Compare Our Top-Rated Rewards Credit Cards in the UK
Updated: 2nd March 2022
By analysing the rewards schemes available on the market and combining that with other credit card features and fees, we’ve identified our top picks for the best rewards credit card for you.
What to consider when comparing rewards credit cards:
Our star rating: Our ratings are on a five-star scale and are based on factors we believe are important to the averageuser of rewards 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 rewards cards to the top.
Type of rewards: The main types of rewards are flexible points, cash back, travel points, and brand-specific points. Each has pros and cons you’ll want to review.
Fees: Aim to keep fees as low as possible, but be sure to read the fine print. One card may have no annual fee but have a high foreign transaction fee. Be sure to evaluate the total cost you’ll face from a card.
Rewards yield: Look for cards that have higher earn rates so you get more value for each £1 you spend. When there’s a tiered system with bonus points for certain categories, make sure those bonus tiers align to your typical spending.
Welcome bonus: Wouldn’t it be nice to get a big pile of rewards just for signing up? If you can’t make your decision based on the factors we’ve already listed, the sign-up bonus can be a good tie-breaker.
With these 5 factors in mind, you’re ready to find the best rewards credit card for you.
OUR TOP PICK: The American Express Rewards Credit Card*
The American Express Rewards Credit Card is our top pick for a rewards credit card because it 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. Read our full review.
No annual fee
1 Membership Rewards Point per £1 spent
Generous bonus points for new cardholders
2.99% fee for any purchases made overseas
Eligibility for welcome bonus is strict (if you’ve had an American Express card in the past 24 months, you’re not eligible)
The M&S Shopping Plus Credit Card is our runner-up choice because it ticks a lot of the boxes to make a great rewards credit card. For starters, there’s a long 23-month 0% interest period on new purchases, a generous M&S points programme, and a 23-month, 0% period for balance transfers made in the first 90 days. Cards that offer reward points are few and far between, so to have this part of the overall package makes it a great credit card option for frequent shoppers of M&S. Read our full review.
No annual fee
Generous 0% introductory period on purchases
Solid rewards scheme for shoppers of M&S
Rewards only redeemable as M&S vouchers (so less valuable if you don’t shop there often)
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 a *.
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?
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.
Building up your Nectar point balance is this card’s defining feature. Cardholders can earn 2 points for every £1 spent (except at warehouse retailers), and a minimum of 3 points per £1 spent at Nectar partners when using the credit card and the loyalty card. Add to that a welcome bonus of 20,000 points for eligible new cardholders that spend £2,000 in the first three months, and Nectar scheme users are looking at a decent payout. The card does have a £25 annual fee, but this is waived for the first year of membership.
This card offers a high-end package in the form of a lucrative rewards programme and travel benefits suited to those who enjoy travel and adventure. However, with the comparatively high price of £140 in the form of an annual fee, you should expect a card with all the trimmings.
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?
With this card you can earn points when you spend, which will in turn unlock free hotel stays and a host of other travel offers. If you use your card at any properties participating in Bonvoy, you will receive 6 points for every £1. If you use the card elsewhere its 2 points for every £1 spent. Add in a welcome offer of 20,000 bonus points when you spend £3,000 in the first three months (subject to eligibility) and the ability to upgrade the Elite status of your card if you meet the requirements, and you have an attractive package for a frequent traveller looking for a high-end credit card. Just be aware that the card does carry a £75 annual fee.
This card is an American Express classic. The Green Card allows you to earn rewards from the American Express Membership Rewards scheme as well as benefit from travel insurance and purchase protection features (subject to enrolment) without having to worry about accruing debt and interest charges. That’s because this is a charge card, not a credit card, so whatever you spend during the month will need to be repaid in full. The card does, however, carry a £60 annual fee.
The John Lewis Partnership Credit Card is an appealing rewards card for consumers who shop regularly at John Lewis or Waitrose. Cardholders get 5 points for every £4 in spend at John Lewis and Waitrose and 1 point for every £4 spent elsewhere. It also has an 18-month balance transfer offer and a 9-month 0% introductory interest rate on new purchases, and you get all of this without having to dole out an annual fee.
A rewards credit card is a credit card that offers rewards for spending. Rewards can vary, but typically come in the form of reward points, cashback or Avios.
Some credit card issuers have rewards programmes that allow you to earn discounts or rewards by spending on very specific items or jumping through other hoops. This can be a nice added perk in some cases, but we typically wouldn’t categorise these as ‘rewards credit cards’.
