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Compare Our Top-Rated Credit Cards of 2021

By The Motley Fool Personal Finance Team | Updated: 23rd March 2022

With so much choice when it comes to credit cards in the UK, it can be hard to narrow down what you feel is the best credit card for you to just one. We’ve made it easy for you by comparing credit cards across many different areas and focusing on the key features and benefits that are likely to matter the most when you’re choosing a new card.

Things to consider when choosing the best credit card for you:

  1. Our star rating: Our ratings are on a five-star scale and are based on factors we believe are important to the average user of credit cards in the UK. We humbly suggest using this rating to help you decide, as we’ve spent countless hours making sure it brings the best card options to the top.
  2. Interest rates: Knowing how much interest you will pay on your credit card is key.
  3. Rewards and cashback: If possible, you’ll want to earn rewards or cashback just by using your card.
  4. Annual fees: While most of the time you want to avoid your card costing you money, there are times when an annual fee means you can unlock great features.
  5. Introductory perks: Some cards will offer perks like introductory interest-free periods or sign-up bonuses that sweeten the deal.
  6. Extra bonuses: This could be anything from access to your credit score to fee-free cash withdrawals.

With these six factors in mind, you’re ready to find the best credit card deal for you.

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Here are The Motley Fool's top-rated credit cards of 2021

Credit Card Great For Star Rating
American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card * Everyday cash back with no fee
American Express Rewards Credit Card * Attractive rewards with no annual fee
M&S Shopping Plus Credit Card * Long 0% purchase and balance transfer, plus points
Santander All In One Credit Card * 0% offers, cashback and travel benefits in one card
British Airways American Express Credit Card * Collecting Avios on everyday spend
M&S Transfer Plus Credit Card * Really long balance transfer period
Santander Everyday No Balance Transfer Fee Credit Card * balance transfers with no fee
The NatWest Credit Card * Low APR and no foreign transaction fees
Tymit * controlling and monitoring spending and repayments
Aqua Advance Credit Card those with a low credit score, looking to build their credit history & improve their credit score

Credit card offers from our affiliate partners appear first and are ordered from highest rating to lowest, followed by other top-rated offers. You can read more about our ratings and page sort here. Offers from affiliate partners are marked with *.

Filter Results

Top Product
Great For: Everyday cash back with no fee

American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card *

5 stars ?
Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

TEST: Cashback card intro offer

24.5%

£0

Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

Cashback rewards are hard to come by these days, but if that’s what you’re looking for, the American Express Cashback Everyday Credit Card may be a good bet. The standard cashback yield is 0.5%, but for those that spend more than £10,000, that bumps up to 1%. New cardholders also get a bonus of 5% cashback over the first three months, which maxes out at £100. Its sister card offers a bigger welcome bonus and higher cashback, but the Everyday Credit Card has the advantage of no fee.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 5% cashback for first 3 months (up to £100, subject to eligibility)
  • 0.5% cashback after first 3 months (if you spend £1 to £10,000)
  • 1% cashback after first 3 months with spending above £10,000 
  • Note that you must spend at least £3,000 to earn any cashback
  • No annual fee
  • No cap on cashback earned
  • Travel accident insurance (subject to enrolment) and global assist services
  • Access to special offers from American Express offers

KEY SCORES

Perks 4/5
Fees 5/5
APR 3.5/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative APR 24.5% APR variable
Annual fee Based on £0
Credit Limit Assumed credit limit of £1,200
Purchase Rate 24.5% variable for purchases

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: Attractive rewards with no annual fee

American Express Rewards Credit Card *

4.5 stars ?
Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

24.5%

£0

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

The American Express Rewards Credit Card gives you access to a popular reward scheme and leaves out the price tag. With no annual fee, you can immediately start feeling the benefit of one Membership Rewards point for every £1 you spend. The real selling point is for new cardmembers, who, if eligible, could earn themselves a windfall of 10,000 bonus points if they spend £2,000 in the first three months. And did we mention no annual fee?

