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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 (July 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

30,000 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 (to 27th August) £400 to spend at Amex Travel 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.

  • Oliep468 says:

    Could you not buy these vouchers in store on your credit card and then pay of your credit card bill with the voucher? In essence getting 150 cc points for nothing?

    • Rob says:

      No, they are blocked for transactions with banks and credit card companies. This is normal for a prepaid card, the (now gone) Paypal Prepaid card worked the same way.

      • Dom says:

        The Hilton Honours Visa does accept payment with the 3V card however I’ve done 2 debit card transactions in 2 days and it now says I’ve reached my limit of payments for that period (whatever that is).

        • Rome77 says:

          Thanks for this info Dom – sounds very interesting. The message about having reach your limit of payments – is that given by the website when you’re trying to make a further payment with a 3V card?

          • Dom says:

            It might be that I tried to do a second card payment minutes after a successful transaction. I left it a few hours and tried again however it just keeps on blocking it saying it not authorised so it’s really hit and miss.

  • James67 says:

    What a hoot, Hollywood could make a movie out of this! My luck was in for a change; I live in a village that just happens to have a good sized tesco. When I went in yesterday they had 26 3V cards but when I came out they had none 🙂

  • Iain Beale says:

    The gf and I have cleared out our local Tesco in the last 2 days. Ive paid £800 towards my council tax so far. Wasn’t there some £650 limit in a year? Went past that no probs but have run out of cards now.

    • Andrew says:

      3v says you’re limited to 650 redemption per year, but I think by redemption it means transferring to a bank account. I think the spend limit is higher (and is presumably per person, not per household).

  • vindaloo says:

    Tried a couple of central London Tescos today but you lot have obviously beaten me to it. Great call if you can get in on the action.

    Note to self: move up north (although not where Yozza1977 lives) before the next deal like this comes along.

  • Johnny5a says:

    Hmm I have a Corporation Tax bill to pay which my account says it’s fine to do that and claim it back from company on expenses.

    • Rob says:

      You should definitely consider paying corporation tax on plastic, even a normal credit card, because the 1.4% fee should be tax deductible which makes the points cheaper.

  • Shaun says:

    tried using these today:

    -Scottish Power treat it as a credit card and attempt to levy a 1.4% card fee.
    – Sky declined the transaction.

    anyone else experienced these issues?

    • Mr Bridge says:

      sky took mine

    • Squillion says:

      No levy from EDF Energy.

      Didn’t others report Sky accepted payment? Did you try a second time just in case a digit was wrong?

    • Colin says:

      Just to add, Sky accepted the 3V online card without any issues.

  • Squillion says:

    There’s probably a way to free up the money if you’re prepared to be inventive.

    Eg imagine you paid £1000 to Sky then closed the a/c and asked for your balance to be returned to you. They would no doubt ask for the credit card numbers you used so that they could send the various £25 amounts back to the correct card (I’d be surprised if they store more than the last 4 digits).

    But you tell them the cards were one-shots and have been disposed of.

    What are they going to do? They can’t keep your money so one way or another they’ll send it to you, probably to the card of your choice.

    Now I don’t want to close my Sky a/c just yet so I’m just wondering how I can apply the same principle to another a/c. Any ideas?

  • Mr Bridge says:

    i am pretty sure you can ask the checkout to take £25 of each visa card.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, a ‘real’ shop can do this. Won’t work with 3V though as no real card.

      Remember that the 3V cards are valid for telephone sales as well, so you may be able to partpay an order for something by calling rather than doing it online.

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