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What Curve Card’s email yesterday about ATM cash machine usage means

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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.)

If you have a Curve Card, you will have received an email from them yesterday which you may have found a little confusing.

There is a big Curve announcement coming this week which I will cover on Thursday morning.  If you don’t know about Curve, I will run a full explanation in that article.  You can also learn more in this HfP article.

I spoke with Curve’s CEO yesterday to get an understanding of what is going on.

Curve card ATM changes

As many Curve cardholders have discovered, Curve has a decline rate which is higher than standard credit cards

A key reason for this is that all Curve transactions carry the same merchant reference code.  Standard credit card transactions are coded based on the type of retailer or, for big companies, the exact retailer name.  Unfortunately, when your underlying credit card issuer sees transaction after transaction coming through marked as ‘general’, it can trigger fraud concerns.

In order to improve acceptance, Curve transactions will now carry a merchant reference code which reflects the underlying transaction.  Your underlying credit card company will now see a mix of retailer types coming through instead of just ‘general’, ‘general’, ‘general’ etc.

Another upside here is that it will trigger sector-based and, for large retailers with their own merchant code, company-based promotions.  For example, the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard – until the end of the month – offers a £20 Uber credit for a £500 airline transaction.  A bonus like this should now trigger if you paid with Curve as it would now carry an airline merchant code.

However …..

As part of this recoding, ATM withdrawals made using Curve will now be identifiable as cash transactions by your card issuer.

It is important to note that, short term, my understanding is that there should NOT be charges for making ATM withdrawals with Curve.  However, over time, it is possible that individual credit card companies will make changes to treat these transactions as cash withdrawals.

ATM withdrawals made using Curve when it is linked to a debit card will continue to be free regardless.

We have seen the same thing happen with Revolut.  Some credit card companies have changed their terms and conditions recently to treat Revolut transactions as pseudo-cash, and so incurring cash withdrawal fees.  Other credit card companies have not, so you can load your Revolt card from those credit cards and have it treated as a purchase, earning miles and points.  Our main article on Revolut including a HfP special offer for applying is here.


For now, you should be able to continue making £200 per month of ATM withdrawals with Curve Card and have them treated as a purchase, earning miles and points on the underlying card.  Keep an eye on your emails and card statements, however, as you may receive notice from your underlying issuer that this will change.

You can find out more about Curve in this article.

Curve will pay you £10 for trying it out if you use our link.

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Comments (270)

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

  • Roger says:

    Is AMEX definitely coming back to Curve later this week?

  • George says:

    Fyi, although Curve is often advertised as a way to pay HMRC it actually doesn’t work for all HMRC payments. It is really disappointing!

  • jc says:

    I’m missing something: if ATM withdrawals will now carry a ‘cash’ or ‘ATM’ or whatever merchant code, how come they’ll still be treated as “purchases” in the short term?

    • John says:

      Exactly. Topping up revolut is not a cash withdrawal. Card issuers might be able to treat revolut as cash-like or not cash-like, but I don’t see how an ATM withdrawal can be treated as anything other than what it is, if the info is passed to the underlying card.

      Never had curve declined unless there was a connectivity problem or prepaid cards were automatically rejected by the retailer (only happens online), so not sure what that bit about repeated”general” transactions is supposed to mean either

      • Rob says:

        You are not thinking it through. Curve charges your credit card. It is not a cash withdrawal. It is a purchase made from Curve.

    • Rob says:

      Because it is a purchase but with coding which now allows the card company to treat it as cash if they want. Curve charges your credit card, technically, so your card is not being used for cash.

      • Genghis says:

        So what’s the difference between this and say some card issuers charging for Revolut top ups for “cash-like” transactions? Or say Circle top ups from Creation (been burned there recently)?

      • New Card says:

        Most CC terms say quasi-cash transactions are a cash advance, so I don’t think a change of terms would necessarily be needed. As Genghis has said, some issuers have form for changing what is/isn’t treated as an advance overnight without any warning at all.

        • Dan says:

          Agree with this. Just had a quick look at my HSBC terms and conditions and it refers to ‘cash and cash like transactions’.

          I’m not sure how this doesn’t fall into the broad definition of the latter?

          • Rob says:

            A rule of thumb is probably that if a card charges for Revolut topups they will charge for Curve. Remember that there is no benefit to your card company for charging you because you will just stop doing it.

    • the_real_a says:

      I’m not sure i share Robs thoughts on this. Credit Card companies generally code charges at category level. If a transaction is sent through from today on an MCC that is coded as a cash-like-transaction then it will receive a cash fee. I dont see there is anything that the CC company will need to change or code, and certainly no T&C changes. The fact that merchant name is curve rather than “Barclays ATM” is not relevant as charges are not normally applied at merchant name level.

      Revolut is a bit of a red herring, in that MCC 4829 (top up) was previously NOT coded at category level for most CC companies. However, all they did was simply add this MCC to the to their list of cash transactions MCC`s and hence charges were applied – along with many other companies on the same MCC (annoyingly).

      Perhaps there is something I’m missing…

  • JJH4YB says:

    It would appear that the benefits of having a Curve card are slowly disappearing.

  • Kevino says:

    A company that closes down its webpage for customer comments on such a controversial issue, as Curve did shortly after sending me the bombshell email, has much to learn about customer care. Their last comment on the topic was – we hear you- but perhaps they should have added, but we do not want to listen anymore.

    • callum says:

      Why should they take comments on this? Were you going to provide some original insight that they a) didn’t already know and b) hadn’t already been posted? I highly doubt it.

  • Sandgrounder says:

    I am not surprised, without this development I imagine that Tesco wouldn’t have agreed to drop their charges, and others would have started treating Curve as cash. It has been a nice perk for a while, customer numbers will have been boosted, funding will have been secured. No doubt there will be another fintech tease for us all to exploit coming soon.

    • the_real_a says:

      I was told that tesco had almost 1000 internal complaints with over a hundred passed to the ombudsman… It was also hinted that all other payments on the same MCC as curve were hit with a cash advance charge – such as paying solicitors fees…

  • Chopin says:

    well, I didnt received the email from curve~
    Althought the only update I care is amex linkage, from what I see, this curve update might not be welcome for others.
    People want unique function, using credit card to do the cash advance(even a small amount) and be treated as purchase is very unique function. It is very first function when introducing curve to others. I myself sad to see this symbolic feature gone…

  • mh says:

    True, you can’t pay into HMRC’s taxfree childcare account.
    Customer service simply refused to look into it after numerous requests!
    Maybe something to ask the CEO about?!

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

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