Company credit cards are rarer than hen’s teeth these days, so it’s not uncommon to find yourself having to shell out for work expenses and claim the money back later.
While the admin involved in reclaiming the cash may be frustrating, this boost to your spending can leave you quids in if you play your cards right and use a specialist cashback or rewards credit card.
The best scheme for you will depend on how much you spend, whether you already clock up frequent flyer points and where you travel to and from.
Airport lounge: American Express’ own Membership Rewards scheme also offers lounge access
To give you a better idea of what you could earn, we have calculated what you could get from a £1,000 monthly card spend and what adding an extra £500 a month on work expenses could do to boost your earnings.
We have crunched the numbers to help you choose the most lucrative card for you offering free air miles, reward points and cashback.
Before we jump into details of each card there are a few key warnings to take note of.
Card companies design these deals to encourage you to spend more in the hope that you won’t clear the debt and they can apply interest.
This interest will far outweigh the value of any perks or cashback so set up a direct debit to clear the full amount each month.
Remember the most attractive cards won’t be available to everyone, they will typically only be offered to those with the best credit scores so check yours before you consider applying.
Travel in style – Up to 48,000 points and free lounge access
American Express has a new Preferred Rewards Credit Card that pays Membership Rewards.
The major benefit of these points is they can be swapped, like-for-like with a handful of big name airline schemes, including British Airways, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest and Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub.
This means you get more choice of airline for the same number of points. It’s a premium card with a £140 annual fee though, but it is waived for the first year (and 22.9 per cent interest on spending). What you get:
- 20,000 Membership Rewards if you spend £2,000 within three months,
- 10,000 points for every year you spend more than £15,000
- One point for each £1 of spending
- two points per £1 for foreign currency spends or airline bookings.
A decent alternative for lower spenders
The American Express Rewards card offers 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £1,000 within three months.
You get the same one point per £1 spend on the card.
Interest is charges at 22.9 APR per cent.
Stick £1,000 on your card per month and over the course of the first year you could clock up 32,000 points thanks to the sign up bonus and everyday spending.
That’s enough for a return flight from London to Marrakesh with BA or to LA with Virgin Atlantic.
Add £500 each month for work-related expenses and that pushes earnings to 48,000 points, worth a free Premium return ticket to Hong Kong with Virgin Atlantic from London.
Aside from just points, the card comes with other perks too.
Cardholders also get two complementary Priority Pass lounge visits for you and a guest each year.
If you book a room through the Membership Rewards site for two or more nights you can also get a free room upgrade and $75 (£53) hotel credit.
This is available at all hotels part of its Hotel Collection which includes chains such as Hilton, Intercontinental and Conrad.
Cash carrot: Spenders could earn up to £195 in the first year from a £1,500 monthly spend.
Cash is King – £195 annual earnings
Cold hard cash has some advantages. First and foremost it doesn’t limit you to using the ‘reward’ to any one company or for a certain use.
Budget airlines often cost far less than the likes of British Airways or Virgin Atlantic so the cash boost can still be used for flights, but with more choice and possibly even at better value.
There are two long-standing eye-catching deals paying up to 5 per cent, and a few that offer lower rates along with other perks. The top two options are American Express cards though, which are not as widely accepted.
The first, the American Express Platinum Cashback Credit Card is best for anyone likely to put £9,000 or more on their card each year. You get:
- 1 per cent up to £10,000,
- 1.25 per cent on £10,001 and above,
- 5 per cent in the first three months (up to £125).
The drawbacks however are a £25 annual fee, and a higher than average interest rate on spends at 22.9 per cent (28.2 APR per cent).
A £1,000 monthly spend earns £195 in the first year after fees, and £100 every year after that.
Add on another £500 per month for work-related expenses to reclaim from your company, and you could earn £255 in a year. In the second year without the sign up bonus that drops to £175.
The second option, the better deal for lower spenders is the American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday option. You get:
Nationwide’s Select Credit Card pays 0.5 per cent cashback but you must be a Flex current account holder.
