Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2020

We've analysed the UK credit card market to find the best for earning rewards. Check out our recommendations, which we've grouped by reward category (e.g., cashback, grocery, air and hotel). If you want to learn more about credit card rewards, read our guide on Miles vs. Points vs. Cashback.

The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.

We analysed the UK credit card market to find the best rewards cards, considering 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. Many of these cards can deliver hundreds of pounds in overall annual benefits to the average UK household each year.

  • Learning
    How Does a Rewards Credit Card Work?
  • Comparing
    Summary of the Best Rewards Credit Cards
  • Choosing
    How To Pick the Best Rewards Card for You

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.

A graph comparing Rewards across the Best UK Rewards Credit Cards over 2 Years, based on Average UK Household Spending
Best UK credit card rewards over 2 Years, based on £20,000 of spending a year

Best Rewards Credit Cards for Cashback

The rewards rates on cashback cards are typically lower than those found on air and hotel rewards cards, but they're so easy to use that many people prefer them. No faffing about with points and miles. How does "cashback" work? Typically, cashback rewards automatically appear on your statement once a year, effectively reducing your balance on that month's statement.

Best Rewards Credit Card: Platinum Cashback by American Express

Consider this if you want some of the best, and easiest, cashback rewards.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

Our favourite all-around cashback card is the Platinum Cashback Card by American Express, which offers simple and effective rewards for people who want rewards but don't want to worry about them. 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.

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), which is handy for any large upcoming purchases like a new appliance or holiday. 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 spending less than £10,000 a year on the card will earn higher rewards with the free Platinum Cashback Everyday card.

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. The average UK cardholder can expect to earn around £500 of rewards over the first two years using the Amex Platinum Cashback card.

Cashback is not earned on cash advances, balance transfers, travellers' cheques, FX transactions, interest, any spending beyond your credit limit, charges for returned payments, late payment or referral charges and finance charges.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Amex not accepted everywhere
  • Lower rewards rates than air and hotel cards

Best Cashback Card with No Annual Fee: Platinum Cashback Everyday Card from American Express

Consider this if you want solid, easy cashback rewards on a free card.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Platinum Cashback Everyday card from American Express is a great cashback card for those spending less than £10,000 a year. While it sports lower cashback rates than our top cashback pick and its sister card, the £25 per year Platinum Cashback card, the lack of annual fee makes the free Everyday card a surefire winner for smaller spenders. The Platinum Cashback Everyday card offers long-term cashback rates of 0.5% to 1%. As cashback comes in the form of statement credits, the card is a good choice for those desiring a simple rewards card.

Cashback is not earned on cash advances, balance transfers, travellers' cheques, FX transactions, interest, any spending beyond your credit limit, charges for returned payments, late payment or referral charges and finance charges.

Pros
  • 0.5% cashback rate on purchases up to £5,000 per year
  • 1% cashback rate on purchases over £5,001 per year
  • 5% intro cashback rate up to £100 reward, in first three months
  • No annual fee
Cons
  • Amex not accepted everywhere

Best Rewards Credit Cards for Groceries

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 and that can be redeemed at the till for your weekly shop.

Best Groceries Rewards Credit Card: Nectar Credit Card

Consider this if you want a credit card for earning Nectar points at any grocery chain.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Nectar Credit Card is probably the most flexible grocery credit card, because unlike other grocery-related credit cards, the Nectar card gives you the same approximate 1% rewards rate on all shopping. So you can shop at any grocery store you want and also use the card for general spending and earn the same rate. Most grocery loyalty credit cards only give this type of rate on your in-store spending.

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 around £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 £450 in their first two years with the card, assuming £20,000 of annual spend which is approximately the amount that the average UK household can spend on a credit card.

Pros
  • 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 (approx. 1% rewards rate)
  • Earn 1 Nectar point for every £1 spent at warehouse retailers (approx. 0.5% rewards rate)
  • Welcome offer of 20,000 Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in the first three months (worth approx. £100)
  • 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)
Cons
  • Amex not accepted everywhere

Best Rewards Cards for Travel

If you are a frequent traveller or enjoy earning free flights and hotel stays, then a hotel or air rewards credit card can create 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

Consider this if you spend over £25k a year to earn a free weekend night award.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

Note: The welcome bonus on the SPG card fluctuates from time to time, and is 30000 points (February 2020). Also, please be aware that since the merger with Marriott, points on this card are now earned in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty programme.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card card delivers ongoing rewards rates estimated at 2.1% on general spending, a 30,000 point welcome bonus estimated to be worth £210 and a free weekend night that you can earn each yar by spending at least £25,000. Be aware that the free night voucher can only be redeemed at a hotel in Categories 1 through 4.

