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

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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.

(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 2020 article instead which explains how Curve currently operates, without American Express.)

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?

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 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)

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


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Comments (582)

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

  • Yuff says:

    So do I have to re-apply as I have just tried to add Amex to my curve and it says only beta users😩

  • Neil says:

    When do the new limits kick in? I can now add an Amex to the app and have my personal tax bill to pay this week but the app is still showing the old £50k limit which I’ve already hit.

    • John says:

      When Curve decides to let you have them

    • Rob says:

      You don’t get a higher limit by default, Curve has to decide to give you one (or you need to request one).

    • Chris says:

      I’m interested in this too. I asked Curve and they said the limits reset on a rolling basis, BUT I have spend from January 2018 still showing as part of my limits????

      • John says:

        January 2019 isn’t over yet?

        • Chris says:

          Let hope that’s it. I assumed that ‘on a rolling basis’ would mean transactions in the last 365 days count, not those older! In fact ‘in the last 365 days’ is how it shows in the app and the figure is incorrect…

      • cynicalmoose says:

        I seem to be stuck on a £10k annual limit. How do you get to £50k?

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Have you actually been spending on your card or only using debit transactions?

          It’s a business you have to contribute to their bottom line for them to want to review your limit.

        • Mr Dee says:

          Ask them to temporality increase your limits so you can spend some on the card with a varied spend if you have reached your current limit.

      • Polly says:

        Chris, depends on the date in January you did the spend. Funds available released on a daily basis, sometimes 2 days after the spend a year ago. I am close to my 50k limit now, so won’t be able to do much spend until April, when funds start being available again.

    • Zana711 says:

      Anyone willing to share success / decline of requests for limit increase beyond £50K? Reading thru bits, I think there’s one or two HFPers who’s gotten £100K but not sure what usage patterns one needs to prove one’s “trustworthiness” in order to get it. I’ve hit £50K some months ago and hasn’t been able to use it to take advantage of free forex ever since it launched last year.

      • kt1974 says:

        Wait. I thought the 50k limit was from MasterCard, or at least that’s what they told me when I asked for an increase. Now this article is saying the limit is waaaay higher than that. I’m also well past the 365 day anniversary of various spends, and I’m down to my last £80! Also today’s (Android, at least) app update seems to have caused chaos…

  • Dave says:

    Just in time for users who have put paying their tax off to the last minute!

    I needed to force an update on iOS to be able to add Amex.

    Finally the biggie: are we all sure that Amex doesn’t/isn’t going to charge for using Curve, like Tesco does? Be nice to hear from an Amex/Curve user who can confirm first hand. My first use will be my income tax so any percentage charge on that will be deadly.

    • Rob says:

      Curve and Amex have done a special deal to get Amex back on the platform so I would be very surprised if they ever started charging.

      This is a totally different situation to the one with Tesco Bank, who have no deal with Curve at all and just got fed up with people doing ATM withdrawals which they weren’t profiting from!

    • John says:

      What basis would Amex have for charging you to use Curve? It would be like charging you to use paypal.

      Cash withdrawals from Amex are specifically prohibited.

    • Mr Dee says:

      Amex are serious about Curve now so I don’t expect them to do anyone over

  • TripRep says:

    How do you top up with Amex from the Mobile app?

  • Lev441 says:

    If a blue user wanted to upgrade, how would one go about that?

    • Rob says:

      You can do it via the new version of the app. Click ‘Card’ (far left icon at the bottom) and then ‘Manage Your Subscription’.

      • Lev441 says:

        Thanks. Even after updating app didn’t show that optioned. Deleted and reinstalled fixed that.

  • Ian says:

    Too much hassle for me now. Too many options, exceptions, things to remember, etc. I can foresee issues when I’m stood at a till point and something isn’t topping up properly, etc. It’s a nice idea, and it was great when it first launched – it appeared much simpler and easier. But now, I simply just can’t be bothered.

    • Rob says:

      My main concern about Curve, as a long term business proposition, is that it is too complex to explain to your mate in the pub in 30 seconds. This is how Revolut, Monzo etc get most of their customers – by recommendation.

      Whilst there is a 30-second elevator pitch for HFP readers – ‘get this card and you can charge anything to an Amex’ – it is not a pitch which will work on the average person.

