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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)

  • m2808 says:

    Are some people succesfully paying their rent (e.g: to a housing association) using a credit card?

    • Peter says:

      I put about £10k using 3v cards with a housing association. They also took cc.

    • Toby says:

      Yes.

      Back in London we asked for a Post Office Payment card – and was given one. We pay all £1,800 per month at the Post Office in one go.

      I’m also a student at Sussex and can pay my rent here for free with American Express 🙂

  • newbie says:

    Does this not mean you have to phone up every month or quarter to makr payment? As opposed to just letting a direct debit take care of everything? There may be a discount for direct debits as well. I can see the advantage of doing it once for a year’s council tax, but at the same time, your money can stay invested elsewhere if you decide to pay monthly.

  • mark2 says:

    Scottish Power Help Beat Cancer Fixed January 2019 comes out £58 more than Iresa but is fixed for nearly two years rather than one. It depends what view you take on future prices.
    Also I am sure that Scottish Power will still be in business in 2019.

    • John says:

      If they go out of business you can just switch again (as long as you don’t owe more than £200)

      It’s different in every energy supply area

      Scottish Power has a £30 fee to switch early IIRC

      • mark2 says:

        So if they go out of business and I owe more than £200 (likely in winter) am I not allowed to buy energy ever again?
        There is no exit fee on this tariff.

  • Alan says:

    Yep, see quite a few earlier comments with those of us with the RBS/NatWest account 😛

  • Alan says:

    Didn’t appreciate that contactless and supermarket stacked, might take a look at that. Have found I can swipe my Tesco debit card for unlocking a selfscanner (normally you scan the Clubcard barcode), so will be interesting to see if it works for extra points (similar to petrol stations) when the new setup comes in.

    • John says:

      I think there’s no difference to clubcard in Tesco stores only at petrol stations

      • Alan says:

        There’s due be though come April (IIRC) with the new current account guarantee…

  • Chris P says:

    On the subject of eON my mother received a letter offering a fixed rate deal for 12 months and 2,000 points (2,000 Tesco points etc) in January. It had to be applied for by February 28. I waited for my letter as I’ve been a customer since Powergen days. February 26 I e mailed eON and received a call on March 2 from Customer Services who said I too could have the tariff with 2,000 points and was transferred to Sales who promptly told me I was “out of time”. I pointed out that was only because they had delayed replying to my e mail. I was then told I wouldn’t have been eligible in any case but couldn’t tell me why! I thought BA Customer Services were bad. Good Bye eON.

    • Charlie says:

      Did you try applying via http://www.eonbonus.com? This was the website quoted in the letter. No special codes were needed to get onto the 12month/2000point tariff, other than your standard eon account number.

      • Chris P says:

        Yes, I did and received a standard message that my account number was no valid for this promotion – that’s why I thought I’d e mail eON instead but thanks for reply.

  • Alan says:

    Agree re potential lack of sustainability, but having been late to the 123 party I’ve decided to enjoy the RBS offer while I can 😉

  • Idrive says:

    Waking up on a Sunday just to find your new Thames Water bill first thing in the morning has no price! Not even HFP’s article on how to exploit the situation is helping with the mood unfortunately but thanks for the effort!