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1 Membership Rewards Point per £1 spent
  • 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards Points when you spend £2,000 in first three months (subject to eligibility)
  • No annual fee
  • Refund protection up to £200 when a UK retailer won’t refund an eligible item within 90 days of purchase (subject to enrolment)
  • Purchase protection up to £2,500 when an item is stolen or damaged within 90 days of purchase (subject to enrolment)
  • Travel accident insurance up to £150,000 (subject to enrolment), plus 24/7 access emergency assistance

KEY SCORES

Perks 4.5/5
Fees 4.5/5
APR 3.5/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative 24.5% APR variable
Purchase rate 24.5% variable for purchases
Credit limit Assumed credit limit of £1,200
Annual fee No annual fee

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: Long 0% purchase and balance transfer, plus points

M&S Shopping Plus Credit Card *

4.5 stars ?

22 months

22 months

21.9%

£0

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On M&S Bank's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

The M&S Shopping Plus card ticks a lot of the boxes to make a great credit card. For starters, there’s a long 22-month 0% period on new purchases. But you can add to that a 22-month, 0% period for balance transfers made in the first 90 days and the M&S points programme. It is worth noting that there’s a 2.9% fee on balance transfers.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on purchases for the first 22 months
  • 0% interest for 22 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days
  • 2.9% balance transfer fee (minimum £5)
  • Earn M&S points for shopping at M&S and elsewhere

KEY SCORES

Perks 4/5
Fees 5/5
APR 4/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 21.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 21.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on M&S Bank's Secure Website

Great For: 0% offers, cashback and travel benefits in one card

Santander All In One Credit Card *

4.5 stars ?

20 months

26 months

23.7%

£36**

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

A highly multi-functional card that should serve a wide variety of users. The All in One card offers 26-month 0% periods on balance transfers and 20 months 0% on purchases. During the promotional period, there’s no balance transfer fee – a very nice benefit.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 26 months from account opening on balance transfers
  • No balance transfer fee
  • 0% interest for 20 months from account opening on purchases
  • 0.5% cashback on all purchases
  • No foreign transaction fee (if you pay in local currency)
  • Special cashback offers of up to 15% with Retailer Offers (you must sign up for this)
  • ** The fee for this card is £3 per month, charged monthly (£36 in total annually)
  • Note: You can apply for a credit card if you’re a permanent UK resident aged 18 years or over, have a guaranteed annual income of £7,500 or more (before tax), have a good credit record and have not been declared bankrupt, had a CCJ or an IVA within the last 6 years.

KEY SCORES

Perks 5/5
Fees 5/5
APR 2/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

17.9% p.a. (variable) on card purchases. This is equivalent to 23.7% APR representative (variable) based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200. Monthly fee: £3.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on Santander's Secure Website

Limited Time Offer
Great For: Collecting Avios on everyday spend

British Airways American Express Credit Card *

4 stars ?
Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

24.5%

£0

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

This card is all about the Avios. For a limited time, if you are a new cardmember, then you can earn 10,000 Avios if you spend £1,000 in the first three months (customer must apply and be approved by 2 November 2021. T&Cs apply.). Everyday spending will see you earn 1 Avios for every £1 spent, and there is also a friend referral scheme which offers 6,000 bonus Avios for each friend who is approved. All of these can then be redeemed as full or part payment against flights, or for flight upgrades. You can also get a Companion Voucher when you spend £12,000 on the card each year. And did I mention there is no annual fee?

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1 Avios per £1 spent
  • For a limited time, 10,000 bonus Avios when you spend £1,000 in first three months (customer must apply and be approved by 2 November 2021. T&Cs apply.)
  • No annual fee
  • Refund protection up to £200 when a UK retailer won’t refund an eligible item within 90 days of purchase (subject to enrolment)
  • Purchase protection up to £2,500 when an item is stolen or damaged within 90 days of purchase (subject to enrolment)
  • Travel accident insurance up to £75,000 (subject to enrolment), plus 24/7 access emergency assistance

KEY SCORES

Perks 4/5
Fees 3/5
APR 2/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 24.5% APR variable
Purchase rate 24.5% variable for purchases
Credit limit Assumed credit limit of £1,200
Annual fee No annual fee

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: Really long balance transfer period

M&S Transfer Plus Credit Card *

4 stars ?

29 months

3 months

2.75%

21.9%

£0

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On M&S Bank's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

The M&S Transfer Plus card gives you a very long 29 months of 0% interest on balances transferred in the first 90 days. Users will have to cough up a balance-transfer fee of 2.75% though. Balancing that out, the M&S Transfer Plus also offers 0% for 3 months on purchases and M&S points on all purchases.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 29 months on balances transferred in the first 90 days (2.75% fee applies)
  • 0% interest on purchases for 3 months
  • Earn M&S points for shopping at M&S and elsewhere

KEY SCORES

Perks 5/5
Fees 4/5
APR 4/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 21.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 21.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on M&S Bank's Secure Website

Great For: balance transfers with no fee

Santander Everyday No Balance Transfer Fee Credit Card *

4 stars ?

