Curve relaunches – charge ANY debit or credit card payment to your American Express (Part 2)

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(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.

Review of Curve 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.

Fee: None

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.

Conclusion

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 freeBlue 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 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.)

Curve relaunches - charge ANY debit or credit card payment to your American Express (Part 1)
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Comments

  1. Richard S says:

    I am a legacy black (i.e. £50 fee paid up front) holder, and I was invited to join the beta on Saturday. I did and loaded a couple of Amex cards on my Curve.

    Obviously the beta ended on Monday, so I seem to have snuck into what might be an advantageous position. However, I’ve read today’s two articles repeatedly, and I cannot work out what I’m going to be paying for when, and what I need to do when.

    I’m sure I’m not the only person in this position (although I acknowledge others might have been in the beta longer than me), and I think a little clarity – if it’s known! – would be really useful. If not, I guess I’ll get in touch with Curve and try to work out what’s going on…

    Thanks

    • Same confusion here! I received an invitation for Beta on Monday alongside with my ‘unique’ AXA insurance code. I can’t figure out which level I am and when they start charging me ruthlessly…

    • Beta users get 6 months new black or 4 months metal on free trial. Regular users get half those allowances.

      • Richard S says:

        And what happens at the end of those six months? Does the legacy black disappear and we’re dumped to blue if we don’t join the subscription model (a bit rude as we paid the £50 signup), or do we just return to where we were pre-beta (i.e. with no Amex)?

        • If you do nothing you’ll migrate to new Blue. You will be able to pick if you want to stay on new Black or move to Legacy Black (which means 0.65% top-up fee as per Blue but unlimited 0% forex)

  2. James Whitehead says:

    I think this now leaves a bit question mark over the value of the HSBC Premier World Elite card.

    Being a contractor with a decent chunk of tax to pay every year the HSBC card was standout for making tax payments. But now it makes more sense to close this and go curve metal.

    Is there any purpose for the HSBC card anymore?

    • Depends if you have lounge access via any other route and, to some extent, whether free Curve Blue charged to HSBC WE is better or worse than paid Curve Black/Metal charged to an Amex.

      • James Whitehead says:

        Good point on the lounge access.

        But for the combos you mention above :-

        Curve Blue / HSBC WE = £199 / year fee and 1 Avios per pound
        Curve Black / BA Amex = £150 / year fee and 1 Avios per pound
        Curve Black / BA PP Amex = £345 / year fee and 1.5 Avios per pound

        Unless your tax bill is tiny cannot see any scenario where the HSBC WE wins here…

        • James Whitehead says:

          When i say “Curve Black” above I actually mean “Curve Metal”

        • HSBC points are transferable. Value of moving to Etihad and Singapore (or even cashing out) is worth something.

          Stick £500k in HSBC and WE is free anyway 🙂

  3. Noggins says:

    I’m confused too…
    I’m legacy black (don’t recall paying any fee…?) and had an invite yesterday to join the Beta group – metal card – of which there is a limit of 10,000 customers. No mention of any fee – until you click through to the web site where I’m offered the three choices Rob describes today – no mention of beta or limited numbers or ‘free’.

  4. Derren B says:

    Hi Rob (or anyone else who can advise or has an opinion!)
    I upgraded to Black from Blue just before Christmas paying the one-off £50 fee. I’m not sure what to make of the changes and whether if I stick with the new Curve Black product (not Metal) I should view it as being effectively charged twice i.e. the £50 then the ongoing monthly fee. Instinctively it feels like it, but wonder if I’m missing something.
    I’m not really sure what the up-front £50 has given me, other than two months on the original product. Is it just my bad luck with timing? One of the reasons I upgraded was the knowledge the product was about to be upgraded and it might be advantageous to get in early, but it seems all I’ve gained is 3 months free introductory offer with the new Black product. It doesn’t feel like a great reward for loyalty.

    • You can choose to retain the Legacy Black version of the card that you paid £50 and the benefits that come with that. No need to pay the £9.99/month for the new Black unless you want the additional benefits.

      I’m in the same boat and also feel a bit hard done by having paid the £50 just a few weeks ago.

  5. David Cox says:

    I just tried to add an Amex card in the Curve App and it rejected it saying that Amex is in Beta only at the moment. I think I’m still on the Blue card (even though the card itself looks charcoal grey!). Am I missing something. The HFP article implies blue cards shoul now accept Amex?

    • Have you updated the app? If you are on iOS force the update by refreshing your list of pending updates in the app store. Should be running v.3.0.1.1556

    • Was the same here yesterday, you need to delete old app and reinstall and all should be fine.

  6. Stephen says:

    I haven’t seen any discussion about the 0.65% fee being charged by Curve for Amex topups (apologies if I’ve missed this in the comments). What is Curve’s justification for this, as it is a Curve imposed fee, not an Amex one? (It would be an odd agreement in Amex insisted that Curve charge an additional fee).

    Given that they will be earning interest on your money while it sits in your wallet, if anything this is an area where they have less need to add a charge, not more? They’re not offering Section 75 protection on Amex Wallet purchases, so they don’t have additional costs there…

    Or is it simply a case of market forces? They know there is a niche of people who really to use Amex cards, so they’re charging a premium for the privilege?

    • Market forces… You don’t pay for the Blue card, so you pay the 0.65%.

      If you go for the Metal card, you don’t pay. So, it pays for itself if you’re going to be pushing £23k of annual spend through the Curve card (that you usually wouldn’t be able to use Amex for).

      • Stephen says:

        Compared to Visa/MC cards, you pay. Whether that is per transaction (blue, black above £1k/m) or via a service fee, there is still an additional cost.

