HSBC launched a new rewards credit card last month called, erm, the HSBC Rewards Credit Card. This does not give travel rewards, but I wanted to highlight it because:
it shows, very clearly, where all cashback credit cards in the UK are heading, and
it shows how surprisingly generous many non-Amex travel rewards cards still are
What does the HSBC Rewards Credit Card offer?
Take a look at the HSBC website here.
What you have is a Mastercard which:
has a £25 sign-up bonus
has no annual fee
earn 1p cashback for every £5 spent
gives you a £25 bonus if you spend £10,000 per year
The representative APR is 21.9% variable.
You are getting 0.2% back on your spending. In reality, you may get a lot less. It depends if you receive 1p per £5 transaction or 1p per £5 on your total monthly bill.
If it is the former, a £3.99 purchase earns nothing. If it is the latter, a £3.99 purchase will earn you 0.8p when aggregated with your other transactions.
If you spend exactly £10,000 on the card per year, your cashback increases to 0.45%. This, admittedly, is not bad. However, this card is NOT available to everyone. You must hold a HSBC current account and have paid in at least £1,750 per month for the past six months. For someone in PAYE, this requires a salary of £25,700.
How does this compare with other cards on the market?
Keep the 0.2% cashback figure in mind.
Not coincidentally, many other leading cards now have the same return:
Amazon halved the earning rate of its Platinum Mastercard on 29th April and now gives 0.5p of Amazon vouchers per £2 spent outside Amazon (ie 0.25%)
ASDA cut the rate on its Cashback Credit Card from 0.5% to 0.2% cashback on non-ASDA spend in 2018 (you receive ASDA vouchers, not actual cash)
The Marks & Spencer credit cards offer 1 M&S point for every £5 you spend outside M&S, with 500 points getting you a £5 M&S shopping voucher for a return of 0.2%
Some cards are even worse. The Sainsbury’s Bank credit cards give 1 Nectar point, worth 0.5p, for every £5 you spend – a return of just 0.1%!
Some cashback cards still beat this, of course
The main outlier at the moment is the John Lewis Partnership Card. This gives you 1 point for every £2 you spend outside John Lewis / Waitrose. As 500 points gets you a £5 shopping voucher, this is a return of 0.5%.
Tandem Bank, the small challenger bank, offers 0.5% cashback and 0% foreign exchange fees on its Visa card.
In general, however, the market is moving towards giving you 0.2% in cashback or vouchers on ‘no annual fee’ Mastercard or Visa reward cards.
The reason for this, of course, that interchange fees have been capped at 0.3% on Mastercard and Visa credit cards following legal changes 18 months ago. This dramatically cut – by 75%+ – the amount that credit card processors could charge retailers for accepting cards.
How does this compare to free travel rewards cards?
What you can see from this is that the three free travel rewards Mastercard or Visa credit cards are still substantially better value than the main cashback cards. I am looking at Amazon, ASDA and Marks & Spencer, plus the new HSBC Rewards card. Even if you bring Tandem and John Lewis into the equation, two of three free travel cards do better.
This offers 0.75 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1 spent. If you can get 1p per mile by redeeming smartly, you are getting a 0.75% return on your spending. Even if you get a little less than this, you are still head and shoulders above most of the cashback cards above. Until 30th June, you will also receive a sign-up bonus of 12,000 Virgin Flying Club miles. Our full review is here and you can apply here. Representative APR 22.9% variable.
This offers 1 IHG Rewards Club point per £1 spent. These are generally worth around 0.4p when used for Holiday Inn / Crowne Plaza / InterContinental etc hotel rooms, and at peak dates you can do a lot better. The card also gets you Gold status in IHG Rewards Club for as long as you hold it. Our full review is here and you can apply here. Representative APR 18.9% variable.
This offers points which convert into 0.5 Avios, 0.5 Etihad Guest miles, 0.5 Asia Miles or 0.5 Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles for every £1 you spent. If you can get 1p per mile – and some of these schemes offer better value than Avios – then you are getting 0.5% back on your spending and potentially more. Our full review is here. Note that you need to be a HSBC Premier customer to get this card. Representative APR 18.9% variable.
We have only looked at free cards here because it is easier to compare the rewards. There are also annual fee versions of the Virgin Atlantic, IHG and HSBC Premier cards as well as the Miles & More cards, but you would need to have a good idea of your annual Visa / Mastercard spending to calculate which works best.
We have ignored American Express cards entirely in this article due to their lack of universal acceptance, but the American Express Platinum Cashback cards are substantially more generous than their Visa / Mastercard rivals, as are the remaining American Express travel rewards cards.
In summary ….. the screws continue to be tightened on ‘no annual fee’ Visa and Mastercard rewards cards. The good news is that the travel rewards sector, where Head for Points readers focus, still offers returns far above the average.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – October 2022 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review
For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.