The best cashback and reward credit cards (September 2021)

Earn as much as 5% back when you spend from the likes of American Express, Amazon and John Lewis.

Pretty much every time I spend money I am earning money. Ok, only a little bit but it all adds up. Don’t roll your eyes. It really does. The way I do this is through a cashback credit card, or more accurately, through a couple of cashback credit cards.

Rates aren’t as good as they were a few years ago, and there are fewer cashback cards available, but even if you’re only getting 0.25% I think it’s worth having one or two in your wallet. Fortunately, it’s possible to get as much as 1.25% – and more on top with introductory offers.

Cashback credit card rules

Below you’ll be able to read more about the best cashback and reward cards, and I’ll keep coming to this page to and updating it as deals change. But first, a really important rule if you are using one.

Always pay off the balance in full every month

There’s no point using a cashback credit card if you’re going to get charged interest on your purchase. So make sure you set up a Direct Debit to clear the full balance.

If you can’t afford to do that, then a credit card probably isn’t your best option except for emergencies. I’ve written more about clearing credit card debts, so do read that.

It’s also worth doing an “eligibility check” before you apply if you can. This gives you a sense of whether you’ll be accepted, though not a guarantee.

Keep reading or watch this video from my YouTube channel

Best cashback credit card brand

I’d go for an Amex card as your main spending card. Not only can you get a huge welcome bonus and the best ongoing cashback/rewards rates, you’ll also get access to other offers such as Shop Small.

I always try to use an Amex to pay. But try is the operative word there, as some retailers still don’t accept the card.

So I make sure I’ve also got an alternative cashback credit card on me that’s either Visa or Mastercard.

Best welcome bonus

American Express (Amex) Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card

Up to £264 bonus and up to 0.8% back

Best for welcome bonus

If you’ve not had an American Express reward or cashback card in your name for two years then you are entitled to a welcome bonus – and this card gives the biggest cash bonus in year one.

You need to spend £3,000 in the first three months to earn 20,000 bonus points. You’ll also earn a point per £1 spent, giving you 23,000 points. This converts to a gift card valued at £115.

But if you’re willing to exchange those points for Avios points and then switch them again to Nectar points, the value increases to £184.

And this welcome offer is boosted to 30,000 from the usual 20,000 until 9 November 2021, giving an extra 10,000 points. That’s £50 in a standard gift card, or £80 extra in Nectar points – the latter giving a total of £266!

The £125 annual fee is waived in year one, so it makes sense to cancel this card after 12 months and switch to a different card. Here’s my full review of the Preferred Rewards Gold card.

American Express Platinum

Up to £275 welcome bonus

Best for existing card holders

There’s a boosted 60,000 points offer for new Platinum cardholders until 2 November 2021. To get this you have to spend £6,000 in six months and pay a £575 fee. So this won’t be right for everyone.

However, you can cancel the card once you have spent £6k and get the rest of the fee refunded pro-rata. Plus you are eligible for this bonus even if you already have a Platinum Cashback, BA or Nectar Amex.

This could work out at around £275, perhaps more. I’ve shared more details in my September card update.

Best ongoing reward rate

For other American Express cards, make sure you check out my guide to the best Amex options. Here’s a quick summary.

American Express (Amex) Nectar Credit Card

£100 bonus and 1% back

This card is worth 1% as you’ll get two Nectar points back for every £1 spent. However, you are limited where you use your points to just Nectar partners.

The points can be used at face value in these and a few other shops, or you can double them up in Sainsbury’s stores each December – though on limited products (and there’s no guarantee the promotion will run).

There’s also a bonus worth £100 if you spend £2,000 in the first three months. Unlike the cashback Amex welcome deals this is on top of the points you’d earn for this spend – potentially worth another £20 or £30.

A £25 fee is waived in the first year but will cut into your return from year two onwards.

What you can earn:

  • Bonus 20,000 Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in your first three months – worth £100
  • 2 point for every £1 spent (equivalent to 1%)

Fees, details and how to apply:

Alternative Amex cashback credit cards

If you’d rather have actual cashback rather than Nectar points then you can choose between a couple of Platinum Cashback Amex cards. The rate changes in early August 2021. You’ll only get the welcome bonus once, unless you’ve not held any Amex in your name for two years.

American Express (Amex) Platinum Cashback Credit Card

Up to 1.25% back

Great for the highest cashback rates

This card will earn you 0.75% for every £1 you spent, increasing to 1.25% once your annual spend goes over £10,000.

You’ll get paid in cash rather than points for spending on this card, giving you the flexibility to use the money saved through it how you want. It’s credited to your card around your 12 month anniversary.

Though this card comes with a £25 fee, you’re able to get £20 (at the time of writing) extra through applying for the card via cashback site Quidco.

