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EXCLUSIVE: How you can still pay HMRC with a Visa or Mastercard to earn miles and points

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As regular Head for Points readers will know, HMRC removed the ability to pay self-assessment, PAYE or VAT with a personal credit card last weekend.

This was a big blow for miles and points collectors, as the exceptionally low HMRC credit card fee of 0.38% meant that you could pick up points very cheaply.

But if that’s the case, how do I explain this pending charge from my Lufthansa Miles & More Visa statement, dated yesterday?

£1750 paid towards my self-assessment bill and with no fee at all.

The answer is the new FREE consumer version of the Curve Card.

As I wrote last week, Curve Card, the payment card that allows you to merge all of your Mastercard and Visa cards into one product, is now available to the general public.  It had previously been available only to anyone who had self-employed income.

Put simply, every transaction you charge to Curve is recharged to a linked Visa or Mastercard.  Curve is not, itself, a credit card.  Via the Curve app you can select which linked card is charged for every transaction you make, allowing you to add your various Visa and Mastercard credit and debit cards and then switch between them at will.

Financially there are two reasons to use Curve:

You can withdraw £200 of cash per month from an ATM and have it charged to your credit card as a purchase – this means it earns miles and points. 

Foreign currency transactions made on Curve are recharged to your linked Visa or Mastercard in Sterling with a 1% foreign exchange adjustment.  This makes it a better deal than using the underlying card which is likely to have a 3% FX fee.

There will, soon, be a rewards scheme of some sort

There are more practical features too, such as the ability to export your spending data for analysis and the ability to lock the card from your phone.  As Curve is contactless, it is also a way of making any non-contactless Visa or Mastercard you have into a contactless one.

Here’s the key thing though ….

The Curve Card is now being issued as a debit Mastercard and not a pre-paid business Mastercard.

I lost my original Curve Card late last year when I managed to lose my wallet.  It was reissued last week as one of the first debit versions – you will know this because it has the word ‘debit’ on the front.

I wondered what would happen if I used it as a debit card to pay my tax bill.  The answer is that it works just fine.

I paid £1750 to HMRC using my Curve Card as a debit Mastercard.  As you can see from the image above, the charge was passed through to my Miles & More Visa credit card as you would expect.

I will earn Lufthansa miles from the charge to my MBNA credit card.  I paid no fee to HMRC.

This is a fantastic result.  Now, there are limits to how much you can charge to a Curve Card.  My current limit is £15,000 per month (and £5,000 on a single day).  If you are a new Curve cardholder, your limit will start off lower but will increase over time.  It should be enough for small scale taxpayers to cover their bills, although if you have VAT, PAYE and self-assessment to pay – as I do – it will require payments to be spread out across the months.

How to order a Curve Card

The Curve Card is FREE so there is no harm in trying it out.

Even if you don’t have HMRC bills to pay, it is worth having for the ability to charge a £200 ATM withdrawal each month to your credit card and the 1% FX fee on foreign transactions.

The Curve website is here if you want to know more.  You need to download the Curve app for your phone and order a card from there if you want to try it out.  Whilst there is in theory a waiting list they seem to be prioritising new applications.

If you use a refer-a-friend code when you sign up – my code is OQB4J – you will receive £5 off your first transaction with the card.

If you have self-employed income, you are better off getting the corporate version which is also free, as this comes with cashback rewards.  You can see full details under the ‘Accountants / Business’ tab on the Curve website.  If you use a refer-a-friend code when you sign up for the small business version – my code is OQB4J – you will receive 500 Curve Rewards points (worth £5 off any transaction) when you first use your card.

There is just one caveat if you apply for the corporate version of Curve.  My replacement Curve card which I got last week – which is the corporate version – is a debit card.  Some people are receiving the older pre-paid version.  If, when your card arrives, it does not have the word ‘debit’ printed above the Mastercard logo, contact Curve via the app and ask to be switched.  You will get a new card within a few days.

If you have one of the earlier corporate versions issued as a pre-paid business Mastercard, you may want to enquire about switching to a debit version.  This will also make it easier to use at establishments which had issues with the old card because it was coded as a pre-paid card.

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Comments (189)

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

  • Steven Campbell says:

    I applied using the link and code provided on this article and received my card today but I think it’s a credit card? It’s a black card with the old style MasterCard logo at the bottom-right, with ‘Beta’ inside the Curve logo. It makes no mention of Debit or Prepaid on the front or back and its number starts with 5162 7300.

    If I have been sent the credit card, should I contact Curve and ask for a debit card straight away, or should I make some minor spending first to establish myself?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, drop them a message and will switch it. No-one has had issues so far.

    • Mr Dee says:

      Received the same thing even though I did ask for a debit card and they said they were sending one so I don’t know if it is or not

  • Richard G says:

    Looks like I’m going to have to contact them too. (Credit card received instead of debit)

  • John R says:

    I applied for a card off the back of this article, and like most others, received the pre-paid variant, which HMRC rejected outright. I then asked Curve to send me the Debit card, which arrived on Friday, and now HMRC accepts the card number, but the transaction gets declined. I’m forwarding the Curve to my Miles & More Visa, which is exactly what the author posted, so I’m wondering, what else am I missing?

