Last Updated on 20 December 2021 by Dan
Hello everyone! In a recent post, we highlighted that there can be several good reasons to have a credit card, even if we don’t think racking up debt on them is a good thing. Today we’re looking at UK Rewards Credit Cards as one of the means by which you can get something good from your card.
The great thing with Rewards Credit Cards that you spend on the card and get something in return for that spending. If you’re paying it off in full each month (as you should with these) that’s absolutely fantastic – you’re literally getting given something extra for money you’re spending anyhow.
Where I want to be clear about is that rewards credit cards are not for you if you cannot pay these off in full each month, as they tend to attract higher interest payments than other types of credit cards.
You also generally need to have a good credit history for these cards as restrictions are tighter – you should always complete a free eligibilty check on the issuers website before applying so as not to dent your credit history if you get rejected.
You can find out the factors that influence credit score at this article, and how to improve your credit score within this one.
So let’s walk through the pick of the UK Credit Reward Cards!
Best UK Reward Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
Many of the cards below are American Express, and offer a very significant welcome bonus on signing up. Generally speaking these involve hitting a spending target in the first three months of card ownership, and vary depending on the card you pick.
Competition in this space is fierce, and most of the below reward credit cards pay a very generous signup bonus. These are generous in most cases and can make a card very appealing in the short term, so we’ve marked out those below for each card.
There are some restrictions in that you cannot have had an American Express issued card (it’s fine if you’ve had an American Express card from other provider) in the past two years. You can still get the card, just not the signup bonus.
How to get the Best UK American Express signup bonus
The best way to sign up for an American Express credit card is through their refer a friend/family member scheme, because you’ll get an even larger signup bonus than if you did it direct – plus your friend or family member will get something as well! (Please note that the 2 year restriction on receiving a signup bonuses does still apply.)
If you have a family or friend with an American Express card that can do this then you should ask them if you can do it via them.
When you click this you’ll see you’ve been recommended for the Platinum Cashback Card which is what I use – but if you just click “view other cards” you can select the one you’re after and will get the extra referral bonus.
What is the best Reward Credit Card in the UK?
There’s no “outright winner” or clearly most rewarding card amongst the UK Rewards Credit Cards – the best card will depend on if you want particular types of rewards and how willing you are to trade off between flexibility and earning rate.
A high-spending frequent flier will get more out of some cards than a non-travelling mid-spender. What we’ve done in our guide below is to try and pick apart those distinctions so you can identify what’s right for you.
Our pick of the UK Reward Credit Cards:
All information is correct as of our last update on 20.12.2021. We’ll do our best to keep our information up to date, but details can change all the time so you should double check this yourself.
The Financial Wilderness may also receive a small payout if you make a purchase through a link on this site. It won’t affect the service you receive and we recommend only what we honestly believe to be the best available, not what gives us commission. You can read more about our affiliate policy on our disclaimers page.
Best UK Reward Credit Card for flexibility and signup bonus:
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card
Representative APR: 59.9% APR Variable
Annual Fee: Free in Year 1, £140 per year thereafter.
Signup Bonus: 20,000 points when spending £3,000 in the first three months of cardmembership;
Earnings Rate: 1 point per £ on regular spending, 2 points per £ on spending with airlines. (1 point is worth approximately 0.5p)
Review of the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card is a great option…..for a year. The initial signup bonus coupled with the fact that you can have the credit card for free in year one make this a compelling introduction to a UK reward credit card.
Longer term it’s more debatable, as £140 is a reasonably hefty annual fee and in the longer term, that offsets some of the rewards – especially when no longer getting the generous signup bonus.
However if you value flexibility in how you spend your rewards, you might want to consider keeping this card longer – it’s pretty unmatched for the number of partners you can transfer your points too, including most major airline rewards schemes and big names like Amazon. Remember the best reward is one you actually use, so that element of choice can be powerful.
You’ll also get two free visits to airport lounges as well, which is a nice little extra. These will be basic lounges at airports, rather than the airlines own highly plush ones, but can definitely beat waiting in a terminal!
If you order off Deliveroo frequently, the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card will also give you £5 of credit off an order twice a month.
That breadth comes with a trade off in the fact there are other UK rewards credit cards which will give you more in terms of return if you want to maximise the value of those points.
Some of the UK airline rewards credit cards below pay out as around the 1p per pound mark if you’re willing to commit to spending on flights and being locked into a particular carrier.
In conclusion – if you want a consistent variety of rewards choices, the American Express Gold Card is decent option.
