(EDIT: A couple of days after this article ran, American Express withdrew from Curve. This article is now only useful as a history lesson. Our most recent introductory article on Curve, reflecting the split with Amex, is here.)
This is Part 2 of my article about the new Curve Card subscription plans which launched on Monday. Part 1, which reviews the flagship Curve Metal product, is here.
To summarise the changes:
The basic Curve Card remains FREE – in fact Curve will pay you £5 for trying it out if you use my referral code of OQB4J
Curve Black costs £9.99 per month and allows £1,000 per month of free American Express top-ups (0.65% thereafter)
Curve Metal costs £14.99 per month or £150 per year and has unlimited American Express top-ups, a choice of three cool metal cards to choose from and some travel and insurance benefits
What are the three different type of Curve Card?
Part 1 explained what Curve Card is all about and reviewed the £14.99 per month Curve Metal card. In this review I will look at Curve Black and the free Curve Blue.
Are you an existing Curve Black cardholder? If so, you will get three months of ‘new’ Curve Black membership for free (see 4.2.1 of the T&C’s). People who were on the Amex ‘beta’ trial will get six months. After that you can either switch to a subscription or you can drop back the ‘old’ set of Curve Black benefits with no fee. Alternatively you can upgrade to Curve Metal and get four months for free, but in this scenario you lose the option to drop back to a free ‘old’ Black card.
What are the features of Curve Black?
This page of the Curve website compares the three different types of Curve Card.
Fee: £9.99 per month, no annual option
Card: Plastic, not metal
Availability: UK and various other EEA countries
Amex usage cap: £1000 per month for free, with a 0.65% fee thereafter
Foreign exchange fees: Unlimited transactions with no fee (0.5% fee $ or € and 1.5% fee for other currencies applies to transactions made on a Saturday or Sunday)
ATM withdrawals: Overseas: £400 per month for free, 2% thereafter (can only be charged to a Visa or Mastercard) / UK: 10 free withdrawals per month (max £200 per day, fair use policy applies), 50p fee thereafter
These are the key benefits. There are other benefits which I do not value highly but which some readers may find useful:
Travel insurance underwritten by AXA (this looks OK – you can see the policy document here as a PDF – and with an age limit of 70, although the rules are stricter than many policies in terms of, for example, sports you may not play on holiday. Baggage and personal belongings are not covered for Black cardholders.)
Gadget insurance (maximum value £800 with a £50 excess)
1% cashback from six premium retailers for the first 90 days of membership. This is on top of the rewards you will earn from your underlying card.
This card has the possibility to be attractive to Head for Points readers. Let’s look at a couple of key areas:
Your ATM withdrawals (10 per month in the UK for free, £400-worth per month in foreign currency) will earn you miles and points on any underlying Visa or Mastercard. This will also count towards spend-based bonuses on those cards. This can offset a lot of the annual fee.
You can charge all of your foreign spending to a miles or points earning card – including an Amex – whilst paying 0% FX fees, which should lead to a sharp increase in your points earning
You can charge some day-to-day debit card spending to Curve and turn it into spend which earns miles, points and ‘spend-related target bonuses’
However, I would argue that Curve Metal is a better package than Curve Black.
Is Curve Metal worth paying £2.50 to £5 per month more than Curve Black?
That’s a good question. If you pre-pay for Curve Metal at £150, the difference in cost is only £30 per year or £2.50 per month. For your extra £2.50, you get:
- Unlimited Amex usage (Curve Black is capped at £1000 per month for free and charges 0.65% afterwards)
- CDW car rental insurance (not part of Black)
- £600 vs £400 of free overseas ATM withdrawals (this in itself is worth £1 or so in extra Visa or Mastercard rewards)
- Travel insurance includes lost baggage and personal belongings (Curve Black does not)
- No ability to pay £15 per visit for LoungeKey airport lounge access
You also get the novelty of a metal card. On this basis, I think Curve Metal justifies the extra fee.
Finally, let’s look at the free Curve Blue card
What are the features of Curve Blue?
