Are you planning on making a big purchase or doing some home improvements? Do you need to tackle your debts once and for all? Or could you be making more of your everyday spending?
Whatever you are thinking of doing, if it is going to involve a credit card, then it is essential that you get the right one.
Choose the right deal and you can clear your debts faster, spread the cost of an expensive purchase and even earn a tidy sum in airline points, cashback or rewards.
Pick the wrong one, however, or fail to manage it correctly and you can be left with a hefty bill, and a credit rating in tatters.
Play your cards right: This is Money has rounded up the best credit card offers
This is Money has scoured the market and picked out what we believe are the best credit card deals to help you make the most of your money.
We pick these because we think that they offer something that makes them stand out from the crowd, they may not always have the absolute lowest rate or longest special offer, but they are judged by our independent research to offer a good deal.
Do you need to clear existing debt?
Before you think about signing up for a new card to use for spending, you should make sure that your existing debts are in order.
If you’ve racked up a load of debt and have decided to make a fresh start on tackling it, zero per cent balance transfer cards could be the way to go.
Moving your debt to an interest-free card means that you can freeze the size of your debt, rather than continually play catch-up as interest piles on the pounds.
Make sure you stick to the rules though and clear your debt within the time period, otherwise you could be hit with high interest rates – and remember card firms offer interest-free periods because they manage to catch so many people out.
The right balance transfer card for you depends on your circumstances, so rather than recommend one ‘best’ option here, we would instead recommend readers go to our in-depth guide to 0 per cent balance transfer cards for the best deal.
Best credit cards for spending on big purchases
If you’re planning some home improvements or large purchases in the near future and need some extra cash for spending, as long as you are confident you can pay off the full amount within 24 months or slightly longer to avoid high interest rates, a 0 per cent purchase card could be a good option for you.
Remember, you will need to be disciplined about clearing the balance before the end of the term, otherwise interest on the remaining amount will quickly make it an expensive option.
Before you apply, read more about how to avoid the 0 per cent interest traps here
|Top deals||Purchase offer||Extras||Standard APR|
|Sainsbury’s Bank Nectar Purchase card||27 months||27 months 0% balance transfers, 3% fee, Nectar points for spending, Up to 7,500 point bonus in first 2 months.||20.9%|
|Tesco Bank||26 months||Clubcard rewards points for spending||19.9%|
|Barclaycard||27 months||27 months 0% interest on balance transfers, 2.7% fee for transfers within 60 days via refund.||19.9%|
|Virgin Money||28 months||18 months 0 per cent on balance transfers with a 2% fee.||19.9%|
|Correct as of January 18 2019|
Could you be better with a long-term low rate instead?
If you are happy to sidestep a 0 per cent interest period, another credit card option for anyone wanting to take the pressure off paying within a set time period is a permanent low-interest card.
These give the flexibility of knowing that you have a card to hand to spread big purchases out, without worrying about falling foul of any small print.
Protecting your money
Another major bonus with rewards cards is the consumer protection you are entitled to, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
Put simply, if you use the credit card to buy something worth more than £100, here or abroad, the card issuer is equally liable if something goes wrong.
Missing payments, paying late or spending beyond your limit risk losing an interest-free term which can quickly land you in hot water when standard interest at 18 or 19 per cent is slapped on your remaining balance.
The benefit is that if you decide not to pay off the entire balance every month, you will only have to pay minimal interest.
You must have a good credit rating to be approved.
Tesco Bank currently charges the cheapest rate on the market for those preferring a no-frills low rate credit card over a 0 per cent interest deal.
It has an APR of 5.9 per cent and offers shoppers Clubcard points on their spending.
Check out this is Money’s favourite low-rate credit card here
Best credit cards for rewards
Over recent years some of the most lucrative schemes have unfortunately been scrapped or scaled back.
But there are still a few cards that if you do it right, could earn you £100s worth of goods and services for free.
Remember: Each company operates under their own points system, so make sure you check what each point is actually worth – something that may appear to offer huge bonuses could in reality be almost worthless.
Below we have picked a few of our favourites, alternatively read more about all of the top deals in our in depth guide:
Travel rewards: pay with a credit card to get deals on trips
Best for airline points: British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card
Your choice of rewards card will largely depend on which airlines you prefer because a combination of credit card and frequent flyer points are going to get you the best discounts.
However, if you are a big spender, the British Airways Premium Plus Amex card is one of the most lucrative deals on the market.
>Read out top five tips on boosting your Avios points pot without spending any more
What do you get?
The major crowdpleaser is the free companion ticket if you spend more than £10,000 a year – remember you still have to foot the bill for taxes, fees and charges though.
The sign-up bonuses are good, too. At the moment you get 25,000 Avios points when you successfully apply and spend £3,000 within the first three months.
Cardholders can get automatic enrollment to the British Airways Executive Club, which includes priority on standby waiting lists, 24/7 support when traveling outside the UK through Global Assist, and travel accident insurance of up to £75,000 on public transport when booked with your Amex card.
