The best credit cards in the UK for 2024: Comprehensive overview

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There were £20.4 Billion worth of  transactions1 using credit cards in the UK in January 2024. This is an astonishing figure for a country with an adult population of around 40.5 Million. When choosing a credit card, it is important to select one that meshes with your financial circumstances and your lifestyle goals. 

Some credit cards are better suited to people who travel more often, and some are more suited to everyday mundane use. It is essential that you get the most out of the credit card that you choose, as it can have a large impact on your life.

We will look into the different aspects of credit cards, including their interest rates, the rewards that are offered to members and any upfront costs that may be in place. This will allow you to have a comprehensive overview of the UK credit card market in 2024. 

Regular use of a credit card and paying down credit card debt can show that you are responsible with money and can help to improve your credit score. Getting and maintaining a credit card balance is actually one of the best moves someone can make to rehabilitate their credit score. This, in turn, makes it easier to qualify for better loan rates if you ever choose to seek a personal loan or a mortgage.

What is a credit card and how do they work?

Credit cards offer the customer what is essentially a loan that can be extended month on month, provided that you are happy to pay the interest rate on it. Interest accrues for every purchase that puts the customer into debt and the interest is typically added at the end of the month. 

Many customers choose to pay off the interest every month and some of the balance to keep on top of the amount they owe and slowly reduce the amount of interest that they have to pay each month. 

Credit card debt accounts for 31,4% of the total debt2 that is owed by UK consumers, according to The Money Charity. This works out to around £2,485 per household or £1,312 per adult. 

Credit cards provide a convenient, easy and accessible way to pay for things that may otherwise have been out of reach for the consumer. One of the most significant pressures is to keep up with the lifestyle that their neighbours enjoy, and this can lead to imprudent spending choices that incur debt for the individual. 

While the level of debt incurred is relatively bad for the individual, they also gain tangible lifestyle benefits at the time of spending the money. Their actions also have positive effects on the economy, helping to increase public spending and ensure that local businesses can survive. 

What makes the best UK credit cards better than debit cards?

Unlike UK debit cards, most UK credit cards will provide a guarantee that they will make good on any losses incurred due to fraud. This makes credit cards the preferred option for shopping online or when on holiday in different countries. It is a major protection to have in the event of card cloning, whether this is done via online or offline means. 

If you had a debit card cloned, the thief could continue carrying out transactions until they were identified and stopped. This could potentially deplete the money that is in your current account and cause problems when bills are due. 

UK credit card users would see the amount they owed on their credit card increase, but it would not come out of their current account. The credit card companies will normally find and reimburse the fraudulent transactions before the card owner needs to pay the balance on the card, so no financial harm will have been done to the customer.

What is a reward credit card?

A reward credit card is one that allows the customer to accrue “points” for every purchase made on the card. If used correctly, these points can mount up and can be used to pay for all manner of items, holidays and flights. These rewards can really add up, especially when the credit card is used to purchase high-ticket items such as computers, televisions or holidays. 

The credit card companies offer rewards in order to encourage customers to use their cards more often. Canny users will buy items on their credit card, even though they have money in the bank, then pay off the credit card balance, so they essentially get the reward points with no downside. 

Why should I choose a reward credit card?

The reason for choosing a reward credit card is simple. If you are going to use a credit card anyway, you may as well earn some rewards while you do so. The rewards can be fairly significant and many frequent travellers will buy all of their flights on these credit cards to maximise their rewards. 

The typical loan rates seem to be about the same for reward credit cards compared to non-reward cards, so there isn’t any significant downside to deciding to use one of them. If you don’t use the card very often, it may take a long time to reach the reward tiers, but if you spend money frequently using your card or spring for high-ticket items, then it is more than worth your while. 

Which are the best rewards credit cards in the UK

There are a great many reward credit cards to choose from in the UK and there are some excellent offers. We take a look at some of the best across different categories below. 