18 months

3 months

0%

20.9%

£0

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

Yes, some balance transfer credit cards offer longer 0% introductory rates, but 18 months is still respectable. Better still, you don’t have to stump up an initial balance transfer fee.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% on balance transfers for 18 months from account opening
  • No fee to transfer a balance for the first 18 months
  • 0% on purchases for 3 months
  • Special cashback offers of up to 15% with Retailer Offers (you must sign up for this)
  • Note: You can apply for a credit card if you’re a permanent UK resident aged 18 years or over, have a guaranteed annual income of £7,500 or more (before tax), have a good credit record and have not been declared bankrupt, had a CCJ or an IVA within the last 6 years.

KEY SCORES

Perks 3/5
Fees 4.5/5
APR 3/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

20.9% p.a. (variable) on card purchases. This is equivalent to 20.9% APR representative (variable) based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on Santander's Secure Website

Great For: Low APR and no foreign transaction fees

The NatWest Credit Card *

4 stars ?
Apply Now!

On NatWest's Secure Website

9.9%

£0

Apply Now!

On NatWest's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

Where the NatWest Credit Card excels is being that solid, take-everywhere card. With a low standard APR for qualified applicants, and no foreign transaction fees, this card can find a place in many peoples’ wallets. However, if you’re looking for rewards, cashback or a sign-up bonus, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Low APR of 9.9% p.a. (variable) for qualified applicants
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • No balance-transfer fees
  • Even lower balance-transfer rate of 6.9% (variable) for qualified applicants
  • No annual fee
  • To apply, you must be 18+, earning at least £10,000 per year and a UK resident

KEY SCORES

Perks 1/5
Fees 5/5
APR 5/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate 9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative APR 9.9% (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Annual fee £0

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can Apply Now!
on NatWest's Secure Website

Great For: controlling and monitoring spending and repayments

Tymit *

4 stars ?

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

The main feature of this card is that it lets you spread the cost of your purchases over 3, 6, 12, 24 and 36 months. You only pay interest on the purchases you put into instalments, not on your entire balance. The 3-month plan attracts no interest while the others have an APR ranging from 15.1%-29.7%.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Credit limit of £500-£15,000
  • APRs of 15.1%-29.7% for purchases repaid over 6 to 36 monthly instalments
  • You can manage your instalment plan through the app, and see interest charges or costs in advance
  • Interest is on instalments only and not on entire balance
  • Free spending abroad (no foreign transaction fee)
  • No cash withdrawal fees, up to £200 per month
  • No charges for going over your limit and no penalty for first late payment
  • *The card’s representative APR for purchases repaid over 6 to 36 monthly instalments is 19.8%

KEY SCORES

Perks 3.5/5
Fees 5/5
APR 4/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.8% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 0% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on Tymit's Secure Website

Great For: those with a low credit score, looking to build their credit history & improve their credit score

Aqua Advance Credit Card

4.5 stars ?

34.9%

£0

£250 to £1,200

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

OUR BOTTOM LINE

The Aqua Advance Credit Card includes many of the features that make other Aqua cards great for those looking to build or rebuild credit. As an added bonus though, users of the Advance Card that stay on time with their payments will see their APR go down by 5% per year. Over time, this could bring the APR down to 19.9%.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • If you make your payments on time, the APR could reduce by 5% per year
  • If you continue to make your payments on time, the APR could reduce to 19.9%
  • Free Aqua Credit Checker
  • No annual fee

KEY SCORES

Perks 4/5
Fees 5/5
APR 4/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Interest rate for purchases 34.95% p.a. variable
Representative rate 34.9% APR variable
Based on borrowing £1,200 over 12 months

More about our top-rated credit card deals

It’s usually easier to compare credit cards when you already know the type of card you’re looking for. If that’s you, here’s a breakdown of our top-rated credit cards from the list above per category:

Top-Rated Rewards and Cashback Credit Cards

Top-Rated 0% Purchase Credit Cards

Top-Rated Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Top-Rated Travel Credit Cards

Top-Rated Balance Transfer Credit Cards

And if you’re starting from scratch, we’ve broken down all the basics so you’re armed with the knowledge you need to find the best credit card for you.