After analyzing different ways redeem points, we arrived at a value per Marriott Bonvoy point of 0.7 pence. In order to make up the annual fee, a cardholder would need to spend at least £3,500 a year on regular spending, or half that at participating properties where you earn 2X the rewards.

The Marriott Bonvoy program offers redemption flexibility; points can be redeemed for flights but they're not as valuable that way (redeemed at a 3:1 ratio). When points are redeemed for hotel stays, we estimate the value of this card to be £1,300 over the first two years.

Summary

  • Rewards rates estimated at 4% on SPG & Marriott purchases and 2% elsewhere
  • 30,000 point welcome bonus (spend £1k in first 3 months)
  • Gold Elite Status (spend £15k each year)
  • Earn a Free Weekend night (spend £25k each year)
  • Redeem points for nights or flights
  • Eligibility checker
  • Annual fee of £75

Best Hotel Rewards Credit Card: IHG Rewards Club Premium

Consider this if you want a hotel rewards card and the chance to earn a free night each year.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to 12 months
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3% (min £3)
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £5)

With the IHG Rewards Club Premium Credit Card is another 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 £702 of rewards. IHG Rewards can be redeemed at over 5,000 properties, part of the following brands:

IHG Hotels
InterContinentalKimptonhotel Indigo
Even HotelsHualuxeCrowne Plaza
Holiday InnHoliday Inn ExpressHoliday Inn Club Vacations
Holiday Inn ResortStaybridge SuitesCandlewood 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.

Pros
  • 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
  • Contactless
Cons
  • Annual fee of £99
  • Free night can't be redeemed at top-tier properties

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card

Consider this if you want to earn Flying Club miles.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to 6 months
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 5%

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—great news for frequent Virgin flyers. While the Rewards+ card does come with a hefty £160 per year annual fee, cardholders get an easy-to-earn welcome bonus of 15,000 Flying Club miles (potentially worth £150 and triggered with your first purchase), high rewards rates around 1.5% on general spending, 3% on eligible 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).

Those spending under £10,000 a year on the card are probably better off with the free card.

Summary

  • 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

Consider this if you want to earn Avios and a 2-4-1 voucher.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The British Airways American Express Premium Plus card is a solid airlines reward card for frequent BA flyers who are bigger spenders and will charge at least £10,000 a year on their cards (or half that on British Airways purchases) to trigger the Companion Voucher. Depending on how you redeem your Avios points, you can see rewards rates around 1.5% on general purchases and 3% on BA flight and Holidays spending. Consider using your Avios points to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business, which is a sweet spot for creating value with Avios (e.g., you might achieve rewards rates topping 6% on your BA purchases).

Those spending less than £10,000 a year are probably better off with the free BA Amex credit card.

Summary

  • 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

Consider this if you want a hotel rewards card and the chance to earn a free night each year.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee n/a

The Preferred Rewards Gold Card is the highest-earning Amex Membership Rewards card, and is especially for frequent travelers. Assuming a value of 1 pence per Membership Rewards point, cardholders can earn 1% on general spend, 2% on flight purchases and 3% on spend at American Express Travel. The bare minimum you'll get for Membership Rewards points is 0.5p/point, which is the rate at which you can convert points to gift cards. Redeeming points for flights or hotels should create at least 2X as much value.

A welcome bonus of 10,000 points is worth between £50 (in gift cards) up to £100 or more (for flights, hotels, etc.). The annual bonus of 10,000 points (same type of value) adds to the long-term value for the Gold card. Be aware of the £140 annual fee—you'll need to charge around £14,000 a year just to make up for this fee (except that the annual fee is waived in the first year) assuming a value of 1p/point.

