The best American Express cards

Which Amex credit card will earn you the most cashback or rewards in the UK in 2021?

With Amex Platinum Cashback and Amex Platinum Cashback Everyday rates changing from August 2021, these are no longer the highest-earning cards from American Express for both new and existing American Express customers.

In this best buy guide, I’ll take you through my top picks whether you want to get your first card and change the one you already have.

Cashback vs points

I personally prefer the cards which earn cashback as I’ve got complete freedom where to spend my earnings. However, if I can earn more in points and still have choice of places to use them I’m happy to take that option.

For American Express that’s probably either its own Amex Membership Rewards or Nectar points. Other options are Avios or hotel chain points.

Personally I don’t rate the latter choices. There will be some people who can benefit from Avios – if you travel with work and think you can earn a lot of miles, then it’s worth looking at the Amex Avios cards. You might get enough to combine with offers like free partner travel or upgrades. But you have to spend a huge amount to get enough points for this to be worthwhile.

But for most people I think you’re better off getting standard cashback and using that to buy your flights. Do this and you’re not restricted to certain flight times and airlines which I think work out a lot cheaper.

And of course, with the current situation, it’s hardly the best time to be collecting those points as we just don’t know when we’ll be able to properly travel again.

The best card if you’re new to American Express

There are a number of great welcome bonuses from American Express that could earn you more than £100 extra in your first few months – as long as you haven’t had a personal Amex in the last 24 months.

If that’s the case then I’d recommend going for the card which gives the highest paying bonus. You can always ditch it for a different card once you’ve qualified for the reward.

These welcome deals do sometimes require a minimum spend – in the top pick below that’s £3,000. If you don’t think you can hit that target you might want to consider an alternative.

Amex Preferred Rewards Gold Card

Thanks to a link-up between Nectar and Avios earlier in 2021, you can now boost the value of points earned on the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold credit card. Spend £3,000 in the first three months and you’ll be able to earn £184 in Nectar points – the highest value welcome bonus right now.

The annual fee of £140 isn’t charged in year one, but when it does begin after 12 months you’ll want to ditch this card. Downgrading to the free Amex Rewards card will allow you to keep any active Membership Reward points you’ve not yet converted.

There are a couple of extra freebies you might use, though they aren’t reasons to get or keep the card. There are two free airport lounge passes (the use really depends on the airport you’re at) and two lots of £5 credit back each month if you use Deliveroo.

Here’s my full review of the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card with more details.

Welcome offer:

  • 23,000 points (20,000 bonus points if you spend £3,000 in the first three months, plus 3,000 points for £3,000 spend)
    • Equivalent value at 0.5% = £115
    • Equivalent value at 0.8% = £184 (in Nectar points)

Cashback/Reward rate

  • One Membership Reward point for every full £1 spent
    • Equivalent cashback = 0.5%
    • Equivalent in Nectar points (via Avios) = 0.8%

The best card if you’re already with American Express

If you can’t get a welcome bonus you want to go for the Amex card which offers the best regular return for the money you spend.

The headline cashback/reward rate isn’t the only thing to consider. You need to take into account whether there’s a fee or minimum spend.

And you also need to decide how you want to receive your money back. If you want ‘cash’ paid to your card (usually once a year), then the Platinum Cashback is still probably the best card.

However, if you are happy with Nectar points then the following is your top choice as you’ll get more for every pound spent.

Amex Nectar Credit Card

You will get the equivalent of 1% back via the Nectar Amex paid as Nectar points. You’ll also get these as you spend, not just once a year – so there’s no waiting to use them.

This card does come with a fee of £25 a year, though it’s free in year one. In year two, this is the same price as year two with the Platinum Cashback card, so I think the Nectar is still a better option.

There’s also a welcome bonus that’s not as good as the one via the Nectar Preferred Rewards Gold card but does have a lower £2,000 threshold to qualify.

Cashback/Reward rate

  • Two Nectar points for every full £1 spent
    • Equivalent cashback = 1% (in Nectar points)

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The best free Amex card

Though you can avoid the fee for the first year on each of the top-paying cashback and reward American Express cards, you will get charged in year two. For most users they’re still earn you more money even with that charge factored in, but there will be some of you who might not be spending enough to actually justify it.

In this case you’ve got a few free options, including a cashback card and an Avios card. However I don’t think they’re as good as my pick below. For a start you’ll earn less with the Platinum Cashback Everyday at just 0.5%.

And though the British Airways Amex offers effectively the same return per pound spent as the card below and comes with a ‘companion voucher’ for flights, the spend to get this voucher and other restrictions make it rather pointless.

American Express Rewards Credit Card

This is my top pick for a free card as if you’re moving from the Preferred Rewards Gold card you can keep hold of your points until you are ready to use or convert them.

The earning rate is lower though at the equivalent of 0.5% in Membership Rewards or 0.8% if converted to Nectar points. The Amex Nectar still works out as a higher earning card even with the £25 as long as you spend more than £10,500 a year (£875 a month)

Cashback/Reward rate

  • One Membership Reward point for every full £1 spent
    • Equivalent cashback = 0.5%
    • Equivalent in Nectar points (via Avios) = 0.8%

Before you apply for any American Express credit card

Hopefully you’ve identified which American Express card is right for you, whether you’re an ewn or existing customer. But before you click apply, make sure you do the following:

Check your eligibility

You can do this on the American Express website for each card, or go via a comparison site to see if there are different chances of acceptance across the different cards. This is vital as if you apply and get rejected it’ll have a negative effect on your credit report.

Apply via a cashback site or referral link

Most American Express credit cards are listed on Quidco and TopCashback, earning you between £5 and £30 extra if you’re accepted. The actual rate varies between each site so it’s best to check them both.

It’s also worth making sure there’s not a better offer in place via referral links from existing Amex customers. You can use the same link to see what you’d get for all the different cards, not just the one your friend has. These are using lower than the cashback sites, but are sometimes boosted.

Once you’ve got your Amex card

Get a supplementary card

This is a great way to earn more money back and reach that welcome bonus threshold faster. You can order a card for a family member to use. Though it appears in their name, it’s still your responsibility to pay the bill – so only do this if you trust they won’t overspend.

Make sure you clear the balance every month

That’s also true for yourself. These cards should only used for everyday spending that you know you can afford. If you don’t have enough to clear the borrowing every month you’ll get charged interest which wipes out any cashback you’ll earn.

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