Bits: HMRC to stop accepting prepaid cards, 25% off selected Etihad redemptions

More news in brief as I try to clear my inbox!

HMRC to change the rules on accepting credit and debit cards

When cards were still available, using them to pay any HMRC liabilities was smart.  They were treated as a debit card, so you saved the 1.4% HMRC fee, but you could buy them with a credit card.  If you bought them in Tesco, you also picked up a lot of Clubcard points.

The ‘fee paid’ Visa gift cards which you can buy in some Tesco stores can still be used for this purpose.  If you have some Tesco ‘conditional spend’ coupons – I was sent £9 off a £60 spend recently – it is worth buying them, especially as every £50 purchase earns you 150 Clubcard points.

From January 1st, the rules will change.

To quote from the HMRC website:

From 1 January 2016, HMRC will limit the number of times you can use a credit or debit card within a certain time to pay your tax. The rules apply to multiple card payments against the same tax – you can only make extra card payments if each one’s for a different tax, eg Corporation Tax and employers’ PAYE. If you’re unable to pay your VAT bill in full by card, you should use another payment method like a bank transfer.”

The only logical reason to do this would be stop the use of prepaid Visa and MasterCard products.

You should note that the credit card fee has also increased to 1.5%.  This seems ludicrous given that the new EU rules capping interchange fees at 0.3% come into effect next year.

Thanks to Jonathan for this.

Etihad 350

25% off selected Etihad redemptions

Etihad Guest is offering 25% off some redemptions if you book before 25th November.  The snag is that the travel window is ludicrously tight – you need to fly out by the end of November and return by 10th December!

You can see the routes which are covered here.  Dublin and London are reduced for Economy redemptions whilst Manchester is reduced for First Class redemptions.  If you are travelling beyond Abu Dhabi, you would also need to see if your eventual destination was included.

The small print contains a couple of nasty surprises.  It claims that these redemptions would be non-refundable (although less of a worry given the short travel window) and that you cannot combine it with the generous Etihad ‘cash and miles’ payment option.

I find the whole promotion a bit odd, to be honest, as a 25% discount (to a very limited list of destinations) is not enough to encourage you to literally drop everything and fly.  If you have a redemption already booked, however, it may be worth changing it!

Bits: Gate 365 / Avios e-store shopping deal, Virgin / Moneycorp promotion
Exclusive Head for Points £15 Uber sign-up code launched
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. How can increasing fees,,on payment methods, be a way of encouraging people to pay their taxes.

    • Sebastian says:

      You don’t need to encourage people to do it they since have to do it regardless, so they’re probably thinking ‘why not milk some extra cash?’

      • Lady London says:

        Not even sure a legal challenge couldn’t be mounted, if HMRC is trying to charge 1.5% when interchange fees are 0.3% which presumably reflects the ‘cost’ of processing card payments. 0.3% must already include a profit element surely? After all I’m sure there must be some legislation about HMRC not supposed to make a profit or charge fees beyond costs?

  2. First has only been offered at MAN for about 3 weeks whilst the A346 has been subbing for a 77W on one of the daily flights. I understand this is due to a shortage of 777s while some are in maintenance. Once the 77W is back on both daily flights it will be business/economy only again.

  3. I wonder what the limit is?

  4. Presumably the issue with HMRC is that they pay a flat fee plus a percentage.

    The 1.4% would have been calculated on the flat fee being an irrelevance as these transactions should be in the thousands of pounds range. Putting through a bunch of £25 transactions will shift the equation, meaning they would have to up the 1.4% fee (again) or take this action.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      The fee is for credit cards. Prepay cards and debit cards don’t have a surcharge. There’s no automatic mechanism for falling interchange fees to be passed onto most merchants, so my guess is that HMRC’s procurement function dropped the ball.

      • So does this mean the HMRC are breaking the new EU rules and law?

        • No, it means that the EU directive is poorly thought out / deliberately designed to increase profits of large retailers

        • Sebastian says:

          Indeed it’s laughable when they gave the justification that the savings will be passed onto consumers.

      • Yes, but there will be a flat fee charged to HMRC per debit card / 3V

        • The_Real_A says:

          I thought, but could be wrong the mastercard charged mercehents credit card rates for their prepaid card.

  5. “I was sent £9 off a £60 spend recently – it is worth buying them, especially as every £50 purchase earns you 150 Clubcard points”.

    I received a £12 of £80……..but it says on the back “Cant be used against ….. gift vouchers”.

    Does it scan anyway?

    • It can’t be used against Tesco gift cards. All other gift cards are OK. It is likely that the check out person will get grumpy but ask them to scan it and see – it will work ok.

    • My experience is they never work with ‘fee paid’ Visa gift cards. Used to work with GC…

      • I have used two of the current batch of £10 wys £50 to buy fee paid visa cards and will use the third this week, hopefully with cake coupons.

      • Interesting, they definitely worked for me on the fee-paid ones – the money-off discount was how I could justify buying them to myself when 3Vs were sold out!

