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Earning Avios for paying your council tax – and other utilities

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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.

Council tax bill

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.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

Comments (150)

  • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

    Agreed, utilities and council tax I would never pay by credit card given that I’d lose the 3% from NatWest.

  • Neil Murray says:

    I’ve been paying my gas and electricity bills with an Avios card for 10 years now, I think. EDF is the energy provider.

  • Frenske says:

    Ditto using Santander 123. They have increased fees and lowered interest but still for people with high current account balance it is a good one.

    • Genghis says:

      I disagree. I have Santander 123 acct but pay as many bills with Amex at Paypoint as possible. 1% for CT with Santander IIRC vs min 10% on an Amex sign up bonus

      • Brighton Belle says:

        +1. Limited to £200 per transaction at my Coop so needs multiple trips. I never figured out how much the Council loses in this or if it just funds Coop cash flow.

        • Genghis says:

          You can put multiple payments through in one trip then pay the total. Council limits seem to be £200, BG £199.99, TW £149.

        • Liz says:

          You can pay more than £200 at a time – they just have to split it up – mine was £272 so I get 2 slips for £200 and £72 but one payment receipt for £272.

        • John says:

          It certainly doesn’t fund coop cash flow, they probably have to pay the council (via paypoint) within a week but won’t get the money from the credit card until at least 28 days later, anyone able to confirm?

          • Rob says:

            You’d normally get paid within 2-3 days from Visa or MasterCard, Amex can be slower I believe.

  • Go says:

    Some Asda stores have paypoint. Has anyone ever tried paying bills there with Amex?

    • Roger says:

      My ASDA too has paypoint but have never used it. If anyone has used paypoint at ASDA would like to know too.

      • mark2 says:

        I have tried to use PayPoint in ASDA and was told ‘cash only’ as I have been in some Coop branches.

  • Lewis says:

    When I moved into my new place there were pre-pay gas and electricity meters. I always used my Amex at pay point terminals no problem both at co-op and Londis down the road!

    • John says:

      If you are the owner you really should contact an energy supplier to get proper meters reinstalled. You may have to pay a deposit which will be refunded later, some will do it for free if you stick with them for 2 years, it all depends on how (un)reliable previous residents were at paying their bills.

      You can also do this if you are renting but may not be worth the hassle only for 12 months, particularly if the landlord usually rents to people who don’t pay and therefore wants prepay meters

  • vol says:

    My LA used to add a surcharge to Curve (which I accepted because of the then underlying Amex card) but that has been fixed now – no surcharge on Curve.

  • Joe says:

    I switched to Sky broadband and also decided it was worth paying the CC surcharge, however one thing I noticed is they put the price up (of the line rental) slightly without telling me. With Direct Debit I’m pretty sure they have to give you notice before they take it if the amount differs, so if you’re paying by CC with continuous auth just make sure to keep an extra eye out for price rises.

    • John says:

      Sky’s price rise was national and it was widely advertised. They also sent me an email.

  • Anna says:

    I’ve just moved over to paying my council tax on my Lloyds MasterCard as it will cover a big chunk of the £7k spend required to trigger the upgrade voucher. Also planning to pay car insurance this way when we renew, and save about £40 by paying upfront instead of in installments. Still undecided about utilities, we get a decent discount for paying by direct debit.

    • Polly says:

      Anna, two things here.
      See if your LA will issue you with either a PP card, use at co op or Asda, or a payment book to use in the post office. this would he up your avios earn on the Lloyds Amex by 1000s.
      Ask your utility company to take a small dd from your account, or the usual amount, but ask for a pp card so you can also overpay with prepayments using Amex at coop or asda and ? Londis. Or online. We did that with spark energy. Again, this will really up the avios v the m/c use. We use SSE now. Just a thought.

      • Polly says:

        Meant to say or a barcode bill. My LA refuse to issue one of those too. But the payment book might work for you. Still time to get one before payment starts.

        • Anna says:

          Thanks Polly, I’ll look into these

          • the real harry1 says:

            Polly is right – simply reduce the DD to the minimum they’ll accept (usually takes a phone call) & pay the rest by card. Some will let you pre-pay (say) £1000, which can be useful.

    • Liz says:

      I keep my directs debits going for Sky, BT and Tesco mobile but go in every month and pay most if it by IHG credit card manually – no fees charged – I just leave a few pounds to be collected by direct debit so ensure any discounts for paying by direct debit are still kept.

      • Anna says:

        I didn’t realise you could do that, I thought the whole amount had to be on DD! This site is brilliant 🙂

        • Chelseafi says:

          Yes I always pay my Sky bill in full every month online by credit card, a week or so before they are due to take DD, I have also had my account well in credit, so it covers the next few months payments, it’s really easy to keep track of what you’ve paid. BT & Vodaphone I do the same, but go in once bill has been produced & pay off full bill, don’t let these 2 accounts go in credit, as I don’t trust their systems to take any extra credit off following months (had issue with them before).