What is a credit card?

credit card is a card issued by credit providers like banks or building societies that offers a type of loan that lets you buy goods and services on credit. When you pay for items with a credit card, the card issuer is essentially lending you the money and agreeing to pay for those goods on your behalf. This amount becomes the balance of your credit card.

How do credit cards work?

The credit provider that issues the credit card makes the payment to the merchant on your behalf, and tallies a debt balance for you. You have the option at the end of each month to either pay off your entire balance, or to only pay off some and accrue interest on the remaining balance. In order to attract customers, many credit card issuers attach attractive offers to cards, such as long periods of 0% interest or rewards for everyday spend.

How does credit card interest work?

Credit card interest is the fee a card issuer may charge when you borrow money with your credit card. This interest is usually expressed as a yearly rate, which is known as the annual percentage rate (APR).

There are different types of APRs for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances, and each type charges interest differently. However, most top-rated credit cards will only charge interest for purchases that aren’t paid off by the payment due date. So if you use your card and don’t pay the whole balance off at the end of your billing cycle, you are likely to be charged interest.

The good news is, by paying off your balance each month, you should not have to worry about credit card interest or APR. The APR may seem like a big factor in your choice of the best credit card for you because it’s an easily comparable number across cards, but for most cards it really isn’t important if you’re paying off your card each month.

If you’re shopping for a credit card, we recommend paying off your existing credit card debt and having a clear budget in mind that you know you can pay off each month, so that you’re ready to find a card without APR being a big deciding factor.

Key credit card terms defined

Before we go any further, let’s define some key terms you need to understand to pick the best credit card deal for you.

Credit Card Term

Definition

Annual fee

A charge you pay every year to use the card and access its perks (if applicable)

Annual percentage rate (APR)

An estimate of the yearly costs of a credit card including interest and compulsory charges

Balance transfer 

When you move money you owe from one credit card to another that (typically) charges less in interest

Credit card provider

A bank or financial institution that offers credit cards to customers

Credit limit

The maximum credit balance on your credit card

Credit score

A number that indicates how reliable you are when it comes to borrowing and repaying money

Foreign transaction fee

A charge made by your credit card company when you buy items through a foreign bank or in a foreign currency

Interest rate

The cost of borrowing money with a credit card

Minimum payment

The smallest amount of money you have to pay off from your balance each month

Welcome bonus

An incentive offered to entice new customers to sign up for their credit cards

Types of credit cards in the UK

Different credit cards come with different super powers, just like superheroes. Because there are so many different types, it’s important to understand these differences and then figure out which type is best for you.

Let’s take a look at those main types of credit cards:

  • 0% balance transfer credit cardsWith a balance transfer card, you’re able to transfer debt from another credit card to the new one, and then benefit from an extended period of 0% interest on that balance. The top cards in this category can give you more than two years of 0%. The benefit can be great in terms of savings on interest.
  • 0% purchase credit cardsLike balance transfer cards, 0% purchase cards provide a period of 0% interest on your balance. The difference is, instead of offering that 0% on an existing balance that you transfer, you get 0% on new debt that you accrue through purchases on the card. The 0% periods for these cards can reach two years or more as well.
  • Cashback cardsMost of these cards are structured to give you a certain percentage of your spending back in cold, hard cash and getting a 1% or higher cashback rate is good. Lower than 1% is very common, and although not great, it can still add up. Cashback card offers sometimes get a boost from introductory offers that put near-immediate cash in your pocket. Be aware that some cards which call themselves “cashback” don’t truly give you cash, but rather vouchers that often have to be spent in certain stores. 
  • Rewards cardsRewards cards typically accrue rewards on eligible purchases in terms of points or miles for every £1 you spend. They can be redeemed for spending vouchers, flights, hotels, and more. Points-based rewards cards are often tied to specific retailers, making them a great choice for shoppers who frequent that retailer. Travel-focused rewards cards also often have other benefits (such as no foreign transaction fees when used abroad or access to no-fee Travel Money) that 0% APR cards and cashback cards are less likely to have.
  • Travel cardsIf you’re a frequent traveller, you may already know how costly non-sterling transaction fees can be. A non-sterling transaction fee (or foreign transaction fee) is a fee that gets tacked on to your purchase when you swipe your credit card abroad. These fees can often be as much as 3%. Travel cards do away with non-sterling transaction fees, so travellers can swipe without those extra costs.
  • Credit-building cardsThere are two primary circumstances that might have you looking at credit-building cards. You may be brand new to credit and not have a credit history. Or you may have hit a pothole on the great financial highway and are trying to rebuild your credit. Credit-building cards also usually don’t come bundled with benefits like 0% intro APRs or rewards. The biggest benefit of all with these cards is right in the name: credit building. For those that use these cards responsibly, the result could be an increased credit score that can help them obtain a great 0% credit card or a fun rewards card. Student cards could be considered part of this category, since students typically have little to no credit history.
  • Business cardsNo surprise that these cards are aimed at business owners. Generally, they have higher credit limits to support usage in high-spending business contexts. For business owners that want to draw a clear line between their business and personal spending, these cards can be a good choice. Business credit cards can also be a way for businesses to start a financial relationship with a bank that may be able to help the business with other financing needs as the business grows.

