Your council tax bill for 2017/8 will be dropping through your letterbox in the next few days. Earning Avios or other points by paying your day-to-day bills is something that a lot of people ignore.
Unfortunately, because of the huge range of utility companies, it is difficult to write a detailed post on paying utility bills by credit card. I have been doing this for years, though, when I can. There are a couple of things always worth remembering:
Some utility companies keep quiet about their willingness to take credit cards. Thames Water bills do not mention that they accept Visa or MasterCard credit cards. They presumably want to avoid paying the processing cost if they can. Yet, head over to the Thames Water website and you’ll see that Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted – with NO surcharge.
Some companies do add a surcharge for paying with a credit card. You need to do the maths to see if it is worthwhile. When we had Sky for our broadband, there was a 50p credit card surcharge. Depending on what card you pay with, these small surcharges may be worthwhile.
Most interesting, though, is this one: It seems, very occasionally, that some companies who do NOT take credit cards do let the odd one slip through! My local authority is Kensington & Chelsea. They are adamant that only debit cards are accepted for online payment – the website says:
“we accept British-issued debit cards for MasterCard and Visa and Switch, Solo, Visa Electron, Delta and Maestro Debit cards”
However, for the last five years, I successfully used my bmi MasterCard (RIP) or my Marriott MasterCard to pay my bill! This is very attractive for me as there is no surcharge at all.
It doesn’t work with all cards. I once tried using a Tesco MasterCard and the system recognised, correctly, that it was a credit card and not a debit card. I have no idea why some cards work – presumably there is a database somewhere that tells the payment system which cards are credit cards, and some must have been missed off!
It is all very odd, when you think about it. Because of the cut taken by the card processor, my council presumably receives less money than it is expecting. I am credited with having paid the full amount, however, and the council clearly never bothers to try to reconcile the difference.
If you have any interesting stories about settling utility bills on points-earning plastic, please post them below.
PS. There is an interesting loophole in using PayPoint to pay bills. Most Co-Op stores have a PayPoint terminal which you can use to settle council tax or other bills. For some odd reason, the Co-Op has never clamped down on the use of credit cards with PayPoint. Reportedly (I’ve never tried it myself) you can use this facility with an Amex or other credit card and the staff are unlikely to stop you. A list of PayPoint locations is here. Depending on your council or the utility involved, you may need to request a PayPoint payment card first which can be scanned in.
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