      • I did it last year on some fee paid ones and it was OK ……

        • I bought 4 £25 paid visas today and it spat out a £15 off wys £100 voucher.
          At my next tesco I bought 6 £25 paid visas and used the £15 off coupon and it spat out a £13 off wys £90.
          At my next tesco I bought another 6 £25 paid visas and used the £13 off coupon.

  6. OT: can you please confirm that TING at the Shard is not a way to spend Golden Circle pts any longer? or I misread the list

    I got 800pts, would need to round to 1000 and spend…still possible?

    • You can use TING if you order vouchers in advance, but not for instant dining. So you would need a minimum of 1000. If you go to another restaurant that does do instant dining, you could use up your 800.

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        There’s also a $50 voucher for 500 points.

        • Lady London says:

          hmmm I only have 400. When I tried to increase them the system was not functioning and I forgot to go back on another day. Have done a quick read of their latest email but can’t see a way of using my miserable 400 points. Seems like 1,000 is the minimum to use these now? I don;t think I can make it to Ting before Christmas and that’s probably a blackout period anyway. .

      • ah!! that’s what I want! the vouchers! I got confused but that Instant thing! thanks! So the plan is to go for a couple of drinks, gather the points, and splash the cash (vouchers!) 🙂 thanks!
        do you think they still check the name on the account?

  7. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    Rob – do you fancy submitting a FOI request to HMRC to understand how much credit card payments are costing them and their rationale for the fee increase?

    Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll be subject to The Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, so there’s no legal obligation not to turn the fee into a revenue line.

  8. Completely off topic but after a bit of practical parenting advise. Planning our first holiday with our baby next April and he will have just turned 1 and we’re looking at using hilton points for a trip to Dubai. My question is, what do people with babies / toddlers do in the evening when staying at a hotel. At the moment he’s out like a light by 7pm and in his cot. Obviously at home we put him down and then cook a meal / watch TV etc. But when you’re confined to a hotel room how the hell does that work? Dont want to be going to bed at 7pm or sitting in darkness in the room but cant see any other obvious option other than being confined to a balcony if the room has one? Surely people dont leave young kids in the room especially after the whole Madeline McCann situation? Or are they just more flexible when they get to 1 years old and he’ll sleep in a buggy?

    • Sussex bantam says:

      Welcome to the world of box sets…

      • But thats the thing I cant see him sleeping with noise or light in the same room – especially with the TV on!

    • Get a babysitter who comes after child is asleep and sits in room, with a reading light, with the child and your phone number. Did this many times.

    • Our daughter is nearly 15 months now, we haven’t stayed in one place for an extended period of time as yet but spent a couple of weeks touring Ireland just before she was 1 and have had a few 1/2 nights away….

      We have tried (unsuccessfully) to settle her in the buggy so that we can go back out, and have only left her with a babysitter a couple of times at home, so haven’t fancied using a hotel’s service (although if there for a week plus, I imagine we might do)!

      …the best option for us has been to hope that she is in a good/smiley mood when we check in and ask nicely if there are any bigger rooms/suites available so that she “can practice her walking”… if that doesn’t work then we end up hiding on the other side of the bed until she settles and then spend the night whispering over room-service!

      • Thanks for the responses guys. I can’t see the missus being willing to trust a ‘random’ employee of the hotel but I’d be ok with it. Whats the going rate for a babysitter at a hotel like the Conrad? Wont be cheap I’m guessing? The other thing I was thinking is, if I paid for a suite as the first night’s stay and then booked standard room redemptions on points for the rest of the nights – how likely would it be that we’d be able to stay in the suite (especially if we get Hilton Gold via the plat)? I’m guessing not very likely!

        • I did book one night in a suite (paid) then two free nights (one each) and they agreed to leave us in same room. As I was gold by that time we were upgraded too. This was in Toronto; it would vary between properties but would cause them more work to keep giving you different rooms.

        • Yep I think they are unlikely to be that generous…

          My wife & I travelled with our first 2 kids around Spain (a month) & Thailand (2 x 2 weeks) when they were various ages under 4 (they’re 2 years apart). Never really any problems, they get more tired than normal (because you’ll be doing more with them during the day) so they sleep more easily & deeply, I guess we put a sheet over the cots when they were younger to keep the hotel room light from glaring down on them but just quieter conversation than normal or TV on low was fine. My wife was generous enough to let me go off tapeando on my own & she just read.

          We even spent about 8 weeks going round New Zealand with 3 kids when my daughter was born – but that was more straightforward because of the motel scene, more space etc.

        • It’s normally around £20 per hour per child.
          Kids clubs normally have a good service in these hotels, for similar cost, but your child may need to sleep in their pram/buggy.

        • You don’t get a random employee, you get a proper babysitter. They will have a roster of locals they call on.