Do you need a credit card?

Though around 60% of adults in the UK have a credit card, they aren’t for everyone. There are however, some great benefits of using a credit card.

  • Improve credit rating: A credit card can help build your credit rating just by using the card and paying off your balance on time. This opens the door to qualifying for other loans in the future, such as a mortgage, at a lower interest rate.
  • Earn rewards: Some cards offer rewards in the form of points or cashback that give a percentage of your spending back to you. And it’s hard to argue with being rewarded for spending you would do anyway, provided that the reward exceeds any fees or interest.
  • Fraud protection: Using a credit card can protect you against the shady characters out there that have bad intentions for your money. In most cases of credit card fraud, credit card companies have your back and you won’t be on the hook for charges that fraudsters rack up.
  • Extra perks: Many cards offer perks including no-fee travel money, purchase protection, and travel accident insurance. These may seem like “little things”, but it could mean hundreds of pounds of savings.

How many credit cards should you have?

Having more than one credit card may allow you to capitalise on various rewards, balance transfer opportunities and 0% interest deals.

However, having multiple credit cards can make it more difficult to keep track of spending and manage your budget. This can naturally lead to overspending for some consumers.

Although there is no fixed number as to how many cards you should have, it is logical to consider the impact on your credit score and overall financial situation before getting more than one credit card.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:

You should only have one credit card if…

  • You’ve had problems with missed credit card payments in the past
  • You want to keep your finances as simple as possible

You may want to explore multiple cards if…

  • You’re confident you can manage having multiple cards
  • You can use features from multiple cards to get more value overall
  • You’ll have more available credit, which helps maintain a lower credit utilization ratio and can increase your credit score

You should not have a credit card if…

  • You’ll spend more money than you would if you paid with cash
  • You can’t afford your monthly payments

Remember that any number of credit cards can be too many if you can’t afford to pay your monthly payments or don’t plan to use them responsibly. The right number of cards for you will depend on your personal situation.

Should you pay an annual fee for a credit card?

All things held equal: avoid an annual fee. This is money that comes out of your pocket, and whether the card is giving you points, rewards, or other benefits, paying an annual fee reduces your benefit.

But things aren’t always equal, and cards with an annual fee may give you more points or more cashback. By doing some easy maths, you can figure out whether a higher-earning card with an annual fee may be a better deal for you. If your plan is to spend heavily on a particular card and really rack up points or cashback, then an annual fee may well be worth it. If you ask us though, rarely does it make sense to carry two cards that sport an annual fee.

What is the best credit card deal for you?

Are you ready to hear the secret formula for finding the perfect credit card?

We’re kidding, of course. There’s no secret formula, and, to be frank, there’s not even one ‘best’ credit card. The reason is that everyone has their own particular financial circumstances. So what may be a great credit card deal for you may be terrible for someone else.

Figuring out the ‘best’ credit card for yourself goes back to what we talked about earlier — understanding the different types of cards, and deciding which type of card (which primary feature) best fits your circumstances.