Credit card APR Annual fee Rewards
American Express® Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card3 88% £195 (£0 in 1st year) You can gain 20,000 points if you spend £3,000 in your first three months. Thereafter it is 1 point per £ spent, or 2 points per £ if spent with an airline. You can earn 3 points per £ if you buy via American Express Travel.
HSBC Rewards Credit Card4 24% £0 Welcome bonus of 25,000 points after first transaction. 10 points per £1 spent at favoured retailers and 5 points per £1 elsewhere. Spend £10,000 in a year to get 25,000 bonus points, for the first five years.
John Lewis Partnership Card4 27.90% £0 You'll earn 5 points for every £4 you spend at Waitrose or John Lewis and 1 point per £4 spent in other places.
American Express® Rewards Credit Card4 31.00% £0 1 point for every £ spent and 10,000 bonus points when you spend £2,000 within the first 3 months.
Barclaycard Avios Card5 29.90% £0 1 Avios for every £ spent on eligible purchases. 5,000 bonus Avios if you spend £1,000 in your first 3 months.

0% APR Credit Cards

Some credit cards are offered as 0% APR credit cards for the first six months or another introductory period. This is a great way to entice users to switch to them and many people will switch between cards in this category to maximise the amount of time they can remain with a 0% APR on their credit card debt. This is something that some of the car providers are cracking down on now and there can sometimes be a balance transfer fee should you wish to move your balance to a different credit card. 

Transferring a balance between different credit cards is a bit like consolidating multiple different loans into one loan with a better interest rate. It makes the balance more manageable and if you can get a 0% APR for a longer period of time, it takes some of the pressure off when tackling the remaining balance of the debt. It allows you to pay down the debt without accruing extra interest, which would just make it even more difficult. 

Credit card Regular APR Annual fee Additional info
Virgin Money Balance Transfer Credit Card6 24.90% £0 This account charges a 3% fee on balance transfers then 0% for 27 months. Thereafter it reverts to the standard APR.
Santander Everyday Long Term Balance Transfer Credit Card7 23.90% £0 A 3% fee on balance transfers then no interest for 26 months. Interest on purchases is 0% for the first three months then 23.9% thereafter.
M&S Bank Transfer Plus Credit Card7 24.90% £0 3.49% fee on balance transfers then 0% interest for 26 months. Three months of no interest on purchases then reverts to standard APR.
Royal Bank of Scotland Longer Balance Transfer Credit Card7 24.90% £0 Another card with 3.49% on balance transfers. 0% interest on balance transfers for the first 23 months. 3 months with 0% interest on spending.
Barclaycard Platinum credit card6 24.90% £0 3.45% fee on balance transfers then 20 months interest-free. Interest on purchases is set at 0% for 21 months.

Best credit card to use abroad

Many people advocate using credit cards when abroad at the expense of debit cards, and this is because of the strong guarantees provided in case anything goes wrong. There are challenges to traditional credit cards in the form of relative newcomers such as Revolut and Monzo. Each of these options is specifically aimed at people using them abroad. 

They allow multiple currencies to be held on the cards at the same time and interest-free transfers between them. They also offer the chance to withdraw a certain amount of cash from machines when abroad for free. This amount starts at £250 per month with a basic Revolut account and rises with some of their more expensive options.  

Credit card APR Annual fee Rewards
Halifax Clarity Credit Card Mastercard8 23.90% £0 0% foreign currency exchange fees and 0% cash withdrawal fees.
Barclaycard Rewards Visa8 28.90% £0 0.25% cashback. 0% foreign exchange fees and 0% cash withdrawal fees.
Virgin Money Travel Credit Card7 29.90% £0 0% fees on foreign currency transactions or withdrawals overseas.

Best cash-back credit cards

There are several excellent offers on credit cards that allow customers to directly earn cash back on the money that they spend. This is credited to their account and either offsets their debt or is kept in a separate pot for them to spend. It can also be accrued as points or in some cases Avios, which can be spent on flights with most major airlines in the world, including the UK’s national carrier British Airways.

Cash back credit cards can be a brilliant way to earn some extra money while buying things that you would have to get anyway, so it is no wonder that many people like to use them. Buying the weekly groceries in the depths of Winter is a lot less painful if you can imagine the sunny vacation that your reward points are adding up to.   

Credit card APR Annual fee Rewards
Amex Cashback Credit Card8 36.70% £300 New members can get 5% cashback up to the value of £125 for the first 3 months. After that, it is 0.75% cashback below £10,000 and 1.25% over £10,000.
Amex Cashback Everyday Credit Card8 31.00% £0 New members receive 5% cashback up to £100 for the first 3 months. After that, they receive 0.5% cashback  up to £10,000 and 1% cashback over £10,000.
Santander World Elite Mastercard9 0% £180 0.5% cashback, access to airport lounges and 40% off travel insurance.