Personally I’d suggest taking the American Express Gold Card for a year based on the introductory bonuses, then cancel it at the end of that year to avoid the Year 2 charge. I can maintain a lot of the benefits of flexibility without the ongoing fees by switching to the American Express Preferred Rewards Card below which is less flashy, but just as effective.
There is an exception – if your lifestyle means you are taking advantage of the Deliveroo credit twice every month, this card is probably worth sticking with!
Best UK Reward Credit Card with flexibility but no annual charges:
American Express Preferred Rewards Card:
Representative APR: 24.5% APR Variable
Annual Fee: Not applicable.
Signup Bonus: 10,000 points when spending £2,000 in the first three months;
Earnings Rate: 1 point per £ on regular spending. (1 point is worth about 0.5p)
Review of the American Express Preferred Rewards Card
Whilst the signup bonus on the American Express Preferred Rewards Card is considerably lower than the American Express Gold Card above, this card offers a similar ongoing rate payout for your spending, excluding that extra bonus for spending with airlines. Given that, it’s a real plus that this card has no fee.
There’s nothing flashy here – it’s just a good solid basic rewards credit card that offers a good return on spend given there isn’t an annual fee.
In conclusion: I think the American Express Gold Card is a better card to take first for the signup bonus, but the American Express Preferred Rewards Card is better to hold on an ongoing basis if you want to use a UK Rewards Credit Card for a longer period.
Highest spend-to-reward UK Rewards Credit Card overall/Best if you fly a lot, like BA and spend more than £10,000 a year:
British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card
Representative APR: 101.1% APR Variable
Annual Fee: £250 a year
Signup Bonus: 25,000 bonus Avios when spending £3,000 in the first three months.
Earnings Rate: 1.5 Avios for every £1 spent, and 3 Avios for every £1 spent with British Airways or BA Holidays.
Additional Rewards: You get a BA Companion Voucher at a £10,000 spend (which allows you to cash in the same Avios for 2 seats on a journey rather than 1). Important: this card lets you use your companion fare in any class of cabin.
Review of the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card
For starters, £250 is a massive amount to spend on any credit card, even if the rewards on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card are excellent.
I’ve emphasised before that the only good rewards are ones you use – so if you’ll definitely take a flight purchased with Avios and use that companion voucher, this one actually can offer you a lot of benefit in owning save you money. If you won’t buy a flight with it, it’s an expensive bit of plastic that isn’t worth the fee.
In terms of value, a spend of £10,000 is presently the magic number where the potential benefit from the card outweighs the large fee. If you’re spending less than £10,000 or can’t be absolutely sure if using the rewards (or just want a fee-free card) then look below at the basic British Airways American Express Rewards Card.
The value of an Avios can massively change depending what you spend it on, but 1p per Avios is generally a fair assumption with the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card using a long haul flight.
American Express also make changes to this card in 2021 that mean it’s now the only BA credit card that you can use the companion fare in any cabin (and put the annual fee up at this time).
What this means is that you’ll want to think carefully about if you’ll use the card in one of the top cabins (you may want to, but consistently having enough Avios to use the companion voucher is another matter!)
In conclusion: The earnings rate is good, and if you’re happy taking your rewards in Avios the return rate is much better than the other rewards cards above. However the fee is very steep – this one is only right for big spenders who are likely to fly in BA’s Premium Cabins.
I just have an ongoing note of caution with any form of UK rewards credit cards that reward you in points:
Points are not the same as cash. Which means the effective value of those points are subject to the whims of the airline and the value of what you can redeem them for can change at any moment.
That’s always a risk, but in the present environment I’d be particularly cautious.
The travel industry is hurting, and if I were an airline CEO wanting people to buy seats with cash not Avios, I can see how I might be a little tempted to slash the value what I can get for my Avios. That’s not fact, it’s me theorising – but I think it’s a point worth considering.
Best UK Rewards Credit Card if you fly a reasonable amount, like BA and spend less than £10,000 a year:
British Airways American Express Credit Card
Representative APR: 24.5% APR Variable
Annual Fee: Not applicable
Signup Bonus: 5,000 bonus Avios when spending £1,000 in the first three months.
Earnings Rate: 1 Avios for every £1 spent
Additional Rewards: You get a BA Companion Voucher at a £12,000 spend (which allows you to cash in the same Avios for 2 seats on a journey rather than 1. Important: With this card the companion voucher is only valid on economy flight, an key distinction from the BA Premium Card above.
Review of the British Airways American Express Credit Card
For all except the biggest spenders the British Airways American Express Credit Card is a more sensible UK Rewards credit card to have. It provides a excellent return rate on Avios for a free card, and you get the benefit of those earnings being more efficient for a higher earnings rate in exchange for tying yourself in to spending on BA.
