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Curve – the radical new payment card that lets you use Amex ANYWHERE

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(EDIT:  Curve has changed a lot since this article was published.  Please do not rely on the information here.  Instead, please click here to read our detailed 2020 Curve review, which includes a link for a free £10 credit when you sign up.)

The Curve card, launched yesterday into public beta, is a radical new sort of payment card.  It takes some of the best features of Supercard (which has still not launched publicly) and adds a few new twists which are bound to appeal to the Head for Points loyalty credit card readership.

Most relevant for our market, it allows you to pay for anything where a Mastercard is accepted and have it recharged – as a purchase – to an American Express card.

Even cash withdrawals are recharged, as a purchase, to your Amex.  I have been testing the card for a few days and I can confirm that this works perfectly.

Let me repeat this bit – you can buy something using the Curve card at a retailer which only accepts Mastercard, or even make a cash withdrawal at an ATM, and it will be re-charged to your American Express card (or a Visa or Mastercard) as a purchase.  It will earn miles, points or cashback and count towards any sign-up bonus.  It also works abroad, even on overseas cash withdrawals.

You must have an iOS smartphone to join up.  Android will follow later in the year but, for now, you will be missing out – sorry.  An iPad would also work – the only purpose of the app is to load up details of your other credit and charge cards and to check your transactions.

Curve is required to target the small business market rather than the personal market, although their description of “bliss for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners” is a very broad one.

This is how it works:

You pay a £35 one-off fee and receive a rather snazzy Mastercard in the post

This is offset by a £10 sign-up credit if you use my refer a friend link

You download the Curve card app to your iOS device

You link as many other Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards as you wish to the app

You select which card you want to use for your next transaction

You can then use your Curve card in shops or in cash machines.  The transaction shows in the app and is recharged to your underlying card as a purchase.

Last Friday, for example, I withdrew some Euros from an ATM at Frankfurt Airport using my Curve card.  The transaction is already showing, as a purchase with Avios earned, on my BA Amex statement.

Can I use the card everywhere?

Not quite.

Curve cannot be used for “gambling transactions, dating / escort services, massage parlours, automated fuel pumps and direct marketing – inbound telesales”.

You are limited to transactions which can be processed using a prepaid Mastercard.  I tried to pay my Amex bill with it, as a test, and it failed.

It is not clear what happens if you use the card as security at a hotel or for car hire rental, as a prepaid Mastercard is normally blocked in those circumstances.

I am assuming that it does work OK as a debit card (and thus, for example, avoiding the £5 British Airways credit card fee) but I haven’t tested it yet.

What about Section 75 refund protection?

To quote from their website:

Similarly to PayPal [….] 3rd party purchases, using Curve is not a direct purchase from the user’s original card, so the purchases are not covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

However Curve users are protected by Mastercard chargeback rights where refunds can be provided if goods are damaged, not as described, or the merchant has ceased trading.

What are the fees?

The Curve card is not entirely free, but you may find that you can avoid their fees depending on how you use your card.

Purchases made in the UK – FREE.  Remember that Curve means that you can effectively use American Express EVERYWHERE that a prepaid Mastercard would be accepted.

Purchases made outside the UK – 1% fee.  This compares with the standard 3% fee on 99% of UK credit and debit cards.

Cash machine withdrawals in the UK – FREE.  Yes, you can withdraw cash from a UK ATM and will appear on your Amex or Mastercard as a purchase, earning you miles and points and counting towards any sign-up spend target

Cash machine withdrawals outside the UK – £2 fee plus 1% FX fee.  If the ATM itself charges a fee, as often happens in the USA and some other countries, this will obviously be added on.

How does this compare to using a card with no FX fees?

In terms of making purchases abroad, you will – purely in terms of £ charged to your card – still get a better deal with the Post Office Platinum Money (free, review) or Lloyds Avios Rewards (£24, review) cards.  This is because Curve adds a 1% FX fee which those two cards have no FX fee at all.