How do rewards credit cards work?
With rewards credit cards, you don’t have to do anything special — aside from using the card — when you spend. You just swipe your card and earn rewards.
Of course, this is how to earn rewards with a rewards card. in order to make the most of your card, you’ll need to pay your card’s balance off every month to avoid racking up interest charges.
It’s also well worth noting that while earning rewards is nice, this isn’t a good reason to overspend or buy things you can’t afford. Getting rewarded for spending you would have done anyway is great. But spending beyond your means can cause problems that even the best rewards programmes can’t mend!
Types of credit card rewards
Credit card rewards – the benefits you receive for every £1 you spend on your credit card – come in three main forms:
1. Reward points
These are reward points for your spending. The reward rate will depend on which card you choose. Cards that offer reward points are often affiliated with a retailer or supermarket and offer higher reward points on money spent in store compared with that spent elsewhere.
For example, you could earn one point for every £1 you spend in store, but only one point for every £2 spent at another retailer. Typically, reward points accrue over one month or three months and are then given to the cardholder in the form of a voucher.
If you’re not already familiar with the rewards scheme, it’s a good idea to examine it prior to taking out a card. While some programmes are restrictive, others can be quite flexible and allow you to redeem your rewards in many ways.
For example, you could receive a cashback yield of 0.5% for every £1 spent, meaning if you spent £100 on your credit card you would earn 50p of cashback. It is best to check whether a particular cashback card has any limit on how much cashback you can earn over a certain period.
3. Avios rewards
Avios reward points were previously known as Airmiles. You can put the value of Avios points towards paying for air fares, hotels and other travel perks.
What is the best credit card for rewards in the UK?
The answer may be disappointing, but we can’t really say that any one credit card is the best rewards credit card in the UK.
Why’s that? Because many programmes are aimed at specific types of redemptions or specific places to shop. A card with great Avios rewards may be considered a superb programme for a frequent traveller. But for someone that rarely travels, it’d be a fairly miserable reward system. Likewise, a regular Tesco shopper may get a lot out of the programme on the Tesco credit cards. But if you don’t shop at Tesco, it won’t have the same value to you.
For that reason, it’s important to match the card’s reward programme to your life and lifestyle. Just because you could theoretically get a high return from one card’s programme doesn’t mean much if you’d have to change your life to actually see that high return.
How we picked the best rewards cards
There are many types of reward card available and sorting through them all can be a bit dizzying. In choosing which cards we think could be the best rewards card for you, we focused on these factors:
High reward yields – If you are taking out a reward card, then you want one that will really reward you. One of the key factors we considered was a high rewards yield per £1 of spending.
Annual fees that make sense – Not all cards in our list have an annual fee. For those that do, we wanted to make sure it wouldn’t significantly reduce the overall value of the card’s offering.
Extra perks – For some rewards credit cards, the benefits don’t end with the rewards you get for each £1 of spend. Some offer additional perks like travel discounts, extra rewards for spending on partner offers, travel insurance, or access to airport lounges.
Sign-on bonuses – These are added extras that really help you make the most of your reward card. We tried to include cards that offer sign-up bonuses with the most value.
Introductory 0% interest periods – Included in our shortlist are cards that also offer some sort of introductory 0% interest period for either purchases, balance transfers or both.
Standard APR – The ideal is to not carry a balance on a rewards credit card. But there may be times when that’s unavoidable, so for those cases, it’s preferable to have a lower APR.
Why you can trust us to compare rewards cards
The Motley Fool has been a trusted name in the UK for more than 20 years for helping people from all walks of life improve their financial lives. We’ve analysed thousands of individual credit card data points to help our readers find the cards that will make their financial lives easier and more rewarding. Rewards credit cards are among our favourites because we love the idea of being rewarded for spending we were going to do anyway! As a company filled with nerdy investors, we put our analytical chops to best use analysing rewards programmes and card features to figure out which we think are best.
Who should get a rewards credit card?
Rewards credit cards are typically best for those people who consistently pay down their credit card balance in full at the end of the month. Every month. If you don’t think you’ll always be able to repay your balance in full each month -– a rewards credit card is probably not right for you.
Why is this? It’s quite simple. A good rewards credit card might have a rewards rate of 1% — that is, 1p worth of rewards per £1 in spend. Many credit cards charge an annual interest rate in the 19% range. That means that a balance carried for even one month will land you with more interest charges than what you’ve earned in rewards.
