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We have analyzed the rewards credit cards available in the UK across welcome bonuses, annual bonuses, long-term rewards rates on your spending and other features like air upgrades, companion vouchers, free hotel stays and foreign transaction fees. Regardless of the features attractive to you, many of these cards can deliver hundreds of pounds in overall annual benefits to the average UK household.
According to our analysis of the market, the following cards stand out as objectively the best for certain purposes. The best card for you will depend on your individual situation and spending patterns.
Best Rewards Credit Cards for Cashback
The rewards rate on a cashback card might be a touch lower than those found on air and hotel cards, but the ease of use is highly attractive to many people—on true "cashback" cards, rewards automatically appear on your statement once a year, essentially reducing your balance on that month's statement.
Best Rewards Credit Card: Platinum Cashback by American Express
Our favourite all-around cashback card is the Platinum Cashback Card by American Express, which offers simple and effective rewards for busy people. We like it for its highly competitive rewards rates and for ease of use. The Platinum Cashback card doesn't have a complicated points-based rewards system to manage, but instead pays simple cashback that automatically appears on your credit card statement once a year, reducing your balance and the amount you owe that month. 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), great for any large upcoming purchases. Ongoing rewards rates are also very solid: 1% up to £10,000 of spend and 1.25% beyond that. Overall rewards are not capped, making this a great card for big spenders.
Those who can't (or don't want to) invest the time needed to maximize rewards on an air, hotel or other points-based reward system (e.g., Avios), may find this cashback card invaluable for ease of use and solid rewards. There are no points to track, no miles to redeem, no companion vouchers to find seats for, no store vouchers to remember - just simple cashback on your credit card statement once a year. The average UK cardholder can expect to earn around £535 of rewards in the first two years using the Platinum Cashback 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
- Relatively low annual fee of £25
- Amex not accepted everywhere
Best Rewards Credit Cards for Groceries & Dining
The average household in the UK spends more than 10% of their household budget on groceries. In pound terms, £3,000 is spent per household on food at home and another £1,600 on food out (takeaway or restaurants). With so much of our budgets going towards food, it is sensible to consider a credit card with extra rewards in this category.
Best Store Rewards Card for Dining: Costco TrueEarnings American Express Credit Card
The Costco TrueEarnings card is an unusual entry, as it is the only UK-based credit card we've seen to offer extra rewards on your restaurant dining. While this dining category is popular in other countries, like American and Singapore, rewards on dining are virtually non existent in the UK. Not only that, but the rewards rate on dining is actually quite high, at 3% cashback. Beyond that, you can earn 2% cashback on travel bookings and 1% elsewhere (including at Costco). Like many "cashback" cards on the market, the rewards are distributed in the form of a store voucher—in this case, a paper Costco voucher that is sent out once a year. Depending on your shopping habits and your proximity to a Costco store, this rewards delivery system may be a pro or a con for you! The average UK cardholder can expect to earn a value of £450 over the first two years. Those eating out more than average (around £35 per week) will earn even more rewards.
- The highest cashback rate for dining
- Earn 3% on dining, 2% on travel and 1% elsewhere
- Rewards give as Costco vouchers (may be a pro...)
- No annual fee
- Amex not accepted everywhere
- Requires Costco membership (and photo on file at Costco)
- Rewards give as Costco vouchers (may be a con...)
- £300 annual cap on general spending rewards, including Costco
Best Groceries Rewards Credit Card: Nectar Credit Card
The Nectar Credit Card is possibly the most flexible grocery credit card. Unlike other grocery-related credit cards, the Nectar card shines because you earn the same solid 1% rewards (approximate, depending on how you redeem them) on all shopping, so you are not restricted to getting groceries at only one chain. If you are not brand loyal but instead may shop at Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Asda, Aldi, Morrison's, etc., you can earn the same 1% rewards while having the flexibility to shop at whatever store suits you from day to day. In fact, the card is good for all of your spending, not just groceries. The first year with the card is the most valuable—the fantastic welcome bonus of 20,000 Nectar points (earned when you spend £2,000 in the first three months) is worth £100, more than any other grocery welcome bonus. While you are not limited in how you earn points, you can only redeem points at one grocery chain (Sainsbury's) or other Nectar partners. Cardholders can expect to earn Nectar points worth around £500 in their first two years with the card, assuming an average UK household spending level.