The welcome bonus is 5% on the first £2,500 spent in the first three months, making it better than the Gold option if you don’t think you’ll spend £3,000 in that time.

What you can earn:

  • 5% for the first three months (up to £2,500 spend) – worth up £125
  • 0.75% on spend up to £10,000 – worth up to £75
  • 1.25% on spend over £10,000 – no cap
  • Additional cashback offers you can add to your card throughout the year via your account
  • More on this and other American Express credit cards

Fees, details and how to apply:

  • £25 annual fee
  • Get a bonus £20 cashback when you apply via Quidco
  • Not joined a cashback site? Get an extra £17 bonus when you sign up
  • Got a friend with one? See if they’ve got a referral code to earn you both some cash

American Express (Amex) Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card

£100 bonus and up to 1% back

Good for lower spenders

Very similar to the Amex Platinum Cashback card except you get lower rates in exchange for no card fee. This could be a better option if you are likely to spend less than £5,000 a year on the card.

What you can earn:

  • 5% for the first three months (up to £2,000 spend) – worth up £100
  • 0.5% after on spend up to £10,000 – worth up to £50
  • 1% on spend over £10,000 – no cap

Fees, details and how to apply:

Read more about other American Express cashback credit cards here.

Mastercard reward and cashback cards

I’ve gone with the John Lewis Partnership card but the best one will really depend on where you tend to shop the most.

Lloyds Cashback card

Up to 0.5% and £20 bonus

A decent card offering 0.25% on the first £4,000 spent. Though you can earn double this cashback on spend above this each year, I think that’ll be unlikely for most if you’re using an Amex too. Here’s my full Lloyds cashback card review with all the details and comparisons.

What you can earn:

  • 0.25% on the first £4,000 spent
  • 0.5% on anything over £4,000 each calendar year

Fees, details and how to apply:

John Lewis Partnership card

Up to 2.5% back & £20

Great for John Lewis and Waitrose shoppers

Every 500 points you earn are converted to £5 John Lewis vouchers, which can also be spent at Waitrose. They’re sent in the post up to three times a year – so you will have to wait to spend your rewards.

The card is also interest-free for the first nine months and you can use it as a balance transfer card too for 18 months (2.9% fee).

From time to time there are welcome bonuses – you can get 2,000 points, worth £20, if you apply before 31st January and spend £250 within the first 90 days.

Also part of this deal, if you also sign up to the free My John Lewis loyalty scheme you’ll also get double points at JL or Waitrose in the first 90 days. That means you’d get 2.5% back in points for that period.

There’s no eligibility checker if you go direct, so it makes sense to go via a comparison site such as Money Saving Expert.

What you can earn:

  • 4 point per £5 spent at JL or Waitrose (worth 1.25%)
  • 1 point per £4 spent elsewhere (worth 0.25%)

Fees, details and how to apply:

Amazon Platinum Credit Card

Up to 1.5% back and £10 voucher

Great for Amazon Prime members

A really decent deal if you spend at Amazon and are an Amazon Prime member (if you’re not you can join free for 30-days then £79 a year).

The points you earn are converted to Amazon vouchers and are directly applied to your account. You get points back on every penny spent, not just full pounds, which is great.

A joining offer comes and goes, but sometimes there is an extra £10 or £20 Amazon voucher for successful applicants, so take a look. For Black Friday it was a huge £30 voucher.

What you can earn:

  • Prime members: 3 Amazon reward points for every £2 spent at Amazon (equivalent to 1.5%)
  • Prime members: 0.5 Amazon reward points for every £2 spent elsewhere (equivalent to 0.25%)
  • Everyone else: 1.5 Amazon reward points for every £2 spent at Amazon (equivalent to 0.75%)
  • Everyone else: 0.5 Amazon reward points for every £2 spent elsewhere (equivalent to 0.25%)
  • 1,000 points = £10 Amazon voucher
  • No cap on annual rewards you can earn

Fees, details and how to apply:

M&S Bank Reward Plus

Up to 2% back & £5

Great for regular M&S shoppers

If you shop lots at M&S you will get double points there for the first year, making it the equivalent of 2% cashback. That’s very good if you regularly shop at Marks.

But the Amex and John Lewis cards are better options for spending elsewhere. There’s also another fiver you’ll get with your card.

What you can earn:

  • 500 points (worth £5) sent with your new card
  • 2 points (i.e. 2%) per £1 spent at M&S for the first 12 months, then 1 point per £1
  • 1 point per £5 (i.e. 0.2%) spent elsewhere
  • 0% purchase for first six months
  • No cap on annual cashback you can earn

Fees, details and how to apply:

Visa reward and cashback cards

Barclaycard Rewards

0.25% back

Great for regualr travellers

There are a couple of benefits to this Barclaycard. First, you will earn the cashback and pay no fees on transactions abroad as well as in the UK.