Here are a few examples of how you can find the best credit card for you:

  • If you have great credit and want to take advantage of the benefits of credit cards, then the best credit card for you might be a rewards or cashback card. You generally need a good credit score to qualify for worthwhile rewards and cashback cards, and if you clear that hurdle, you can start banking points, air miles or cash, often for doing the spending you’d be doing anyway.
  • If you have good credit and are paying high interest on a credit-card balance, then the best credit card for you might be a balance transfer card. For qualified applicants, balance transfer cards can offer multiple years of no interest payments. An average APR these days is around 19%, so you can imagine the savings can be steep when swapping that out for 0%!
  • If you’re about to make a big purchase, then the best credit card for you might be 0% purchases cards. These cards typically offer a year or more of 0% interest on new purchases and can help spread the cost of a large purchase (or a series of purchases) over a longer period of time.
  • If you just got through a tough financial patch, but are trying to get back on track, then a credit-builder card may be the best credit card for you. Issuers of credit-builder cards accept applicants with less-than-stellar credit (often, much less than stellar). In return, cardholders have the chance to showcase their financial responsibility and potentially see their credit score start to heal.
  • If you’re a frequent traveller, then travel-oriented cards might be your best option. Many credit cards on the market charge as much as 3% on non-sterling transactions. Ouch! Cards aimed at travellers don’t have this fee. You may also find special deals on Travel Money or rewards that are oriented towards travel — like travel reward points.

Again, the term ‘best’ credit card lies in the context that it’s used. For someone ideally looking for a cashback credit card, even the ‘best’ balance transfer card is unlikely to be a good match. And as great as the ‘best’ traveller credit card might be, if someone has poor credit, getting approved would be unlikely.

How to choose a credit card

So now you’re ready to choose a credit card that best fits your needs. Here are some things to consider:

1. Outline your financial goals

As with the examples shown above, knowing what you want out of a credit card is an incredibly important first step. Do you need help rebuilding your credit score? Want to access rewards for everyday spending? Clearly outlining your financial goals helps you prioritise the type of card and the specific features that are best for you.

2. Choose the type of card you need

There are a lot of credit cards out there, and trying to decide the right type for you can be challenging. Here are a few common questions to think about:

0% cards: 0% balance transfer or 0% purchases?

With a balance transfer card, the 0% interest only applies to balances from other credit cards that you transfer to your new card.

But, unless the card also has a 0% purchases offer, the 0% interest will not apply to new spending on that card.

That makes deciding between 0% balance transfer and 0% purchases relatively easy. If you have an existing balance on a card that you’re paying high interest on, you’re probably better off with a balance transfer card. If you’re more concerned with paying 0% interest for a period of time on new spend, then think 0% purchases.

There are cards that have both a 0% balance transfer and 0% purchases offer. These can be a good option if you have an existing credit card balance and you’d like a period of time with 0% interest on new spend.

Cashback or points?

If you’re looking for a safe choice between cashback and points, cashback will always be more flexible.

But if you’re a frequent shopper at a particular retailer or retail group (like Tesco or Sainsbury’s), then earning and using points wisely could yield you even more than you could get with a cashback card. We just talked about annual fees above, but that’s worth noting here too. When comparing cashback or points cards, be sure to deduct that annual fee from any rewards you’re expecting.

Cards for poor credit and credit-building cards

When you’re in the process of building or rebuilding your credit rating there’s a good chance that you’re a bit skint. For that reason, we prefer credit-building cards that don’t carry extra fees. 

Expect that most credit cards available to those with poor or no credit will have much higher representative APRs than those for people with good or excellent credit. Even so, looking for the lowest APR that you can find is a good idea. Better still is to look for a card that offers a 0% introductory period for purchases or balance transfers.

Cards for those with bad credit are also likely to have a lower credit limit. A high credit limit could encourage excessive spending, which is exactly what you want to avoid when rebuilding your credit rating.

3. Compare card features

The features that are most important may vary depending on the type of card you’re choosing, but generally, you’ll want to closely compare these features:

  • Rewards and cashback
  • Annual fees
  • Introductory perks
  • Extra bonuses

Make sure when you’re comparing cards, you’re carefully reading the fine print of each card. Keep an eye out for extra fees or penalties for late payments.

4. Check your eligibility

Lastly, before you apply, it’s a good idea to check your eligibility so you don’t hurt your credit score by applying blind and possibly getting denied. Our Credit Card Eligibility Checker only takes a few minutes to use and does not affect your credit score.  

Once you’ve tackled these steps, you’re ready to choose the best credit card for you and start applying.

