Best credit cards of 2021

We compare the whole UK market daily so you can bag the best credit card for you, be that the biggest rewards, longest 0% interest offers or lowest fees available.

There are several types of credit card, so the best for you will depend on what you’re trying to do (and your credit score). As lockdown eases, you may be thinking about major purchases or travel – there are cards designed for each. We’ve listed the main categories with step-by-step advice on how to choose the best credit cards of each type, plus our “top pick” recommendation (find out how we choose our top picks). Learn what customers think about their card issuer in our league table of customer ratings.

Best rewards credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Benefits: 2 complimentary airport lounge visits every year, 30,000 Membership Rewards Points welcome bonus (provided you spend £3,000 in your first 3 months) plus an ongoing earn-rate of 1 point per £1 spent.
  • Account fee: Year 1 - £0, Year 2 onwards - £140 per annum.
  • Why we like it: Amex is working super-hard to entice and retain new customers, coming top in our latest customer satisfaction survey. This statement rewards card offers points by the bucketload – both when you join, as you spend, when you refer friends or add an additional cardholder, and also on the anniversaries of your being a cardholder. Plus there are more perks to unlock through the app. Did we mention travel inconvenience and travel accident insurance (subject to enrolment)?
  • Need to know: While accepting Amex is increasingly becoming the norm, some places still only take Visa or Mastercard.
  • Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.5% (variable) p.a. with an annual fee of £140 (£0 in first year), your representative APR is 59.9% APR (variable).

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About rewards credit cards

Rewards credit cards offer points or cash based on the amount you spend, and may also offer an introductory “welcome” bonus. Your points “earn-rate” may vary according to where you use the card – a Tesco reward card will earn you points at a higher rate when you use it in Tesco, for example. You can typically redeem your points for shopping, travel, gift vouchers, etc. Premium rewards cards may bundle in other perks, like airport lounge access for example, but this could be offset by an annual fee, in which case you should weigh up whether the benefits would outweigh the running costs.

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Best balance transfer credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Interest-free period: 0% interest on balance transfers for 20 months.
  • Account fee: £0.
  • Why we like it: Yes, you could easily find a longer 0% deal on the market, but this is the longest deal with no transfer fee or account fee (albeit with a very average revert interest rate charged after the 0% period is over). So if 20 months gives you long enough to clear your balance, this could be the card for you.
  • Need to know: If you think you'll need longer than 20 months to clear your balance, then a balance transfer fee could be worth shouldering.
  • Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).

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About balance transfer credit cards

Balance transfer credit cards let you move existing credit card debt to a new card, where you’ll enjoy 0% interest on the balance for a set period. At the end of this introductory 0% period, the card’s standard rate kicks in – which is typically much higher. Provided you don’t use them for additional spending, these cards allow you to clear debt faster, because all of your monthly repayment goes towards the outstanding balance. The catch? There’s generally a “balance transfer fee” to pay – which is a percentage of the balance you’re transferring.

Best balance transfer cards

Best 0% purchase credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Interest-free periods: 0% interest on balance transfers for 22 months with a fee of 2.9%. 0% interest on purchases for 22 months.
  • Benefits: Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
  • Account fee: £0.
  • Why we like it: This versatile all-rounder from M&S gives you a lengthy break from interest on both purchases and balance transfers, and even earns rewards on your spending. With no annual fee and a low reverting purchase rate, it can help keep the cost of your purchases down.
  • Need to know: M&S devotees will get the most out of this card.
  • Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).

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About 0% purchase credit cards

0% purchase credit cards let you make purchases up to your credit limit and then pay 0% interest on them for a promotional, introductory period. At the end of this period, any outstanding balance will start to accrue interest at the card’s standard purchase rate, which will be much higher.

Best 0% purchase credit cards

Best cashback credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Benefits: Get 5% cashback on your purchases (up to £100) for the first 3 months of Cardmembership, and 1% thereafter.
  • Account fee: £0.
  • Why we like it: An accessible and easy-to-use card that rewards your everyday spending with cashback. With no annual fee, you can also keep your costs low, provided you pay off your balance in full each month.
  • Need to know: If you don't pay off your balance in full every month, you're likely to pay more in interest than you'd earn in casback, and a 0% purchase or low rate card might be more suitable for you.
  • Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.5% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.5% APR (variable).

