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Compare Our 15 Top-Rated Rewards Credit Cards

Updated: 7th January 2022

By analysing the rewards schemes available on the market and combining that with other credit card features and fees, we’ve identified our top picks for the best rewards credit card for you.

What to consider when comparing rewards credit cards:

  1. Our star rating: Our ratings are on a five-star scale and are based on factors we believe are important to the average user of rewards credit cards in the UK. We humbly suggest using this rating to help you decide, as we’ve spent countless hours making sure it brings the best rewards cards to the top.
  2. Type of rewards: The main types of rewards are flexible points, cash back, travel points, and brand-specific points. Each has pros and cons you’ll want to review.
  3. Fees: Aim to keep fees as low as possible, but be sure to read the fine print. One card may have no annual fee but have a high foreign transaction fee. Be sure to evaluate the total cost you’ll face from a card.
  4. Rewards yield: Look for cards that have higher earn rates so you get more value for each £1 you spend. When there’s a tiered system with bonus points for certain categories, make sure those bonus tiers align to your typical spending.
  5. Welcome bonus: Wouldn’t it be nice to get rewards just for signing up? If you can’t make your decision based on the factors we’ve already listed, the sign-up bonus can be a good tie-breaker.

With these five factors in mind, you’re ready to start looking for the best rewards credit card for you.

OUR TOP PICK: The American Express Rewards Credit Card*

The American Express Rewards Credit Card is our top pick for a rewards credit card because it gives you access to a popular reward scheme and leaves out the price tag. With no annual fee, you can immediately start feeling the benefit of one Membership Rewards point for every £1 you spend. The real selling point is for new cardmembers, who, if eligible, could earn themselves a windfall of 10,000 bonus points if they spend £2,000 in the first three months. Read our full review


Pros:

  • No annual fee
  • 1 Membership Rewards Point per £1 spent
  • Generous bonus points for new cardholders

Cons:

  • 2.99% fee for any purchases made overseas
  • Eligibility for welcome bonus is strict (if you’ve had an American Express card in the past 24 months, you’re not eligible)

Check Your Eligibility

Discover a list of credit cards you may be eligible for. Only takes a few minutes and will not affect your credit score.

Here are The Motley Fool's 15 top-rated rewards credit cards in the UK:

Credit Card Great For Star Rating
American Express Rewards Credit Card * Attractive rewards with no annual fee
M&S Shopping Plus Credit Card * Long 0% purchase and balance transfer, plus points
American Express Nectar Credit Card * Collecting Nectar points for everyday spend
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card * High-end credit card experience
British Airways American Express Credit Card * Collecting Avios on everyday spend
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® * Collecting hotel reward points
M&S Rewards Credit Card * Big points at M&S plus sign-up bonus
British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card * Travellers looking for high rewards rates
The American Express Card * Collecting rewards on a charge card
John Lewis Partnership Credit Card Rewards, balance transfers and 0% purchases

Credit card offers from our affiliate partners appear first and are ordered from highest rating to lowest, followed by other top-rated offers. You can read more about our ratings and page sort here. Offers from affiliate partners are marked with a *.

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Great For: Attractive rewards with no annual fee

American Express Rewards Credit Card *

4.5 stars ?
Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

1 Membership Rewards Point per £1 spent

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

24.5%

£0

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

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

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

KEY SCORES

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

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.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: Long 0% purchase and balance transfer, plus points

M&S Shopping Plus Credit Card *

4.5 stars ?

  • 0% interest on purchases for the first 23 months.
  • 0% interest for 23 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

  • 0% interest on purchases for 23 months.
  • 0% interest on balance transfers for 23 months.