How to apply for a credit card

Applying for a credit card isn’t too complicated. Here are the four usual steps:

  1. Apply for your chosen credit card by submitting an application online, at the bank, by post, or over the phone.
  2. Fill out the required information, including your name, mailing address, and date of birth. You may also be required to give financial information like your income or net worth.
  3. Submit your application. Sometimes you get an immediate approval or denial, and sometimes you must wait while your application is being reviewed.
  4. If you’re accepted, you can start using the card – but don’t get carried away. Remember to use your card responsibly and not overspend.

What should you do if your credit card application is denied?

The most important thing to do is to not re-apply immediately, as multiple applications in close proximity will likely dent your credit score further.

Instead, check your credit record to see whether something linked to your financial history is negatively affecting your application. Additionally, reach out to the issuer for the reason behind your application being declined, and they should be able to tell you in broad terms.

If you’re not able to get the provider to overturn their denial, you could:

  • Spend a few months focusing on improving your credit score and reapply for the same credit card, or..
  • Apply for a credit card for poor credit, build your credit with that card, and then later apply for the card you want when you better fit the qualifications, (remembering to check that the terms of the card have not changed in the interim.)

How to use your credit card responsibly

A credit card is a great financial tool if you use it responsibly. Here are  2 important things to be mindful of to keep you out of debt:

1. Pay your bill on time and in full

Most credit-card companies don’t take kindly to being paid late. To be sure, there are grace periods for cardholders that usually pay on time. But if you have a habit of missing due dates on bills, then having a credit card could mean aggravating fees and extra interest. It’s best to pay on time and in full each month.

2. Don’t overspend

Only use your credit card when you would also make the purchase if you were going to pay in cash. In other words, only spend what you could afford from your bank account at any given time. This will help you avoid going into debt and racking up interest.

Our credit card ratings methodology

The Motley Fool rates credit cards on a five-star scale by comparing the features that make a difference when you choose the best credit card for you. Our goal is to give you unbiased, comprehensive reviews of credit cards.

The focus of our ratings can be bucketed into four main areas:

  • APR – We look for representative APRs as low as possible.
  • Fees – We evaluate extra fees such as annual fees, foreign exchange fees, balance transfer fees, and more.
  • Sign-up bonuses – We want you to get some sort of bonus just for signing up for the card.
  • Extra perks – We check for anything from a manageable credit limit to the ability to earn Nectar points just for using the card. 

Why you can trust our credit card comparison

We love sniffing out the best credit card deals on the market and bringing them to our readers. For more than two decades, The Motley Fool has been helping people around the world improve their financial lives. And that’s exactly what we aim to farther. Together with our colleagues in the US, we’ve collectively analysed hundreds of card offers on more than 6,000 data points, reading through the small print to find the top credit cards the market has to offer.

To learn more about our ratings, the order of our comparisons, and our affiliate partners, see our full Advertiser Disclosure.


Frequently Asked Questions

How are credit cards useful?

If you’re new to credit cards, you may be wondering why they might be useful. To be sure, they make paying at the grocer easier. But there’s quite a few other reasons you might consider using a credit card.

  • They can benefit your credit score — There are myriad ways your credit score can come into play. Obviously, when you want to apply for a credit card. But also when you’d like to borrow money for a new car, a house, or basically any other large purchase. It helps to have a rock-solid credit score so that when the time comes that you need to borrow, banks will see you as a worthy lender. When you use credit cards responsibly, that good behavior gets reported to the credit rating agencies by the card issuer and can help increase your credit score. This can be the case whether you already have a good credit score and would like to make it a great credit score, or if you have a poor credit score or little credit history, and would like to build to a better score.
  • You can sometimes borrow money on the cheap — Be careful with this one. Normally, credit cards aren’t a great way to borrow money. The standard APR on most cards is high enough that you’ll be better off borrowing money other ways. But 0% purchases or 0% balance transfer credit card offer very low-cost ways to borrow. You just have to be very sure to pay off the cards before your 0% period runs out.
  • Protection against fraud — Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where we didn’t have to worry about this? Maybe one day. Until then, using a credit card can protect you against the shady characters out there that have bad intentions for your money. In most cases of credit card fraud, credit card companies have your back and you won’t be on the hook for charges that fraudsters rack up. The same can’t always be said if someone gets hold of your debit card or bank account information.
  • You can get rewarded — Rewarded for what? Rewarded for doing the spending that you would do anyway! Look, credit cards need to be used responsibly, so this isn’t an excuse to get crazy you’re your spending. But many cards offer rewards in the form of points or cashback that give a percentage of your spending back to you. And it’s hard to argue with getting handed cash or rewards.
  • And then… the “little things” — Many cards offer perks including no-fee Travel Money, purchase protection (in case a new toy gets stolen or damaged), and travel accident insurance. These may seem like “little things”, but for savvy spenders that take full advantage of them, it could mean hundreds of pounds of savings. Try getting a wad of cash to do that for you!