Top student credit cards in the UK

There are many credit cards targeted at students in the UK, in an attempt to capture their loyalty early in their lives and potentially have a lifelong customer. Many of these credit card deals offer some form of cashback deal for signing up in the first place. This allows the students some extra spending money as they start at college or university and it gives them a good incentive to join. Being able to pay for some extras in the first weeks of campus life can certainly make for a more enjoyable introduction to the next phase of their life.

Credit card APR Annual fee Additional info
Ocean Credit Card10 39.90% £0 A quick decision that can take minutes. Relatively high credit limits up to £6,000.
HSBC UK Student Card11 18.90% £0 Up to £500 credit limit.
TSB Student credit card6 21.9% £0 This account has up to £1,000 credit limit.

The easiest credit cards to be accepted for in the UK

Many credit cards can be difficult to apply for as they are essentially a form of borrowing, and some providers are more stringent than others when assessing risk. In such cases, the amount of information required to apply for one can be off-putting and this is often how it is designed. This means that the people who do apply are self-selecting and are likely to have been more adept at filling in the forms. This may, or may not, tie into education level and have an impact on the APR offered. 

The easiest credit cards to apply for tend to be aimed at people with poor credit ratings who have been denied the chance to be accepted for other cards that have lower APR rates and offer better rewards for using them. Simplifying the process and making it quick to apply means that they can know whether they have been accepted in minutes rather than waiting days or even weeks for a decision, only then to be disappointed with the result.

Other credit card providers are less concerned about the potential for debtors to default, so they make it a lot easier to apply. Below, we have listed some of the easiest credit cards to apply for. Most of these cards won't have an annual fee attached as this can put off people who struggle with money anyway, as they wont want to lose access to their card if they can’t meet a monthly payment.

Credit card APR Annual fee Additional info
Aqua Classic Credit Card12 34.90% £0 This card aims to help to build your credit score and has a movable credit limit, depending on how well you are managing your account. This starts at £250 and can go up to £1500.
Marbles Classic Credit Card13 34.90% £0 A very similar offer to Aqua. The Marbles Credit card aims to help you to stay in control of your finances and has variable credit limits from £250 to £1500, depending on how well you are managing your debts.
Luma Card14 35.90% £0 A credit card for people who have a bad credit rating due to arrears, County Court Judgements and other problems. The credit limit is up to £1500 but will most likely start off at a lower rate.

Best way to use a credit card

When using a credit card, it is important to use the supplied app or website to keep track of your spending and how much money you owe. With most credit cards, it is possible to set up alerts when money goes out, and this can help you keep up with your financial situation. 

Taking a careful look at your monthly statements can also help you flag any fraudulent transactions and get the company to take action to refund your money. This will help to ensure that you are never out of pocket from purchases that were fraudulently made.

Paying off your balances in full regularly is an important way you can improve your credit score. Many people use their credit cards for online and offline purchases and then transfer money from their bank’s current account to the card to cover the cost. This means you get the protection from using a credit card for shopping, and also get the benefit from any reward points. In addition to this, by paying the balance in full, you don’t have to pay any interest. 

If you communicate internationally with family or business contacts in another country, it can be helpful to pay for international calls with a credit card through reputable companies such as BOSS Revolution. You get the bonus of qualifying for any rewards, as well as the peace of mind of knowing that you will have credit to talk to your contacts abroad. Boss Revolution offers very competitive rates for calls to other countries so it is a very cost-effective way to do international business. 

Substitutes for using your own credit cards

There are various methods that can be used to substitute for the use of your own credit cards. These can be useful in case you don’t pass the credit checks that would enable you to have one of your own. Some of these methods are similar to having a guarantor arrangement when applying for a mortgage, in that they provide added security and peace of mind for the lenders.