Curve Blue is free – free to apply and free to operate. American Express usage is charged, but for low spenders you may find it cheaper overall than paying the monthly fee for Curve Black or Curve Metal.
This page of the Curve website compares the free different types of Curve Card.
Card: Plastic, not metal
Availability: UK and various other EEA countries
Amex usage cap: No free Amex usage – you pay a 0.65% fee on each transaction
Foreign exchange fees: £500 per month for no fee (0.5% fee $ or € and 1.5% fee for other currencies applies to transactions made on a Saturday or Sunday) with a 2% fee thereafter
ATM withdrawals: Overseas: £200 per month for free, 2% thereafter (can only be charged to a Visa or Mastercard) / UK: 10 free withdrawals per month (max £200 per day, fair use policy applies), 50p fee thereafter
1% cashback from six retailers for the first 90 days of membership. This is on top of the rewards you will earn from your underlying card.
One key Curve feature is unchanged, however. Even users of the free Curve Blue can pay any debit card bill and have it recharged as a purchase for free to a linked Visa or Mastercard. There are no usage limits except for the day / month / annual limits imposed by Curve which are increased as you become ‘trustworthy’. It is only Amex transactions which are charged.
A free Curve Blue holder can also do 1 x £200 free overseas ATM withdrawal each month and pick up a few points for free on their linked Visa or Mastercard. You get the same allowance of UK ATM withdrawals (10 per month for free) as Black and Metal cardholders.
Charges only kick in when you start recharging purchases to an American Express card. For a lot of HFP readers, the free Curve Blue will be good enough. If you find yourself needing to charge a few thousand pounds of Visa or Mastercard debit or credit card spend to your Amex to, for example, hit the BA Premium Plus Amex 2-4-1 voucher, you can do so for just £6.50 per £1,000. Unless and until you do this, there is no charge for getting or using Curve Blue.
If you value all of the ‘extras’ attached to Curve Metal at £zero, you could recharge £23,000 per year to an Amex via Curve Blue at £6.50 per £1,000 before it becomes cheaper to have Curve Metal at £150 per year.
The ability to recharge your Visa or Mastercard debit or credit card payments to an American Express card is, for many HFP readers, a game changer.
That said, Curve is doing its best to annoy people with odd little rules which also make the product unreasonably complex. The 0.5%-1.5% weekend FX surcharge, for example, means that it may still make sense to have a separate 0% FX fees credit card in your wallet. Stripping luggage and personal possessions coverage from the Black travel insurance will remove the value for many people. Having different ATM rules for UK and overseas transactions is another unnecessary complication.
To be honest I am not overwhelmed by the benefits of Curve Black and I’m not sure it will survive long term. If you pre-pay for Curve Metal then it is only £2.50 per month more than Curve Black and the extra benefits are well worth that.
At the other end of the scale, Curve Blue remains free. Blue is a risk-free introduction to Curve and you can easily upgrade via the app to Curve Black or Curve Metal if you choose to do so at a later date. A lot of HFP readers will be perfectly fine with the free card, preferring to ‘pay as they go’ for American Express transactions. If you will recharge less than £20,000 per year onto your American Express card via Curve then – if you don’t need the travel insurance, CDW car rental waiver, the ‘cool’ value of having a metal card in your wallet and the 0% Monday-Friday FX fees benefit – free Curve Blue is probably good enough.
How to apply for your Curve Card (free if you choose Blue)
To sign up to Curve, simply go to this page of their website or download the app. The easiest thing to do is order the free Blue card and then upgrade to Black or Metal once you have got familiar with it, although you can start immediately on Black or Metal if you want.
Curve will pay you £5 for trying it out if you use my referral code of OQB4J – a £5 cash credit will be added to your Curve Rewards balance. If you click through via the link above (or here) and then download the app it should track automatically. Alternatively include the code when you add your personal details to the app.
I am interested to see how the new-look Curve Card goes down with the wider market. For miles and points people like us, especially those in thrall to American Express products, it is great. It remains to be seen how it goes down outside our circle.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2021 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these:
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.