21.9%

£0

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On M&S Bank's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

The M&S Shopping Plus card ticks a lot of the boxes to make a great credit card. For starters, there’s a long 23-month 0% period on new purchases. But you can add to that a 23-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

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0% interest on purchases for the first 23 months
  • 0% interest for 23 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

KEY SCORES

Perks 4/5
Fees 5/5
APR 4/5

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.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on M&S Bank's Secure Website

Great For: Collecting Nectar points for everyday spend

American Express Nectar Credit Card *

4 stars ?
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On American Express's Secure Website

  • 2 Nectar points for (almost) every £1 spent
  • 3 Nectar points per £1 at Nectar partners when using your loyalty card, 1 point per £1 at warehouse retailers

20,000 Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in first 3 months (subject to eligibility)

29.8%

£25 (£0 in first year)

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

Building up your Nectar point balance is this card’s defining feature. Cardholders can earn 2 points for every £1 spent (except at warehouse retailers), and a minimum of 3 points per £1 spent at Nectar partners when using the credit card and the loyalty card. Add to that a welcome bonus of 20,000 points for eligible new cardholders that spend £2,000 in the first three months, and Nectar scheme users are looking at a decent payout. The card does have a £25 annual fee, but this is waived for the first year of membership.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 2 Nectar points for (almost) every £1 spent
  • 3 Nectar points per £1 at Nectar partners when using your loyalty card, 1 point per £1 at warehouse retailers
  • 20,000 bonus Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in first three months (subject to eligibility)
  • Complimentary additional card, so a family member can help you rack up Nectar points
  • 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)
  • Access to American Express’s 24/7 Global Assist service to provide assistance when you travel outside the UK

KEY SCORES

Perks 3/5
Fees 4/5
APR 3.5/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative 29.8% APR variable
Purchase rate 24.5% variable for purchases
Credit limit Assumed credit limit of £1,200
Annual fee Based on £25 (£0 in first year)

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: High-end credit card experience

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card *

4 stars ?
Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

  • 1 Membership Rewards Point per £1 spent
  • 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 in the first three months (T&Cs apply)
  • Airport lounge access (2 complimentary visits / year) through Priority Pass™ programme

  • 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 in your first three months (T&Cs apply)
  • £0 annual fee in your first year

59.9%

£140 (£0 in your first year)

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

This card offers a high-end package in the form of a lucrative rewards programme and travel benefits suited to those who enjoy travel and adventure. However, with the comparatively high price of £140 in the form of an annual fee, you should expect a card with all the trimmings.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1 Membership Rewards Point per £1 spent
  • Earn 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 in your first three months of Cardmembership (new cardmembers only, T&Cs apply)
  • Airport lounge access (2 complimentary visits per year) at over 700 worldwide airport lounges
  • Anniversary bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points for each year when you spend £15,000 during the anniversary year
  • Two points for each £1 spent with airlines or in foreign currency
  • Three points for each £1 spent at American Express Travel
  • Hotel benefits with over 500 hotels, including Hilton, Intercontinental and Hyatt
  • Complimentary membership to Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
  • Gold Cardmembers will now being eligible for up to two separate £5 credits per month when they spend at Deliveroo on their Gold Card

KEY SCORES

Perks 3.5/5
Fees 3/5
APR 3.5/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 59.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 24.5% variable for purchases
Credit limit Assumed credit limit of £1,200
Annual fee £140 (£0 in the first year)

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: Collecting Avios on everyday spend

British Airways American Express Credit Card *

4 stars ?
Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

  • 1 Avios per £1 spent
  • 10,000 bonus Avios when you spend £1,000 in first three months (new cardmembers only, T&Cs apply.)
  • No annual fee

24.5%

£0

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

This card is all about the Avios. If you are a new cardmember, then you can earn 10,000 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

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1 Avios per £1 spent
  • 10,000 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

KEY SCORES

Perks 4/5
Fees 3/5
APR 2/5

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.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: Collecting hotel reward points

Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® *

4 stars ?
Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

  • Welcome offer of 20,000 points based on spending £3,000 in first three months
  • 2 reward points for every full £1 spent
  • Automatic upgrade to Gold Elite Status after £15,000 in spend during the year

Welcome award of 20,000 bonus points based on spending £3,000 in the first 3 months (subject to eligibility)