BA and American Express made some changes to this card in 2021. They lowered the amount of spend needed to get the companion voucher to £12,000 (good) but also restricted those companion vouchers to only being in the economy class cabin.
Overall this does create a much more usable reward, but the downside is the benefit of a rewards redemption in economy is significantly lower – so you need to have a think about that if choosing this card.
All the warnings I mention on the Premium card above regarding being cautious about the value of Avios still apply here!
As above, we think 1p per Avios as present is a fair representation of the value of earnings on the British Airways American Express Credit Card.
Best UK Rewards Credit Card if you fly a lot, like Virgin Atlantic and spend more than £10,000 a year:
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card
Representative APR: 63.9% APR Variable
Annual Fee: £160
Signup Bonus: 15,000 Flying Club Bonus Miles on your first spend on the card within 19 days.
Earnings Rate: 1.5 Virgin Points for every £1 spent on regular spending, 3 points per pound on Virgin Atlantic flights or Virgin Holidays.
Additional Rewards: After a £10,000 spend you can upgrade a round trip booked with miles in economy to premium economy or you can choose to take a companion voucher in any class.
Review of the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card
The Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card is the card I had myself up until recently, as travelling solo on Virgin Atlantic routes reasonably frequently made that Premium Economy upgrade for a whole round trip offering quite considerable value to me!
The ongoing earnings rate of the card is also excellent, and with Virgin Atlantic’s quite generous reward routes can sometimes be slightly better than the BA cards in terms of what you get in terms of bang for buck.
It’s also a Mastercard rather than an American Express, which offers the added advantage of being accepted everywhere.
There are a few issues with this one though. Firstly, Virgin Atlantic don’t fly as many places as BA, so you’d want to be sure you’re frequently flying their routes if getting the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card. The expensive £160 annual fee is just not worth it otherwise.
I used to note here that Virgin Atlantic imposed some annoying cabin restrictions on use of a companion voucher, however as of 22.08.2020 they’ve removed the restrictions and you can use a companion voucher in any cabin – this is quite an upgrade and makes this card considerably more attractive.
In my notes on the American Express BA card above I mention the potential dangers associated with air miles devaluation.
I’d express there an element of additional risk with Virgin Atlantic, where there is some threat to the airlines future which would obviously negate the value of any miles earned. It appears that for now they have secured their immediate future, but you’d be wise to take this into consideration.
Why Virgin Points rather than Flying Club miles?
FYI: Virgin have now changed their scheme to Virgin Points which lets you spend across the Virgin Group. It somewhat mitigates the risk of Virgin Atlantic going under and making your points worthless, but if you’re signing up for the card it’s probably looking for Flying Club miles so it’s still worth thinking about!
Best UK Rewards Credit Card if you fly a lot, like Virgin Atlantic and spend less than £10,000 a year:
Virgin Atlantic Rewards Credit Card
Representative APR: 22.9% APR Variable
Annual Fee: None
Signup Bonus: There is presently no signup or referral bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Rewards Credit Card.
Earnings Rate: 0.75 Virgin Points for every £1 spent on regular spending, 1.5 miles per pound on Virgin Atlantic flights or Virgin Holidays.
Additional Rewards: After a £20,000 spend you can upgrade a round trip booked with miles in economy to premium economy or you can choose a companion voucher.
Review of the Virgin Atlantic Rewards Credit Card
A free version of the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card that provides good miles gathering opportunity (and is also helpfully a Mastercard) but not quite as beneficial as the above in exchange for the trade off from having no fee.
However, if you’re unlikely to hit a £10k spend and or use the upgrade/companion voucher, this is a better choice for you in terms of reward to spend.
Other UK Reward Credit Card options:
There are other reward cards out there, and it’s my intention over time to try and build this into a comprehensive article on the full range of reward cards available. If I haven’t included a card in here for now it’s generally because I believe it doesn’t represent as good value for money as the cards above.
For avoidance of doubt that includes the American Express Platinum Card, which has a very expensive base fee.
The exception to this is cashback credit cards which I think are a superb alternative to a rewards card if you’re simply looking to minimise cost, and you can read my thoughts on the best cashback card options here.
If you think I’ve missed a reward card which offers great value I’d love to hear from you! Please note it in the comments and contact me and I’ll very happily take a look.
There’s lots to consider with these UK Rewards credit cards, and there’s often no true best option as it depends how you’ll use the card. If you have any further questions, please just leave a comment below!
Other articles in the Credit Card series:
- What type of credit card is best for you?
- The best cashback credit cards in the UK
- The best 0% interest credit cards in the UK
- The best credit cards for low scorers in the UK