3V cards no longer accepted by National Savings, utilities, council tax and HMRC

Since I first wrote about them in June, a minor cottage industry has sprung up around the purchase of 3V Virtual Visa cards.

Basically, you can purchase these Visa gift cards in Tesco stores for face value.  The main reason for doing this is to take advantage of the ‘150 Clubcard points for spending £50 on gift cards’ promotion.  It can also help you meet the sign-up spending target on a new credit card.

Once you have your 3V card, you can use it for purchasing goods ONLINE.  If you have a few pounds left on any particular card, you can buy an amazon.co.uk gift certificate for the exact remaining balance.  You can add these onto your Amazon account without having to make a purchase, so the money is there next time you buy something.

3V card

The most common ways of using 3V cards were, however, NOT for purchasing ‘things’ online.  They were used for paying off bills, eg:

  • Council Tax
  • Gas and electricity
  • Inland Revenue
  • Mobile phones
  • Sky / Virgin bills

The most impressive use was to pay them into a National Savings Direct Saver bank accountThis was basically free Avios points.  You would go to a Tesco and spend £50 on 3V cards on your (say) BA Premium Plus Amex.  You would earn 75 Avios for the credit card spend and 360 Avios in Clubcard points.  Pay the money into National Savings and withdraw it.

As of yesterday, though, the game has changed.

3V cards are being declined for internet transactions where you are not buying ‘things’.  Council tax, Inland Revenue, National Savings, gas and electricity companies, Virgin – all dead.  Only Sky still appears to be working.

(EDIT:  Some council tax sites ARE still accepting them, based on feedback.  You may also find they are accepted if you say you are paying with a credit card, not a debit card, albeit that you will normally incur a fee that way.)

For a few people who had bought a large quantity and had yet to pay them into their account, they have a problem – albeit not a disastrous one.  They still seem to be accepted at High Street Vouchers, and Amazon still lets you buy gift certificates with them to add to your Amazon account.  They also, apparently, work for buying gift cards via TopCashBack’s TopGiftCard site.

If you are sitting on a pile of cards, you can also withdraw the balance to your bank account.  The smartest thing to do is pay £1.75 per card to merge the balance onto another card (max £1,000 balance) and then just pay one £3.50 fee to transfer the entire sum to your bank.

It is possible that this is some sort of IT bug.  However, as transactions to Amazon are still going through OK, it does seem that 3V has decided to strictly enforce the ability to only use the cards for ‘things’.

All ‘miles and points’ bandwagons like this come to an end eventually.  Something equally lucrative will be along again soon.  Luckily, because you can cash out to your bank account – albeit for a fee – no-one is going to lose a lot of money on this.

Interestingly, the last straw for 3V may have been people who were buying 3V cards in Morrisons – where they were far more easily available – instead of Tesco.  Morrisons was giving out vouchers for 1p off a litre of fuel for every £10 spent on gift cards.  Assuming that your car takes 70 litres of petrol, you were getting 70p off a full tank for every £10 of 3V cards you bought.  Add in the value of the credit card points and it was pretty lucrative.

3V cards are still worth buying in small quantities, if only to fund your Amazon purchases.  It is worth noting that the ‘other’ Virtual Visa cards sold in Tesco (the ones with the £3.95 fee per £50 card) ARE still being accepted by National Savings, HMRC etc so this is definitely a move instigated by 3V.

Double Clubcard points (=double Avios) at Esso until 22nd December
Triple Avios from Amex Currency Exchange and Moneycorp
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  1. A shame to see a stack of them at my local Tesco today, I took 4 but only 2 would activate – still it’s 150 extra points and a prepayment against my gas/electricity bill.

    An added bonus as they don’t accept Amex too.

  2. Whilst I’ve been loving getting the points from buying these cards there is a part of me that isn’t sad at the changes,scratching out and entering over 450 numbers was tedious but I couldn’t stop myself buying the cards!

    As well as Morrisons I think the increase in sales at Tesco might have led to the changes, all the 3 large Tescos near me recently had vastly expanded their gift card section, in one store I counted 6 pegs worth of 3v’s and the other 2 stores had at least a 2 pegs worth each plus empty pegs where I imagine 3v cards were.

    • What's the Point says:

      I agree Simon, it was an addiction. I couldn’t stop myself going into every Tesco store I drove past!

      Only going to buy in small batches from now (£100), and “spend” them before buying anymore.

  3. Can still use 3V with EDF Energy but TalkMobile repeatedly displays an error. It appears that the 3V review may have closed other channels who you could use previously.

  4. Does anyone know if its possible to pay welsh water bills with pre paid visa cards?

  5. not sure if anyone has mentioned already – but Sainsburys Energy is accepting 3V – just dumped my £200 stash on there!

  6. YES it’s unbelievable how Tesco is now flood with 3V! I have never seen them in my life and now there are plenty of them all around! for me, although the Council does not accept them anymore (luckily i used 4 of them just a few days before the shut down (If only I knew!!!) , they are still of a great great value. If possible I will get them at Tesco, where I recently bought a few, otherwise I will still buy them wherever i can (today i saw more than 40!!). which is the key factor, to meet bonuses and targets and limit the direct debit amount!

  7. Do Sky have any issues with overpaying an account ?

  8. Still working for BusyBees!

  9. Any joy with Scottish Power?

    • Yes – they are accepted by Scottish Power but as Credit Cards with a 1.5% charge. Possibly a last resort?

  10. Southern Electric worked ok for me, although they do charge 1.5% – so only £24.67 credit per card.

  11. Doesn’t seem to be working for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council council tax unless anyone knows different?

  12. Singing Dwarf says:

    Not working for Mid Suffolk District Council council tax via CSDUK or via their automated telephone payment system 🙁

  13. WARNING>>>

    For anyone who prepaid their Sky account using 3v cards, be careful as my Sky account shows a “credit card payment reversal” on 18th December for each of my recent overpayments (paid on 13th December)

    These £25 amounts do not yet show on my 3v account against the old card numbers so this is something I will need to keep my eye on to make sure they aren’t “lost” between Sky & 3v.

    If you did similar recently you may want to check your own accounts & keep an eye on your 3V accounts

  14. Singing Dwarf says:

    I have learnt that 3V have recently started blocking transactions where the Merchant Category Code is 9399.

    Now, where to find a list of which Merchants use which MCC? Visa publish via their website, a list of codes for the US (as it has tax implications there), but I cannot find anything similar for the UK.

  15. I’ve just paid into BT and nPower, no problems with either.
    Will result in less of DD to BT, and nPower will refund the excess into my bank account as they did last time my DD was set ridiculously high.
    Still a good source of extra free points.