You get 1.5 Avios points for each £1 you spend. You also get three Avios point for every £1 you spend with British Airways or BA holidays.
As a guideline – You will need 9,000 points for a return flight to Berlin, 15,000 gets you as far as Rome and 20,000 buys you a return flight to Moscow.
Points expire after 36 months if you don’t add to your account.
There is a £195 annual fee and the 22.9 per cent rate on purchases means you need to make sure you pay the card off in full each month.
To be eligible you must have a household income of £30,000 and no history of bad credit.
If you don’t want to pay an annual fee, there is a free alternative, the British Airways American Express card, however thanks to a recent legal ruling against Amex, experts have said this may not be around for long.
You can read more about the ruling, and whether it’s still worth signing up to it here.
Tandem: the best deal if you don’t mind using an app
Challenger Bank, Tandem, pays 0.5 per cent cashback on all spending, including while on holiday.
Plus it comes with no fee for use abroad.
Watch out Interest on all cash withdrawals (at home and abroad) is applied immediately, so you will want to pay it off as soon as possible.
But the newcomer won’t load the rate and users receive the MasterCard exchange rate which tends to be more competitive than Visa’s.
The major drawback for some however, you can only access your account via its smartphone app, which may put some people off.
But the app is a useful tool to help with budgeting and offers personalised spending insights.
You can read more about the card, and This is Money’s verdict here
Best for overseas spending: Halifax
Halifax Clarity credit card has long been a popular option for no-frills overseas spending.
Dream holiday: A specialist travel credit card won’t charge you extra for spending abroad
What it offers
Halifax demands no extra charges for spending abroad anywhere or any extra for withdrawing cash at home and abroad.
Standard interest is set at 18.9 per cent – there are a few options (below) which have lower interest rates on spending.
But its a Mastercard which means conversion rates are much better.
There is no annual fee – so there are zero extra costs as long as you pay off your balance in full every month.
Additional cards on the same account are available and you can manage your account online.
Watch out for
Interest is charged immediately at the card’s standard rate of 18.9 per cent on cash withdrawals, but you can minimise the cost by repaying in full as soon as possible.
Purchases abroad don’t incur any interest as long as you repay the amount by the date shown on your statement.
Depending on your credit score applicants may be given a higher interest rate of 25.9 per cent.
You will be charged £12 if you pay your balance late, have a payment returned or go over your limit.
>Skip to This is Money’s roundup of the top cards to use abroad
THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST HOLIDAY MONEY DEALS
Best rewards cards for supermarkets: Tesco Clubcard Credit Card for Purchases
The card that’s right for you will depend on where you like to shop, but the Tesco Clubcard Credit Card for Purchases is particularly rewarding for supermarket spending.
It gives one Clubcard point for every £4 you spend on it in Tesco stores or on Tesco Fuel and one point for ever £8 spent elsewhere. This is in addition to the 1 point per £1 you already earn using its loyalty scheme.
One point is worth 1p if spent in-store at Tesco and up to 3p if redeemed using Tesco’s Clubcard rewards vouchers.
These can be used for a variety of restaurants, cinemas and other entertainment venues, as well as travel, through Avios.
The small print
Points expire after two years and rewards vouchers, two-and-a-half.
Make sure you pay the card off in full each month otherwise rewards will be quickly cancelled out.
Points will not be awarded for some products, including tobacco or tobacco related products, lottery, stamps, prescription medicines, infant formula milk, Tesco Gift Cards, saving stamps, Esso fuel, Paypoint payments or for purchases of some Tesco Bank products.
Tip yourself: Earn a percentage of your credit card spending back
Best credit card for cashback: American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Card
The American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Card has the highest cashback rate currently available – and, as an added incentive, there is no annual fee to pay.
You will need to spend at least £3,000 on the card each year to qualify for the cashback.
What do you get?
Spend £2,000 on your Platinum Cashback Card in the first three months and you will receive £100 in cashback
You can also earn cashback on supermarket and petrol spends, as well as travel and entertainment. In fact, you can earn money on virtually all your everyday purchases.
After the first three months the rate drops from the 5 per cent introductory offer to a maximum of 1 per cent.
- Spend £0 to £5,000 and receive 0.5% cashback on that spend
- Spend above £5,000, receive 1% cashback on that spend
You are also eligible for travel accident insurance for up to £150,000 on public transport when you buy your ticket with your card.
Complimentary supplementary cards for family members are available, generating even more cashback for your account.
The small print
You must spend a minimum of £3,000 a year to qualify for cashback.
Cashback is not earned on balance transfers, cash advances, American Express travellers cheques purchases, foreign exchange transactions or interest.
Remember, cashback incentives are there to encourage you to buy more on your card – and pay higher interest charges.
The 22.9 per cent APR means you should pay off your balance in full every month to avoid hefty charges.
THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST CREDIT CARDS