However, if you want to put your spending onto a card other than the Post Office or Lloyds Avios then it is a no-brainer to use Curve abroad.  For working towards your BA Amex 2-4-1, for example, you will save 2% on every overseas transaction when you use Curve instead of paying directly with the BA Amex.

You also need to remember that Amex acceptance is rare in many European holiday areas and Curve is the only route to generate Amex spend from these transactions.

Overseas cash withdrawals will be a better deal on Curve because the withdrawal will be treated as a purchase and thus earn miles.  You will also avoid the cash advance fee and daily interest levied by Lloyds or the Post Office.  Halifax Clarity has no cash advance fees abroad but still charges daily interest.

Should I use the Curve card for all of my UK ATM withdrawals?

Absolutely.  Withdraw £100 in cash using Curve and it will go through your American Express or other linked card as a £100 purchase.  This will earn you, on a BA Amex, Avios points plus count towards your BA 2-4-1.

Note that ‘fair usage restrictions apply’.  I suspect that anyone withdrawing more than a couple of hundred pounds a week may find their card blocked.

How does Curve make money?

As the card is aimed at business users, the Curve card is not impacted by the EU cap on interchange fees.  There are also plans to offer additional services to users in the future.

What is the difference between the £35 and £75 Curve cards?

They seem to have screwed this up, to be honest.  There are two versions of the Curve card, a blue one and a black one.  The only difference is that the black one, which costs £40 more (a one-off fee, not annual) will apparently earn double rewards in the Curve loyalty programme.  As that programme has not yet been launched, however, it is impossible to know if you’d get £40 of value from it!

In terms of what the card does and the fees you pay to use it, both are identical.  The £35 version should do the job.

As a temporary offer, you will receive a free Tumi leather card case, worth £60, when applying for the £75 version.

Remember that you get £10 back as a credit when you sign up via my link, or any other refer a friend link.

Who is behind Curve?

The company is an independent start-up, but primarily funded by the backers of TransferWise.

What have I learned from the beta?

As I mentioned, I have had the card for the past few days and have been trying it out.

My biggest issue is that the app does not show the original foreign currency value of overseas transactions.  All you see is the £ equivalent.  I am told that this will be added to the next release but it seems to be a major oversight.

There is also an issue with how American Express transactions appear on your card statement.  Mastercard and Visa purchases made using Curve, as with Supercard, show on your statements using part of the original descriptor so you can still identify what a particular payment was for.

Amex transactions simply show on your statement as ‘Curve London’.  To work out what each transaction represents, you need to open the Curve card app – which shows the original description, eg WH Smith Heathrow – and manually match up transaction values.

I should make clear that every transaction (purchase and ATM withdrawal) I have used it for over the last 5 days in the UK, Germany and Austria has gone through without a problem.

How do I join Curve?

You can sign up here.  This link includes my referral code so you receive £10 credit.

(If you decide to sign up via the app, please add my referral code when prompted of oqb4J)

Remember that the card is aimed at “entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners” and you will be asked to say that you fall into one of these boxes.

Only 10,000 applications are being accepted at this stage – I suspect the HfP community will account for a fair % of these.  You will not receive your card until April.

Remember that you must have an iOS smartphone or an iPad to take part and that there is a £35 one-off fee.

Curve is still in beta mode for the next few weeks and, as I mentioned above, the app is still missing some of the functionality which it advertises.  This is a very interesting product however and I’m sure those HfP readers who qualify to get one can see the value in getting one when it comes to maximising their miles and points.

The application page is here.  If you use the app to apply instead of a desktop, please add my referral code of oqb4J.

Thanks to my resident credit card expert Andrew Seftel (@andrewseftel) for his help with this article.  The Curve card links in this article include my refer-a-friend code, which means that you will receive a £10 sign-up credit.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – February 2023 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 21st February 2023, the sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is increased to 35,000 Avios from 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

35,000 Avios (ONLY to 21st February) and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

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Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback (3% for 3 months if you apply by 31st March) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (397)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Anon says:

    Raffles, from reading that you don’t necessary need an iOS device, just borroiw one to do initiual set it up with a single Amex and that’s it sorted?

