Curve launches legal action against American Express

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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.)

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  1. Spurs Debs says:

    Tesco credit card … not the greatest rate but some is better than none!

  2. I paid a £3k roofing bill via Billhop last year, having weighed up the benefits carefully. It triggered a BAPP sign up bonus and helped get me to my 2 4 1 within 3 months, thus saving a chunk of the BAPP fee. I then redeemed the voucher for F seats to New York on my birthday which falls at a very expensive time of year to travel. so I feel that it was worth it.

  3. Can you buy gift cards in Tesco for this retailer??

    B&Q for example

    If yes just buy gift cards using Amex

    • Good idea, dept b and q don’t take amex, just in case people are wondering…

      Or get the hsbc premier card, if you qualify. 0.5 avios/£

    • Yes you can use amex to buy gift card online from B&Q but not instore, or you could go to Tesco and buy gifcard there but a preset amount, depending on stock

  4. Callum says:

    It doesn’t look at all promising – there are other much better cards available in the US already and there’s no way in hell this would ever be released here in anything approaching this form.

    Though Apple are doing what Apple do best – release something that already exists elsewhere with a shiny new look and get people talking about how great they are!

  5. SammyJ says:

    Maybe an IHG premium card? Check the terms but I think from memory that if you take the paid one you’ll get a Free hotel night (anywhere that has reward availability), 20k sign up bonus, and 15k points for that spend. Plus platinum status.

  6. rams1981 says:

    I like revolut. Topping up from credit card is a big win though surely not sustainable long term.

    Monzo which I also have I don’t see the point in. I work in London and so many people have and use it to pay for the tube for example.

    Which other fintech cards can be topped up fee free with credit card?

    • Can Revolut be topped up fee free using a credit card? I didn’t think so. I use Revolut primarily for making foreign currency transfers where the rates are always very good. I just top up first from my bank account and ten seconds later make the FC transfer. Works fine and is almost no effort. However, if I can top up using a credit card that gives me points/miles that would be much better.

    • I have both. I think a lot of people find monzo really useful. I used monzo a lot on a recent holiday with my partner abroad. The ability to create shared “tabs” where you can see how much money you owe/are owed (and for what/when etc) is super useful. No Fx fees. I know a lot of people who use its budgeting features, and use multiple shared tabs for house bills, eating out etc. I don’t use it all the time as it doesn’t have the full product list that I need (ISAs, credit cards etc), although they are expanding their savings range later this year….

  7. Billhop if you’d rather put it on amex for £295 fee. Worth 10,000 avios or another amex airline partner. More with hotels.

    • It’s actually worth giving Billhop a call. We had a series of payments so l asked them for a reduced fee they offered 2%. Like Anna, it gave us our 241 almost instantly, so almost fee free, used for F to Asia. So, give them a call….

  8. Worzel says:

    Unsurprising Shambles !

  9. Mr Dee says:

    Well if they don’t win, wouldn’t like to have to explain to investors where all the money went.

    Curve has its used for the consumer but cant see it being a profitable business anytime soon.

    • Graham Walsh says:

      Printing cards!! Some people got the metal card for Amex etc, then downgrading back to legacy black and they reissued a new card even though the metal card was never activated. A stupid model really. I could have kept the legacy black physical card or just even used the metal card with legacy benefits.

    • Is it pure coincidence that Amex pulled the 6 month to 24 months move now? Do they envisage an expensive fight with curve? Just a thought.

      • Alex W says:

        Put it another way, if Amex is allowed back on to Curve, people will absolutely rinse it to make up for their lost sign up bonuses.

        • Mr Dee says:

          Without signup bonuses may as well use the Virgin card

        • Doug M says:

          Not if Amex decide to treat all Curve as cash advance

        • Lady London says:

          I think the best Curve can hope for is some publicity or a token settlement basee on partial recovery of costs . If it wasn’t ‘*hit or bust’ Curve wouldn’t ne doing ut.

      • illuminatus says:

        Do they envisage an expensive fight with curve? – I do wish Curve luck as I use their card every day, but even ‘David vs Goliath’ is not a fair comparison for your statement. Amex would not change their products because of some very minor (for them) legal fight

        • Mr Dee says:

          Even if Amex paid Curve their expenses its hardly a lot of money for Amex

  10. It’s disingenuous of Curve to grab headlines with their new £100,000 limit for purchase protection cover when they don’t actually allow customers to spend that amount in one transaction.

    Or is it now possible to get my daily transaction limit increased from £3,750 to £100,000?

    • Alex W says:

      Exactly what I thought! Though who has a £100k limit on their visa/MC?

      • Tesco Bank debit card. Though whether Tesco Bank would allow such a large debit card transaction is another question.

        • TescoTease says:

          Tesco debit card transactions are unlimited. At the moment… due to be reduced to £20k/day late this year.

    • It took curve days for them to even respond to a chargeback request, even then they wanted written letter you wrote to the merchant – who writes to merchants when we have emails and telephone customer service lines?

  11. Andrew says:

    Where are you buying the kitchen from?

    If it’s a Trade Counter at a Builder’s Merchant, then make sure you’ve discussed with the Tradie, who is going to fit it, that you are getting the best price.

    The BMs are all highly competitive and offer trade discounts, as well as cash-back deals to their most prized business account holders.

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