According to an article in The Daily Telegraph yesterday, Curve Card is going through with its threat to sue American Express for withdrawing its support in January with no notice.
The report says that Curve is seeking damages for the ‘millions of pounds’ spent on fees and development work for the project to integrate American Express into the Curve platform.
Curve has also said that it is filing a complaint with the Payment Systems Regulator. To quote:
“We have a very large set of investors and we have a lot of money in our war chest”, [Curve CEO] Mr Bialick said. “When someone is actively trying to kill you, that means you are disrupting the model.”
Amex supplied the Telegraph with the same quote they gave to me back in January:
“American Express participated in a limited Curve beta test where we enabled a small number of Card Members to load funds onto an e-wallet using their Amex Card in the Curve app. We informed Curve that we would not participate in the further roll out of the Curve e-wallet, prior to them launching the product. We do not have regulatory obligations to work with a particular partner, and we can confirm that we have terminated our agreement with Curve.”
This is a tricky one to call. For most businesses, the ability to accept payment cards is a pre-requisite to their survival so card companies should arguably not be allowed to discriminate over who they work with. On the other hand, you can understand that Amex, Mastercard and Visa would want the ability to stop their logos being associated with stores or websites selling certain products.
Credit card companies also share legal liability for products purchased using their cards so they must be allowed to have the flexibility to only work with merchants whose finances and products are seen as reliable. This was not an issue with Curve transactions, however, as the legal liability sat with Curve / Mastercard and not American Express or whichever other card your Curve was linked to.
Curve is still pushing forward
Curve is not going anywhere in a hurry, it seems, despite the huge setback with Amex. Over the last couple of weeks it has announced plans to open offices in Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and Poland (country managers are currently being hired if you’re interested). As Amex has a lower penetration in these markets, the lack of Amex functionality is likely to be less of an issue.
It has also launched ‘Faster Purchase Protection’ for transactions of up to £100,000. This ensures that all claims for refunds against purchases made on Curve are dealth with within one day of receipt of the requested documentation. You are covered when the goods or services were not received, defective or not as described. It also covers eligible purchases in the event that the goods prove to be counterfeit or when a promised refund is not completed.
It is worth noting that this covers debit and credit card purchases, which makes it more generous than Section 75 coverage in the UK which only covers credit card purchases. There is also no minimum purchase threshold, whereas Section 75 protection only kicks in if you spend over £100.
Does Curve still have value to HFP readers without Amex as a partner?
Yes it does, basically. Arguably the free card should be in your wallet, linked to another points earning Visa or Mastercard:
you can spend £500 per month abroad Monday to Friday without incurring any FX fees (0.5% fee at weekends) and have the transaction recharged your points-earning Visa or Mastercard in Sterling
you can withdraw £200 per month via an ATM and have it charged to your underlying points-earning Visa or Mastercard as a purchase (EXCEPT for Tesco Bank and NatWest / RBS cards)
If you pay HMRC, you should also know that payments to HMRC via Curve are still accepted. It is treated as a debit card but goes through as a purchase on your underlying Visa or Mastercard.
If you’ve never tried Curve, simply go to this page of their website to download the app. The easiest thing to do is order the free Blue card. 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.
Can Curve beat Amex?
I’m not sure if the Curve lawsuit against American Express will get very far. I’d like to think it would, but the situations under which you can legally force a company to do business with another company are few and far between, although they do exist.
That said, strip away all of the noise caused in the last three months by the sudden collapse of the Curve / Amex relationship and you are still left with a product which has some use in the arsenal of the average miles and points collector.
Be clear, though. There is a shake-up coming, with little hope that Curve, Monese, Revolut, Starling, Monzo, N26 and Atom will all survive as independent fintech businesses. I’m not sure if Curve is less at risk – because it is at least offering something different whilst Revolut etc are just offering plain vanilla banking with pretty-coloured plastic cards – or more so.
(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.)