    • John says:

      Huh? You top up Amex before leaving home, then the only reason it would decline, would be a connection problem from POS to acquirer.

      So in this regard Curve-Amex is “safer” than using Visa or MC which need to do two authorisations (Curve and then your issuer) within 2 seconds

      • Rob says:

        This is my thought too. In theory a pre-loaded Curve should never decline which actually makes it less troublesome. If you set yours to auto top-up then you still have a decline risk because the top-up is done in real time, like the Lufthansa Miles & More Mastercard / Diners Club cards.

        • Mr Dee says:

          Yes but if it does decline and you can’t put your 4k transaction through that you travelled an hour to pay and now you arer at your Amex limit this maybe a problem.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Why would that happen you’ve topped up your account with £4k it’s there to spend. Curve have always been good at telling you when the platform doesn’t work for maintance etc

        • Mr Dee says:

          It could be declined for security by Curve for example, I wouldn’t trust Curve to authorise anything even if topped up.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          I’m sorry but that’s a risk with any card including your Amex.

        • Mr Dee says:

          Yes clearly but no other card excluding prepaid including Amex requires you to preload the card, its just an observation as people need to be aware of the possibilities.

      • Russ says:

        A hotel could potentially decline it though as their security deposit. You could probably get round that by giving another card as the deposit but pay with curve at bill time.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Never use a pre paid card for pre Auths such as hire cars or hotels. Settling your final bill is fine.

  • VJ says:

    Curve Blue – No Credit Card/Cash Advance charges for £200 ATM withdrawal per month using linked credit card other than Tesco Credit Card.

    Correct?

    • Rob says:

      No.

      £200 per month of OVERSEAS cash withdrawals. You can do UNLIMITED UK cash withdrawals, up to £200 per day. The first 10 per month are free, the rest cost 50p. However Curve has a ‘fair use’ policy which basically means if a large % of your Curve activity is cash withdrawals they will close you down.

      • Pierre says:

        Hi Rob,
        I can’t remember if this has been covered anywhere: For a Blue curve card- is the £200pm overseas cash withdrawal included in the £500pm overseas purchases limit, or is it in addition to?
        Thanks!

    • Anna says:

      Seemingly not at the moment, but your card issuer could decide to change this at any point.

  • Stuart says:

    You’ve said twice – “you cannot use Curve to pay a credit card bill.”.

    That’s not true…

    (golden goose/ shh shh/ fight club/blah blah)

    • Anna says:

      I think Rob meant that you can’t use your Amex top up to pay your Amex bill. Which would be taking the you know what well and truly in any case.

      • Rob says:

        In theory all transactions to ‘financial institutions’ are blocked (6012 MCC code). In reality this is not always the case …

        • Chris says:

          Would NS&I count as a financial institutions if buying Premium Bonds etc? Would be welcome to pick up the Avios on those too…

        • Stuart says:

          @Chris – No personal experience on this, but others have reported success.

      • Stuart says:

        @ Anna – Give it a go – you might be surprised, although I suspect that one will be closed very quickly.

        It is absolutely possible to pay A N Other credit card (not barclaycard, unfortunately) in this way

    • Mr Dee says:

      They will ban you eventually not really worth the hassle long term

      • Stuart says:

        That is not the case either, I’m afraid…

      • Mr Dee says:

        They explicitly tell you not too, it’s not hard for them to go through their data and block people eventually…

        • Stuart says:

          Given that (as Rob pointed out) financial institutions’ are MCC Code 6012, yet my credit card bill is charged as MCC 7399 (Business Services), I’m not too worried at this point.

        • Mr Dee says:

          It is of course your choice, regardless of code it would be easy to pin point if they wanted too

    • Rob H says:

      It you take a look at the terms:
      https://www.curve.app/en-gb/fair-use

      Last item clearly says you shouldn’t – so definately not worth the risk IMO.

      • Stuart says:

        Hmm, clearly changed AUP since the beta. You are right this gives them grounds to cancel your card, however I would expect a “warning” first.

        What I can say, is regardless of that policy – it technically works, and having had discussions with Curve over issues in the beta, (including this specifcally) I wasn’t told it’s not allowed. Was actually given help in one instance 🙂

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