  9. What a Shame. I’d just devised a way to actually make money from paying off my tax bill using paid visa cards. Never mind, it’s a moot point now :-/

  10. O/t nice article here

    Now you can charter a private jet to Europe for less than £500

    Flight sharing and empty leg booking services for private air travel have opened up a whole new world to travellers looking for a premium experience

    James Connington
    By James Connington

    4:58PM GMT 20 Nov 2015

    New services have brought the price of private air travel down below the £500 mark, with a flight to Geneva possible for as little as £310 per person.

    For the vast majority of people, private jets don’t even factor into the equation when booking a holiday, with such extravagance presumed to be the territory of movie stars and Silicon Valley billionaires.

    Flying private means no lines for security or customs, flying into a wider range of airports, and flexible departure times, but normally comes at an exorbitant cost.

    However, thanks to flight sharing and empty leg booking services, the cost of chartering a private jet is becoming more comparable to business and first class commercial pricing.

    A number of companies have sprung up to accommodate those who want to go the extra mile for their holiday or business trip, but don’t have the means required to book full price charters.

    Telegraph Travel Awards, Private Jet to Jersey
    A private jet to Jersey for four, including a unique “three-course three-venue” Michelin star lunch experience.

    • READER OFFER: Get your first currency transfer for free

    One such company is private jet charter website Victor, who offer an empty leg flight booking service.

    An empty leg flight is where private aircraft have been booked one way only, so have to make the return flight with no passengers – these flights can then be sold on to others at a discount. Although the departure times aren’t flexible, up to 75pc can be saved according to Victor.

    At the time of writing, their website shows 30 available empty leg flights, ranging from as little as £310 per person for a light jet from Geneva to London, up to £1,579 per person from Los Angeles to Hawaii on New Year’s Day.

    A one way first class commercial flight from Los Angeles to Hawaii on the same day would cost anywhere from £500 to over £1,000 depending on the airline used.

    That would mean flying outbound on the chartered flight and returning first class could potentially only cost an extra £500. A traveller willing to fly back in economy could negate the extra cost of the charter aircraft entirely.

  11. Does anyone know, in regards to etihad miles expiring after 2 years, whether you need to spend the miles within 2 years of have travelled within 2 years?

  12. I just started looking into this and am going to attempt to pay at least part of my tax bill before the ‘bar’ comes into effect! Thank you! (PS I note a 2K limit in buying these cards….I so wish AMEX could be taken by HMRC)

  13. Joe Heptonstall says:

    I just went into a tesco store and they charge £3.95 for each £50 prepaid visa gift card.

    I have a huge tax bill to pay now and hoped to do it this way but need to get free one paid visa cards for it to be worth it.

    Can someone please advise

    Thank you

    • The free ones no longer exist in Tesco unfortunately.

      • Joe Heptonstall says:

        Are there any free ones at any other stores or online shops, or more to the point, What’s the best way to pay a large tax bill whilst trying to earn as many points as possible. Thanks so much

    • A lot of people only buy the £3.95 fee visa cards if they can use a conditional spend coupon sent through the post which in most cases pays for the fees attached.
      E.g. I purchased two £50 Visa cards this week, used a £10 off coupon so was still £2.10 up and 500 clubcard points in total by using two of the new magazine coupons, just used both cards to credit my eon account online.
      Next week I have a £7.00 off coupon, I will use this against another two cards costing me £1.00 for another 500 cc points and I will repeat in week 3.
      If you have no conditional spend coupons, if you use a mag coupon you will still get 250 cc points for £3.95.

      • 250cc points translates to at least 600 Avios

        • Yep even without conditional spend discounts you might try it multiple times provided you had the patience. Eg with a 2 point Amex card, + unlimited catalogues, the £3.95 fee (1x £50) means 700 Avios ie 300 Avios for free.

          Do this 20 times to pay a few bills, you’ve got 6000 free Avios.

          Not for me, time vs reward, though a conditional spend would swing it.

  14. ‘From 1 January 2016, HMRC will limit the number of times you can use a credit or debit card within a certain time to pay your tax.

    There isn’t a set limit – it depends on HMRC’s view of what’s reasonable based on payment card industry standards and guidance.’

    So if you want to buy paid Visa giftcards and put the total on 1 card, would that work? Let’s assume you regularly get conditional spend discounts & want to build up a decent card total.

    150 points for £50 = 360 Avios = £3.60
    plus you get another 50/100 Avios for the purchase.

    You MIGHT be able to justify it if you get said conditional spend discounts but for HMRC purposes it depends on whether you can add many cards together & do 1 transaction.

  15. What would be the best way to pay a 10000 tax bill ?

  16. Anyone having problems entering prepaid visa cards into HRMC? It was working this morning but now getting “payment unsuccessful”

  17. Same here. Only the first one went through ok. Is the limit in place alreday?

  18. rams1981 says:

    anyone else paid HMRC using the supercard? It’s linked to IHG card and gone through fine. No charge for using it either

  19. Bob Moore says:

    Bought £1k of £50 Visa Gift cards to pay Tax bill, HMRC online has only allowed 10 payments in the last 24hrs, will this reset or is that the new limit coming into being early?!