Santander has an All in One credit card that pays 0.5 per cent cashback. It comes with a monthly fee of £3, but 123 current account holders don’t pay the fee for the first six months.
NatWest’s Rewards Credit Card pays 1 per cent back on supermarket spending and anything spent with one of its MyRewards scheme retailers. Everything else clocks up 0.5 per cent. It costs £24 per year unless you have one of its Reward Current Accounts.
- Spend up to £5,000 and earn 0.5 per cent,
- £5,001 and and above earns 1 per cent,
- 5 per cent back in the first three months (up to £100).
You must spend at least £3,000 on the card to qualify for any cashback at all, and it comes with 22.9 APR per cent interest.
If you are willing to manage your account by smartphone app, Tandem Bank is another decent option.
It pays a lower 0.5 per cent back on spends but you also get free overseas spending and withdrawals.
A £12,000 spend on the card would earn you £60 in a year or £90 including £500 per month of business expenses.
Bermuda: Big spenders can earn enough points to get a free return flight
Old favourite – up to 40,000 BA Avios and a free companion voucher
Avios credit cards have long been a top favourite for those who travel on business.
While the number of cards offering Avios points has dwindled, the British Airways American Express credit cards are still good option, particularly for companion vouchers that allow a friend or family member to travel with you when you redeem your points on a flight.
The American Express British Airways Premium Plus comes with a £195 annual fee and 76 APR per cent interest, but here’s what you get:
- 25,000 bonus Avios if you spend £3,000 in three months,
- Free companion voucher after a £10,000 annual spend,
- 1.5 Avios per £1 spent,
- 2 Avios per £1 on BA holidays and flights.
A £1,000 monthly spend on the card earns a total 40,000 points in a year including the sign-up bonus, plus you get a companion voucher effectively doubling the value.
That’s enough points to get you from London to Bermuda and back again.
Add a £500 monthly expense from travelling for work and boosts your pot to 47,500 Avios, just shy of the 50,000 you need to get to San Francisco or Mexico.
Alternatively the American Express British Airways credit card has no annual fee and interest at 22.9 APR per cent. You get:
- 5,000 Avios when you spend £1,000 in the first three months,
- 1 Avios per £1 spent,
- A free companion voucher after £20,000 annual card spend.
A £1,000 monthly spend would earn you 17,000 Avios including the bonus. That could get you to Portugal or Spain and back, but you wouldn’t have spend enough to earn the companion voucher.
For an average £500 monthly spend on business expenses you could boost earnings to 23,000 Avios in the first year. That’s enough for to get you a return trip as far as Turkey.
Virgin Atlantic: Virgin Money recently launched two new credit cards offering Flying Club miles for spending
New kid on the block – up to 42,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles
Virgin Money has this year launched its Virgin Atlantic cards, taking over from MBNA which withdrew its airline credit card range last year.
Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have any short-haul destinations in Europe, but you do get more bang from your buck when you cash in your points.
Similarly to BA Virgin Money has two options. The premium Reward+ Credit Card costs £160 a year with 22.9 per cent interest on purchases and gets you:
- 15,000 points on your first card purchase,
- 1.5 Flying Club miles for ever £1 you spend,
- 3 miles for every £1 you spend with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays,
- A companion voucher or free upgrade after a £10,000
So a £1,000 monthly spend therefore gets you 33,000 airmiles in the first year, plus the free upgrade or companion ticket. That could get you and a loved one to Las Vegas and back.
Add an extra £500 per month to spending and you boost the figure to 42,000. This could get you two Premium class return tickets to the Caribbean.
If you opt for the free version, The Virgin Atlantic Reward Card with a 22.9 APR per cent interest you get:
- 5,000 bonus miles on first card purchase,
- 0.75 mile per £1 spent,
- 1.5miles per £1 spent with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays,
- A companion ticket or upgrade after a £20,000 spend,
Using this card therefore a £1,000 monthly spend earns you 14,000 Flying Club miles and a £1,500 spend each month gets 18,500.
This is just shy of the minimum 20,000 points needed for a Reward flight, but this will get you as far as New York or the Caribbean.
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