The best ways to get free money often involve discovering a technique for earning a little extra cash from the things you already do. That way, you don’t even really need to change your habits at all – and the extra cash can just roll in.
That’s the attraction of cash back credit cards – they’re products that can help you to earn as you spend and, if you were going to spend the cash anyway, why not get something back?
In this guide we’ll look at the top cash back credit cards on offer in the UK right now – and delve into the detail of how cash back rewards work when it comes to these cards.
This is a card with a strong introductory offer for your first six months as well as a decent ongoing cash back rate. It’s worth noting that not every retailer will accept an Amex, however, so you might want to do your research to ensure that you’ll be able to use your cash back credit card in the stores you plan to visit.
- 22.2% APR
- No annual fee
- 5% cash back reward on purchases for the first six months, up to £100 (maximum can be earned on £2,000 spend)
- After this, 0.5% cash back earned on spending up to £5,000
- 1% cash back on spending above £5,000
- Minimum annual spend of £3,000 to earn cash back
- No limit on how much cash back can be earned in a year
- £20 bonus for approved referral of a friend
This is similar to its sister card (above) with a couple of important differences – namely that it has an annual fee and the potential to earn a little more by way of cash back if you typically spend more.
- 27.3% APR
- £25 annual fee
- 5% cash back reward on purchases for the first six months, up to £125 (maximum can be earned on £2,500 spend)
- After this, 1% cash back earned on spending up to £10,000
- 1.25% cash back on spending above £10,000
- No limit on how much cash back can be earned in a year
- £30 bonus for approved referral of a friend
- Free supplementary cards for family members or partner
Card: Barclaycard Rewards
Barclaycard Rewards is a classic cash back credit card that gives you money back on everyday spending and can be used at home or when on your holidays.
- 29.9% APR
- 0.25% cash back on everyday spending
- Cash back credited annually (or on request)
- No maximum limit on cash back
- No fees on cash withdrawals
- No fees for using card abroad
- Discounts on live events with Barclaycard Entertainment
Card: HSBC Rewards Credit Card
Some credit cards offer you the chance to accrue points that can be redeemed for a monetary value. While this is a less direct form of cash back, it’s a way to earn money simply by spending money in your usual way. HSBC Rewards Credit Card is a good example of this – with an app and website to help you to turn your points into pounds that can be spent at any retailer that accepts Mastercard. You do, however, need to have a HSBC Advance Bank Account – or have paid at least £1,750 a month into a HSBC account in the last six months – to be eligible for this card.
- 21.9% APR
- Collect 10 points for every £1 spent at selected retailers – and 1 point for every £5 elsewhere.
- 100 points is worth £1
- Points can be used towards purchases instantly – and managed with an app
- 2,500 welcome points after first transaction
- Bonus 2,500 points if you spend £10,000 in a year
- 0% interest on purchases for first six months
- 0% interest on balance transfers for first six months (for transfers made within 60 days)
- No annual fee
This credit card offers cash back on all purchases – as well as the chance to earn extra through Santander’s Retailer Officers service. This allows you to earn up to 15% cash back from commercial partners such as Morrisons, Costa, Subway and JD Sports when using your Santander All in One Credit Card.
- 21.7% APR
- 0% interest on purchases for 26 months
- 0% interest on balance transfers for 26 months (with no fee)
- £3 monthly fee
- 0.5% cash back on purchases
- Five welcome offers to new customers with up to 25% cash back through Retailers Offers
- Chance to earn up to 15% cash back through Retailer Offers
- No foreign transactions fees on purchases made overseas
Card: Nectar Credit Card
As well as its traditional cash back credit cards, American Express also offers a Nectar Credit Card, which allows you to collect Nectar points every time you spend. This is great for people who regularly visit one of Nectar’s partners – such as Argos, Sainsbury’s and Esso – as you’ll earn more points while shopping with these retailers and be able to spend your points with them.
- 27.3% APR
- £25 annual fee (free for the first year)
- Two Nectar points collected for every £1 spent
- Rises to three points per £1 in Nectar partners
- Points can be redeemed with Nectar partners
- 20,000 bonus points if you spend £2,000 in the first six months (this bonus plus the standard points you’ll have earned spending will be worth £120)
As you’ll have seen by now, American Express does specialise in the varieties of cash back credit cards available in the UK. With the American Express Rewards Credit Card you earn a Membership Rewards point for every £1 you spend on credit card purchases. These points can then be transferred into gift cards and vouchers with American Express’ impressive array of commercial partners, including Amazon, Currys PC World, Virgin Atlantic, Boots and Spafinder Wellness 365.