41.6%

£75

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

With this card you can earn points when you spend, which will in turn unlock free hotel stays and a host of other travel offers. If you use your card at any properties participating in Bonvoy, you will receive 6 points for every £1. If you use the card elsewhere its 2 points for every £1 spent. Add in a welcome offer of 20,000 bonus points when you spend £3,000 in the first three months (subject to eligibility) and the ability to upgrade the Elite status of your card if you meet the requirements, and you have an attractive package for a frequent traveller looking for a high-end credit card. Just be aware that the card does carry a £75 annual fee.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Welcome offer of 20,000 points based on spending £3,000 in first three months (subject to eligibility)
  • 2 reward points for every full £1 spent
  • Automatic upgrade to Gold Elite Status after £15,000 in spend during the year
  • Free night award after £25,000 in spend during the year
  • 15 Elite nights awarded annually
  • Travel accident and travel inconvenience insurance (subject to enrolment)

KEY SCORES

Perks 5/5
Fees 1/5
APR 2/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative 41.6% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 24.5% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Annual fee £75

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: Big points at M&S plus sign-up bonus

M&S Rewards Credit Card *

3.5 stars ?

  • Double M&S points for M&S shopping in first year (2 points per £1 spent)
  • 1 M&S point for every £5 spent elsewhere
  • 0% interest for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers made in the first 90 days

Double points at M&S for first year

19.9%

£0

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On M&S Bank's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

For M&S shoppers, the M&S Reward card may look like an outstanding option. Over the first year, users get 2 M&S points for every £1 spent at M&S, along with 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 

 

 

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 2 M&S points for every £1 spent at M&S in first year (1 points per £1 spent after that)
  • 1 M&S point for ever £5 spent elsewhere
  • 0% interest for 12 months on purchases
  • 0% interest for 12 months on balances transferred in the first 90 days (2.9% fee applies)
  • No annual fee

KEY SCORES

Perks 3/5
Fees 5/5
APR 4/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate p.a. 19.9% (variable)
Representative APR 19.9% (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.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on M&S Bank's Secure Website

Great For: Travellers looking for high rewards rates

British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card *

3 stars ?
Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

  • 1.5 Avios per £1 spent
  • 40,000 bonus Avios when you spend £3,000 in first three months (new cardmembers only, T&Cs apply)
  • Get a companion voucher when you spend £10,000 each year

101.1%

£250

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

This card incorporates the popular Avios reward scheme, which enables cardmembers to earn points that they can use towards flights, flight upgrades or hotel rooms. With a welcome bonus of 40,000 Avios points when you spend £3,000 in the first three months (new cardmembers only, T&Cs apply), you are looking at an attractive offer. You just need to get comfortable with the £250 annual fee attached to the card.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1.5 Avios per £1 spent
  • 3 Avios per £1 spent with British Airways or BA Holidays
  • 40,000 bonus Avios when you spend £3,000 in first three months (new cardmembers only, T&Cs apply)
  • Get a companion voucher when you spend £10,000 each year (available each membership year)
  • Travel accident and travel inconvenience insurance (subject to enrolment)
  • Refund and purchase protection (subject to enrolment)

KEY SCORES

Perks 5/5
Fees 1/5
APR 1/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 101.1% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 24.5% p.a. (variable)
Credit limit Assumed credit limit of £1,200
Annual fee £250

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: Collecting rewards on a charge card

The American Express Card *

2.5 stars ?
Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

  • 1 Membership Rewards point for each £1 spent
  • Refund and purchase protection (subject to enrolment)
  • Travel inconvenience and travel accident insurance (subject to enrolment)

N/A

N/A

£60

Check Eligibility Apply Now!

On American Express's Secure Website

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

This card is an American Express classic. The Green Card allows you to earn rewards from the American Express Membership Rewards scheme as well as benefit from travel insurance and purchase protection features (subject to enrolment) without having to worry about accruing debt and interest charges. That’s because this is a charge card, not a credit card, so whatever you spend during the month will need to be repaid in full. The card does, however, carry a £60 annual fee.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No pre-set spending limit
  • 1 Membership Rewards point for each £1 spent
  • Refund and purchase protection (subject to enrolment)
  • Travel inconvenience and travel accident insurance (subject to enrolment)
  • Extended warranty (subject to enrolment)

KEY SCORES

Perks 3/5
Fees 1/5
APR N/A

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Not applicable. This is a charge card, so there’s no credit offered.

