(UPDATE: American Express withdrew from Curve shortly after this article was published! Unless you want to read this article for a history lesson, I suggest that you click here to read this article instead which explains how Curve currently operates, without American Express.)
Curve Card launched its new subscription plans on Monday – and it is very interesting, to say the least. It is also a major departure for Curve as it tries to create a sustainable business model.
From today, if you are a Curve customer in the UK, you can use a Curve Mastercard to pay for anything and have it charged to any American Express card you own.
Even merchants who only accept debit cards, such as HMRC, can be used with Curve. Your tax payments can now go through your Amex card!
When you top-up your Curve card with an Amex, it will go through as a purchase. This means it will earn you points on your American Express card and count towards any spending target such as the British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher.
The only exception is that you are not allowed to use your Curve Card to pay a credit card bill, unless your Curve Card is linked to a debit card.
Importantly, you CANNOT have ATM withdrawals charged to your Amex card. You can have ATM withdrawals charged to most Visa or Mastercards as a purchase, unless you are a Tesco Bank or NatWest / BoS credit card holder, as long as you remain within Curve’s ‘fair use’ guidelines.
To summarise what Curve will now cost you:
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 is Curve?
Let’s start by saying what Curve isn’t.
Curve is NOT a bank account. It is NOT like Revolut, Monzo, N26, Starling or Monese. If you take out a Curve Card you are NOT getting a ‘current account on a card’.
Curve is simply an intermediary card, a card (a Mastercard) to which you can link all of your existing payment cards, whether they be debit or credit, Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
Via the Curve app you can select which linked card you want to use at any particular time. Curve transactions are automatically recharged onto that card. Even if a shop does not accept American Express or even credit cards at all, you can pay with your Curve Mastercard, which is a debit card.
Transactions are processed in two different ways:
If you have a Visa or Mastercard linked to your Curve Card, any transaction you make is automatically recharged to the relevant Visa or Mastercard by Curve. Your card statement will show as ‘CRV*XXXXXX’ with XXXXXX being the name of the original merchant.
If you have an American Express linked to your Curve Card, you need to use the app to load funds from your Amex card into an e-wallet. Purchases are then debited against the balance in your e-wallet. All you will see on your American Express statement is a series of charges (treated as purchases) for funds uploaded to your e-wallet. You can enable ‘auto top-up’ to automatically fill your e-wallet – rounded up to the nearest £100 – if you do not have enough money in your e-wallet at the point of purchase.
Curve has some other unique features:
Cash withdrawals are charged as a PURCHASE. Yes, a £200 cash withdrawal on your Curve debit Mastercard will be recharged as a £200 purchase to your linked Visa or Mastercard (not Amex). This is FREE but there are limits on cash withdrawals based on the Curve Card variant you have. Note that Tesco Bank and NatWest / BoS do NOT allow credit card holders to make free cash withdrawals via Curve and other banks may follow in time.
Overseas purchases are converted without an FX fee during Monday to Friday (except for free Curve Blue which is capped at £500 per month of free FX transactions with a 2% fee beyond that). This is a better deal than using a separate free ‘no rewards’ credit card with 0% FX fees because you still earn rewards on the underlying linked card. On weekends and UK public holidays, a 0.5% fee is added for € or $ transactions and 1.5% for other currencies.
Before we go on …..
Whilst the ability to recharge all of your Visa and Mastercard debit and credit payments to American Express is clearly great, you should do the maths before deciding whether to get a paid Curve Card instead of the free Blue version.
How much money do you spend each month at places which do not accept Amex but do accept Mastercard debit cards?
Council tax is an obvious possibility, along with some utility bills. The big winners are people who pay HMRC, whether that is for PAYE, self employed income tax and NI or VAT. Even then, you will need to work around Curve’s daily, weekly and monthly payment limits which get higher as you use the card. This will require you to break down large tax bills into numerous instalments.
Note that you cannot use Curve to pay a credit card bill.
You also need to think about how much money you spend abroad which could be recharged to an Amex. If you currently use a 0% FX fees card with no rewards, you will be better off with Curve because of the rewards earned on the card your purchase is recharged to. If you currently use an Amex card abroad and pay the 3% FX fee, you can now save all of that. Note that Curve imposes a 0.5% fee for $ and € FX transactions (1.5% for other currencies) on a Saturday and Sunday which could be troublesome, especially if you check out of a hotel on a Saturday with a large bill to pay.
What are the Curve Card limits?
Irrespective of the limits on your underlying cards, Curve has its own daily, monthly and annual limits. Your limits are increased as Curve begins to ‘trust’ your behaviour.
These are the maximum limits you can get:
Daily spend (inc ATM withdrawals) – £4,500
Daily ATM withdrawal cap – £1,000
Monthly spending limit (on a rolling 30 day basis) – £120,000
Annual spending limit – £1,400,000
This should cover even the highest tax bills. As I said, though, you have no chance of being given a limit anywhere close to this on Day 1. The limit you get is not linked to the type of Curve Card you use.
What are the three different types of Curve Card?
In this part of the article I will review the new Curve Metal product, as this is the one which is the most striking and has the most benefits.
Part 2 of this article covers Curve Black and the free Curve Blue.
What are the features of Curve Metal?
This page of the Curve website compares the free different types of Curve Card.
Fee: £14.99 per month, or £150 annually (if you pay monthly and cancel or downgrade within six months, a £50 cancellation fee will apply)
Card: Funky 18g brushed metal card in red, blue or rose gold. I have been trialling the blue one and it is a bit boring to be honest so I’d recommend one of the others.
Availability: UK residents only
Amex usage cap: None and no fees
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: £600 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)
Gadget insurance (maximum value £800 with a £50 excess)
Car rental CDW waiver coverage (I have this via Amex Platinum but if you do hire cars and don’t have a standalone policy this will be worth something to you – the car must be worth under £25,000 however)
Airport lounge access via LoungeKey (this is NOT free access, you will need to pay a fee of around £15 per visit)
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 VERY 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, £600-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 (0.5% fee $ or € and 1.5% fee for other currencies applies to transactions made on a Saturday or Sunday)
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’
If I can get a high enough limit on my Curve Card, for example, I will able to charge my six figure PAYE, VAT and personal tax bills to my BAPP American Express card. This will be a major boost to my Avios earning. It also opens up the possibility of hitting spend targets such as the £37,500 of spend required on the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard to be given top tier Spire Elite status.
Is Curve Metal worth £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 a snazzy metal card plus:
- 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
On this basis, I think Curve Metal justifies the small extra fee. However, for many HFP readers the free Curve Blue card will be enough as I show in Part 2.
In Part 2 ….
In my second article today I will review Curve Black and the free Curve Blue. Click here to read it.
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 to 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, add the code when you register your details in the app.
(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.)