- 22.2% APR
- No annual fee
- Welcome bonus of 5,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend £2,000 in the first six months
- Redeem points for cash rewards with American Express’ retail and travel partners
With all of the cash back credit cards we feature, it’s worth remembering that you should only pick one that fits your current spending habits. You want a card that rewards the sort of spending you’d be making anyway – not encouraging you to spend more. The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card is clearly not for everyone – but if you’re a frequent flyer and someone who spends a lot, this can reward you with some lucrative cash back offers.
- 56.6% APR
- £140 annual fee (free for the first year)
- 10,000 bonus points if you spend £3,000 in the first six months
- 10,000 bonus points every year if you spent at least £15,000
- 6,000 bonus points for referring a friend
- Use points to offset spending or for rewards with American Express partners
- One Membership Rewards point earned for every £1 spent
- Two points for every £1 spent on foreign currency or with airlines
- Three points for every £1 spent with American Express Travel
- Two free uses of airport lounges a year
- No limit on number of points you can earn
Do you do a lot of shopping on Amazon? A lot of people do – with about 90% of UK shoppers using its services and 40% with access to its premium Prime service. If you’re always shopping with the internet giant for gifts others and treats for yourself then you can earn yourself some decent cash back with the Amazon Platinum Mastercard in the process.
- 21.9% APR
- No annual fees
- 0% interest on purchases in the first three months
- £10 gift card welcome bonus
- 1.5 points earned for every £2 spent on Amazon.co.uk
- 0.5 points earned for every £2 spent elsewhere
- 1,000 points is transferred into a £10 Amazon gift card, loaded directly on to your account
Card: M&S Bank Reward Plus
Amazon’s is one of several cards that richly rewards loyal customers to a particular brand. The M&S Bank Reward Plus is another example of this and is an especially rewarding cash back credit card for those who shop at M&S – whether that’s the clothing retail arm of the business or the popular food store.
- 19.9% APR
- Welcome bonus of 2,000 M&S points (value of £20) when you use your card in the first 90 days
- Extra bonus of 500 points if you use your card with M&S
- 0% interest on purchases for the first six months
- 0% interest on balance transfers for six months (if transfer is made within 90 days, minimum £5 fee)
- Double points on M&S shopping in the first year (two per £1 spent compared to one after)
- One point earned per £5 spent elsewhere
This is a card that’s perfect for Sainsbury’s shoppers. Slightly different to the Nectar Credit Card mentioned above, this focusses solely on providing generous returns for supermarket customers. The rewards do, however, also come in the form of Nectar points, which can be spent in Sainsbury’s or with Nectar’s partners. Different variations on the Sainsbury’s Bank Nectar Credit Card are designed for those making balance transfers or needing low fees.
- 20.9% APR (19.9% on balance transfer card)
- No annual fees
- 0% interest on purchases (up to 20 months with dual offer version of the card)
- 0% interest on balance transfers (length depending on circumstances and the version of the card you choose)
- Welcome bonus allows you to collect 750 extra Nectar points every time you spend more than £35 in the first two months. You can do this up to ten times.
- Collect two Nectar points per £1 spent in Sainsbury’s (including at petrol stations)
- Collect one Nectar point per £5 spent elsewhere
Prefer to do your shopping in Tesco? In which case, you might benefit from a Tesco Bank Purchases Credit Card. This will let you pick up valuable Clubcard points on all of your purchases and save on your shopping.
- 19.9% APR
- 0% interest on purchases for up to 18 months
- Collect one Tesco Clubcard point for every £4 spent in Tesco
- Collect one Tesco Clubcard point for every £8 spent elsewhere
Card: Partnership Card
The Partnership Card is a cash back credit card that allows you to earn points that can be converted into gift vouchers for John Lewis and Waitrose – making it ideal if you planned to spend money with these popular retailers.
- 18.9% APR
- 0% interest on purchases for first nine months
- 0% interest on balance transfers for 18 months (minimum £5 fee)
- One point earned for every £1 spent in either John Lewis or Waitrose
- One point earned for every £2 spent elsewhere
- Earn £5 in vouchers for every 500 points collected
- Vouchers for John Lewis and Waitrose sent out three times a year
- Bonus point giveaways and offers
- Double points when purchasing home, pet or car insurance with John Lewis Finance
Cash back credit cards: FAQs
Got a few questions before you apply for a cash back credit card? In this section we aim to answer the most common queries – and offer some tips and advice for making the most of a cash back card:
What is a cash back credit card?
Cash back credit cards are cards that provide you with a cash reward when you use them to make purchases. While some cards might reward you with cash directly (as a percentage of your purchases) – others require you to earn points and provide the cash back reward through gift vouchers or loyalty card schemes. Payment terms vary, with some cards offering monthly, quarterly or annual payments and others rewarding you when you hit a certain points threshold.
