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What should you do with your Curve card now?

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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.)

Unless you only read Head for Points via email, you presumably saw my extra article yesterday about the decision of American Express to stop working with Curve card.

I won’t go back into how Curve works again, but you can find full details in this article.  Fundamentally, one of its benefits was that you could make credit card purchases using the Curve Mastercard and have them recharged to an American Express.  You can also make limited cash withdrawals and have them recharged to a credit card as a purchase.

With a few hundred comments to the article yesterday, I think the different options open to you have already been beaten to death.

The bottom line is this – no-one should be out of pocket here.  If you cancel, Curve has promised a full refund and you will already have received various benefits to date.  It is important to remember that.

There are two options open to you as a cardholder.  These are:

return the card for a refund of your fee (you might as well wait until after 31st May as Amex functionality continues until then) or

keep it and, as long as you spend £1,000 on the card between 1st June and 31st August, receive a £35 credit in their forthcoming rewards programme which can be used towards any card transaction

My gut feeling in the short term is that – if you can still get £ benefits via ATM and overseas use that would justify the fee irrespective of whether you get the £35 back – there is little to lose by sticking around.

Of course, you also need to consider the track record of the company to date which has been shambolic in many ways.  This includes:

delays in sending out cards

not having the loyalty programme ready to launch on Day 1, despite the premium version of the card being inherently linked to this

failure to predict cash recycling via ATM withdrawals, forcing them to cap those at a level below that required by most people for day to day spend

IT issues (outside their control, admittedly) which led to both transactions being refused and other transactions being double charged

failure to have Amex tied down to a long term agreement to support the card

It was also disappointing to read in the letter yesterday that the card was “saving you money when you travel with zero FX fees“.  This may be semantically true but, as Curve is using a foreign exchange rate which is 1% off the spot rate, you are paying the equivalent of a 1% fee.  There was simply no need for this comment to be made and it has not helped the situation.

Curve prepaid MasterCard

Here are the pros and cons as I see them (based on having the £35 version):

Reasons to return the card:

Card fee refunded now

No need to divert £1,000 from American Express spend in order to trigger the statement credit

No risk if the company closes down

Reasons to keep the card:

£35 fee refunded via a statement credit if you spend £1,000 between June and August – assuming that Curve Rewards is ready to launch by September and the company remains solvent.

If you were referred, you are still due an additional £10 credit when Curve Rewards launches.

You can continue to take out £200 via an ATM each month and have it recharged to a Mastercard or Visa as a purchase.  This is worth a couple of £ per month in benefits. 

You can use it abroad and pay just 1% in fees instead of the 2.99% which is normal on most UK credit and debit cards.  Even if you have a 0% fee card such as Halifax Clarity, it may be worth paying the 1% Curve fee instead if the rewards on your underlying card are worth more than 1%.

You can use it at those merchants who treat it as a debit card without paying the fees associated with using a credit card – but it is still hit and miss as to which those are

You won’t have to pay £35 to rejoin if American Express returns as a partner or some other interesting functionality appears

On the assumption that you wouldn’t have any problems making £1,000 of spending it comes down to whether you believe Curve will be around to credit your £35 of rewards and how much value you put on the FX and ATM benefits.

The company is funded via a high profile mix of private investors and well regarded venture capital funds, but of course start-up projects like this can be volatile.

If I had paid £35 (and I haven’t, because I was on the beta trial) I would stick with it – primarily because I can put my Summer holiday spend onto it for a 1% fee and recharge it to my old BMI Mastercard paying 2.5 Avios per £1.  I can cover £35 of value from that.  Of course, not many people have a Visa or Mastercard which is that generous.

If you have the £75 premium card, it is a different calculation.  Because the statement credit is only £50 but you can receive a £75 refund by returning the card along with the Tumi card wallet, I would take a refund.  You could always reapply for the £35 card later and only be £10 worse off.

Whatever you decide to do, however, remember that you won’t be out of pocket and that, if you’ve been using the card already, you should be ‘up’ overall.  No HfP reader should be losing any money here.

It is also worth remembering that, behind the faceless brand, is a small team of people who have been working hard, apparently close to 24/7 based on the timings of some of the messages I have received, to make this work.  If this experiment fails, they are the ones who really lose something. Welcome to the world of working with start-up companies ….


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Comments (242)

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

  • Dave says:

    I guess its a good thing my card never turned up

  • Will says:

    I’ve thought about it over the last 24 and going to hedge my bets and stick with them. If it was my mortgage I’d say it will fail but it could still be a very clever card.

    Not sure whether OP will give us any candid feelings about whether AmEx will eventually come back but I’m guessing it won’t be until they can demonstrate the tech support which will take a long time?

    It’s a bit chicken and egg with a startup like this – clearly you need a great support team and that’s difficult to build if you haven’t started making the money to pay for it.

