Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Are the best UK cashback credit cards a good alternative to miles and points cards?

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Cashback credit cards are not a core focus of Head for Points due to, erm, their lack of points.

That isn’t going to change, but as the benefit packages on all reward cards – travel and cashback – continue to be squeezed it is worth keeping an eye on the best alternatives.  After all, you could use the cashback to pay for travel directly or even buy points in your preferred programme.

What about the American Express cashback products?

The best cashback cards come from American Express because these have not been impacted by the 0.3% cap on interchange fees.  With retailers paying more to accept the cards, Amex can pass back more to you.

You can find details of the Platinum Cashback card here and the Platinum Cashback Everyday card here.

The Platinum Cashback card pays you cashback at the following rate:

  • 5% cashback on all your spending in the first three months, up to £2,500 of purchases
  • 1% back if you spend under £10,000 from month 4 to month 12 (and annually thereafter)
  • 1.25% back on your spend over £10,000 from month 4 to month 12 (and annually thereafter)

It comes with a £25 annual fee.  The Platinum Cashback credit card has a representative APR of 28.2% variable, including the £25 fee, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.  The interest rate on purchases is 22.9% variable.

Meanwhile …..

The Platinum Cashback Everyday card (free) has a tiered reward system:

  • 5% cashback on all your spending in the first three months, up to £2,000 of purchases

After the first three months, you will earn:

  • 0.5% on the first £5,000 of spend (but you get nothing if you spend under £3,000)
  • 1% back on your spend over £5,000

Cashback is paid in a lump sum at the end of each card year.  The card has a representative APR of 22.9% variable.

To save you getting your calculator out, the break-even point for getting the £25 Platinum Cashback card is £10,000 of spending per year.

For everyone except the highest spenders, you are better off with the free Platinum Cashback Everyday card.

American Express Platinum Cashback credit cards review

What are the best Mastercard and Visa cashback products?

Cashback Visa and Mastercard products are not hugely generous following the cap on interchange fees.

0.2% is key figure to bear in mind.  This is generally what you will now get from most cashback (or pseudo cashback) Visa and Mastercards:

Amazon halved the earning rate of its Platinum Mastercard on in April 2019 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%!

There are still some good free Visa and Mastercard cashback cards

The main outlier at the moment is the John Lewis and Waitrose Partnership Card.  This gives you 1 point for every £2 you spend outside John Lewis / Waitrose, which earn double.  As 500 points gets you a £5 shopping voucher, this is a return of 0.5%.  Until 29th February there is a £30 voucher for signing up and spending £250 within 90 days.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

Tandem Bank, the small challenger bank, offers 0.5% cashback and 0% foreign exchange fees on its Visa card.  This is your best option at the moment, although it may not be sustainable since Tandem has basically been using it a loss leader.  Representative APR 18.9% variable.

There is also an Aqua Reward credit card offering 0.5% cashback.  However, Aqua is designed for those with ‘troubled’ credit histories – you will get a low credit limit and having an Aqua card on your credit report may (or may not) look good to other lenders.  Representative APR 34.9% variable.

With these exceptions, the market for ‘no annual fee’ cards is moving towards giving you 0.2% in cashback or vouchers on ‘no annual fee’ Mastercard or Visa reward cards.

Do these cards beat the best travel cards?

No, would be my answer, as long as you are smart in using your miles and points.

The three free travel rewards Mastercard or Visa credit cards are still substantially better value than the main cashback cards.  You’ve got:

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard 

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 31st October, you will also receive a sign-up bonus of 7,000 Virgin Flying Club miles.  Our full review is here and you can apply here.  Representative APR 22.9% variable.

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard 

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 22.9% variable.

HSBC Premier Mastercard  

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.

I 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.

If we go over to American Express, the free Platinum Cashback Everyday card will you get you been 0.5% and 1% of cashback per year.  How close to get you 1% depends on how far you go over £5,000 of spending (you get 0.5% to £5,000 and 1% thereafter).

The free British Airways American Express, American Express Rewards Credit Card or Amex Gold (free in Year 1) should all beat Platinum Cashback Everyday.  All of these cards earn 1 Avios or the equivalent of 1 Avios per £1 spent, and you should be able to get 1p+ per Avios when you redeem.  My spreadsheet of the last 7 million Avios I redeemed shows an average value of 1.2p per point, and I am conservative in my valuations.


I am not suggesting that you should drop your existing reward credit cards and switch to cashback cards instead.  It depends what value you place on your miles and points.

Importantly, these calculations don’t take into account the other benefits offered by travel loyalty cards, such as the 2-4-1 voucher on the British Airways American Express or the free airport lounges passes with Amex Gold.  It is always good to be aware of the alternatives though.   If you have tried and failed to get your friends to switch from ‘no rewards’ cards to a ‘miles and points’ card, at least do them a favour and tell them to get a good cashback card instead.

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

Comments (67)

  • Brian says:

    OT Combine My Avios working now.

  • C F Frost says:

    It has ceased to be. It is no more.

  • Hank says:

    OT: Anyone able to tell me if this is possible?

    I would like to take my parents on a first class trip using my 2-4-1 BA voucher. I realise I would have to travel. My plan was to book two first class tickets using my voucher and avios for myself and my mother, and book an economy ticket for my father. One we were on the plane I would switch seats with my father so he could fly first class alongside my mother.

    Would cabin crew allow this/care?

    Thanks for any responses in advance.

    • lev441 says:

      shouldn’t be a problem…

    • Will says:

      Swap boarding passes with father once beyond boarding gate.

      If super conscientious explain to staff on plane as you board.

      • Hank says:

        Thanks for replies.

        Does first class not board at a different time? It’s years since I even went on a plane that had first class.

        • Anna says:

          What a lovely idea! They call F pax to board first, but they don’t have to, there would be nothing to stop them queuing with you then taking your boarding pass as Will says once you’ve all gone through the gate.

          • Hank says:

            Thanks Anna and Rob for your replies. I am much more confident this is doable now.

  • Chris S says:

    Tandem uses MasterCard not visa – good article though!