Regardless of how good we are at saving, we all have to spend money. But – are there smarter ways to gain the most out of the money we are going to spend anyway? Absolutely, and you can do so by following this guide to maximising cashback, getting the best credit card and smart spending
Cashback, Credit Card & Smart Spending Guide
1. Cashback is the Kicker
Cashback Credit Cards
There are so many credit cards out there it’s hard to wade through them. Here we have focused on the best card combination for maximising value from cashback, ensuring you can use them everywhere, and some alternatives if you have different preferences.
For the money savvy, the idea of having a credit card and being in ‘debt’ is not attractive and most hate the idea at first – but it can save you a small fortune each year. If you always pay back in full and pay by direct debit so you can’t forget, credit cards are a great way to maximise value on your purchases. Using a credit card also gives you payment protection, can help increase your credit score and manage your cash flow more effectively.
Also note that you can see and monitor your credit score for free – see our Finance Tools page for how.
From experience, here are our top credit card picks:
- American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday – Main Spending Card – the best cashback card out there for main spending, and for a big spend in introductory period
- 5% cashback on purchases for first 3 months (max £100, so £2k spend)
- 1% thereafter above £5k, 0.5% up to that amount
- Tandem Cashback – Backup Spending and Travel Card – pays cashback at home and abroad with no conversion fees
- 0.5% cashback at home and abroad – perfect for back up and travel
- Mastercard accepted almost everywhere
- Bonus Card: Curve Debit – ‘Non-credit card credit card‘ – pay on other credit cards, with a debit card
- Connect your other credit and debit cards to this single debit card and manage/switch between them in app (use code 0CDWZ get £5)
- Useful to pay in places that don’t accept credit card, or to slim down your wallet (does not however, take AMEX)
- Withdraw a limited amount of cash on your credit card per month without fees or affecting credit report
- Forr some tricks on how to make best use of this card – sign up to our newsletter and send us a message
- Alternatives – these cards are good if you are unable to get the others, or have a preference for Tesco or Amazon as retailers:
- Aqua Cashback – simple 0.5% cashback credit card that is easier to obtain with a lower credit score
- Tesco Clubcard for Purchases – get 1 point for every £4 spent + normal clubcard points when spent in Tesco at 1 for £1 (1000 points is roughly £10 in vouchers, which can also be converted into other clubcard benefits)
- Amazon Rewards Platinum – 0.75 points for £1 spent at Amazon, and 0.5 points for £1 spent elsewhere (1000 equates to £10 in Amazon vouchers)
Don’t forget that you can also use our Little Debits Account Tracker to make sure you record and remember your details (opens in Google Sheets, pw: littledebits)
The next thing you might consider, is to sign up to a free cashback site, as these can be your cornerstone for free income over time. As you can see here from my account, I’ve earned nearly £1.5k in cash over the last 3 years just from purchasing things I was going to purchase anyway and getting cashback:
How Does it Work?
All you have to do is sign up, then when you find something online you wish to buy, you check the site to see if that merchant has a cashback %. Click their link and it records your session, and it should track your purchase as you click out of the site, then show as ‘tracked’ before it pays out a few weeks later, where you can choose to take it out as cash, or for a bonus % withdraw with retailers such as Amazon, Argos, Debenhams and many more.
Even better, if you use the Chrome, Firefox or Safari internet browsers, you can automatically be notified of cashback as you are browsing the merchant by just installing the browser extension here. Just note that deals don’t always track, so it’s a good idea to make a note of any larger cashback claims and keep the email receipt so you can claim it on the website later.
2. Smart Spending is King
Best Pricing and Highest Value
It may be obvious that you would like to find the best prices and get best value out of your money, but it’s not always clear where or how to do that. Here we list some websites and tools to do that, and lay out an example to help you in the future:
- Crowdsourced deals – if you are looking for something specific or simply want to browse, these websites can be a great source for finding ridiculously good because they are crowd vetted and the best ones are voted to the top. The main one and the much bigger site is HotUKDeals, but you can also check out it’s alternative LatestDeals. You can also generally find some fun freebies and more reliable voucher codes on the former.
- Price Comparison Sites – for something specific in any of these categories, we recommend the following comparison sites in order:
- Products (Electronics, Books etc.) – Flubit, PriceSpy, PriceRunner, Idealo although your go to might be Amazon or Ebay for speed and ease
- Home Utilities (Energy, Internet, Mobile) – USwitch, Money Supermarket, Compare the Market, Go Compare
- Insurance (Car, Home, Life, Travel) – Confused, Money Supermarket, Compare the Market, Go Compare
- Flights and Hotels – Expedia, Lastminute, Kayak
- Mortgages – Money Supermarket, USwitch, Compare the Market + online automated brokers Habito and Trussle
- Amazon UK – the titan, the king of internet sales, is usually a good place to start. Whilst it is also a huge website to search for anything, there also some great tools to use with it, and some alternatives. One excellent tool to use is CamelCamelCamel to copy and paste the product link, which gives you a full price history of the product, or browse their Top Drops which shows you products with the biggest price reductions over the time you choose. Then of course there is also the great alternative for some good deals and harder to find items, Ebay.
- Dicount Codes, Vouchers, Coupons – there are so many of these sites everywhere that trawling through any number of them is usually more frustrating than it is rewarding – the most effective plan tends to be to simply Google ‘Discount Code’, ‘site you are looking to buy from’ and ‘current year’ together and see what pops up.
- Points Cards – generally it’s preferable to get cold, hard – usually digital – cash via cashback. But, if your purchase comes with points that would be otherwise wasted and they are little effort to collect, might as well we say! These tend to be good if you shop with a certain supermarket such Tesco for Clubcard Points, or Sainsbury’s for Nectar Points (also useful for Expedia, Argos and other retailers).
- Store Cards – we mostly advise against store cards unless you regularly purchase a lot from that retailer or benefit from a long 0% interest. Managing them on top of your credit card is usually not worth the effort, and it often locks you in to that retailer (which is what they are trying to do).
- Free or Used – often you just can’t do better on value than used, especially for items like furniture and large household goods. For that, it’s got be Freecycle, Gumtree or Ebay Local. If it’s a used car you’re after, Autotrader is your first port of call.
Don’t forget a lot of these can be combined and if you are lucky you can get what we call a miracle stack!
- Find great deal on HotUKDeals, it’s 40% off – Camelcamelcamel or PriceSpy confirm it’s the cheapest it’s ever been, £600 instead of £1000
- After a quick google you find discount code ‘£50-off’ and pop it in the box, £50 more off!
- Quidco browser add-in informs you there’s a 5% cashback deal from that site and you go through Quidco to claim it (£27.50 off) – that will pop in as a nice surprise next month and you can claim it in cash or for an extra bonus if you claim a voucher e.g. a £30 Amazon code
- Purchase the £550 on your acquired AMEX reward card for 5% cashback (£27.50 cashback)
- Pay off AMEX balance with your Curve Card onto your Tandem cashback card for another 0.5% cashback (£2.75 off)
- If the Quidco tracks and all goes well, that means that initial £1000 went down to £600 and then finally is just under £492.25 when the discounts and cashbacks kicked in, and sometimes the deals can be even more dramatic.