* This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. For more information on why and how we work with partners, click here.

Ready to apply? You can either Check Eligibility or Apply Now!
on American Express's Secure Website

Great For: Rewards, balance transfers and 0% purchases

John Lewis Partnership Credit Card

4.5 stars ?

  • 5 points for every £4 spent at John Lewis and Waitrose, 1 point for every £4 spent elsewhere
  • 0% interest for 18 months on balance transfers†
  • 0% interest for 9 months on purchases

  • 18 months 0% on balance transfers (†2.9% balance transfer fee)
  • 9 months 0% on purchases
  • Limited time offer to earn extra points and cash back

18.9%

£0

CREDIT RATING REQUIREMENTS:

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

OUR BOTTOM LINE

The John Lewis Partnership Credit Card is an appealing rewards card for consumers who shop regularly at  John Lewis or Waitrose. Cardholders get 5 points for every £4 spent at John Lewis and Waitrose and 1 point for every £4 spent elsewhere. It has an 18-month 0% balance transfer offer that carries a 2.9% balance transfer fee. There’s also, a 9-month 0% introductory interest rate on new purchases, and you get all of this without having to dole out an annual fee. Furthermore, cardholders also stand a chance to earn cashback and a limited offer of bonus points.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 5 points for every £4 spent at John Lewis and Waitrose, 1 point for every £4 spent elsewhere
  • 0% interest for 18 months on balance transfers†
  • 0% interest for 9 months on purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Special offers to boost your rewards points

KEY SCORES

Perks 4/5
Fees 4/5
APR 4.5/5

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 18.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,200

What is a rewards credit card?

A rewards credit card is a credit card that offers rewards for spending. Rewards can vary, but typically come in the form of reward points, cashback or Avios.

How do rewards credit cards work?

With rewards credit cards, you don’t have to do anything special – aside from using the card – when you spend. You just swipe your card and earn rewards.

An infographic explaining the three steps to how rewards credit cards work.

Of course, this is how to earn rewards with a rewards card. in order to make the most of your card, you’ll need to pay your card’s balance off every month to avoid racking up interest charges.

It’s well worth noting that while earning rewards is nice, this isn’t a good reason to overspend or buy things you can’t afford. Getting rewarded for spending you would have done anyway is great. But spending beyond your means can cause problems that even the best rewards programmes can’t mend!

Types of credit card rewards

Credit card rewards come in three main forms:

1. Reward points

Points cards give borrowers a fixed amount of points per £1 you spend. The reward rate will depend on which card you choose. Cards that offer reward points are often affiliated with a retailer or supermarket and offer higher reward points on money spent in store compared with that spent elsewhere.

For example, you could earn one point for every £1 you spend in store, but only one point for every £2 spent at another retailer. Typically, reward points accrue over 1-3 months and are then given to the cardholder in the form of a voucher.

2. Cash back rewards

Some cards offer rewards in the form of cash back . The level of cash back you can earn depends on the individual card.

For example, you could receive a cashback yield of 0.5% for every £1 spent, meaning if you spent £100 on your credit card you would earn 50p of cashback. It is best to check whether a particular cashback card has any limit on how much cashback you can earn over a certain period.

3. Avios rewards

Previously known as Airmiles, Avios rewards cards are travel rewards and work generally the same way as the other types of rewards cards, but are targeted towards frequent travelers. They allow you to put your points towards paying for air fares, hotels and other travel perks.

What is the best credit card for rewards in the UK?

The answer may be disappointing, but we can’t really say that any one credit card is the best rewards credit card in the UK.

Why’s that? Because many programmes are aimed at specific types of redemptions or specific places to shop. A card with great Avios rewards may be considered a superb programme for a frequent traveller. But for someone that rarely travels, it’d be a fairly miserable reward system. Likewise, a regular Tesco shopper may get a lot out of the programme on the Tesco credit cards. But if you don’t shop at Tesco, it won’t have the same value to you.