How do you cancel a credit card?

Normally, cancelling a credit card is a relatively simple process. The specifics vary from bank to bank, but you will usually have to call the credit card customer service line and tell them that you'd like to cancel your card. Often there is also an option to send a letter by post to inform the issuer that you'd like to close the account. Bear in mind that any balance which is still due on the account will need to be paid off prior to closing the account. Closing a credit card can also hurt your credit score, so be sure to take that in consideration before closing your account.

Can you withdraw cash from a credit card?

In most cases, the answer is 'yes'. But though you usually can withdraw cash from a credit card, the better question may be: Should you withdraw cash from a credit card? The answer to that is usually 'no'. That's because most cards not only charge a cash advance fee (typically 3%), but you'll be charged interest starting from the day you take out the cash -- as opposed to having until the end of the month, as is the case with most new purchases. This makes a cash advance on a credit card a fairly poor proposition. And introductory 0% periods usually don't apply to cash advances.

What if my credit card application is turned down?

Most importantly, don’t re-apply immediately, as multiple applications in close proximity will likely dent your credit score further. Instead, check your credit record to see whether something linked to your financial history is negatively affecting your application. Additionally, reach out to the issuer for the reason behind your application being declined, who should be able to tell you in broad terms.

How do I get a lower interest rate?

You’re entitled to request a reduction in the interest rate from your credit card’s issuer, though their answer will depend on certain criteria. This includes whether you’ve historically paid your balance in full and on time, and how high your credit score is.

Additionally, if you have personal circumstances that are impacting your ability to pay your balance (e.g. unemployment), the issuer will take that into account.

What is a credit card minimum payment?

Calculated from your most recent statement balance, this is the lowest amount of money that you have to pay towards credit card debt each month in order to avoid additional charges and to stay in good standing with the card issuer.

Should I be using a credit card?

Though around 60% of adults in the UK have a credit card, they aren’t for everyone. As we’ve discussed here, there are some great benefits for using a credit card. It’s an easy way to pay for things. And you can rack up points or even get straight-up cash just for making purchases. But, if used irresponsibly, credit cards are also an easy way to get stuck under a big pile of debt.

Using the list below as a guide will help you keep debt in check.

  • Use your credit card responsibly. — For some people, the urge to spend can be overwhelming. If you’re thinking about taking out a credit card, be sure you can trust yourself to stay within reasonable spending limits.
  • Stay current on your bills. — Most credit-card companies don’t take kindly to being paid late. To be sure, there are grace periods for cardholders that pay on time most of the time. But if you have a habit of missing due dates on bills, then having a credit card could mean aggravating fees and extra interest.
  • Make sure your income is reliable. — One of the reasons that a lot of people end up falling into debt is that they experience big swings in their income. Having predictable sources of income makes it much easier to consistently pay off your credit card and stay out of trouble.
  • Clear your calendar of big purchases. — Applying for credit cards has the potential to ding your credit score, at least temporarily, so if you’re hoping to borrow to buy a car or finance a house in the near future, you may want to hold off on new cards.

What will my credit limit be?

Credit limits are at the discretion of your card issuer and will vary. Your credit score can also influence the limit set. Credit limits can also be increased and decreased after a period of time depending on how you use it and how reliable you are at paying back the balance.

How many credit cards should I have?

Having more than one credit card may allow you to capitalise on various rewards, balance transfer opportunities and 0% interest deals.

However, having multiple credit cards can make it more difficult to keep track of spending and manage your budget. This can naturally lead to overspending for some consumers.

Although there is no fixed number as to how many cards you should have, it is logical to consider the impact on your credit score and overall financial situation before getting more than one credit card.

Learn more about credit cards and your credit score

More ways to compare credit cards

Top-rated credit card picks by category

Top-rated credit card picks by issuer


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