Second it’s a Visa rather than Mastercard. That shouldn’t really matter, but in the past I’ve been to countries where for some reason only Visa worked.

What you can earn:

  • 0.25% on every £1 spent
  • No fees for using abroad
  • No cap on annual cashback you can earn

Fees, details and how to apply:

Reward points & air miles vs cashback credit cards

There are two types of card which earn you money as you spend. Cashback credit cards pay you back in cold, hard cash. Well, it’s usually credit to your card, but you get to spend that as you want. 

Reward cards are slightly different as you get points, which are usually then transferred into vouchers at the linked retailer.

Sometimes the points are for airline schemes and you use them to get cheap flights or upgrades. However these come with restrictions so unless you fly regularly and rack up lots of these I think you’re better off avoiding these.

More on the points vs cashback question here.

16 thoughts on “The best cashback and reward credit cards (September 2021)

  1. Yucando Navarrete May 12, 2021 at 9:44 am

    I was looking forward for your May update regarding credit cards. Fantastic as always!
    I’m curious about knowing your thoughts in regards to NatWest reward credit card 🙂

    1. Thanks Yucando! I’ll take a proper look. It could be that with the Amex Platinum cuts it’s a good all-rounder if you go to multiple supermarkets, or ones that don’t offer their own card.

  2. Re John Lewis and M&S cards: Can I pay them back in store at a till or do I have to do a direct debt? Just because it would be easier for me to go into the store and pay these cards back at a till in cash.

    1. M&S cards can be paid in stores (when open). John Lewis is via bank transfer, DD or cheque

  3. Sadly, Tandem is now closed. They have given their 3 months’ notice earlier this month and will cancel their card by Nov 2020.

    1. Yes, I ditched my card earlier this year when they started charging a fee. But it’s a shame their leaving the market.

  4. Re John Lewis Partnership Credit Card
    Just received a letter stating that the cashback is going to be ‘updated’.
    You will get 5 points with a £4 purchase at JLP and Waitrose – where you are getting 1 point for a £1 spend at the moment -, but spend in other shops is going down to 1 point for a £4 purchase. Not such a good deal any more then. This will come into effect on 4 September.

    1. Thanks Dorit, really useful to know. I’ll update the guide. Andy

  5. Yes with John Lewis you used to get a quite generous number of café vouchers for free tea or coffee and cake. Now it tends to be just one or two vouchers, and that about every four to five months it seems to me. Though of course that is suspended at the moment with Coronavirus lock down.

    I think they have also tightened up on the credit period that you could wait for before paying the bill.

    Also fully agree with paying the bill every month. Interest can certainly add up if you spend say five or six hundred pounds on the card for some capital item, and you pay it off over two or three instalments. Need to watch that.

  6. Hi Andy,
    I used your referral link and the voucher did not process so I emailed Tandem and they require your name and email before the voucher can be processed

  7. How is a tandem card better than a partnership card?
    If I spend £100 at Waitrose/John Lewis with a partnership card 1 get £1 cashback
    If I spend £100 at Waitrose /John Lewis with a tandem card I get 50p cashback

    Everywhere else they are exactly the same 0.5% cashback.

    As for using the card abroad there are no fees for using the card but you still have to pay 18.0% to get 0.5% cashback.

    Or am I missing something?

    1. Hi Richard. It’s Amex that I think is better to use at John Lewis and Waitrose as you can also get the 1% or more at lots of other places. The Tandem is my back up for those that don’t use Amex. And as long as you pay off the balance you won’t get charged any interest. If you can’t clear the balance then best to avoid credit cards in all cases but emergency (or section 75 protection).

  8. Forget cashback.Much better is to take out a succession of longterm 0% interest cards -pay only the minimum each month (by direct debit) and transfer the balances to 0% balance transfer cards that charge no transfer fee when the interest free period nears its end.Keep the amount owing in an instant access account earning 1.5% Marcus for example and the interest you earn will soon dwarf any cashback or reward scheme.I have been doing this for around three years and now have roughly £15000 “debt” earning £200+ pa. On an annual credit card spend of around £5000 that equates to an ongoing discount of around 4%

  9. With the American Express (Amex) Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card you must make purchases of at least £3000 / year “to be eligible to receive your cashback”!
    I’ll struggle to do this – recently tried to use it to pay for car insurance – not accepted of course, same story for heating oil.

    1. Hi Eric, oh that’s a shame. £3,000 a year works out as £58 a week. You should be able to use an Amex at the supermarket and most major petrol stations, which hopefully would account for the bulk of it.

  10. Hi Andy, Tandem say they need to know the email address used to set up your card to verify the £10 Amazon voucher referral. Can you help?

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