(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.)
Curve Card is an all-in-one payment wallet and aggregator that is popular amongst Head for Points readers. I describe Curve in detail here, but in summary:
Curve Card (a debit Mastercard) is free – in fact Curve will pay you £5 for trying it out if you use my referral code of OQB4J (apply here)
You can link any other Visa or Mastercard to Curve – so the smart thing to do is to link a miles or points earning card
You can pay DEBIT card bills with Curve which are recharged to your linked Visa or Mastercard. Importantly, this recharge goes through as a purchase and so earns miles and points on the underlying card.
You can withdraw £200 of cash per month at an ATM for free and it will be recharged to your underlying Visa or Mastercard as a purchase, earning miles and points (unless you have a credit card from Tesco Bank, which treats Curve ATM transactions as cash)
You pay ZERO FX fees when using your Curve Card for overseas spending (Mon-Fri, a 0.5% loading applies at weekends). This effectively turns ANY Visa or Mastercard into a ‘no FX fees’ credit card. There is a £500 per month ‘no FX fees’ limit on the free Curve Blue card and a £15,000 annual limit on the £50 Curve Black card.
As you can see, there is lots of interesting stuff here that can both save you money on FX fees and earn you miles and points too.
Curve is about to allow American Express cards to be linked to the card. This will have a number of advantages:
You can pay with American Express anywhere, even at shops which don’t allow American Express, by using your Curve Mastercard linked to your Amex
You can pay with American Express at places which only accept debit cards, by using your Curve Mastercard linked to your Amex
You can spend abroad on American Express without incurring FX fees, by using your Curve Mastercard linked to your Amex (up to £500 per month on the free Curve version)
Amex payments are currently operating via a Beta programme with a small number of Curve users. The terms and conditions are here so you can see how it will work.
Amex functionality is a little different. You will have an e-wallet enabled in your Curve app. You need to pre-load this with funds from your linked American Express card. The T&Cs say that eventually the top-up will be automated, so that you don’t need to manually load funds – as soon as you make a £100 Curve purchase, for example, Curve will automatically top-up your e-wallet and authorise the transaction.
(This is exactly how the new Lufthansa Miles & More cards work. You receive a Diners Club charge card and a prepaid debit Mastercard. When you buy something on the pre-paid Mastercard it is immediately loaded up via your Diners Club charge card and the money released for the purchase. This all happens in the background and should be seamless to you as the user.)
Amex use is not free. Holders of the free Blue Curve card will pay 0.65% on all American Express transactions. Holders of the £50 Black Curve will get £1,000 of American Express payments for free each month, with a fee of 0.65% thereafter.
All UK personal American Express cards are accepted as far as I can tell. This includes charge (Platinum), BA, SPG etc. This is a surprise as I understood that only the co-brand cards – which have had their fees capped under EU legislation – were going to participate.
Is it worth paying 0.65% for American Express acceptance?
Oddly, there is not a straight answer here.
If you have Curve Black then, whilst you are spending your £1,000 of free Amex allowance per month, it is clearly a good deal. Beyond that, or for all Curve Blue customers, it is a bit different.
On the face of it, you might say:
“I am paying 0.65p per £1 recharged to my free BA Amex to earn 1 Avios, and 0.65p is a bargain”, or
“I am paying 0.65p per £1 recharged to my BA Premium Plus Amex to earn 1.5 Avios, and 0.43p per Avios is a great bargain”, or
“I am paying 0.65p per £1 recharged to my SPG Amex to earn 3 Starwood / Marriott points, and 0.22p per Starwood / Marriott points is a great bargain”
There is also an opportunity cost because you could have used a Visa or Mastercard for free. You could for example:
Link a Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard to Curve, earn 1.5 Virgin miles per £1 and pay no transaction fee, or
Link a BA Premium Plus American Express to Curve, earn 1.5 Avios per £1 and pay 0.65% transaction fee
Your American Express acceptance cost is therefore 0.65% PLUS whatever rewards you would have got for free linking your highest earning Visa or Mastercard instead.
There are very few ‘super generous’ Visa or Mastercard products available however, so unless you have one of the new Virgin Atlantic cards or the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard then paying for Amex acceptance via Curve is likely to be your best bet.
Of course, if ‘manufacturing’ American Express spend via Curve Card makes it easier to hit the 2-4-1 voucher on your British Airways American Express card, or hit the sign-up bonus on a new Amex, or hit the 10000 points annual bonus for spending £15000 on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, then the maths changes again. Using Amex via Curve is likely to be an excellent way of ensuring that you hit these targets.
Most Head for Points readers WILL get a lot of benefit from linking their American Express card to Curve.
When can I get it?
I don’t know. The Beta programme launched last week for those who were invited. The rest of us will have to wait a while.
It is also worth noting that Curve is planning to replace the existing Black card with two new products, each of which will carry a monthly fee but will come with a far wider range of benefits than you receive now. I am not sure how existing Black cardholders will be migrated.
There is certainly no harm in getting yourself the free Curve Blue card now. You can enjoy all of the benefits I outlined at the top of the page whilst waiting for Amex acceptance to roll out. You can apply here – my referral code is OQB4J if you want to receive the £5 ‘refer a friend’ bonus.
(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards? Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)