Cash back credit cards used to be more common in the UK before a 2015 EU ruling which placed a limit on interchange fees. While that might have reduced the choice on offer, there are still a number of providers who offer such cards.
It’s important to understand the nature of the reward before you sign up so that you can be sure that it rewards your pre-existing spending behaviour, giving you an extra benefit for doing nothing out-of-the-ordinary.
What do you need to look for when picking a credit card with cash back?
Everyone’s finances and circumstances are different, but there are a few things to ask yourself before taking out a cash back credit card. These can help you to confirm whether or not a card is the right choice for you and whether you’ll get the maximum cash back:
|Is there a minimum spending requirement?|
|Will you have to spend a certain amount before getting any cash back and, if so, is this likely?
|Does the card reward shoppers with a specific retailer?|
|If a card is geared towards customers of a particular retailer, you’ll want to make sure you’re a regular customer there in the first place.
|Where can I spend my reward?|
|If you’re earning loyalty points, make sure you understand where these can be spent. Many cards have a list of commercial partners, so explore this before you sign up to ensure they’re retailers you’d want to spend money with (eg a cinema chain with a branch near you or your favourite restaurant).
|What is the welcome bonus?|
| Many cards have the most lucrative cash back offers during the first few months. Make sure you know what these are and assess whether you’re likely to get the most from them. Don’t sign up for something that’s going to require you to stretch your finances further than you’re comfortable with just to get a cash back reward.
|Is there an annual fee?
|Some cards come with an annual – or even monthly – fee. This shouldn’t be a bar in its own right – but you’ll need to factor this in and decide whether the card in question will still pay back enough cash back to cover this and more.
|What is the APR?|
|Cash back cards can have a higher interest rate that other types of credit card. If you’re not going to be able to pay off your balance in full then you might rack up considerable interest payments.
|Are there any interest free offers?|
|Cash back credit cards, like any other credit cards, often offer interest free periods on purchases and balance transfers when you’re a new customer. Read up on these and see if they’d benefit you and your finances.
|What other benefits and fees does it have?|
|Can you earn more cash back for referring a friend? Or maybe enjoy fee-free access to your cash abroad? Consider what matters most to you and search for a card that rewards your behaviour.
How do you get the most cash back from your credit card?
Any credit card user needs to think carefully about managing their money in order to avoid fees, charges and interest payments – and this is no different for those with cash back cards. Here are seven things to consider to get the most cash back from your credit card while avoiding any potential downsides.
|Put as much of your usual spending as you can on your card.|
|You should, if possible, use your cash back credit card like a debit card – putting everyday spending on this to make maximum use of the rewards to be had. Then, pay all of this off in full every month from your current account (you can set up a direct debit to do this if you wish). Done properly and you’ll only be spending the money that would’ve come out of your current account from your debit card anyway only this time you’ll reap your rewards too.
|Be disciplined with store-centric cards.|
|Once you’ve taken a card that’s linked to a particular supermarket or online retailer then you’ve nailed your colours to their mast. Don’t be tempted to get your groceries elsewhere as doing so will reduce your reward and throw out your plans. That’s why it’s vital to pick the right card in the first place.
|Plan big expenses before you sign up.|
|About to make a big expense? Hold off until your card comes through and put it on there. You can pay the balance straight off – but a big early expense is likely to help you to get the most from a welcome bonus
|Use your introductory interest free periods.|
|The interest free purchase period can be useful as a cost effective way to make a big ticket purchase. Pay your balance before this period ends to avoid any interest. You might also wish to do this for balance transfers – shifting money away from an older credit card that might be able to attract costly interest payments.
|Understand any restrictions that come with the card.|
|Check that you know where you can use your card – and any upper limits on cash back – before making grand plans.
|Look out for regular offers.|
|Cash back cards that are linked to rewards schemes or loyalty programmes might regularly have extra offers that are exclusive to you – watch out for these so you don’t miss out on a great deal.
|Use the provider’s calculator.|
|Some cash back credit card providers offer a handy calculator tool to help you to work out how much you’d typically earn through your existing spending habits. This can be especially useful for cards that favour a particular retailer.
Hopefully the cash back credit cards listed here – and the information above – can help you to make a smart choice that provides a financial reward for your normal spending habits. ‘Normal’ is the key word here – and we can’t emphasis enough the importance of not falling into a deal that would only work if you had to change the way you shop and spend – or, worse still, causes you to take on extra spending and debt. Done right, however, and it’s a great example of how to earn a bit of free money.