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Free Avios or Flying Club miles via the 3V Virtual Visa Card and Tesco – our findings

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Yesterday, in this article, I explained how Tesco is now including Visa branded gift cards in its ‘150 bonus Clubcard points for spending £50 on gift cards’ promotion.

At the time, I had only been able to test it using the physical Visa gift cards which carry a £2.95 fee for the £25 version and the £3.95 fee for the £50 version. 

I had successfully bought £50-worth for £53.95 and received the 150 bonus Clubcard points.  I had also successfully used the card as a Visa Debit to pay £50 off my tax bill.

I mentioned that Visa Virtual Cards are also now available in Tesco.  Late on Monday I managed to find some in the Tesco Metro in Covent Garden. 

The genius of these cards is that THERE IS NO PREMIUM TO BUY THEM.  And they are included in the ‘150 bonus Clubcard points for spending £50 on gift cards’ promotion!

£50-worth of virtual Visa card therefore costs you just £50 – which will get you 150 bonus Clubcard points!  And you can pay in Tesco with an Amex card, which allows you to earn miles and points via Amex AND work towards the target spend for any sign-up bonus.

(You should also be able to use any ‘conditional spend’ Tesco coupons, ie £5 off £50, to buy these cards.  You cannot use them for Tesco gift cards but other brands usually go through.  I have used them in the past on Pizza Express gift cards.)

As I said, there is no physical credit card.  You get a ‘virtual’ Visa number.  You go to the 3V website, register your card, and you are emailed an actual Visa number together with an expiry date and a security CVV code.

Now, how can you use these cards?

Various Head for Points readers picked up some of the cards yesterday and have been playing with them.  What we have found is:

  • You CANNOT use them to pay MBNA or Amex bills online – 3V rejects them
  • I also rang Amex and tried to pay my bill by telephone – I failed
  • You CAN use them to pay HMRC to settle your tax bill, and it is treated as a Visa Debit with no surcharge.  I successfully did this yesterday.
  • You CAN obviously use them with most online retailers
  • You MAY be able to use them online to buy Premium Bonds which you could cash out – this needs to be tested

However, by far the easiest and most efficient way to use them is for something which allows part-payments and accepts only Visa Debit or charges a premium for a credit card.  Council tax, Inland Revenue etc are obvious targets.

You can also use them for mail order or telephone purchases.  This may be an easier way of using them, as via the telephone a retailer may be able to split payment between a 3V card and another card for the balance.

There are, however, some more interesting tweaks.

Via the 3V website, you can merge together different registered cards.  There is a £1.75 charge for this.  This does however make it a lot easier to use them online, because you can merge together enough cards to get to whatever level you need for a particular online purchase.

3V will transfer the card balance to your bank account for a fee of £3.50.  Now, this is clearly not cheap.  However, if you merge various £25 cards together (paying the £1.75 fee) you could presumably just pay one £3.50 fee to withdraw the money.

Let’s say you spent £250 on 10 cards.  You would pay 9 x £1.75 fees to consolidate the balance on one card plus a £3.50 withdrawal fee, so a total of £19.25.  (The maximum balance per card is £1,000.)  You would have earned 375 Avios points on your BA Amex on the £250 spend plus 750 Clubcard points, worth 1800 Avios.  That is 2,175 Avios for £19.25 plus you are £250 further towards meeting the spend threshold on your new Amex card to trigger a bonus.

(I wouldn’t bother doing this if you don’t have an Amex sign-up bonus to hit – the Avios are not particularly cheap and its a bit of a faff.  Far better to use the cards for normal online shopping.)

These cards are also available at other retailers, including Morrison, Boots and WH Smith (selected stores only in all cases).  It is less interesting without the Clubcard points, but if you have council tax or Inland Revenue bills to pay, you will still get some benefit from it.

Note these other clauses in the rules – “you cannot activate 3V Visa numbers with a total value greater than £1625 in any 365-day period without providing sufficient evidence of your ID and home address” and “you cannot redeem more than £650 from your 3V Visa numbers in any 365-day period without providing sufficient evidence of your ID and home address”.

For me, as I still have some tax due on July 31st, I will be trying to pick up as many of these as I can.  Make sure you use them ASAP, though, as 3V may change the rules at any time.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (May 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous 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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital on Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and FREE for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (171)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Dan says:

    I don’t think buying Premium Bonds online would work as the minimum purchase is £100 and each card is £25 (without paying a premium to merge card balances). I’m not sure if the £100 rule applies on the phone.

    There were 5 left in my local Tesco last night, and I’m going to try 2 more Tescos ths morning to try and stock up for my July tax bill if there’s no free way to withdraw the cash.

    • Daleroxxu says:

      The £100 rule applies over the phone too. The only way to buy less is by paying with Standing Order, then it’s £50.