- Earn 2 Nectar points for almost every £1 spent (£1 minimum), in addition to Nectar points earned through the Nectar loyalty program when shopping at Nectar partners
- Earn 1 Nectar point for every £1 spent at warehouse retailers
- Welcome offer of 20,000 Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in the first three months
- Access to Global Assist for help when you travel abroad
- Purchase Protection will repair or replace any damaged or stolen items within 90 days of purchase
- £25 annual fee (waived first year)
- Amex not accepted everywhere
Best Store Rewards Card for Groceries: Asda Cashback Plus Credit Card
The Asda Cashback Plus Credit Card is a standout rewards card offering great value on Asda shopping—for those who spend more than £300 a month at Asda. Cardholders will earn 2% back on their Asda purchases (including Asda, Asda Petrol, Living stores, and George.com) but only 0.2% elsewhere. Beyond the ability to create value, we like the simplicity of the Asda credit cards. Rewards accumulate monthly in your account and you can either use them as they come or let them build, up to a year. While easy and rewarding, this card should only be used by those happy to shop at Asda, as rewards are distributed as Asda vouchers. Do be aware that this card carries a £3 monthly fee, which will be added to your credit card bill every month. Asda shoppers who will charge less than £300 a month should consider the free Asda Cashback card instead.
- Higher-than-average cashback rate of 2% for in-store grocery spending at Asda
- 0% interest for 6 months on George.com purchases of at least £200
- 10% discount on some Asda Money insurance products
- Lower 0.2% rewards rate out-of-store
- Monthly fee of £3
Best Rewards Cards for Travel
If you are a frequent traveller or just enjoy earning rewards for free flights and hotels, a hotel or air rewards credit card has the potential to create good value. These types of travel rewards cards will take more active management to get the most out of them.
Best Hotel Rewards Travel Card: Starwood Preferred Guest by American Express
Note: The welcome bonus on the SPG card fluctuates from time to time, and is 30000 Starpoints (November 2018).
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card card delivers ongoing rewards rates estimated at 1.4% on general spending, a 10,000 Starpoint welcome bonus and an annual bonus of a free weekend night (earned by spending more than £25,000 in a year). Be aware that the free night voucher can only be redeemed at a hotel in Categories 1 through 4; the exclusion of the highest categories does limit the value of this feature.
After analyzing the cost of random nights at hotels across the spectrum of categories, we arrived at a value of 1.4 pence per SPG point. This yields a rewards rate of 1.4% on regular spending. For the time being, cardholders earn double points on SPG & Marriott purchases for a rewards rate of 2.8% on participating hotel spend. In order to make up the annual fee, a cardholder would need to spend at least £5,500 a year on regular spending, or half that at Starwood properties.
The SPG program offers redemption flexibility; Starpoints can be redeemed for flights on over 150 airlines, usually transferred at a ratio of 1 mile : 1 Starpoint.
Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Marriott Rewards have recently merged, but continue to operate as two separate entities. They are expected to combine in 2018 and will keep all 30 brands, encompassing around 7,000 properties. Until then, join both the Marriott Rewards program and the SPG program, linking your accounts to accumulate points and benefits at all of the hotels in the portfolio. Once you’ve linked your accounts, you can transfer points between them in order to redeem across the portfolio. Points are transferred at a rate of 1 Starpoint = 3 Marriott Rewards Points. Linking accounts also serves to match your status in one program with the other.
