It looks like the pay.com bandwagon ground to a halt 10 days ago. This was one of the easiest ways to generate free Avios points and potentially trigger credit card sign-up bonuses quickly.
pay.com cards were previously known as 3V Virtual Visa cards. Available in Tesco, Morrisons and elsewhere, you purchased them for their face value of £25.
They were designed to be used for online shopping at places which accepted Visa. For a long time, a loophole allowed you to also use them for certain financial services transactions, including paying them directly into certain bank accounts which accepted debit card deposits.
When bought in Tesco, you earned the standard gift card bonus of 150 Clubcard points for every £50-worth purchased.
At one point, you picked up 360 Avios (plus a chunk of credit card points) simply by throwing £50-worth into your trolley during your weekly shop and then registering the cards and making a £50 deposit into your bank account or against your tax or credit card bill. You could scale it up as much as you wanted as long as you could find enough cards.
Even when the cards were blocked against financial services transactions, there were still ways of using them in full without messing around with online shopping transactions. Sky, Vodafone and many utility companies would accept them as payment towards your account balance for example.
My guess is that the problem for pay.com / 3V is that they couldn’t make any money. I would estimate that over 90% of the 3V cards purchased in the UK were bought purely to generate Clubcard points and/or credit card spend. The people who bought these cards knew how to empty out every penny of the £25 from the card.
(I would be intrigued to see the due diligence done when 3V was taken over at the end of 2014. Surely the new owners would have been aware of this? A simple Google search would have brought up the various HfP articles for a start.)
If I am right – and I would like to stress for legal reasons that I could be wrong! – this would have destroyed the 3V business model. Let’s assume that production, servicing and retailer profit margins ate up £3 of every £25. 3V needed you to leave behind at least £3 on every card before they made any money.
On paper, this could happen. Few online shops let you use multiple credit cards per transaction. 3V assumed that if you received a £25 card as a gift, you might use £19.99 to make an online transaction and then forget about the remaining £5.01, because few online purchases are that small. After a year, 3V would charge monthly fees which would quickly wipe out the balance and make them a profit.
That wasn’t happening. Even people who did use the cards to make an online purchase discovered, if they read HFP, that they could top-up their Amazon account balance for their exact remaining 3V balance.
What exactly has happened to pay.com?
It isn’t clear.
One major supermarket is emailing customers who enquire with a message saying that “pay.com have gone into administration”. I cannot get any verification of this. The ultimate owner of 3V / pay.com is a quoted company – SafeCharge – and they have not made any official announcements about any of their subsidiaries being put into receivership.
This is what we do know:
No pay.com cards purchased after 14th October will activate via their website. You have bought a worthless piece of plastic. Tesco moved quickly to stop pay.com cards activating at the tills and removed any existing stock from their shelves.
Morrisons did not, however. If you are sitting on a card which you bought but which will not activate via the website, you must return the cards to your place of purchase for a full refund. pay.com is also willing to refund cards directly if you post them in.
Cards purchased up to 14th October can still be activated. I would be tempted to clear them out as quickly as possible however, just in case. If you don’t want to top-up your Amazon account, a list of other merchants who acccept them is in this article.
pay.com vouchers can still be purchased via Paypoint terminals. There is a minimum transaction of £30 and a maximum transaction of £150. As no retailer knowingly allows the use of credit cards for Paypoint transactions, this is of little use to HFP readers. I doubt they are selling more than a handful of vouchers via this route.
It is not clear what will become of pay.com. There is talk on the SafeCharge website of launching a new app-based payment wallet in Quarter 4 of 2015. Whether this comes to pass or not remains to be seen. In any event, it makes little difference to HFP readers looking to earn free Avios points and / or hit a credit or charge card sign-up spending target. Time to move on.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2021)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
There are two official British Airways American Express cards:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:
We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)