The end of pay.com – an easy Avios earning opportunity closes

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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.

Pay com card

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.

Love Clubcard, don’t collect Avios?  You should be reading our sister site, Shopper Points (www.shopperpoints.co.uk), which covers the latest Clubcard and Nectar offers without any distracting frequent flyer talk!  Why not check it out now?

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Comments

  1. New about this a week ago after buying £450 worth from morrisons the stinker is I had spent months trying to find the hallowed accounts you could pay them directly into and had just cracked it lol oh well back to the drawing board just another day msing

    • What's the Point says:

      Scott – care to share??????

      • My lips are sealed it took literally months to figure it out multiple accounts, searching countless forums etc etc maybe there is still a use for it somehow but maybe worthless now either way I’d rather not 😉

      • OK, here goes: you were able to pay 3Vs directly from paypal into another paypal account and withdraw them to bank within 2 minutes, provided that the paypals didn’t have soft holds on them. They would go through as debit cards with no fees if you used paypal gift.

        • If you’re wondering what a soft hold is, do some digging into paypal

        • That’s a new one for me not what I did but I wouldn’t entertain doing that or anything to do with PayPal after they froze my account with £900 in it for 6 months with no appeal they can literally do what they please I hate PayPal grrrrrrrrrr

          • What's the Point says:

            Agree, not one for me either. Paypal view this type of activity in a dim light.
            Not worth getting your Paypal account locked for a few Tesco CC points.

        • Paypal banned me for doing that… They wanted statements proving I owned the debit cards and refused to acknowledge that they were in fact prepaid cards.

  2. hi everyone
    I am new to this what’s this 3vs you all mention?

  3. Am I right in saying this only applies to the prepaid visa card, and not to any other branded gift cards that can be purchased from tesco (ie B&Q, Debenhams etc)?

    • Yes it’s just the pay. com ones all the other gift cards are unaffected including the paid for visa gift cards

  4. Phew, I Was worried I’d left it too late – £450 worth lingering in the pay.com account since Aug, transferred to HMRC through WorldPay this morning, which seemed OK.

    I’ve been quite late to this party – never really noticed miles or Avios, collected Clubcard points or had an Amex before the beginning of the year, then I found this site. What a fab hobby – just booked the family (4 of us) DXB in BA club at Easter with 150K left over – Thanks Rob (for the info and the card referrals)

    • Thanks! May see you on the flight back in that case (going down via Abu Dhabi). Should have the new BA lounge (and indeed the whole new Concourse D) finally open by then ……

  5. Nice spot, Phi, thanks – had been considering a move to Santander too, this would avoid the need.

  6. come on do not make unnecessary alarmism people! it seems like the business model is changing but if you do not have official grounds to say it is going under adminstration please do not! as always there will be another arbitrage opportunity coming round the corner…ok, fine, that was amazing but we will find another way to travel for free or get into J! as said, this is a lifestyle and that can still produce a large quantity of miles if carefully planned and manifactured. regarding the £ being stronger against Eur, i do not agree, it s still lower than a few months ago, just over the last few days got back around 1.39 but the ex EU deals must follow competition rules or else plus probably oil prices which were not previously reflected into pricing. Said that, over the last few months I have considered more than once buying cash revenue tickets (or done that) saving my large stack of avios for future use or for RFS/2 241 business/first redemptions. And i have to say that my parameters of arbitrage are performing very well against pricing (redeeming for VERY expensive flights, mainly last minute or similar). good luck, all of us and do not forget to buy the maximum allowance of SPG every year…i always try to do that.

    OT i need some quick help about the Etihad offer. I have now reached my targets for Lufthansa and AA/Virgin. I am a large Visa spender in addition to Amex, I would trigger the bonus in the first transaction with the Etihad deal. Concretely, once i get the card, and being able to to up if required with Amex MR, plus the idea of booking a business return when on offer (£1000-1200, ex eu or not) in the next 6 months) and triple or quadruple miles (or crediting to Alitalia Freccia Alata) will i be able to get a good deal redeeming ex eu to Asia or else? I am willing to keep the taxes as low as possible. Evn 2x Economy would be fine. does it make sense, shall I apply for it? in the end it would be >20000 miles against 2000 AA/MM/VA…alternative would be getting an Avios card…but for what it pays for Visa…it’s not even worth considering getting a new credit check on my file.
    anyone done it recently?

    • Good post and you know your stuff I believe just from reading this post.

      I am glad this is now closed as the process of buying cards from Tesco was very time consuming and their till system to activate the cards was not professional, never mind the fact of not being able to find any very often.

  7. ups, i just saw the lenght of my comment, a bit long? 🙂 goodnight all

  8. Just spent my last £2000 today, was a wake up call to not leave these sort of values in other peoples limited companies, not worth the risk whether they are broke or not, if operations are not operating normally then its time to jump ship!

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