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About cashback credit cards

Cashback credit cards reward you for spending in the form of pounds or credit on your account. How much you can earn will depend on the card’s “earn-rate”, plus any “earnings caps”. Cards that are affiliated with a brand may offer a better earn-rate when you spend with that brand, and in some cases cards come with an introductory enhanced earn-rate for a specified period or an enhanced earn-rate once your spending has exceeded a specified threshold.

Best cashback cards

Best travel credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Benefits: Fee-free currency conversion on non-sterling transactions and cash withdrawals.
  • Account fee: £0.
  • Why we like it: Halifax's Clarity Credit Card is the nation's go-to holiday credit card for good reason. It's one of a tiny group cards offering commission-free non-sterling cash withdrawals in addition to the more common commission-free card spend, all with no account fee to worry about.
  • Need to know: If you do use it to withdraw cash overseas, this part of your balance won't benefit from the usual 0% interest grace period (plus watch out for local atm fees). Additionally, multiple credit card cash withdrawals could start to hurt your credit score.
  • Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.93% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).

About travel credit cards

These credit cards are designed to make it more affordable to spend money overseas or online with international retailers. Unlike most debit and credit cards, they don’t charge a foreign transaction fee when you use your card to spend in an international currency. Currencies will usually be converted using the standard Mastercard rate or Visa rate. Just remember that “fee-free” does not mean “interest-free”.

When you’re using one of these cards, don’t forget that if a merchant/bank abroad offers to take payment in sterling (this is called dynamic currency conversion), you should decline and choose to pay in the local currency. Otherwise the it will be the local bank or merchant whose currency conversion fee structure will apply, rather than your card issuer’s.

Best travel cards

Best credit builder credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Benefits: Aqua aims to say Yes to those with bad credit who might have been rejected by other lenders. This card's accompanying app and text alerts are designed to put you back in control.
  • Account fee: £0.
  • Why we like it: Aqua's classic card has been designed as a stepping stone to its big sister card, the Aqua Advance, which offers a more competitive rate.
  • Need to know: Try to clear your balance in full each month so you avoid interest altogether, as this card (like other credit builders) charges a relatively high interest rate.
  • Representative example: Assumed credit limit £1,200, representative 29.7% APR (variable), purchase rate 29.75% p.a. (variable).

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About credit builder credit cards

Credit builders are simple credit cards designed to improve credit scores, for people with bad or no credit history. Expect low starting credit limits which can be quickly reviewed provided the card is used responsibly. This type of card will often be a “stepping stone” product to credit products with a better interest rate.

Best credit builder cards

Best frequent flyer credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Benefits: Collect 1 Avios for every £1 you spend plus a 10,000 Avios welcome bonus if you spend £1,000 in your first 3 months.
  • Account fee: £0.
  • Why we like it: With no annual fee this is a great introduction to collecting air miles. You can also opt for the Premium Plus version to get an even better earn rate and heftier intro bonus in return for an annual fee. If what you'll earn in rewards outweighs the annual fee, then that could be a smart choice.
  • Need to know: If you're not going to pay off your balance in full each month, chances are you'll pay more in interest than you'll earn in air miles. If that sounds like you, you could consider a 0% purchase or low rate deal instead.
  • Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.5% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.5% APR (variable).

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About frequent flyer credit cards

Frequent flyer credit cards let you earn frequent flyer points or air miles on everyday purchases, either directly or by transferring card reward points to your chosen airline loyalty programme. These cards tend to be more premium options, so there’s often an annual fee to consider, but chances are it’ll be offset by some tasty perks.

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Best money transfer credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Interest-free periods: 0% interest on money transfers for 18 months with a fee of 2.99%. 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months with a fee of 4%.
  • Account fee: £0.
  • Why we like it: This specialised card lets you move funds to a different account and avoid paying interest (you'll just pay the one-off transfer fee), and this is one of the longest around. Unlike other 0% offers, money transfer deals give you much more flexibility – great if you need to pay several parties in cash, for example.
  • Need to know: The 18 months interest-free applies to money transfers you make in the first 60 days. You'll need to earn at least £14,000 p.a. to apply.
  • Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.93% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).