If you often do carry a balance on your credit card, there may be some better options than a rewards credit card:
If you already have a balance on another credit card that you’re paying high interest on, then a balance transfer credit card may be able to save you a good deal of money.
If you don’t currently carry a balance on a credit card, but you have an upcoming purchase that you’d like to pay off over time, a 0% purchases card could be better. These cards provide an introductory period of 0% interest for new purchases.
If you are someone that pays their full statement balance every month, it’s another story. Certainly it can be misleading to think of credit card rewards as ‘free money’. But if you pay off your credit card balance in full every month, those rewards are about as close to free money as possible.
Finally, there are cards on the market that offer a sort of best of both worlds, that is, provide rewards and 0% balance transfer offers, 0% purchases offers or simply low standard APRs. You may have to compromise a bit with these cards — that is, you may not get the highest rewards yield or the longest 0% introductory period. But they can be a great middle ground to get rewards while avoiding high interest charges.
Can you get a rewards credit card with bad credit?
A low credit score could make it difficult to be accepted for some rewards credit cards. It might still be possible to get a rewards credit card with bad credit, but your rewards card options and your access to the best reward card deals are likely to be more limited.
Another option is to start with a credit card for bad credit. While they are less likely to offer large rewards, some still offer rewards or cashback in some capacity. These cards will allow you to improve your credit score so you could be approved for a wider range of card options in the future.
How are rewards credit cards and cashback credit cards different?
As mentioned above, a cashback credit card is simply a type of rewards credit card. It’s actually one of the easiest types of credit card rewards. You don’t have to worry about how or when to convert points, you simply get cash that you can spend anywhere you like.
While it is straightforward to calculate the value of using a cashback card, reward cards can be a bit more complicated: working out how much each point that is accumulated on a reward card is worth can prove challenging.
Whether a cashback or reward card is better depends on personal circumstances. For consumers who lack the time to research reward cards, a cashback card could be the simplest means of benefitting from spending on a credit card.
For consumers who have the capacity to undertake research, comparing a number of reward cards may be worthwhile. Research may show someone that greater rewards can be obtained from frequent shopping at specific retailers where points are either accumulated more quickly or the vouchers paid out are for a higher value.
For consumers who pay off their credit card balance in full each month, either a cashback card or reward card could be a sound means of being rewarded for using a credit card.
Comparing rewards cards in the UK
It’s all well and good for us to tell you which cards we think are best. And hopefully one of these cards is a good match for your needs.
However, everyone’s financial situation is slightly different. That makes it important to know a bit about how to compare these cards on your own, so you can confirm that a particular card really does fit your personal circumstances.
Here are some key features to compare when lining up rewards cards:
Rewards type – Unlike cashback cards, the earnings on rewards cards can be a bit more complicated. In some cases, these rewards can be restrictive. The John Lewis scheme, for instance, mails cardholders vouchers that can be used solely at John Lewis & Partners or Waitrose & Partners. Other programmes are more flexible. For example, rewards earned with the American Express Membership Rewards programme can be redeemed on everything from car hire with Sixt and flights on British Airways to Amazon.co.uk gift cards or even paying part of your card balance with points. The bottom line is to choose a programme that fits you and your needs.
Rewards yield – This refers to how much rewards value you get for each £1 of spend. There are two parts to figure here. First, you need to determine the rewards earning rate. That is, how many rewards points you get per £1 spent. With some schemes this is very easy, as you’ll simply get one point per £1 in spend. Other schemes have different levels of points depending on where you’re swiping your card. The latter is typical of store brand cards. The other side of this is the rewards value, or how much value you get per rewards point. Again, sometimes this can be easy to figure. The John Lewis card we mentioned mails £5 in voucher credit per 500 points. More flexible programmes — like Amex’s Membership Rewards — can be more complicated, as redeeming points for gift cards can, for example, have a much lower value per point than redeeming for airline tickets. You don’t need to perform advanced mathematics here, but it’s a good idea to look at the rewards earning rates and rewards value in light of your own spending habits to help you compare the rewards value to you from various schemes
Annual fee – Many rewards cards do not have an annual fee. That’s a great thing, since it means you get rewards without having to pay anything extra out of pocket. All else equal, we prefer rewards cards that don’t have a fee attached. But all else is not always equal. Rewards cards with annual fees often allow you to accrue rewards at a faster pace or they may come with better perks, like access to airport lounges. The trick here is to compare the cost of the fee with the value that you’ll get out of the additional rewards or perks. At that point it’s simple: if you think you’ll get more value, then the fee is worth it. If not, skip the fee-carrying card and get one of the many cards with no fee.