      But I wonder if paying over the phone you could get them to accept 4 x £25 transactions on separate cards to buy £100 of Premium Bonds. (Saving 3 x £ 1.75 merge fees on the 3V cards).

  • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    I’ve been using 3V cards to pay council tax since the 150 club card bonus started. The steps to increase the redemption limit are quite onerous though – you have to post a certified copy of your passport or driving licence and two utility bills or bank statements. This was what led me to stop.

    • John says:

      Well you don’t have to use your real name and address…

  • Chris says:

    A few things to bare in mind. The balance on these cards expires 12 months after activation. There are monthly fees, but these are only charged in the 10,11,12th months, and is taken from any remaining balance on the cards (ie no balance no fee). This is the only source of income I can see that 3V has from these cards, so they are clearly banking on people not spending the full balance within the first 9 months. These cards probably won’t last much longer given the surge in creative new spending patterns they are probably going to be seeing. Get them while you can.

    • Mr Bridge says:

      what about using them for currency?

      • Ben E says:

        I think using them for currency is a good shout… the currency houses offering the best exchange rates I’ve seen (on only accept debit cards. Getting cash this way would ensure you get a good exchange rate and points at the same time

  • Steve says:

    I’m awake now so have read the Tesco site properly now.
    From what it says, you are able to use the Visa Debit version in store. I collect 2 points for £1 with my Virgin Amex, so:
    100 Virgin points for the £50 spend on the card
    150 Tesco points for buying the card
    50 Tesco points for spending the card instore

    Average monthly spend at Tesco would be nearly £500 inc fuel, so now I should get 18,000 miles per quarter.

    *I won’t be keeping any card longer than a week as I’ll use it straight away
    *Not sure what fees will be involved in getting the card if I use it straight away

    Please, please correct me if I am wrong 🙂

    • Rob says:

      Your maths is correct, but don’t forget the £3.95 per £50 card fee on the physical Visa debit card.

      You also cannot really include the miles earned when buying the card either, as you would use that card anyway in Tesco so the miles are not additional.

      To do what you suggest, it is simply a matter of whether you value 375 Flying Club miles at more than £3.95.

      • Steve says:

        “You also cannot really include the miles earned when buying the card either, as you would use that card anyway in Tesco so the miles are not additional.”

        I meant you would get the normal 1 clubcard point per £1 spend instore – unless I’ve got this bit wrong.

        Again, happy to be corrected.

        • Rob says:

          No, not on gift cards. They do not earn points at all, apart from the bonus.

          • Steve says:

            Aah ok, thanks

          • Steve says:

            Just 1 more question (sorry)

            The £3.95 fee – do you pay that when you buy the card, ie you hand over £53.95 or is it taken off the balance of the card, ie you pay £50 for a card with £46.05 to spend.


          • Rob says:

            With the card, you pay £53.95 at the till

      • Trevor says:

        Alternatively, if you buy the 3V cards and do an online shop, then you save the fee and the points are all free. Of course you may have to pay extra for delivery etc, but maybe you would have been paying that anyway. Alternatively, if you do a Tesco Online shop and collect instore, then it’s free anyway and you’ve been able to use the 3V cards.

    • Mr Bridge says:

      you are sort of right, if your talking about the debit card and not the vitual card.
      The debit card cost £3.95 for £50 (7.90%).
      so you would spend £53.95 on the card , getting you 106 virgin miles.
      for £100 you would get
      207 miles
      300 ccp (750)
      100ccp (250)

      1207 miles per £7.90 fee(£100 on card) which is 0.654p per mile

      • Steve says:

        1207 miles per £7.90 is extremely good, cos I’d be spending that £100 in Tesco anyway.

  • Graeme Taylor says:

    Just to clarify, do you receive 150 points for every £50 spent on cards, or 150 points for a shopping trip that includes at least £50 worth of cards? In other words, if I find somewhere with a stash of the visa cards, do I need to break up in to separate transactions?

    Also, as the 150 points count as regular rather than bonus points, would a point-doubling voucher work?

    • Dan says:

      You get 150 points for every £50 spent on cards. I bought another £200 (8 cards) this morning in one transaction and got 600 points. They are listed as bonus on the receipt, so I doubt that a point-doubling voucher would have any extra benefit.

    • Rob says:

      You don’t need to do separate transactions.

      (EDIT: Deleted rest of comment as appears to be based on incorrect information!)

      • Sinizterguy says:

        Are you absolutely sure about this Raffles ?
        I routinely buy £20×5 and have got the 300 points for them each time.

        • Rob says:

          Well, clearly not, if you’ve been getting the points 🙂

          I was told this by someone else a few months ago who had only got 150 points for a £100 spend. Perhaps Tesco has now fixed the system, or the person who told me had tried to buy an ineligible card.

