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Compare Our Top-Rated Credit Cards Deals of 2021

Updated: 29th November 2021

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.

Explore our top credit card deals in each category, taking into account the length of any interest free periods, the regular APR, cashback offers, loyalty points and much more!

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

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 *.

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Top Product
Great for: Everyday cash back with no fee
5 stars question mark
American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday credit card
Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

Check Eligibility

Completely free and
will not affect your credit score.

* Affiliate partner

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 >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

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

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.

what we like

  • 5% cashback for first 3 months (up to £100, subject to eligibility)
  • 0.5% – 1% cashback after first 3 months, depending on spend
  • No annual fee
  • No cap on cashback earned
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    24.5%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    5% cashback for first 3 months (up to £100)

KEY SCORES:

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

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

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.

Great for: Attractive rewards with no annual fee
4.5 stars question mark
American Express Rewards credit card
Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

Check Eligibility

Completely free and
will not affect your credit score.

* Affiliate partner

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 >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

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

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.

what we like

  • 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
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    24.5%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    10,000 Membership points if you spend £2,000 in the first three months (subject to eligibility)

KEY SCORES:

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

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

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.

Great for: Long 0% purchase and balance transfer, plus points
4.5 stars question mark
Apply Now!

On M&S Bank's Secure Website

Check Eligibility

Completely free and
will not affect your credit score.

* Affiliate partner

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 >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

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

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.

what we like

  • 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% fee applies)
  • Earn M&S points for shopping at M&S and elsewhere
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    21.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% interest on purchases for 22 months
    0% interest on balance transfers for 22 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 4/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 4/5APR

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

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.

Great for: 0% offers, cashback and travel benefits in one card
4.5 stars question mark
Santander All in One credit card in black
Read full review Check Eligibility

Completely free and
will not affect your credit score.

* Affiliate partner

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 >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

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.

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.

what we like

  • 0% interest for 26 months from account opening on balance transfers
  • 0% interest for 20 months from account opening on purchases
  • 0.5% cashback on all purchases
  • No balance transfer fee
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £36**
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    23.7%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% interest for 26 months from account opening on balance transfers

    0% interest for 20 months from account opening on purchases

KEY SCORES:

  • 5/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 2/5APR

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.

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.

Great for: Collecting Avios on everyday spend
4 stars question mark
Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

Check Eligibility

Completely free and
will not affect your credit score.

* Affiliate partner

This card is all about the Avios. If you are a new cardmember, then you can earn 5,000 Avios if you spend £1,000 in the first three months (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 at least 4,000 bonus Avios for each friend who is approved (up to 90,000 Avios a year). 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 >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1 Avios per £1 spent
  • 5,000 bonus Avios when you spend £1,000 in first three months (new cardmembers only, 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

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.

what we like

  • 1 Avios per £1 spent
  • 5,000 bonus Avios when you spend £1,000 in first three months (new cardmembers only, T&Cs apply.)
  • No annual fee
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    24.5%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    5,000 Avios points if you spend £1,000 in the first three months (new cardmembers only, T&Cs apply.)

KEY SCORES:

  • 4/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 2/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1 Avios per £1 spent
  • 5,000 bonus Avios when you spend £1,000 in first three months (new cardmembers only, 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

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.

Great for: Building or improving your credit history
4 stars question mark
HSBC Credit Card Artwork
Read full review Check Eligibility

Completely free and
will not affect your credit score.

* Affiliate partner

If your credit history is not that great, you might not get the best rates on loans and other forms of credit. The HSBC Classic Credit Card is designed to help you build or enhance your credit record, and could act as a stepping-stone to better cards, and ultimately a wider range of borrowing options in the future. In addition to a competitive APR of 29.90%, the card has no annual fee. Credit limit starts up to a manageable level of £1,000. With this card, you can also do more of the things you love, including dining out and travelling, by accessing a wide range of discounts and offers.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Lower APR than most other credit-building cards
  • Starting credit limit of £250 – £1000
  • Easy account management and monitoring through online portal and mobile app
  • Contactless functionality

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 29.90% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 29.90% APR (variable)
Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,000

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

what we like

  • Comparatively low APR
  • No annual fee
  • Offers and discounts through HSBC home&Away
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    29.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

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

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Lower APR than most other credit-building cards
  • Starting credit limit of £250 – £1000
  • Easy account management and monitoring through online portal and mobile app
  • Contactless functionality

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 29.90% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 29.90% APR (variable)
Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,000

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here to learn more about why and how we work with partners.

Great for: Really long balance transfer period
4 stars question mark
Apply Now!

On M&S Bank's Secure Website

Check Eligibility

Completely free and
will not affect your credit score.

* Affiliate partner

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 >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

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

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.

what we like

  • 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
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    21.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% on balance transfers for 29 months, available for 90 days from account opening
    0% on purchases for 3 months

KEY SCORES:

  • 5/5 Perks
  • 4/5Fees
  • 4/5APR

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

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.

Great for: long 0% deal on balance transfers
4 stars question mark
Santander Everyday Long Term Balance Transfer Credit Card
Read full review Check Eligibility

Completely free and
will not affect your credit score.