Generally speaking, this card is good for big spenders, frequent travelers and those who can pay back their full balance every month. Assuming average UK household spend that can be applied to a credit card of around £20,000 a year, the Preferred Rewards Gold Card can deliver around £560 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 that aren't included in this calculation such as lounge access and Global Assist.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • American Express not accepted everywhere
  • £140 annual fee (waived first year)

Best Airline Credit Card for Rewards: Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card

Consider this if you want to earn Flying Club miles.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to 6 months
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 5%

The Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card can be incredibly rewarding to Virgin Flying Club members who will spend at least £10,000 per year on their cards. At £10,000 of general spending, you should nearly earn back the £160 annual fee plus be awarded with a Virgin Atlantic Reward, which is redeemable for either a premium upgrade, 2-4-1 Companion Voucher or even an airport lounge pass, depending on your membership level (e.g., Red, Silver or Gold) when you redeem. The Virgin Atlantic Reward is good for 24 months, giving you time to use it before it expires.

A 15,000 Flying Club miles welcome bonus, earned with your first purchase in 90 days, is nearly enough for an off-peak, round-trip awards flight or premium upgrade to places like New York or Dubai (but remember you still pay taxes and fees which can be a few hundred quid per ticket). On top of that, the card offers Flying Club miles on Virgin Flight and Holidays purchases (3 miles/£1 spent) and also general spending (1.5 miles/£1 spent).

We like that the new Virgin Atlantic card is a Mastercard, which is accepted nearly everywhere. Assuming your Flying Club miles are worth 1p each, expect rewards rates around 3% on Virgin Flights and Holidays and around 1.5% on other general spending. Over the first two years, we estimate this card will return £1,030 of value for annual spending of £20,000 on your card. Those spending less than £10k a year might be better off with the free Reward card.

Summary

  • Earn 3 miles per £1 spent at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin holidays, and 1.5 miles per £1 spent elsewhere (rewards rates can top 3% and 1.5%, respectively)
  • 15,000 mile welcome bonus
  • Earn a Virgin Atlantic Reward (redeemable for a Companion Voucher, Premium Economy upgrade or perhaps lounge access)
  • Miles usable for rewards seats, upgrades, hotels, cars, etc.
  • Annual fee of £160

How Rewards Credit Cards Work

Depending on the type of reward credit card, spending on the card will earn you points, miles, cashback, etc. Rewards can be redeemed as often as you like on some cards; on other cards like the Amex Platinum cashback cards, accumulated rewards are delivered once a year.

Rewards rates vary widely, from as little at 0.1% up to 3% 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. Rewards rates are estimates and will depend on how you're able to redeem your points.

Best For...Credit CardQuick Summary and Estimate Rewards Rates
CashbackPlatinum Cashback by American Express
  • 1% to 1.25% on all spend
  • 5% cashback in first 3 months (£125 cap)
Platinum Cashback Everyday by American Express
  • 0.5% to 1% on all spend
  • 5% cashback in first 3 months (£100 cap)
GroceriesNectar Card by American Express
  • 0.5% at warehouse retailers
  • 1% elsewhere
John Lewis Partnership Card
  • 1% on John Lewis/Waitrose spend
  • 0.5% elsewhere
HotelIHG Rewards Club Premium
  • Approx 2% at Hilton properties
  • 1% elsewhere
SPG
  • Approx 4% at SPG properties
  • 2% elsewhere
AirBA Amex Premium Plus
  • Approx 3% on BA spend
  • 1.5% elsewhere
Virgin Reward+
  • Approx 3% on Virgin FLight/Holiday spend
  • 1.5% elsewhere
Membership Rewards PerksPreferred Rewards Gold Card
  • Approx 1% on general spend
  • 2% on flight purchases
  • 3% at American Express Travel

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 rewards you prefer to earn. For instance, some rewards cards have bonus categories of spending (e.g., 2X rewards on flights) and therefore deliver higher rewards rates in these categories.

Take a look at your spending habits and pick a rewards 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. Spend on bonus categories would earn extra rewards.

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—for example, points can expire or companion vouchers can expire before they're used. It's happened to us.

In that sense, cashback cards can be safer because rewards are delivered straight into your credit card account. Look out, however, as missing payments can mean you forfeit your accumulated cashback rewards!

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.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the CEO and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to founding NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in the case writing team at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.

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The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.