When it comes to credit cards, there is no one "best" credit card, because different credit cards serve very different needs. There are purchases credit cards that waive interest on new purchases, balance transfer cards that waive interest on transferred balances for managing existing debt, rewards cards (e.g., cashback, miles, points), travel cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees when you spend abroad, cards for poor credit, etc. What is "best" for one person is not necessarily "best" for the next person.
Below we discuss one card from each main category, to give you an idea of different features across card types. We are not recommending any card in particular. We have not analyzed all of the cards in the market, and there may be other cards may be more suitable for you with better features.
- Credit Cards
- Summary of 2017's Credit Cards
- How to Choose a Credit Card
In order to understand the cards in the market, we have batched them by relevant category (e.g., purchases, balance transfer, rewards, travel, poor credit). Our analysis has taken in account features such as promotional 0% APR periods, fees, rewards rates, etc. In addition, we have considered "soft" features such as type of rewards redemption and openness to those with weak credit histories. The card for you will depend on your individual situation.
Purchase Credit Card: Sainsbury's Purchase Credit Card
The Sainsbury's Purchase Credit Card offers cardholders 31 months of waived interest (0% APR) on purchases. Successful applicants are guaranteed to get the full promotional period. Cardholders can earn 1% rewards on their Sainsbury's shopping and fuel. You will earn Nectar points on other spending, achieving a much lower rewards rate of 0.1%. While this card also offers balance transfer functionality, the balance transfer fee is higher than average at 3% for 3 months. You can learn more about 0% purchases periods in our article on What is a Ppurchases Credit Card.
- 0% interest on purchases for 31 months
- Earn 2 Nectar points for every £1 spent at Sainsbury’s
- Earn 1 Nectar point for every £5 spent outside Sainsbury’s
- 0% interest on balance transfers for 3 months (3% balance transfer fee, min £3)
- 18.95% APR (or 21.95% or 28.95%, variable)
Balance Transfer Credit Card: Virgin Money 30 Months at 0%
The Virgin Money 30 Months at 0% balance transfer card provides 2.5 years to pay down existing credit card debt, in a no-interest environment. Other features include access to an eligibility checker and a guaranteed promotional period if you're accepted. This card also has money transfer functionality, but each money transfer incurs a 4% to 5% fee. (A money transfer deposits cash directly into your current account. Just as a balance transfer can help with credit card debt, a money transfer can be useful for clearing non-credit card debt, like an overdraft, pay-day loans or personal loans.)
You can learn more about balance transfer offers in our What is a Balance Transfer article. As with all promotional periods, stay within your credit limit and pay on time, or you'll lose the promotional rates.
- Relatively low balance transfer fee of 0.55% (then 5%)
- 0% on balance transfers for 30 months (then 19.9% variable APR, outside of promotional period)
- Initial money transfer fee of 4% (then 5% after 60 days)
- Initial 0% on money transfers for 30 months (then 19.9% variable APR)
- 0% on purchases for 3 months (20.9% variable APR outside of promotional period)
- Offer good for balances transferred within first 60 days
- Eligibility checker
Rewards Credit Card: Platinum Cashback Credit Card by American Express
The Platinum Cashback Credit Card by American Express offers cashback that automatically appears on your credit card statement once a year, reducing the balance and the amount you owe. Currently the card is offering a welcome rate of 5% cashback in your first three months (capped at spend of £2,500 for £125 in rewards). Ongoing rewards rates are also very solid: 1% up to £10,000 of spend and 1.25% beyond that. Overall rewards are not capped. The average UK cardholder can expect to earn around £535 of rewards in the first two years using the Platinum Cashback card. Be aware that American Express is not accepted everywhere, so this can't be your only credit card.
- 1% cashback rate on purchases up to £10,000 per year
- 1.25% cashback rate on purchases over £10,001 per year
- 5% intro cashback rate up to £125 reward
- Amex not accepted everywhere
- Annual fee of £25
- 22.9% purchase APR (variable)
- Eligibility checker
No Fee Travel Credit Card: Barclaycard Platinum Travel Credit Card
The Barclaycard Platinum Travel Credit Card is a travel card. Besides charging no fees on non-sterling ATM withdrawals or transactions abroad, no interest is charged on foreign-currency cash withdrawals made abroad, so long as the balance is paid off in full, and on time. This detail gives you up to 56 days interest free (depending on where the transactions are in your billing cycle, of course); most other travel cards charge interest on cash withdrawals starting immediately.
The current promotion of "no non-sterling transaction fees on your foreign spend and ATM withdrawals abroad" ends on 31 August 2022, although it may be extended (it was recently extended from a 2018 end date until 2022).
- No fees on non-sterling ATM withdrawals or transactions abroad (Fees increase after 31 August 2022)
- No interest charges on non-sterling cash withdrawals, if balance paid off in full and on time
- 18.9% variable purchase APR
- 27.9% variable cash withdrawal APR
- Eligibility checker
- No annual fee
Poor Credit, Credit Card: Capital One Classic
The Capital One Classic is a credit-builder card for those who need a credit card but have a weak credit history. To be accepted you do need some credit history in the UK, perhaps in the form of a current account with direct debits to pay for a mobile phone, gas or electric bill.
The card is targeted at those with bad credit or building credit, and proper use can help you establish a good payment history. By paying your monthly minimum payments on time and staying within your credit limit, you may be eligible to receive two optional credit limit increases a year, which may improve your credit rating. Additionally, you can check your odds of being accepted using Capital One's eligibility checker, QuickCheck, which performs a "soft search" that won't harm your credit score.
- No income requirement
- Need some credit history in UK
- Credit-building card
- No annual fee
- Two possible credit limit increases per year
- 34.9% variable APR
- QuickCheck eligibility checker
Summary of Credit Cards
|Purchases||Sainsbury's Purchase Credit Card||31 months of 0% APR on purchases|
|Balance Transfers||Virgin Money 30M at 0%||0.55% balance transfer fee; No interest on BT for 30 months|
|Rewards||Platinum Cashback Credit Card by American Express||1% to 1.25% ongoing cashback rewards rates|
|No Fees on Purchases Abroad||Barclaycard Platinum Travel Credit Card||No fees on non-sterling ATM withdrawals or transactions abroad; No interest charges on non-sterling cash withdrawals if balance paid off in full and on time|
|Poor Credit||Capital One Classic||Credit-building card; Chance to increase credit limit; QuickCheck eligibility checker|
How to Choose a Credit Card for You
Choosing the right credit card for you depends on your financial situation and individual needs. If you're trying to manage existing credit debt, learn about balance transfer features. If you are worried about upcoming purchases, then a purchases card may help you spread out those costs. If you manage to pay back your full balance every month, on time, then you may want to learn about rewards cards. Be sure to carry out your own research to fully understand a product and its features before you buy.