For that reason, it’s important to match the card‘s reward programme to your life and lifestyle. Just because you could theoretically get a high return from one card‘s programme doesn’t mean much if you’d have to change your life to actually see that high return.

Who should get a rewards credit card?

If you can say “yes” to the following, then a rewards credit card is likely a good fit for you.

  • You use a credit card regularly and want to get rewarded for that spending
  • You don’t have a large amount of existing credit card debt
  • You have a fair or better credit score
  • You are confident you can use your credit card wisely

If you don’t think you’ll always be able to repay your balance in full each month — a rewards credit card is probably not right for you.

Why is this? It’s quite simple. A good rewards credit card might have a rewards rate of 1% – that is, 1p worth of rewards per £1 in spend. Many credit cards charge an annual interest rate in the 19% range. That means that a balance carried for even one month will land you with more interest charges than what you’ve earned in rewards.

If you often do carry a balance on your credit card, there may be some better options than a rewards credit card:

  • If you already have a balance on another credit card that you’re paying high interest on, then a balance transfer credit card may be able to save you a good deal of money.
  • If you don’t currently carry a balance on a credit card, but you have an upcoming purchase that you’d like to pay off over time, a 0% purchases card could be better. These cards provide an introductory period of 0% interest for new purchases.

The good news is there are cards on the market that offer a sort of best of both worlds, that is, provide rewards and 0% balance transfer offers, 0% purchases offers or simply low standard APRs. You may have to compromise a bit with these cards – that is, you may not get the highest rewards yield or the longest 0% introductory period. But they can be a great middle ground to get rewards while avoiding high interest charges.

Can you get a rewards credit card with bad credit?

A low credit score could make it difficult to be accepted for some rewards credit cards. It might still be possible to get a rewards credit card with bad credit, but your rewards card options and your access to the best reward card deals are likely to be more limited.

Another option is to start with a credit card for bad credit. While they are less likely to offer large rewards, some still offer rewards or cash back in some capacity. These cards will allow you to improve your credit score so you could be approved for a wider range of card options in the future.

Should you have more than one credit card with rewards?

Having more than one reward credit card may allow you to capitalise on various rewards and 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’s wise to consider the impact on your credit score and overall financial situation before getting more than one rewards card.

More on comparing rewards cards in the UK

Everyone’s financial situation is slightly different, so it’s important to know a bit about how to compare these cards on your own, so you can confirm that a particular card really does fit your personal circumstances.

Here are more details on the key features to compare when lining up rewards cards:

Rewards type

Unlike cashback cards, the earnings on rewards cards can be a bit more complicated. In some cases, these rewards can be restrictive. The John Lewis scheme, for instance, mails cardholders vouchers that can be used solely at John Lewis & Partners or Waitrose & Partners. Other programmes are more flexible.

For example, rewards earned with the American Express Membership Rewards programme can be redeemed on everything from car hire with Sixt and flights on British Airways to Amazon.co.uk gift cards or even paying part of your card balance with points. The bottom line is to choose a programme that fits you and your needs.

Rewards yield

This refers to how much rewards value you get for each £1 of spend. There are two parts to figure here.

First, you need to determine the rewards earning rate. That is, how many rewards points you get per £1 spent. With some schemes this is very easy, as you’ll simply get one point per £1 in spend. Other schemes have different levels of points depending on where you’re swiping your card. The latter is typical of store brand cards.

Next is the rewards value, or how much value you get per rewards point. Again, sometimes this can be easy to figure. The John Lewis card we mentioned mails £5 in voucher credit per 500 points. More flexible programmes – like Amex’s Membership Rewards – can be more complicated, as redeeming points for gift cards can, for example, have a much lower value per point than redeeming for airline tickets.

You don’t need to perform advanced mathematics here, but it’s a good idea to look at the rewards earning rates and rewards value in light of your own spending habits to help you compare the rewards value to you from various schemes.