    Presumably you can access an account via the web to view transactions!??

  • Nick M says:

    I asked their customer support if they could give any more info regarding the rewards yday and was told 1p/£1 that can be used to offset future transactions… A short while later she backtracked and said this was just an idea at the moment & they’re welcoming feedback…..

    If this is the case then the extra £40 should be made up for once you’ve spent £4K on the card

  • Josh says:

    The cards I’ve added in show the wrong images–the last four digits are correct, but they’re each showing up as a different card–any idea if there’s anyway to correct this?

  • Howard says:

    Is there something wrong with the website at the moment. I cant log to register.

  • James67 says:

    The key point is that the benefits of curve are restricted to those who are not currently able to use their amex as widely and frequently as they would like. Whether atm withdrawals are of much use will depend on fair use policy. However using your quoted £100-200/week and a linked card of 1 point or mile per £ that would give an annual points haul of around 5-10k points or miles per year which is not bad for £35.

    • John says:

      Agree, I am not entirely excited by this, it is mainly useful if you have a lot of UK non-Amex spend, and/or want to pay 1% to use an Amex abroad – which really only makes sense if you have a spending target that you can’t reach in the UK.

      I don’t have the BAPP since the 241 is useless to me, and I would struggle to spend more than £1000 per year where Amex wouldn’t be accepted. The 1% forex fee means that this card isn’t worth £35 to me and I will continue to launder cash through Supercard.

  • Abigail says:

    Do they use the same exchange rate as banks and credit card companies for foreign currency transactions? That is an important piece of information – it could be more expensive than a debit card or normal credit card charging a 3% fee if the exchange rate is poorer.

    • Rob says:

      It is the MasterCard wholesale rate so, yes

      • KK says:

        Do you know when the curve cards realistically arrive in the post by? Its says March….on the application.

        Only reason keen to know, is that i have a spend target to hit for my SPG card by 10 March the latest (£2000 in 3 months), so to determine if its worth hanging on till then or go for the kill on the Amex TC before that option shuts down.

        Any advice?

    • John says:

      It will be the same rate as a Mastercard but with 1% instead of 3% fee. The rate would be different from Supercard which is a Visa.

      Presumably it will still be susceptible to DCC, using Supercard I am often asked if I want to pay in GBP

    • The_Real_A says:

      Revolut is still cheaper if you dont care about using a credit card…

  • Daniel Nicholson says:

    Can someone confirm my Maths is correct? If we assume 1 Avios = 0.5p and I want to continue using my Amex Plat on UK purchases for the travel insurance and payment protection, it means I will only use Curve abroad.

    I would need to spend approx 9,000 EUR (£7000) abroad per year, to gain 7,000 Avios, and therefore offset the £35 sign-up fee. Seems like quite a lot of spend required! Or I could spend 4,500 EUR abroad per year (more achievable) and then I’d need to “manufacture” around £3,500 of UK based cash withdrawls spread over the year again to break even. Am I forgetting something?

    There is another new app out called Revolut which is 100% free and claims to offer no fee’s for any type of transaction, even abroad. However, you can’t link it to a credit card and so you “top-up” the account using a debit card. No miles earn’t but possibly a cheaper option for those who don’t have much opportunity to spend abroad.

    • Rob says:

      £35 is a one off fee

      You are not manufacturing cash withdrawals, you would be doing them anyway.

      • John says:

        If I restricted cash withdrawals to those I would be doing anyway, it would generate about £100 Amex spend per year.

    • John says:

      Your £7000 foreign spend would cost you £7070 on Curve as opposed to a 0% forex card.

      Revolut is a waste of time unless you can’t get any of the 0% forex cards, you have poor money management skills or you live outside the EU but have access to an EU address and bank account.

  • Susan says:

    ios only grrr! Curve seems a great idea but releasing something on a single platform is so C20 – not an Apple fangirl 😉

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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