          • jonny says:

            I believe this was because the cards were mixed companies, i.e. not totalling £50 for the same retailer, suggests that if you buy £100 for next for example then you would get the 2 bonuses, but if you by £20 for 5 different companies you might not.

          • Mr Bridge says:

            no you can mix and match cards as long, and you get the points for each £50 spent

  • Mr Bridge says:

    i have a question about using these cards online, supposing i spend £78 online, get to the checkout, and input the first card, will the card decline as there is only £25 credit on it, or will the system let me input another card.Then can once i have used 3*£25 can i pay the £3.
    Also how does the linking to paypal work.( and are paypal behind these cards)

    • Chris says:

      The first. It will decline as there is only £25 credit. You should use it only for purchases of £25 or less (therefore the best way is where you can specify the amount you want to spend – ie utility bill, council tax, hrmc etc)

      • richard says:

        This is not 100% accurate. some websites will let you pay using numerous cards. do and also hayes and jarvis . some others do aswel i think a few flight companys do. they email you a form and you pay your total bill in 2 amounts. i know this as me and the gf always pay50/50 on holidays/flights hotels etc.

        • Chris says:

          I think in the context the OP presented it is accurate. Most Online payment screens only give you the chance to input one payment card – and in those cases trying to pay £78 with a card that has a balance of £25 should cause it to be declined. What you are suggesting is another way to pay (which is offline), and that is another options for sites that allow that.

    • Rob says:

      Depends on the retailer but very few let you split payment. Your only options for a £78 payment would be a) pay by phone, when you often can split payment, b) if you can, use the £25 to order an e-gift voucher for the same shop, as they usually CAN be used with part payment, c) buy multiple 3V cards and pay £1.75 to merge the balances.

      Paypal has nothing to do with 3V but 3V has specific rules about what you can and cannot do with Paypal, as outlined on their website.

  • Joule says:

    A thought on how to dispose of the money on the virtual visa debit card: how about topping up your ISA online? I’ve not tested it yet (still trying to find a Tesco in London with these cards!) but my ISA provider (HL) lets me top-up my ISA with a debit card, seemingly with no minimum amount. Or you could pay the money into a regular share dealing account and then withdraw it direct your bank account.

    As soon as I can get my hands on these cards, I’ll test and post back!

    • Mr Bridge says:

      I too have thought about this, and not tested it, i use selftrade. I know that they require a match on postcode for a debit card, i will get 1 card and give it a go.

      • Rob says:

        Postcode match is not an issue. When you register with 3V they take these details and they are used if the retailer attempts a postcode match.

    • jonny says:

      just looked at my Halifax account, they require a bank account number that matches the card, so I guess that is a no go for me.

    • Rob says:

      There seems to be a block against using the cards with a retailer which is coded, in the Visa / MasterCard system, as Financial Services.

      We had the same issue with the Paypal Prepaid Card a few years ago.

      HMRC is obviously coded differently which is why it goes through. I assume all deposits with banks will decline, but HL may be OK.

      • Nick Burch says:

        Hargreaves and Landsdown topup of £25 from a 3v card just worked fine for me!

        • Simon says:

          What did you topup Nick? I just had a look at the Hargreaves and Landsdown website and most of the products they listed seemed to have minimum topups of more than £25.

          • Nick Burch says:

            Minimum on most funds is £500 in a lump sum, or £50 per month. However, if you already have a direct debit setup for a monthly investment, you can add cash online, then ring them up and ask that they invest the cash along with your monthly investment to avoid the higher one-off minimum. For this month, you need to ring them by midday on the 7th to arrange for any cash on account to tag along with your monthly regular payment.

            That probably all means it works much better for existing H&L customers with savings plans setup looking to add a bit more, rather than one-off new people. However, it has been suggested that you could top up your Vantage Fund & Share Account with the cash, wait a few days, then do the free withdrawl via BACS. Not sure if that really works, nor how long that’d last though…

  • Roger says:

    As I’ve already paid my tax bill, I can’t believe that I’d actually want to pay some more!

    Mrs Roger has a tax bill to pay that she would normally pay by bank debit card earning no miles. I foresee a difficult task to persuade her of this alternative. Perhaps if I tell her that she would earn 5x RFS’s that would help (including the Avios from the BAPP). Nah, she wouldn’t believe that, so I’ll have to volunteer.

    Now just to find the 51 3V cards she needs …

    OT: how can I sign up to receive individual new COMMENTS as opposed to new topics? If I understand correctly, I can ask to be notified of follow-up comments on a topic I have contributed to but not otherwise. Thanks.

    • Rob says:

      You would need to make a dummy comment in order to be offered the option to receive further comments on the topic by email (I think).

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