in high street vouchers or 20,000 airline frequent flyer points (see need-to-knows below).

Plus you get two free visits at affiliated airport lounges (see the lounges you can use) which you can use for yourself twice, or yourself and one guest. See more Free or Cheap Airport Lounge Access tips.

Need-to-knows
  • The card usually has a £140 annual fee, but for now is fee-free in the first year. To avoid paying £140, remember to cancel before year two starts.
  • You earn one point per £1 on day-to-day spending and two points per £1 spent directly with airlines or in a foreign currency.
  • 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).
  • It's an Amex, so it's not as widely accepted as Mastercard or Visa (especially in some smaller retailers).
  • Make sure you repay IN FULL every month or you'll pay 22.9% interest, which'll quickly wipe out the rewards gain. The easiest way is to set up a direct debit.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Cashback: Vouchers equivalent to up to 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 £140 from year two onwards
  • Rate: 57.6% representative APR (incl fee, 22.9% interest on purchases; 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
Points earned, incl bonus 24,500 27,500 35,000 50,000
Converting to vouchers £100* £125* £175 £250
Assumes 50% of spending on air travel and abroad and 50% elsewhere
* = doesn't use the entire points total

How can I further boost points? You get a 10,000-point bonus on the anniversary of taking out the card if you've spent more than £15,000, but remember if you keep the card into a second year, you'll pay the £140 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.

Can I use points to pay off purchases? 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.

Can I use my airport lounge passes for additional visits or guests? Yes – additional guests or visits cost £15 charged to your Amex.

How are gift vouchers sent? Gift cards are sent by post (within 10 working days) or email.

ii

Get £50 M&S/Amzn vch or 10,000 Avios for normal spending – an alternative to the Amex above for lower spenders

American Express*

If you won't hit the spending trigger on the above card, or you want a card that's fee-free all the time, this could suit you better. Spend £1,000 on the Amex Rewards* credit card in the first three months and you'll get 10,000 bonus points. You can convert these into £50 worth of vouchers at retailers such as Amazon and M&S.

Need-to-knows
  • You won't receive the bonus if you already have or previously held an Amex Membership Rewards card within the past six months.
  • As well as the bonus, you'll earn one membership point per £1 spent on the card.
  • You can convert points into retail vouchers, frequent flyer points, hotel schemes and more. For full options see the Membership Rewards site.
  • It's an Amex, so it's not as widely accepted as Mastercard or Visa (especially in some smaller retailers).
  • Make sure you repay IN FULL every month or you'll pay 22.9% interest, which'll quickly wipe out the rewards gain. The easiest way to do this is to set up a direct debit to 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: Vouchers equivalent to up to 0.5% (plus 10,000 bonus points)
  • Paid out: Monthly
  • Max cashback/year: Unlimited
  • Annual fee: None | Min spend: £1,000 for bonus | Card issuer: Amex
  • Rate: 22.9% representative APR (Official APR Example)
  • Min income: N/A
Key questions

Can I use points to pay off purchases? 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.

How are gift vouchers sent? Gift cards are sent by post (within 10 working days) or email.

Amex Nectar

Get 20,000 Nectar points, worth £100, for normal spending, plus ongoing cashback

Amex Nectar*

Spend £2,000 on the Amex Nectar* card within three months, and you'll get 20,000 bonus Nectar points. These are worth at least £100 and can be spent at Nectar retailers such as at Sainsbury's.

Just do your normal spending on it to get the bonus, and remember to cancel after one year if you want to avoid the £25 annual fee that kicks in from year two.

Need-to-knows
  • As well as the bonus, you'll earn two Nectar points per £1 spent on the card (plus your usual Nectar points).
  • Usually one Nectar point is worth 0.5p, but some retailers give 1p per point, making this freebie worth £300 at theme parks etc (see Loyalty Schemes for ways to max these).
  • You can't get the bonus if you've had the Amex Nectar card in the last six months.
  • It's an Amex, so it's not as widely accepted as Mastercard or Visa (especially in some smaller retailers).
  • Make sure you repay IN FULL every month or you'll pay 22.9% interest, which'll quickly wipe out the rewards gain. The easiest way to do this is setting up a direct debit to 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
  • Representative variable rate: 28.2% APR (Official APR Example)
  • Annual fee: £25 (waived in year 1)
  • Reward scheme: Nectar points
  • Value of one point: 0.5p (1p at some retailers)
  • Points' expiry: One year if you don't collect or spend any points
  • Points per £100: 200

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

  • Is it OK to use a reward card alongside a credit card with existing debt?

  • Do I get Section 75 protection on these cards?

  • Can I transfer a balance to a reward card?

  • How do they make money if I always repay?

  • How many reward cards can I have?

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

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