    Not that massive established firms are any better – Vodafone ahem.

  • Billy says:

    I can’t see how curve can survive this. Come 31st May I can’t imagine anyone will still be using this card for MasterCard or Visa transactions when you would get better protection using those brands directly. Might be handy for abroad but the 1% fee may not be worth it.

    • harry says:

      £200 a month @ ATM = 200 Avios

      = £24 per annum

      & if you’re too lazy to get Clarity (I fall into trhis category! 🙂 ), a much cheaper way to buy things on your hols abroad

      • Worzel says:

        Too lazy to get clarity!

        Standards slipping Squills?

        🙂 .

        • harry says:

          Well we have a bank a/c abroad so tend to transfer money via HIFX.

          Admittedly I use my BMI Amex (2 points/£) so that costs me a wee bit but not 3%

          • Worzel says:

            🙂 .

          • harry says:

            Thing is, if I have spent £100 abroad and the real net cost to me is £1, I am not going to get too bothered about it.

            Sorry – I am too lazy.

      • Will says:

        Too lazy? It’s more a case of not wanting to touch Halifax!

  • Andrew says:

    Do we know if cash withdrawals will count towards the £1000 for the £35 credit?

  • Gulz says:

    Raffles, can you explain how the FX + 1% makes it a reason to keep the card? The best earning miles rate on a Visa/MC is the Virgin Black Visa which gives 1 mile per £ (not everyone has the old BMI card, so let’s discount that). For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you spend $150 when the spot rate is $1.5 per £. So using a real 0% FX fee card this costs you £100. Curve adds 1% FX fees making the exchange rate $1.485 per £, making the cost of $150 spend = £101.01. Assuming you recharge it to Virgin Black Visa, you’ve bought 101 miles at the cost of £1.01, making it 1p per mile.
    I don’t see any benefit in buying miles at that price, especially considering that Virgin regularly runs its Miles Booster bonus promotions where you can buy mles at 0.83p or even 0.67p per mile.

    • Mick says:

      Well I’ve had my £35 worth of transactions, spend target and Avios from Curve. Il stick with them for now.

      I’ll use it to get the £2400/ year withdrawal against my Lloyds MasterCard 7k spend.

      Not all bad!

    • harry says:

      It’s obvious enough. Raffles said ‘if you have a card with higher points earning ability’ ie 2 or 2.5 points per £1. If you don’t, it doesn’t apply.

      That’s the beauty of the word ‘if’. 🙂

      • Gulz says:

        Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but Raffles comparison is between a 0% FX fee card and Curve – higher points earning ability is my extrapolation to it.

    • RTS says:

      You still have to pay £140 for the Virgin Black Cards.

      Also it is for Flying Club Miles….

  • Jeff says:

    I spoke to Amex this morning and their official internal Q&A says “we remain open” to working with Curve in the future. They cited issues such as 3D Secure/SafeKey and merchant promotions as being an issue since the merchant doesn’t know the underlying card that is being used when presented with a Curve. This is apparently what they meant by “seamless” and the technology needs work. All is maybe not lost. I am not sure if Amex have really worked out that the people affected are its own customers too, and many of us accept that the Curve service (and remember we are only beta testers) wasn’t perfect, but the benefits outweighed any problems. I had a few issues at the outset with double charging and those few days of ‘declines’ but they were all resolved promptly. So let Amex know you want Curve back!!

  • idrive says:

    I did not write anything in the last days, now time to express myself.

    I will stick with them. I like the product per se and I think Curve will work hard to solve the problems that lead to the pause with Amex.
    I believe that Amex is interested in getting more volumes too (and obviously to mantain the high standards we are used to and the reputation, fair enough).

    In addition, I want to support Curve as a startup and although this is a tough world where customer does not forgive, they deserve to go on with their hard work. I believe they had to launch express in Beta asap as all startups.
    Also, never had a problem, never got a decline. Even abroad, transactions appeared on the screen even before I removed the card from the reader.

    Good Luck Curve, we want you in and AMEX with it!

    • Nathan says:

      I also never had a problem. Online, local tesco or abroad.

  • Graham says:

    I’ve got not complaints even if I don’t get my £35 back, I’ve got that and more in Avios from BA Amex that I would not have been able to get without Curve. I’m currently paying for a wedding and a bunch of related stuff and the big costs often come from places that don’t take Amex so I’m happy, I got value from it. I’d be happier if Amex was going to continue to be available for a few more months.
    Few people would have gone into this without an expectation this could happen and the few days notice on Amex is more reasonable than I was expecting and is allowing me to pay on Amex costs that I’d get minimal points for otherwise.
    Sure HFP publicised Curve but that’s why I visit HFP everyday. There were more than enough caveats and warnings for me. I’m happy with what I got from Curve and happy with HFP for suggesting it.

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