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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 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 (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.

  • Roger says:

    I thought I’d make advance Council Tax payments in convenient £100 batches. The first 3x £25 payments worked, the 4th was rejected apparently by the card issuer.

    Then I tried to check my 3V account and got a 502 Bad Gateway message.

    Oo er!

    • Polly says:

      That happened to me one time,, then I made the next payment on the automatic phone payment line, which went through. We should all keep on trying, as they can’t all be blocked.

      • Roger says:

        Thanks, Polly.

        I tried again – the 502 message seems to have been a temporary issue – and got the Declned message.

        I’ll try the phone solution.

  • Trevor says:

    I bought 8 cards on Wed, forgot to process them til Thurs when declined for water bill (Affinity Water), then saw this post first thing Friday morning, which of course didn’t fill me with christmas cheer.

    However, I tried again this morning and it failed online again, failed when talking to Cust. Services, but worked with the automated system – weird – which I needed to use 5 times!

    I’ve also just done a successful online transaction for council tax (Elmbridge). About to try British Gas via various methods…

    As reported above, not all doom and gloom. Keep trying and you should get payments made one way or another. While I know water and council tax are still working, may just go buy a bunch more 3V’s today, hopefully with the 100 point bonus coupons (sadly there were no magazines in stock on Wed -I’ll be visiting different stores today), and get myself into credit.

    • Roger says:

      Thanks for the update.

      Just a note that Affinity Water are one of the (few?) utilities companies that accept credit card payment without surcharge.

      I’ve paid my bill and will get a 3% rebate on my soon-to-expire Aqua card.

    • Rich says:

      As a fellow Elmbridge resident this is good news.

  • Isolde says:

    3Vcards can also be used for some school cashless payments systems. My eldest two cost centres school uses “Squidcard” and I have been able to top up their accounts. This pays for lunches, trips, sports tours etc so is a good spending route. In fact as they charge for Visa and MasterCard credit card payments and don’t accept AMEX it is another route to increasing AMEX spend.

  • squillion says:

    Southwestwater are/ were fine, not tried recently 😉

  • ts77 says:

    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.

  • Simon says:

    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.

  • flyoff says:

    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.

  • john says:

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

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