Become a Credit Card Authorised User
Being added as an authorised user on someone else’s credit card means that you can use the card as if you were the owner and will usually benefit when it comes to your credit score. This is something that is best done with people who are in a close or familial relationship due to the levels of trust involved in accruing debt on their behalf.
Credit Card Co-signer
When you struggle to get approval for a credit card due to your individual credit score, it can be helpful to have someone willing to co-sign with you. This means that you each take responsibility for 50% of the debts that are run up using the card. It is a good way to improve a negative credit score based on historical data.  
Alternative to a Credit Card
An alternative to a traditional credit card, Loqbox is all about helping people to grow and improve their credit scores by taking actions such as reporting their rent and ensuring that the payment of this is taken into account in calculations. They also offer an interest-free credit account and a “Loqbox” where you pay a direct debit every month to save money for a defined period of time. All of these payments are treated as payments of debt and therefore help to improve your credit score.
Retail Store Card
These are similar to credit cards but can only be used to make purchases from a single store. While they usually offer good rewards for the store in question, these cards tend to have very expensive credit and can be a quick way of running up a high level of debt as a result. Most financial advice online appears to suggest avoiding retail store cards if possible. 

Frequently Asked Questions about UK Credit Cards

There are some questions that are often asked about applying for credit cards in the UK and we have answered these below. 

What is APR?

APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate and is the amount of interest that will be charged over the course of a calendar year. APR rates are often quoted as “representative APR” in adverts. This means that over 51% of users were offered the same as, or lower than, this rate. You will probably be offered a rate based on your own circumstances, which may differ from the “representative APR”.

How do 0% credit cards work?

This is a great way to build your credit score. The introductory 0% rate will allow you to pay off more of your capital borrowing on the card while not getting bogged down in paying off the interest. You should be able to reduce the balance to zero much more quickly and efficiently. Once the initial period of time has elapsed, a higher rate of interest will begin to be charged.

What are balance transfer credit cards?

Balance transfer credit cards are often used to transfer the balance from one or more credit cards to another. Typically the destination card will be 0% interest for the first period of time. Moving the balance to a lower interest rate can allow you to begin to tackle the debt that has been accrued without being harshly penalised every month by high-interest payments.

What you need to apply for a credit card?

You will need to be over 18 and supply your full name, address, residence status, employment status, relationship status (including whether you have any dependents), email address and phone number, any previous addresses in the last two years, your bank details and any other card details if you are transferring a balance. You may also be asked to provide proof of identity and address such as a driver's license, passport, utility bill or recent bank statement.

How many credit cards should I have?

Although it is a form of debt, having access to a credit card can be a valuable way to learn to understand your personal finances better. They can also help to improve your credit score as they can be used as proof that you can successfully pay back debts in a timely and consistent manner. Most people would say that one is enough but you may have more than one for a while if you are switching balances over to a balance transfer card.

Final advice on selecting the best credit cards in the UK for your needs

There are many different credit card options in the UK, and the one you choose will differ depending on where you are in your life. If you have just started a College or University course, there are credit cards specially for you. If you are someone who already has credit card debts, you can choose to consolidate them onto the one 0% interest balance transfer card. This will allow you some breathing space from mounting interest payments so you can pay back the actual amount borrowed.

Choosing a credit card that offers rewards can be a great way to maximise the financial benefits available to you. If you are a regular traveller, using your credit card can help the reward points to mount up. It is possible to accrue “Avios” as rewards with some credit cards which can be redeemed against flights with major airlines once you have a substantial amount of them. This can be a great way to get some free travel whether for business or leisure. 

Above all, credit cards are one of the safest ways to spend money online or in person. They are backed by cast-iron fraud guarantees that mean you shouldn’t fall victim to fraud. Debit cards are a much riskier proposition as they link directly to your bank account and can even be used to withdraw money from it if they are cloned. For this reason, it is always recommended that you use a credit card when shopping online or abroad. 

In addition to the security benefits of credit cards, they also help with the building of your credit score, and this can help to ensure that you qualify for better lending rates in the future or even help you to be approved for a mortgage. There are other methods that don’t involve having your own credit card that can give a similar boost to credit ratings including using co-signed credit cards, becoming an authorised signatory on someone else’s card and using services such as Loqbox.

Sources: all third party information obtained from applicable website as of May 08, 2024


This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to address every aspect of the matters discussed herein. The information in this article is not intended as specific personal advice. The information in this article does not constitute legal, tax, regulatory or other professional advice from IDT Payment Services, Inc. and its affiliates (collectively, “IDT”), and should not be taken or used as such by any individual. IDT makes no representation, warranty or guaranty, whether express or implied, that the content in this article is current, accurate, or complete. You should obtain professional or other substantive advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the information in this article.