Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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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.

3V 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.

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.

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.


HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Card

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2022)

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

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £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 UK’s most valuable card perk – the 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 £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

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

30,000 points and unbeatable travel 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

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios 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 a £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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 (173)

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

  • TimS says:

    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

  • 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.

  • Iain says:

    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.

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

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