Additional perks – These add-on perks come in many flavours. Some cards provide accelerated rewards for spending with partners. Some let you put your feet up in exclusive airport lounges. Yet others may help you get events tickets before other people. The value in these rewards is highly dependent on what’s important to you. But keep an eye out for them, because they can be valuable.
Welcome bonus – The idea of a sign-up bonus sounds great. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a big pile of rewards just for signing up? Don’t get us wrong, sign-up bonuses are great, but except for cards that carry annual fees, sign-up bonuses tend to be modest. If you can’t make your decision based on the factors we’ve already listed, the sign-up bonus can be a good tie-breaker. But it likely shouldn’t be the primary factor you focus on when choosing a rewards card. And when it comes to cards with annual fees, the sign-up bonuses can be impressive, but the same rule holds as we discussed above: consider the value you get versus the annual fee you pay and only choose a card with an annual fee when you believe you’re getting more value than when you’re paying.
Foreign transaction fees – Most credit cards charge a fee of up to 3% when you transact in a currency other than sterling. This can be a real pain when travelling abroad. Travel credit cards waive this non-sterling transaction fee, so that you can spend abroad without stress. Unfortunately, though many rewards cards offer travel-related rewards, few waive non-sterling transaction fees. So you may be best served earning rewards for your holidays with a rewards card, but then spending on your holidays with a fee-free travel card.
Everything else – There are many other features to potentially consider here. For instance, some cards offer introductory 0% interest periods and rewards. Others may have a lower-than-average representative APR. If these are features that are critically important to you, you may want to consider a different type of card. That is, if you have a big purchase coming up and think 0% interest on new purchases for a number of months could be useful, you may want to look specifically at 0% purchases cards. But if you’ve been through all of the other points we’ve mentioned and still can’t make up your mind. These other features can help tip the balance in favour of one card or another.
How to accumulate rewards even faster
There are plenty of ways to accumulate extra points without spending extra money. Here are some top tips for helping you make the most of your reward card.
Use your card like a debit card
If you are looking to earn lots of rewards, then the best way to go about it is to spend lots of money – but rather than rack up lots of debt you can’t afford to repay, use your credit card like your debit card. If you make your credit card your main means of payment for everyday purchases but make sure you pay off the amount immediately or budget to pay off the full balance monthly, then you can maximise the amount of rewards you can earn. If you do all your spending in one place, then everything you spend is earning you a reward. Just make sure you keep on top of your balance, and don’t fall in the trap of spending above your means.
Add an additional user
Some reward cards let you add an additional user at no extra cost. This could be a partner or a close family member, who could then start accruing points with their own credit card linked to your account. Something to note though, is that adding an additional user makes you responsible for their debt. Additionally, any mistakes you make, like a late payment, will show up on their credit report and vice versa.
Put large expenses on the card
If you have some home improvements coming up or are looking to book a holiday, you could put the cost on your credit card and earn reward points as a result. This is best only done if the card also offers an introductory 0% interest period on purchases or you plan to pay off the balance in full at the end of the billing period. Otherwise you could run the risk of incurring interest charges on your balance and wiping out any reward benefits you have earned.
Look to see whether your credit card offers bonus reward points for referring someone else for the card. This is often a way of injecting bonus points into your account.
Select a reward card to suit you
Make sure the card reflects your shopping habits. You won’t really benefit from a Sainsbury’s reward scheme if you do all your weekly food shopping at Asda. If you are not a consistent shopper anywhere that offers a rewards card, you can consider cards like those from American Express, which have rewards points that are more flexible.
Redeem your rewards wisely
Look at how best to redeem the rewards. You may receive Clubcard vouchers that equate to £9 in cash when spent in store, but if you were to use the Clubcard Boost programme you could convert your vouchers into the equivalent of £27 to spend at Cineworld, for example. Likewise, it can be tempting to keep it simple and convert your rewards into something close to cash — like an Amazon gift card, which many programmes offer. However, these kinds of reward redemptions often offer very poor point conversion rates. In short, it is best to make sure you understand the reward scheme you select and therefore how best to use the vouchers once you have earned them.
Consider switching credit cards or getting an additional rewards card
Credit card providers often provide nice benefits for new cardholders. This can include a welcome bonus or sign up bonus, limited-time perks, vouchers or a higher rewards rate. In some cases, a new cardholder can get a gold card or platinum card for a year without the usual annual fee. This may cause some extra administrative work on your end to track your cards and balances, so do make sure that the value of the extra rewards is worth it.
