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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 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.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2023)

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:

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 21st February 2023, the sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is increased to 35,000 Avios from 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

35,000 Avios (ONLY to 21st February) 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 £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

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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.

  • Nick. says:

    Luckily I deposited my last £500 worth into my NSANDI account on Wednesday then.

  • Trickster says:

    Damn it! I didn’t get on this bandwagon soon enough. Stocks have recently reappeared in my nearest stores so I’ve bought a few. Only used them for Sky so far, and was about to post a form to NS&I to get my login details for an old account.

    I saw a comment in a previous post of yours about 3V stating Tesco Bank as a cash out option, but I couldn’t get it to work. I assume if this were possible, it’s now dead too.

  • Mr Bridge says:

    npower and edf and sky all ok today as at 6.00am.

  • Paul says:

    Ouch. If true will mark the end of a very profitable run for me. Fortunately I always diposited mine the same day into NS &I and there have been no cards on the shelf for around a week.

    If NS&i are now not accepting them does this mean there are not accepting any debit cards. Need to test that later today but would have thought that such a move counterproductive.
    How have the managed to identify 3v from day an HSBC bank debit card?

    • Mr Bridge says:

      no its only 3v cards that nsandi are declined by 3v.
      I reckon 3v held back new stocks of cards until this was sorted, hence why tescos have been bare.
      bought 3v in boots, and the backing card is a new glossy design, i bet you see them in tesco next week!!

      • Flashware says:

        I saw lots up in Boots in Birmingham last week with the new design. Morrison’s still had the older stock, but also had a big supply.

      • Lady London says:

        I always wondered if Tesco staff had become interested in this.

    • Flashware says:

      They could perhaps just be blocking debit tx from Raphael’s Bank, the issuer of the 3V cards.

      • sandgrounder says:

        More likely 3v cards are no longer allowed for financial transaction codes. Every transaction type has it’s own code. It how some providers block gambling, etc.

    • Rob says:

      Other debit cards are going in OK, as are the ‘fee’ Visa cards sold by Tesco

      • Mr Bridge says:

        nsandi transactions are listed as ‘goods’ and not financial services, hence why they worked before.
        The transactions are being declined on the grounds of ‘cardholder not present’
        its uop to raphs bank if they accept cold holder not present on a merchant my merchant basis, they obviously good not change nsandi merchant type, and therefore had to find another way to block the transactions.

        • Lady London says:

          Does that mean cardholder would also not be ‘present’ if paying into account over a Post Office counter ?

  • sandgrounder says:

    RIP 3v. I wasn’t a super heavy user, but it was nice to have the option.

  • Danksy says:

    I only managed £11k worth 😀

    • Rob says:

      My experience of these things, over 10+ years, is that – whilst your sentiments are sound – when a really good deal comes along you should hit it hard, because other people will anyway.

      • Lloyd says:

        To a degree I agree with you Raffles, although arguably NS&I will have lost a fair amount of money from something they never had any part of in the first place.

      • Nick says:

        Absolutely spot on!! This applies to many things in life too

    • Trevor says:

      Lucky you – I’ve just bought £200 I’m not sure how to use, and only managed £7.5K, and generated about 100k Avios. Some interesting other things mentioned in these comments though, so maybe not totally free like this (or indeed, in point-profit), but still some good point and card churning possibilities.

  • Jamed67 says:

    So sad but thanks Raffles, I collected a stack of magazines yesterday and was just about to mount a 7000 clubcard assault on tesco this weekend for 3V cards so, but for my visits here, I would have been sitting here next week with £1k of cards. Will miss this game but not thr mindnumbing boredom of processing the cards. Worth it though as I think I got through about 100-120k avios on it as I had a local country store with no competition for the cards 🙂

  • julie says:

    Thought I was being too lucky finding 40 of them in Tescos yesterday, serves me right for being too lazy to plug them into my NS&I account

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

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