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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.

  • Sideysid says:

    One other use I have found is at those atrocious ATMs that charge outrageous fees in theme parks, corner shops etc. From what I have seen the fees are always on debit card transactions, so by using Curve you negate the fee.

    • Gulz says:

      Thought these fees were ATM fees rather than based on the type of card. So regardless of what type of card you use – debit, credit, prepaid – these ATMs would always charge the fees.

      • Sideysid says:

        Not in the ones I’ve used, I can confirm no fees have been charged off the curve other than the money I withdrew. I’ve checked a couple of the machines and they state debit card transactions. Handy to keep in mind anyway.

  • Billy says:

    I cancelled my order yesterday, I had ordered the card 6 weeks ago and it was never dispatched. I think it would be foolish of me not to have cancelled it as there would have been little chance of it arriving before the Amex switch off date (factoring in the BH weekend)
    Like others, if I had received the card prior then I would have stayed with them but at this stage it would be £35 down the drain. Should Amex decide to unpause the functionality then I’ll reapply again.

  • imbruce says:

    I have just got an email from Curve saying that this affects all Amex cards and that includes ones issued by MBNA/Lloyds ETC as this is the reason I emailed them thinking that my AA & BMI cards would be ok and they have said no it is all American Express cards., which is odd given the fact that they are not issued by Amex themselves.

    this was also said in the email

    There are also bags of exciting new features on the near horizon – the ability to change which funding card you charge after you’ve paid, bespoke loyalty rewards and cash-backs, peer-to-peer payments and much more. Stay tuned!

    • NFH says:

      Of course it affects all Amex cards. If it instead affected Visa or MasterCard, would you expect some Visa or MasterCard card issuers to be affected but not others? The card network is relevant, not the card issuer.

  • Rob says:

    Via FT Alphaville:

    (registration needed, only needs your email address)

    • The_Real_A says:

      Interesting article. I thought AMEX issued directly were included in the cap as part of an appeal to come in by April? Is this not the case?

      • Andi says:

        i bet US Customs will love that one. Isis Street? You MUST be a terrorist then?’

      • The_Real_A says:

        Thanks for the clarification.

    • Jeff says:

      What’s odd in that article is the claim that Curve takes a 1% fee from the merchant and pays almost 3% to Amex which wouldn’t seem to be right, or why would they have had the Amex link in the first place. However, the Curve CEO does go on to say “we lost money every time our users used it”. If the quote is accurate, I can’t see the link ever coming back. Also makes one question who “paused” the relationship.

      • will says:

        A medium sized business can take amex through paypal for 1.4% + 20p.

        My experience with merchant fees for commercial cards is that they are far higher than 1%, usually 2.5% or so.

        Makes you wonder if there could be a business model in pre loading curve from an Amex Via paypal – ie turning it into a pre pay mastercard loaded from an amex.

        • will says:

          “The troubles of one small startup might not usually be worth looking at in detail, but Curve offers useful lessons about the use of regulatory arbitrage in fintech and the risk of relying on the goodwill of established financial players.”

          Not exactly the same I admit, but that’s pretty close to where paypal and apple pay are as a concept. Admitedly, Curve are possibly too small to have any leverage on Amex, Visa, Mastercard though – but as long as everyone is getting paid in the chain I doubt that they mind.

      • Rob says:

        It is right. Amex appears to be using various strategies to avoid lowering its charges to the 0.3% interchange fee cap on co-branded cards.

      • The_Real_A says:

        I find this utterly bizarre. Perhaps they thought they could negotiate this down in the short term or they were in receipt of some contra-revenue from Wirecard. At face value the cynic would have to conclude it was part of bait to get people to sign up.

        The more the CEO comments and speaks the more questions it raises.

      • Alan says:

        Indeed, I was quite surprised to read that bit too – was it just on ATM transactions or all Amex? If the latter it seems bonkers they ever offered it.

    • JohnW says:

      If Curve ‘lose money every time someone uses Amex’, why would they bring it back?

  • Yuff says:

    There are places where I’m charged 1-2% for using a credit card, curve goes through as a debit card – just for that function alone the card is worth keeping 😉
    I suspect Amex will return, I must have done 40 transactions, online and terminal and one issue being charged twice, resolved in less than a week.

  • sd83 says:

    Anyone else with the old BMI diamond club card who has managed to load it onto Curve app yet? Mine doesnt seem to want to load, with a message appearing to contact bank/ card supplier.

  • snowfinch says:

    I am considering getting the Curve card to use with the HSBC Premier World Elite CC as I will be spending a considerable amount of time abroad in the next few months. This way, I would get my 4:1 rewards (2:1 conversion rate) & only pay the 1% fx fee, I think. Is there anything that I am missing that would make this not a good idea?

    • Mr Dee says:

      Curve would bill you in £ sterling for the 1% charge, if you selected it as a euro card there may not be any 1% charge and you would then get the 4:1 rewards but you would be hit by their fx charges.

  • WillPS says:

    I’m not sure how Amex could have lost out financially directly on the transactions being processed. Indeed they will have benefited from transactions being charged to them which otherwise couldn’t have been.

    What they may have been upset about is that their brand was obscured in some ways.

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