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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.

Below you’ll be able to read more about these and other decent 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

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My top cashback and reward credit card

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.

American Express (Amex) Platinum Cashback Credit Card – £125 bonus and up to 1.25% back

Great for the highest cashback rates and starting bonus

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 earn more in the promotional three months than the fee-free equivalent. Plus you can get £20 (at the time of writing) extra through applying for the card via cashback site Quidco.

It works out better than the fee-free alternative (here’s my full analysis of the two) if you don’t think you’ll spend around £5,000 a year on the card (roughly £416 a month).

What you can earn:

  • 5% for the first three months (up to £2,500 spend) – worth up £125
  • 1% on spend up to £10,000 – worth up to £100
  • 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

Alternative Amex reward credit cards

If you don’t think you’ll spend enough for the Amex Platinum Cashback Card, then these are worth a look. You’ll only get the welcome bonus once, unless you’ve not held any Amex in your name for two years.

American Express (Amex) Nectar Credit Card – £100 bonus and up to 1.5% back

Good for Sainsbury’s shoppers

If you do much your shopping at Sainsbury’s or other Nectar partners such as Argos and eBay, then you’ll get 1.5% back in Nectar points with this Amex. Elsewhere it’s worth 1%. 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%)
  • 3 points for every £1 spent at most Nectar partners (equivalent to 1.5%)

Fees, details and how to apply:

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 £5,000 – worth up to £25
  • 1% on spend over £5,000 – no cap

Fees, details and how to apply:

Read more about other American Express cashback credit cards here.

Non-Amex alternative reward and cashback cards

The best cashback deals for a long time have been via American Express, and 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. I’ve gone with the John Lewis Partnership card but the best one will really depend on where you tend to shop the most.

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, ifyou 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:

  • 8 points per £5 spent at JL or Waitrose for the first 90 days (worth 2.5%)
  • 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:

  • 2,000 points (worth £20) after three months as long as you use the card in the first 90 days
  • 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:

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.