Annual fee

Many rewards cards do not have an annual fee. That’s a great thing, since it means you get rewards without having to pay anything extra out of pocket. All else equal, we prefer rewards cards that don’t have a fee attached. But all else is not always equal.

Rewards cards with annual fees often allow you to accrue rewards at a faster pace or they may come with better perks, like access to airport lounges. The trick here is to compare the cost of the fee with the value that you’ll get out of the additional rewards or perks. At that point it’s simple: if you think you’ll get more value, then the fee is worth it. If not, skip the fee-carrying card and get one of the many cards with no fee.

Additional perks

Add-on perks come in many flavours. Some examples includes:

  • Accelerated rewards for spending with partners
  • Exclusive access to airport lounges
  • Early access to events tickets

The value in these rewards is highly dependent on what’s important to you. But keep an eye out for them, because they can be valuable.

Foreign transaction fees

Most credit cards charge a fee of up to 3% when you transact in a currency other than sterling. This can be a real pain when travelling abroad. Travel credit cards waive this non-sterling transaction fee, so that you can spend abroad without stress.

Unfortunately, though many rewards cards offer travel-related rewards, few waive non-sterling transaction fees. So you may be best served earning rewards for your holidays with a rewards card, but then spending on your holidays with a fee-free travel card.

Welcome bonus

The idea of a sign-up bonus sounds great. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a big pile of rewards just for signing up? Don’t get us wrong, sign-up bonuses are great, but except for cards that carry annual fees, sign-up bonuses tend to be modest.

If you can’t make your decision based on the factors we’ve already listed, the sign-up bonus can be a good tie-breaker. But it likely shouldn’t be the primary factor you focus on when choosing a rewards card. And when it comes to cards with annual fees, the sign-up bonuses can be impressive, but the same rule holds as we discussed above: consider the value you get versus the annual fee you pay and only choose a card with an annual fee when you believe you’re getting more value than when you’re paying.

How are rewards credit cards and cashback credit cards different?

As mentioned above, a cashback credit card is simply a type of rewards credit card. It’s actually one of the easiest types of credit card rewards. You don’t have to worry about how or when to convert points, you simply get cash that you can spend anywhere you like.

Whether a cashback or reward card is better depends on personal circumstances. For consumers who lack the time to research reward cards, a cashback card could be the simplest means of benefitting from spending on a credit card.

For consumers who have the capacity to undertake research, comparing a number of reward cards may be worthwhile. Research may show someone that greater rewards can be obtained from frequent shopping at specific retailers where points are either accumulated more quickly or the vouchers paid out are for a higher value.

For consumers who pay off their credit card balance in full each month, either a cashback card or reward card could be a sound means of being rewarded for using a credit card.

How to get the most out of credit card rewards

There are plenty of ways to accumulate extra points without spending extra money. Here are some top tips for helping you make the most of your reward card.

Use your card like a debit card

If you are looking to earn lots of rewards, then the best way to go about it is to spend lots of money – but rather than rack up lots of debt you can’t afford to repay, use your credit card like your debit card. If you make your credit card your main means of payment for everyday purchases but make sure you pay off the amount immediately or budget to pay off the full balance monthly, then you can maximise the amount of rewards you can earn. If you do all your spending in one place, then everything you spend is earning you a reward. Just make sure you keep on top of your balance, and don’t fall in the trap of spending above your means.

Add an additional user

Some reward cards let you add an additional user at no extra cost. This could be a partner or a close family member, who could then start accruing points with their own credit card linked to your account. Something to note though, is that adding an additional user makes you responsible for their debt. Additionally, any mistakes you make, like a late payment, will show up on their credit report and vice versa.

Put large expenses on the card

If you have some home improvements coming up or are looking to book a holiday, you could put the cost on your credit card and earn reward points as a result. This is best only done if the card also offers an introductory 0% interest period on purchases or you plan to pay off the balance in full at the end of the billing period. Otherwise you could run the risk of incurring interest charges on your balance and wiping out any reward benefits you have earned.