The risks of using rewards credit cards
As with anything, there is always a possible downside. A reward card may be the best option for you, but there are some things to be aware of before you get spending.
Representative APRs — Reward cards often have high interest charges. At the very least, you’re less likely to find high rewards rates paired with a particularly low representative APR. Therefore, reward cards are best suited to borrowers who can repay their balance in full each month. Any remaining balance, unless you have a card that offers an introductory 0% interest period on purchases, could incur interest charges that outstrip any reward benefits you might have accrued.
Annual fees — As mentioned before, some reward cards carry an annual fee. Cards with annual fees often have higher rewards rates and better perks, which can make the fee well worth it. But, you need to make sure that’s the case, or you could end up paying an annual fee and only cashing in rewards worth half that!
Know the terms — It is also best to look at what you can earn reward points on. Typically, reward points can only be accrued on purchases, so balance transfers would not qualify. Also, some cards specify which purchases qualify for reward points; for example, travel money purchases would be unlikely to earn you any reward points.
Don’t overspend! — You may get sick of hearing us say it, but it really can’t be said enough. Don’t take out a rewards credit card and use it as an excuse to spend more than you otherwise would. Imagine briefly two people. One person, we’ll call her Sophia Spendsright, has a bog-standard credit card with no rewards and spends £5,000 on that card during the year, paying off their balance every month. The second person, we’ll call him Jack Justonemorething, has a rewards card with a rewards rate of 1% on all purchases (pretty good!). Jack would have spent the same £5,000 as Sophia, but sees a football jersey for £75 (that he doesn’t need) and tells himself ‘it’s no problem to buy that, because I’m earning rewards!’ That’s true, but the rewards on the £5,075 that Jack spent through the year only amount to £50.75, meaning he spent £5,024.25 out of pocket – more than Sophia, even though she earned no rewards at all.
Is a reward credit card right for you?
As with any credit card, you have to look at your individual circumstances. If you think you can pay off your balance in full every month and would spend enough on a credit card to accrue points, then a reward card could be a good fit for you.
As to which reward card you select, the best choice depends on where you tend to shop and which vouchers you would get the most value from. When choosing which card to apply for, decide on the type of rewards you want to receive, calculate how much you are likely to spend on that card each year, and then compare the rewards you would earn on that amount from a range of different cards.
It is also best to check the application criteria for the card, in order to assess whether you would be likely to be accepted. All our reviews for reward cards include a guide to which credit score band you would need to achieve in order to be likely to be accepted for that card.
If you don’t think you would get any value from a reward points scheme then maybe look at cashback credit cards, which offer a cashback yield for money spent, rather than vouchers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best credit card for rewards in the UK?
The answer may be disappointing, but we can't really say that any one credit card in the UK is the best credit card for rewards.
Many programmes are aimed at specific types of redemptions or specific places to shop. A card with great Avios rewards may be considered a superb programme for a frequent traveller. But for someone that rarely travels, it'd be a fairly miserable reward system. Likewise, a regular Tesco shopper may get a lot out of the programme on the Tesco credit cards. But if you don't shop at Tesco, it won't have the same value to you.
For that reason, it's important to match the card's reward programme to your life and lifestyle. Just because you could theoretically get a high return from one card's programme doesn't mean much if you'd have to change your life to actually see that high return.
How do rewards credit cards work?
With rewards credit cards, you don't have to do anything special -- aside from using the card -- when you spend. You just swipe your card and earn rewards.
It's well worth noting that while earning rewards is nice, this isn't a good reason to overspend or buy things you can't afford. Getting rewarded for spending you would have done anyway is great. But spending beyond your means can cause problems that even the best rewards programmes can't mend!
Are rewards credit cards worth it?
As with any credit card, you have to look at your individual circumstances. If you think you can pay off your balance in full every month and would spend enough on a credit card to accrue points, then a reward card could definitely be worth it for you.
Just be cautious not to take out a rewards credit card and use it as an excuse to spend more than you otherwise would. In that case, it's not a good idea.
The Motley Fool receives compensation from some advertisers who provide products and services that may be covered by our editorial team. It’s one way we make money. But know that our editorial integrity and transparency matters most and our ratings aren’t influenced by compensation. The statements above are The Motley Fool’s alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Lloyds, Tesco and Barclays.