(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 2019 Curve review, which includes a promo code for a free £5 credit when you sign up.)
branded as a MasterCard, it allows you to recharge transactions to an American Express card – great for places where Amex is not accepted
when used abroad, it only levies a 1% FX fee (compared to 3% on 99% of UK credit and debit cards) and recharges the amount to any linked Amex, Visa or MasterCard
when used in an ATM, it recharges the withdrawal to any linked Amex, Visa or MasterCard and treats that transaction as a purchase for the purpose of earning points and counting towards BA Amex 241 vouchers etc
Curve was launched with a caveat that all transactions would be subject to a ‘fair use’ policy which was undefined.
A policy on ATM withdrawals has recently appeared on its website:
At Curve we want to be your gateway to everything money giving you more choice and saving you money. However there are certain services which are high risk for Curve and/or expensive for Curve to provide due to third party fees. For these services we have a monthly free usage limit which if passed will result in a small but fair fee to cover costs. This helps keep Curve free to use for the majority of our users.
ATM Withdrawals from credit cards
You can withdrawal up to £200 (or currency equivalent) for free using your American Express or other credit cards per calendar month after which there is a 2% charge. This limit does not apply to ATM debit card withdrawals. Furthermore any behaviour which Curve deems to be “cash recycling” whereby high volumes of cash are taken out of an ATM using a credit card and then used to repay the credit card in order to gain rewards on the funding card or Curve Rewards is not permitted. Such behaviour may result in your Curve account being blocked or cancelled. See Section 6 of Curve Terms and Conditions for further information.
Our platform uses third party systems to identify whether the Funding Source is a debit or credit card. If you believe your card has been incorrectly defined you should contact us at: [email protected] where you will be required to provide evidence as such in order for your case to be investigated.
ATM domestic withdrawal frequency
ATM usage is free for up to 10 domestic (withdrawals in the same currency as your Funding Source) withdrawals per month after which time you may be charged £0.50 (or currency equivalent) per usage for each additional ATM withdrawal.
It is worth noting that this new policy should not apply to anyone who applied for a Curve card before last Friday.
The Curve terms and conditions state the following:
1.10 Amendments to this Agreement. We may at any time amend, delete or add to this Agreement, including the Fees and other amounts which apply to your Account (as set out in Schedule 1) (a “Change”) by giving notice of such Change by posting a revised version of this Agreement on the Curve website(s). A Change will be made unilaterally by us and you will be deemed to have accepted the Change after you have received notice of it. We will give you 2 months’ notice of any Change with the Change taking effect once the 2 month notice period has passed, except the 2 month notice period will not apply where a Change is required by law or relates to the addition of a new service, extra functionality to the existing Service or any other change which neither reduces your rights nor increases your responsibilities. In such instances, the Change will be made without prior notice to you and shall be effective immediately.
As this is clearly a change in the fees levied, it requires 2 months notice to be given if you applied before Friday. I have not been charged for a cash withdrawal over the weekend so they appear to be working to this.
Let’s look at where this leaves you with Curve
Under the new rules, you can withdraw – for free – £2,400 per year from an ATM to be recharged to a credit card. Let’s assume that you use a British Airways Premium Plus American Express.
£2,400 will cover 24% of the £10,000 of spend required each year to trigger your 2-4-1 voucher – that is a meaningful contribution
You will earn 3,600 Avios per year which you would not otherwise earn
You also have the other benefits of the card:
Being able to recharge purchases at establishments which do not accept American Express to an American Express
Being able to make overseas transactions for a 1% foreign exchange fee, compared with 3% charged by almost all other cards. Even if you have a credit card with 0% foreign exchange fees (Post Office Platinum, Halifax Clarity) you may be better off paying Curve 1% and earning the rewards on the underlying card.
The 2% credit card ATM fee may be worth paying
It may even be worth paying Curve’s 2% fee to make additional ATM withdrawals – whilst being aware of the ‘recycling’ rule.
Again, lets use a British Airways Premium Plus American Express as an example. Withdraw £100 on Curve and you earn 150 Avios for a £2 fee. At 1.33p each that is not a great deal, of course. However, it also moves you £100 closer to your next 2-4-1- voucher. A lot of people will find an acceptable trade off.
Curve is still a ‘work in progress’ and I doubt we have seen the last of the changes to their model. Given that the Travelex Supercard will be relaunching at the end of the year – presumably still with 0% FX fees, still allowing overseas transactions to be recharged to a Visa or MasterCard (not an Amex) and still with no annual fee – Curve needs to offer substantially more than Supercard to justify the £35 fee and the 1% FX margin.