Card referrals

Look to see whether your credit card offers bonus reward points for referring someone else for the card. This is often a way of injecting bonus points into your account.

Select a reward card to suit you

Make sure the card reflects your shopping habits. You won’t really benefit from a Sainsbury’s reward scheme if you do all your weekly food shopping at Asda. If you are not a consistent shopper anywhere that offers a rewards card, you can consider cards like those from American Express, which have rewards points that are more flexible.

Consider switching credit cards or getting an additional rewards card

Credit card providers often provide nice benefits for new cardholders. This can include a welcome bonus or sign up bonus, limited-time perks, vouchers or a higher rewards rate. In some cases, a new cardholder can get a gold card or platinum card for a year without the usual annual fee. This may cause some extra administrative work on your end to track your cards and balances, so do make sure that the value of the extra rewards is worth it.

How to redeem credit card rewards

How you redeem your credit card rewards will depend on the type of rewards programme you choose.

Redeeming credit card reward points

You can typically redeem points through your card issuer’s redemption portal. Your options could include anything from gift cards, travel discounts, shopping redemptions, and more. Be sure to find out what redemption options a provider offers ahead of time so you choose one that fits your preferences.

Redeeming credit card cash back rewards

It’s fairly easy to redeem your cash back rewards. Similar to rewards points, you should find your cash back redemption options within your card issuer’s redemption portal. Most issuers allow you to redeem your cash back with direct deposit, statement credit, or a check payable to you.

Redeeming credit card miles rewards

You typically redeem Avios or air miles rewards for airline tickets, which can be done through your provider’s portal as well.

Things to look out for with rewards credit cards

As with anything, there is always a possible downside. A reward card may be the best option for you, but there are some things to be aware of before you get spending.

  • High representative APRsReward cards often have high interest charges. At the very least, you’re less likely to find high rewards rates paired with a particularly low representative APR . Therefore, reward cards are best suited to borrowers who can repay their balance in full each month. Any remaining balance, unless you have a card that offers an introductory 0% interest period on purchases, could incur interest charges that outstrip any reward benefits you might have accrued.
  • Be aware of annual fees – As mentioned before, some reward cards carry an annual fee. Cards with annual fees often have higher rewards rates and better perks, which can make the fee well worth it. But, you need to make sure that’s the case, or you could end up paying an annual fee and only cashing in rewards worth half that!
  • Know the terms – It is also best to look at what you can earn reward points on. Typically, reward points can only be accrued on purchases, so balance transfers would not qualify. Also, some cards specify which purchases qualify for reward points; for example, travel money purchases would be unlikely to earn you any reward points.
  • Don’t overspend! – You may get sick of hearing us say it, but it really can’t be said enough. Don’t take out a rewards credit card and use it as an excuse to spend more than you otherwise would. Imagine briefly two people. One person, we’ll call her Sophia Spendsright, has a bog-standard credit card with no rewards and spends £5,000 on that card during the year, paying off their balance every month. The second person, we’ll call him Jack Justonemorething, has a rewards card with a rewards rate of 1% on all purchases (pretty good!). Jack would have spent the same £5,000 as Sophia, but sees a football jersey for £75 (that he doesn’t need) and tells himself ‘it’s no problem to buy that, because I’m earning rewards!’ That’s true, but the rewards on the £5,075 that Jack spent through the year only amount to £50.75, meaning he spent £5,024.25 out of pocket – more than Sophia, even though she earned no rewards at all.

Is a reward credit card right for you?

As with any credit card, you have to look at your individual circumstances. If you think you can pay off your balance in full every month and would spend enough on a credit card to accrue points, then a reward card could be a good fit for you.

As to which reward card you select, the best choice depends on where you tend to shop and which vouchers you would get the most value from. When choosing which card to apply for, decide on the type of rewards you want to receive, calculate how much you are likely to spend on that card each year, and then compare the rewards you would earn on that amount from a range of different cards.

It is also best to check the application criteria for the card, in order to assess whether you would be likely to be accepted. All our reviews for reward cards include a guide to which credit score band you would need to achieve in order to be likely to be accepted for that card.