- Rewards rates around 2.8% on SPG & Marriott purchases and 1.4% elsewhere
- 10,000 Starpoint welcome bonus (spend £1k in first 3 months)
- SPG Gold Preferred Status (spend £15k each year)
- Earn a free weekend night (spend £25k each year)
- Redeem Starpoints for flights
- Eligibility checker
- Annual fee of £75
Best Hotel Rewards Credit Card: IHG Rewards Club Premium
With the IHG Rewards Club Premium Credit Card is the most rewarding hotel rewards card for the average UK consumer. Cardholders earn 4 IHG Rewards Club points for every pound spent at IHG properties and 2 rewards points per pound spent elsewhere. Add to this a welcome bonus of 20,000 points (worth approximately £100) and a free night each year in which you spend £10,000, and over two years the average consumer could earn around £640 of rewards. IHG Rewards can be redeemed at over 5,000 properties, part of the following brands:
|Even Hotels||Hualuxe||Crowne Plaza|
|Holiday Inn||Holiday Inn Express||Holiday Inn Club Vacations|
|Holiday Inn Resort||Staybridge Suites||Candlewood Suites|
If you're considering a rewards card to help you get free nights at a nice hotel on your next holiday, take a look through at the Best Hotel Rewards Credit Cards. This article includes an in-depth comparison of the top hotel cards, including a table showing the best hotel card for you based on annual credit card spend.
- Solid rewards rates around 2% on participating IHG purchases and abroad and 1% elsewhere in the UK
- Earn 2 points for every £1 you spend in the UK
- Earn 4 points for every £1 you spend in an IHG location in the UK
- Earn 4 points for every £1 you spend abroad
- One free night voucher each year in which you spend at least £10,000
- Welcome bonus of 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points (when you spend £200 in first 3 months)
- Platinum Elite status
- Annual fee of £99
- Free night can't be redeemed at top-tier properties
Best Free Air Rewards Card: Flybe Credit Card
The Flybe Credit Card is a solid free air miles card, for those looking to earn free fares within Europe. Your Spend&Fly balance grows with your spending, and can be redeemed for vouchers for Bonus Return Flights. Higher spending translates into more flights (there is no limit each year), higher-tier ticket types and travel outside of the UK. Rewards rates have the potential to be anywhere from 0.5% up to 10% or more in some cases (depending on how you redeem vouchers), but Bonus Return Flights aren't available on all flights and are subject to availability.
- Good for travel within Europe only
- £4,000 spend earns a Just Fly or Get More UK Bonus Return Flight
- £5,500 spend earns a All In UK Bonus Return Flight
- £6,000 spend earns a Just Fly or Get More European Bonus Return Flight
- £7,500 spend earns a All In European Bonus Return Flight
- Welcome Bonus: Earn a Bonus return flight (you pay taxes and charges) when you spend £250 in the first 6 months
- 10% of at Avis
- No annual fee
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card
Virgin Atlantic has re-launched their Flying Miles rewards credit cards, and the new Reward and Reward+ cards offer some of the best potential rewards of any credit card. The £160 per year Rewards+ card comes with an easy-to-earn welcome bonus of 15,000 Flying Club miles (potentially worth £150), high rewards rates around 1.5% on general spending, 2x the rewards on qualifying Virgin Atlantic/Holidays spending and the chance to earn perks like Premium upgrades, 2-4-1 Companion Vouchers or even airport lounge access (if you're Gold).
- 15,000 Flying Club miles upon first purchase within 90 days
- Earn 3 miles per £1 spent with Virgin Flights/Holidays (online or Contact Centres)
- Earn 1.5 miles per £1 spent elsewhere
- Virgin Atlantic Reward (Premium upgrade, 2-4-1 Companion Vouchers or—for Gold members—airport lounge access by spending £10,000 per card year
- Wifi access
Best Air Rewards Travel Card: British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card
The British Airways American Express Premium Plus card is a solid airlines reward card for frequent BA flyers who spend more than £10,000 a year on their cards (or half that on British Airways purchases) in order to earn the Companion Voucher. Depending on how you redeem your Avios points, you can see rewards rates around 1.5% on everyday spend and 3% on BA flight and Holidays spend. Greater value can be found by redeeming your earned Avios points for Premium Economy to Business upgrades, the sweet spot for Avios. Used in this way, it is sometimes possible to achieve rewards rates topping 6% on your BA purchases, but you'll need to spend more money buying the Premium seat first.