About money transfer credit cards

A 0% money transfer card allows you to make transfers from the credit card to your bank account, and won’t charge interest on this balance for a specified period. After the 0% period, the card’s standard rate kicks in, which is invariably much higher.

Compare money transfer cards

Best student credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Benefits: Enjoy a credit limit of at least £250 and up to 56 days interest-free credit on purchase (provided you clear your balance in full each month).
  • Account fee: £0.
  • Why we like it: The HSBC Student Credit Card beats than most of its competitors on rate, while still having no annual fee. There's even a few cheeky perks to be had through the bank's Home & Away program.
  • Need to know: You'll need to hold an HSBC student bank account to apply. Some other banks claim to offer offer higher credit limits on their student cards, but these are tailored to the applicant anyway.
  • Representative example: When you spend £500 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).

About student credit cards

Most student cards are tied to a student bank account – in other words you’ll usually need to hold a student account with a particular bank in order to be eligible to apply for its student credit card. Student credit cards come with no annual/monthly fees, but low credit limits and uncompetitive rates (in part due to the limited credit histories of many of the cards’ users). As such, it’s not advisable to carry a balance from month to month. However, provided you don’t, you’ll usually be able to take advantage of up to 55 or 56 days of 0% interest on your purchases each month – a handy buffer when you’re waiting for your next student loan payment.

Compare student credit cards

Best “all-rounder” credit card

  • Finder rating: ★★★★★
  • Interest-free periods: 0% interest on balance transfers for 26 months. 0% interest on purchases for 20 months.
  • Account fee: £3 per month.
  • Why we like it: As the name suggests, the Santander All In One credit card is a jack of all trades, offering generous 0% interest periods on both balance transfers and purchases, and 0% on currency conversion as well as letting you earn cashback – all in return for a small monthly fee.
  • Need to know: The very longest 0% deals on the market can be found on more specialised cards.
  • Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 17.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 23.7% APR (variable).

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About all-round cards

These cards are designed to serve multiple needs. You’ll get the best of both worlds when it comes to 0% interest deals – with interest-free periods on both purchases and balance transfers, and potentially other useful features like the chance to earn rewards or even fee-free overseas spending.

Compare all-round credit cards

The best credit card companies for customer satisfaction in 2021

We asked cardholders to rate their satisfaction with service, and whether they’d recommend their card issuer to a friend. We’ve shown both for each brand in the table below. Our independent survey of 1,861 card customers was carried out in December 2020. The table is ordered by percentage of customers who said they’d recommend the brand to a friend.

Card issuerOverall satisfactionCustomers who’d recommendOverview
American Express logo★★★★★95%American Express has been top dog for customer service two years running. It offers a range of credit cards with tempting rewards such as lounge access, and the exclusive Experiences rewards programme.View deals
Barclaycard logo★★★★★88%An arm of the oldest bank in UK, Barclaycard has some of the longest balance transfer periods on the market and also offers rewards and everyday cards. However it’s range of cards is dramatically smaller now than it has been in recent years.View deals
M&S Bank logo★★★★★84%Like other credit card retailers, M&S Bank lets you earn M&S on every credit card transaction, and preferential foreign exchange rates.View deals
Lloyds Bank logo★★★★★83%Lloyds Bank has a wide variety of credit card products, with rewards, cashback and even specialised cards for large purchases.View deals
NatWest logo★★★★★83%NatWest offers specialised rewards and balance transfer cards, as well as a student credit card.View deals
Halifax logo★★★★★82%Halifax lets you combine 0% balance transfers and purchases on one card, and also issues the super-popular Clarity card with 0% currency conversion fees.View deals
Tesco Bank logo★★★★★80%Tesco Bank has a wide range of credit card products and lets you earn Tesco Clubcard points on every transaction you make using your card.View deals
Virgin Money logo★★★★★80%Virgin Money provides a number of bonus credit card programs, such as Virgin Red, and offers discounts across the entire Virgin Group. With a Virgin Atlantic credit card, you can also collect air miles to spend on flights and upgrades.View deals
Santander logo★★★★★80%Spanish banking giant Santander offers generous cashback benefits and credit cards aimed at those looking to travel abroad.View deals
Sainsbury's Bank logo★★★★★78%The UK’s second-biggest supermarket brand, Sainsbury’s lets you earn Nectar points on all credit card transactions, with bonus points for new customers.View deals
HSBC UK logo★★★★★78%One of the world’s largest banks, HSBC has an extensive credit card product range, with 24/7 customer service and global reward systems.View deals
aqua logo★★★★★78%Aqua credit cards are specifically designed for those looking to build their credit score. Unlike other credit-builder cards, Aqua also lets customers earn rewards for using their card.View deals
Capital One logo★★★★★77%Capital One offers credit-builder cards for people with limited or damaged credit files, aiming to say “Yes” when other card issuers wouldn’t. The interest rates for Capital One cards are high, so not paying off balances in full each month can get expensive.View deals
MBNA logo★★★★★71%MBNA is part of the Lloyds Group and offers a range of credit cards with extended 0% balance transfer and purchase periods.View deals