If you don’t think you would get any value from a reward points scheme then maybe look at cashback credit cards, which offer a cashback yield for money spent, rather than vouchers.

Our ratings methodology

The Motley Fool rates credit cards on a five-star scale by comparing the features that make a difference when choosing the best rewards credit card for you. Our goal is to give you unbiased, comprehensive reviews of credit cards.

In choosing which cards we think could be the best rewards card for you, we focused on these factors:

  • High reward yields – If you are taking out a reward card, then you want one that will really reward you. One of the key factors we considered was a high rewards yield per £1 of spending.
  • Annual fees that make sense – Not all cards in our list have an annual fee. For those that do, we wanted to make sure it wouldn’t significantly reduce the overall value of the card‘s offering.
  • Extra perks – For some rewards credit cards, the benefits don’t end with the rewards you get for each £1 of spend. Some offer additional perks like travel discounts, extra rewards for spending on partner offers, travel insurance, or access to airport lounges.
  • Sign-on bonuses – These are added extras that really help you make the most of your reward card. We tried to include cards that offer sign-up bonuses with the most value.
  • Introductory 0% interest periods – Included in our shortlist are cards that also offer some sort of introductory 0% interest period for either purchases, balance transfers or both.
  • Standard APR – The ideal is to not carry a balance on a rewards credit card. But there may be times when that’s unavoidable, so for those cases, it’s preferable to have a lower APR.

Why you can trust us to compare rewards cards

The Motley Fool has been a trusted name in the UK for more than 20 years for helping people from all walks of life improve their financial lives. We’ve analysed thousands of individual credit card data points to help our readers find the cards that will make their financial lives easier and more rewarding. Rewards credit cards are among our favourites because we love the idea of being rewarded for spending we were going to do anyway! As a company filled with nerdy investors, we put our analytical chops to best use analysing rewards programmes and card features to figure out which we think are best.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best credit card for rewards in the UK?

The answer may be disappointing, but we can't really say that any one credit card in the UK is the best credit card for rewards.

Many programmes are aimed at specific types of redemptions or specific places to shop. A card with great Avios rewards may be considered a superb programme for a frequent traveller. But for someone that rarely travels, it'd be a fairly miserable reward system. Likewise, a regular Tesco shopper may get a lot out of the programme on the Tesco credit cards. But if you don't shop at Tesco, it won't have the same value to you.

For that reason, it's important to match the card's reward programme to your life and lifestyle. Just because you could theoretically get a high return from one card's programme doesn't mean much if you'd have to change your life to actually see that high return.

How do rewards credit cards work?

With rewards credit cards, you don't have to do anything special -- aside from using the card -- when you spend. You just swipe your card and earn rewards.

It's well worth noting that while earning rewards is nice, this isn't a good reason to overspend or buy things you can't afford. Getting rewarded for spending you would have done anyway is great. But spending beyond your means can cause problems that even the best rewards programmes can't mend!

Are rewards credit cards worth it?

As with any credit card, you have to look at your individual circumstances. If you think you can pay off your balance in full every month and would spend enough on a credit card to accrue points, then a reward card could definitely be worth it for you.

Just be cautious not to take out a rewards credit card and use it as an excuse to spend more than you otherwise would. In that case, it's not a good idea.

How many reward cards can you have?

Having more than one credit card may allow you to capitalise on various rewards and 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 rewards card.

Are credit card cash back rewards taxable income?

Generally, credit card rewards are not taxable. The rewards points, cash back, or miles you earn through everyday spending are considered rebates or discounts and are therefore not taxed as income.

However, rewards that are awarded as an incentive, such as a cash bonus for opening an account without you spending any of your own money could be considered taxable income. It's best to read your card's fine print and seek professional advice if you're unsure.

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The Motley Fool receives compensation from some advertisers who provide products and services that may be covered by our editorial team. It’s one way we make money. But know that our editorial integrity and transparency matters most and our ratings aren’t influenced by compensation. The statements above are The Motley Fool’s alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Lloyds, Tesco and Barclays.