    • Rob says:

      How much did you try to put through? MBNA is very fussy about high online payments. If a £200 payment got declined it may be a Curve issue but anything in four figures is likely to be MBNA.

      • John R says:

        I tried £2000 and I tried £995. Both declined. It’s going to take me a lot of transactions if I have to do it in lots of £200! I see you did £1750?

      • John R says:

        Aha!! £200 worked. Now what do I do?! =D

      • John R says:

        An additional payment for £500 was declined. Seems kind of pointless? How did you manage to do £1750?

        • Karen says:

          I have had the same issue and have a similar level of SA to pay. My revised debit card arrived on Friday (impressive customer service from Curve!). It is connected to a Tesco Mastercard and the only payments I have managed to put through are a couple of £200 at a time, so £400 so far. I had tried the full amount, £1k and £400 and they all came up with a rejected message.

        • Rob says:

          There is a trust thing with Curve increasing limits as you go along. £400 should not be an issue though.

        • John R says:

          Not very transparent, is it? I managed a second £200 transaction, and then I received a message from Curve saying I had reached my daily allowance, which in theory is £2000, but clearly not.

  • Leo says:

    Should say I got the debit version of the card 2 days after I asked for it (see above). Very impressed. I’m going to try and put the VAT on it this week. Will report back if problems. Curve only allowing me to put 2K a day on it so will take a few goes.

    • Michael says:

      Any joy with payments…i’m hit the same problems everyone else did….got card on Thursday and had 2 x £200 and 1 x£50 through ok and then it started declining payments…its like there is a block from hmrc on a certain amount of transactions ?

      Any ideas Rob ?

      • James says:

        Also switched from the credit to the debit version. I have managed to put a payment for 100 and another for 200 through before reaching the daily limit which was supposed to be 2000. The 200 was blocked by MBNA so had to call them to get this lifted but it looks like the larger sums (2000, 500) were blocked by Curve as according to MBNA these never reached their system. I have asked Curve to lift the daily limit so we shall see. I also noticed a new support note on the Curve app under troubleshooting explicitly referencing payments to HMRC so it may be that they have decided to block this approach.

        • Michael says:

          It mentions the fair use policy and when i called HMRC they said that there shouldn’t be an issue on debit card payments at all….so not sure what is going on.

          Next call would be to WorldPay as they are ones that carry out the payment activities on behalf of HMRC…..

        • James says:

          I think it is likely to be Curve, not Worldpay, blocking the payments due to the spend being out of pattern

        • rams1981 says:

          I’ve had my curve for a while and was able to put through £1300 and £500. Would have put more I think except my underlying card is at its limit 🙂

        • Go says:

          Had the same issue last night and today. Initially it was mbna doing the blocking as I got the fraud messages. I called mbna and they Updated the system to allow. I put through £50 then £2450 on 30/1 before the rejects started again. I called mbna back and the said the last few transactions didn’t reach them at all so possibly curve or hmrc blocking. I eventually gave up and used Tesco debit card

        • James says:

          This route seems to have closed. Am pretty sure that it is not MBNA blocking the transactions as they have placed a manual override on my card, so it must be either Curve or HMRC. I am not quite sure how the new fee system affects the various players but if Curve are the ones losing money on this arrangement then that would make sense…

          • Rob says:

            Curve has dropped me a note. New cards have tough security measures against large transactions. Use it for other stuff and you will be able to make big payments by the time the July tax bill appears.

        • rams1981 says:

          Hi James. I just put through another £1500 on my curve card. So over £3k the last 2 days.

          I’ve had my curve card a while and put spend through regularly.

          Have you just received yours?

          • Rob says:

            Curve has dropped me a note. HMRC payments are fine. Getting a brand new Curve and putting through a fat payment is NOT fine. Use it now and then between now and the July tax bill and all should be well.

        • Go says:

          Hi Rams, my card is brand new. Managed to get two payments through on the 30th but only by calling mbna. Latter attempts failed but didn’t even reach mbna. Think I will start using the card on a regular basis before trying anything else on hmrc in a month or two

    • Leo says:

      Tried to pay VAT today. No joy. I have a card with debit clearly printed on it. Oh well.

      • Michael says:

        What a bummer…..Ill wait a few days and see if i can process it again….

  • Steve says:

    The Curve risk engine is super conservative. I’ve had my card two weeks and have made a small number of small card-present transactions. I have tried three ‘larger’ online payments, two for building materials (circa £650 and £250) and one on for £230… All declined by Curve. If you’re planning to pay your upcoming VAT bill with your recently acquired Curve card, like I was, then you should probably make other arrangements.

    Interesting to hear about people having issues with larger transactions with MBNA. The VA Black Visa was my card of choice for HMRC payments and I had no problem making payments in the £5-10k bracket. I guess their risk engine was happy with me… I have held the Black cards for 8-10 years and use them for most of my daily spend.

    • Rob says:

      Online payments are inherently riskier than normal payments. A few weeks using it for normal Visa or MC payments should ease things off.

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

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