Frequently asked questions

Are reward point credit cards worth it?

If you carry a balance on your credit card from month to month (rather than clearing your balance in full), then you’ll usually pay more in interest than you’ll earn in rewards. If you always clear your balance in full each month, however, then with most cards on the UK market, you won’t pay interest at all, thanks to a grace period on purchases. That means that, provided you choose the right card and use it carefully, you can earn reward points without paying interest.

Some rewards or frequent flyer cards come with annual or monthly account management charges, but thankfully, plenty don’t charge this fee. If you think you would spend a lot on a credit card but would also clear your balance in full each month, then paying an annual fee might actually be worth it. That’s because these are the cards which tend to come with the best reward point earn-rates.

Can I get a credit card with bad credit?

Possibly, yes. Although realistically some top cards will be off the table, there are plenty of card issuers that specialise in credit builder cards – which are specifically designed for those with a damaged or limited credit history.

Additionally, the interest rates and credit limits of credit cards are often tailored to the applicant, which means you may find that you are offered a card, but with a relatively low opening credit limit, and potentially with a rate that’s higher than the advertised representative APR.

Which credit card gives the best travel rewards?

Virgin Atlantic and American Express are frequently to be found battling it out at the top of frequent flyer comparison tables.

If you can make your peace with an annual fee, the British Airways Premium Plus Card offers the highest Avios earn-rate, while Amex’s Preferred Rewards Gold Card comes with two complimentary airport lounge visits annually.

How we choose our top credit cards

Founded in 2006, Finder has been comparing credit cards for more than 13 years. However, we’re not the type to ask you to trust us because of that. Here’s an overview of the criteria we use to pick our favourite credit cards:

  • Our partners. Our “best” credit cards are generally chosen from among a pool of credit card providers we have partnerships with. We’re transparent on this, and it can allow us to offer you exclusive deals you won’t find anywhere else.
  • The best at doing the job they’re meant to. There is no absolute “best credit card” for everyone, so what we try to do here at Finder is help you find a card that works for you and your needs. That’s why we picked a card for each of the main types.
  • Quality and price. Zero annual fees and low APRs sometimes don’t tell the whole story – we take them into account, but also look at what you get in return.
  • Going the extra mile with rewards. Some credit cards do the job just fine, but don’t give you anything else and turn out a bit depressing in the long run. We like credit cards that go the extra mile and treat you with nice little ongoing rewards, be it tickets for your favourite concert or extra supermarket loyalty points.

Finally, we check whole-market rates, fees and terms every single day in order to make sure that the features on our credit card tables are accurate – you won’t get any nasty surprises once you move from our website to the card issuer’s.

Customer satisfaction ratings methodology

In December 2020, we ran a customer satisfaction survey on credit cards. 1,861 people responded and gave us their opinion on their current credit card provider.

The survey asked respondents how satisfied they are with their credit card (using a 1-5 rating) and whether they would recommend the brand to a friend. We converted the responses into star ratings and produced a shortlist of the top-performing companies based on customer satisfaction. When there was a draw, we used the recommendation score (that is, the percentage of customers who said they would recommend the brand to a friend) as a tie-breaker.

You can get a full breakdown of our ratings methodology for credit cards here.

Credit card ratings

★★★★★ — Excellent
★★★★★ — Good
★★★★★ — Average
★★★★★ — Subpar
★★★★★ — Poor

The customer satisfaction score (“You say”) is based on a survey of 1,861 customers carried out in December 2020.

Learn the details of our methodology and scoring.

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

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