* Affiliate partner

With an attractive combination of 0% interest free periods on balance transfers and purchases, no monthly or annual fee, plus an ongoing 15% cashback through Retailer Offers, the Santander Everyday Long Term Balance Transfer Credit Card is a competitive offering that’s worth considering.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 31 months on balance transfers from account opening.
  • 0% interest for 3 months on purchases from account opening.
  • Up to 15% cashback with Retailer Offers (you have to activate this benefit).
  • Up to 56 days interest-free period on purchases after end of introductory period.
  • 2.75% balance transfer fee (minimum £5)
  • No monthly or annual fee.

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.

what we like

  • Lengthy 31-month interest free period on balance transfers.
  • 3 months of 0% interest on purchases.
  • Ability to earn up to 15% cashback at major retailers with Retailer Offers.
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    20.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% on balance transfers for 31 months from account opening. 0% on purchases for 3 months from account opening.

KEY SCORES:

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

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest for 31 months on balance transfers from account opening.
  • 0% interest for 3 months on purchases from account opening.
  • Up to 15% cashback with Retailer Offers (you have to activate this benefit).
  • Up to 56 days interest-free period on purchases after end of introductory period.
  • 2.75% balance transfer fee (minimum £5)
  • No monthly or annual fee.

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.

Great for: balance transfers with no fee
4 stars question mark
Santander Everyday Long Term Balance Transfer Credit Card
Read full review Check Eligibility

Completely free and
will not affect your credit score.

* Affiliate partner

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 >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

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.

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.

what we like

  • 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
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    20.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    0% on balance transfers for 18 months from account opening. 0% on purchases for 3 months from account opening.

KEY SCORES:

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

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.

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.

Great for: Low APR and no foreign transaction fees
4 stars question mark
NatWest Reward credit card
Apply Now!

On NatWest's Secure Website

* Affiliate partner

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 >

CREDIT RATING req:

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

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Low APR of 12.9% p.a. (variable) for qualified applicants
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • No balance-transfer fees
  • No annual fee
  • To apply, you must be 18+, earning at least £10,000 per year and a UK resident

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate 12.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative APR 12.9% (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.

what we like

  • Low standard APR
  • No foreign-transaction fees
  • No balance-transfer fees
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    12.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 5/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Low APR of 12.9% p.a. (variable) for qualified applicants
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • No balance-transfer fees
  • No annual fee
  • To apply, you must be 18+, earning at least £10,000 per year and a UK resident

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate 12.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative APR 12.9% (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.


What is a credit card?

A credit card is a type of loan that is issued by credit lenders like banks or building societies that let 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 bank 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 pay off your entire balance, or pay less than that 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.

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 of cards, 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. While 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 in terms of points or miles for every £1 you spend and 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 score 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.

How to apply for a credit card

Applying for a credit card isn’t too complicated. You can apply by submitting an application online, at your bank, by post, or over the phone.

In almost all cases, you must be at least 18 years old, live in the UK, have a good credit score, and you might need to earn over a certain amount (or prove that you’ve got a steady job). Don’t worry if it’s your first credit card — there are options for that too.

Based on the answers you give, the credit card company will accept or decline your application.

If you’re accepted, you can start using the card – but don’t get carried away. Remember to use your card responsibly.

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, 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 ‘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.

About our credit card comparison

Within the credit card comparison above, there’s a rating on a five-star rating scale. The team at The Motley Fool determines these ratings by comparing credit cards across many areas. Here are some of the most important things you should be looking at when choosing the best credit card for you:

  • Introductory interest-free periods – These are offers that give you 0% interest on purchases or balance transfers (or both!). They help to give you breathing room to pay off your debts faster or spread the cost of large purchases. In general, the longer the interest-free period the better, but expect longer 0% balance transfer periods to come with a balance transfer fee.
  • Annual fees – We look to see if you will be charged an annual fee on a credit card. 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.
  • Interest rates – Knowing how much interest you will pay on your credit card is key. So we look for Representative APRs as low as possible.
  • Rewards and cashback – Credit cards like these allow you to earn rewards or cashback just by using your card. On some of the best credit cards around, these even combine with 0% offers.
  • Sign-up bonuses – These give you an extra boost at the beginning. Be it extra reward points or a one-off cashback offer, they are a little something to help sweeten the deal.
  • Tools and extra perks – This could be anything from access to your credit score to fee-free cash withdrawals. They are the things that help you manage your finances better or save you money.

Check out our new credit card repayment calculator

Quick tips for comparing credit cards in the UK

We get it. There are a lot of credit cards out there, and trying to decide can be challenging. Here are a few things that you can consider when trying to find the best credit card deal for you.

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.

0% cards: 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.

Check out our new balance transfer calculator

Better bet: 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 better 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.

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 further. 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.


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.

What credit card fees should I look out for?

As long as you know which credit card fees to look out for, you can mostly avoid paying them. Here are some fees you should understand:

  • Late payment fee – This fee is charged if you miss a monthly payment.
  • Overlimit fee – This fee is applied if you exceed your credit limit.
  • Cash transaction fee – This is a fee applied to any cash withdrawals you make using your credit card. This is on top of any interest charges.
  • Non-sterling transaction fee – This is a fee for any transactions you make abroad or in a different currency.

There are other types of fees, such as balance transfer fees or money transfer fees, but they are specific to which type of card you have. Similarly, some cards, typically reward cards, could have an annual fee.

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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