- 25,000 Avios welcome bonus
- Collect 1.5 Avios per £1 spent, and 3 Avios per £1 spent with British Airways or BA Holidays
- Earn a 2-for-1 Companion Voucher when you spend £10,000 each year
- Travel accident and Travel inconvenience insurance
- Annual fee of £195
Membership Rewards Card: Preferred Rewards Gold Card
The Preferred Rewards Gold Card is probably the most rewarding of American Express's Membership Rewards cards, especially for frequent travelers. Assuming a value of 8 pence per Membership Rewards point, cardholders can earn 0.8% on general spend, 1.6% on flight purchases and 2.4% on spend at American Express Travel. A welcome bonus of 10,000 points (worth £80) and an annual bonus of 10,000 points (worth around £80) add to short-term and long-term value. Be aware of the £140 annual fee—you'll need to charge around £17,500 a year just to make up for this fee (except that the annual fee is waived in the first year).
Generally speaking, this card is good for big spenders, frequent travelers and those who can pay back their full balance every month (it is a charge card, not a credit card). Assuming average UK household spend that can be applied to a credit card of £22,000, the Preferred Rewards Gold Card can deliver over £500 of value over the first two years. Much of this value is created in the first year, due to the welcome bonus and the waived annual fee. Keep in mind some of the premium perks delivered by the Preferred Rewards Gold, such as lounge access, travel insurance, an annual hotel voucher and Hertz discounts.
- Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 of general spend
- Earn 2 Membership Rewards points per £1 of flight purchases
- Earn 3 Membership Rewards points per £1 of spend at American Express Travel
- 10,000 point welcome bonus (when spend £3,000 in the first three months)
- 10,000 point annual bonus (when spend at least £15,000 each year)
- Two free airport lounge visits a year
- Travel insurance
- A $75 hotel credit each year, valid at one of 500 hotels worldwide
- 10% of Hertz base rates, and other perks
- American Express not accepted everywhere
- £140 annual fee (waived first year)
How Rewards Credit Cards Work
When you make a purchase using a rewards card, you will accumulate points, miles, cashback, etc. in your account. Depending on the card, you may be able to redeem these accumulated rewards once a year or as often as you like.
Rewards rates vary widely, from as little at 0.1% up to 2% or even more on some air miles cards (there, your rewards rate largely depends upon how you spend the miles). Typically, rewards cards that charge an annual fee will pay higher rewards. The free, no annual fee rewards cards tend to offer lower earning power but may be more suited to those on lower budgets.
Summary of Best Rewards Credit Cards
Below is a summary of some of the best rewards card across different categories.
|Best For...||Credit Card||Quick Summary and Estimate Rewards Rates|
|Cashback||Platinum Cashback by American Express|
|Groceries||Nectar Card by American Express|
|Asda Cashback Plus|
|Hotel||IHG Rewards Club Premium|
|Air||BA Amex Premium Plus|
|Flybe||Variable ranging from 0.5% to 10%, depending on how you're able to redeem|
|Membership Rewards Perks||Preferred Rewards Gold Card|
How to Choose a Rewards Card for You
Choosing a rewards card is largely a personal decision, based on your spending patterns and the type of reward you prefer to earn. For instance, cards often specialize in a certain category of spending (e.g., flights, hotels, dining, groceries, etc.) and return higher rewards rates in these categories. Pick a card that delivers well on the biggest sections of your budget. In our analyses we bring all calculations back to a common rewards rate based on average UK household spending.
In terms of reward type, people often wonder whether cashback, miles or points are better. This is an individual decision, based largely on your appetite for managing miles or points-based systems. Cashback cards often pay back lower maximum rewards than airline, hotel, or other points-system rewards cards. However, the potential rewards on these air, hotel, and points-based cards are not always realized - all too often, companion vouchers expire unused and miles/points flounder in their accounts. With a pure cashback card (i.e., statement credits, not store vouchers) you will get your rewards, straight into your wallet (well, straight to your credit card statement).
And if you're not looking for a personal card but a card for your business, the folks at iwoca have put together some information on rewards credit cards for businesses.