    • Shoestring says:

      How do you know they’re not paying a fee to Amex?

      • Stephen says:

        Fair point. I should have said that there is the appearance of the fee just being to Curve.

        Has there been any more detailed explanation from Curve though? All I could find in their blog is that it is “in order to have a sustainable proposition”, but that immediately raises the question as to why this is different to Visa/MC?

        • Shoestring says:

          Isn’t the explanation that the MR points will cost Amex c.1p each when redeemed for airline/ hotel points, so they can’t let Curve ‘give them away’ for free?

        • Stephen says:

          No more than, eg, Virgin can’t let Curve ‘give away’ 1.5 points for free. And yet they do.

          I think Rob’s theory below makes the most sense, in terms of covering the extra fees on Plat/Gold purchases.

        • Shoestring says:

          Virgin won’t be allowing that for long 🙂

          Why do you think Tesco started charging a fee on Curve @ATM?

        • Stephen says:

          Because it’s a cash advance and not a purchase.

          I’m talking about this in the context of its intended use–not what one can get away with if they find the right loopholes–that is of charging a purchase on Curve through to an underlying card. Why would Virgin block that?

        • Shoestring says:

          Because it costs them money out with no money coming in?

        • Shoestring says:

          – as in points awarded but no fee income

    • My GUESS is that this is a blended fee. The original Curve plan, I think, was that you couldn’t use Gold or Platinum. These cards are not interchange-fee capped and Amex still charges 1.75%. The BA, SPG, Nectar cards are now capped at 0.3%.

      I GUESS that the plan changed. But, to include Gold and Platinum, there had to be a fee because Curve only gets 0.2% coming in and would be paying out 1.75%. 0.65% is potentially a blended average of what they expect to pay, so they make a profit on BA, SPG transfers and a thumping loss on Gold/Plat. Either that or Amex has agreed to a blended 0.65% so Curve breaks even that way.

      • Curve is a Commercial Mastercard debit card so gets about 1.85% from retailers. Amex on Gold charges the same retailers 1.99%.

        It’s the Commerical/Business card angle where curve scores imho.

  7. Clarence says:

    Downloaded the new app last night and loaded my blue card with £100 top up. Just tried to use it in B and Q and was declined. Anyone got any ideas what’s up.

  8. Nick Blake says:

    Hi
    The Curve Metal sounds perfect for me as I spend around 100k per year that I have to use a Visa card for and could use Amex instead. It says subject to fair use policy. Do you know what figure they would consider fair use.
    Many thanks
    Nick

    • Shoestring says:

      £100K pa won’t be seen as ‘unfair’ use if you’re keeping ATM usage reasonable buy mostly purchasing things/ paying bills

    • Worth bearing in mind that when you first receive the card initial spending limits are normally set at £2k / day, £5k / 30 day window and £10k / 365 day window.

      You can ask for these to be reviewed by I think Curve expect you to build up a bit of a useage pattern first.

      May not be a problem for you, but if your £100k is split evenly over the year and you need to start banging out £8K + per month from month one then you might struggle to start with.

    • This is the problem, I assume they use these limits to prevent security and chargeback potential for by building up a history of spend but if they want higher spend users they need to make it easier. Hopefully it gets easier to get a higher limit without having to mess around or be limited by not varying the spend enough…

  9. Presumably one could pay ones student loan with Amex via this method? They accept debit card payments. I’m aware of the arguments against paying the loan early, but for some high earning graduates this may be another place to hit BAPP spending targets?

    • Shoestring says:

      – yes in theory
      – you can’t subsequently take a payment holiday
      – interest rate on SL might be a lot lower than interest you’re paying (or will pay later) elsewhere eg credit cards/ loans
      – you could earn more in interest by depositing the money elsewhere than you save in interest on the SL (depends on interest you’re paying/ earning)

      I think you’d generally be better off paying into somewhere where you regain the use of the capital later. But obvs could cut the term of the SL & the interest payable so as you say: high earners could choose to do this to hit a 2-4-1 or spend target nice & quick/ before a deadline

  10. Peter C says:

    Hi,
    I have just completed paying my tax bill through Curve and on to HSBC MC for the Avios, and thought I would share a couple of potential traps.
    I needed to make several separate Curve payments which in total would have exceeded my credit limit on the card. I phoned HSBC to stretch my limit, but they quickly pointed out “you can’t pay tax on personal cards anymore” — I didn’t go into details about Curve, but I suspect I spiked my own aims as presumably they then were thinking “hmmm, why would he pays his tax bill by cash advance?” In any case, I managed to get a small increase, but not enough to cover the whole tax bill.
    So, to suport the series of Curve payments, I then added transferred a five-figure sum to my HSBC MC to enable me to put through the transactions. However, HSBC then blocked the payment as being potentially fraudulent and blocked all my accounts. They did phone me but I didn’t recognise the number so pushed it to voicemail, but they didn’t leave a message.
    I got the whole thing sorted, but as a result, I lost a couple of days in my series of Curve transactions.
    So the oral of the story is to make sure that you leave yourself a few days spare when paying large sums by Curve. Actually, I guess that’s prudent advice in all circumstances.
    As for Curve itself, I find it really good. I have Blue and as Rob alludes to in his article, i think Blue will be enough for me for the time being as I only have a few small non-Amex purchases. I will see how the Amex interface settles down and may move to Metal to cover next year’s tax bill.

    • Not a good idea to prepay a credit card at anytime and definitely need several days in between to pay a bill larger than 3k

  11. Are Amex cards issued to non-UK residents excluded? Mine got rejected and it failed the 6-digits validation on the Curve website. Any non-UK user experiencing the same issue?

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