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Curve Card 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.

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

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.


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Comments (229)

  • 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?

    • Harry says:

      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.

      • Grant says:

        It can, but some credit cards will see the transaction as a cash advance and charge accordingly.

        • Colin MacKinnon says:

          Any that don’t work you can list?

        • Alex Sm says:

          Yes, please! I asked about this here before but people don’t want to share (or simply don’t see comments because there are no notifications)

    • Jonny says:

      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….

  • Russ says:

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

    • Polly says:

      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….

      • Russ says:

        Thanks for the tip Polly. I do put a few regulars through so will take that up with them.

      • LewisB says:

        Interesting. Will try this in the future. Thanks!

  • Worzel says:

    Unsurprising Shambles !

  • 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.

    • GaZ48 says:

      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

  • Chris says:

    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?

      • Chris says:

        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.

    • MDA says:

      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?

  • 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.

  • Mark says:

    Revolut is far more mainstream that Curve.

    Visit any of the FRB travel groups and Everyone seems to have or use one when abroad.

    • Andrew L says:

      “Revolut is far more mainstream that Curve.”

      What nonsense! 😒

      • Matt says:

        I’d say Revolut is far more mainstream certainly amongst my friends. I use Curve but I’ve only heard of other Curve users on HfP.

      • Crafty says:

        Are you serious? Revolut and Monzo are mainstream products now. Nobody I speak to has heard of Curve before I mention it.

        • Andrew L says:

          Revolut has its uses but I would rather lose that than Curve that has more useful benefits to me on a daily basis. As for Monzo…..I wouldn’t even consider that when Starling offers a much more attractive proposition.

        • Art50 says:

          +1

      • Brian Webb says:

        This has to be the most ill judged comment I’ve read on this website in years!

        I fully understand why HfP readers find Curve more ‘useful’, however, stating it is more mainstream than Revolut is an amateur comment to make if I’ve ever read one.

        I have both and make good use of them, where the benefit is to be maximised, but Revolut is a million miles ahead of Curve where the ‘mainstream’ crowd are concerned, not to mention in terms of professionalism and stability. Curve is winging it and everyone can see that.

        I think you might reading the wrong blog Andrew.

        • Andrew L says:

          I suppose everyone is entitled to their views but I can assure you, Brian there are more Curve card holders in the UK than Revolut. Europe wide, Revolut win hands down.

          Curve is a simpler product for the average person on the street to get their head around.

          This site is full of contributors that think just because they favour a certain product, everyone else does too and are too quick to verbally insult anyone who dares to disagree with them.

          • Alan says:

            I’m not sure I’d agree re Curve being a simpler product – I think the concept of recharging cards, etc. is harder to follow for many than the simple pre-payment concept of Revolut, Monzo, Starling, etc.

        • Brian W says:

          Your comment being described as ill judged is hardly a verbal insult Andrew!

          As Adam has shown, Revolut is streets ahead in terms of UK cardholders and again that underlines that it is, indeed, far more ‘mainstream’ than Curve and, I suppose, that your original comments were not as factual as you first thought.

          Like I said, I have both cards. Don’t favour either but your post was ‘nonsense’.

      • Brian says:

        “there are more Curve card holders in the UK than Revolut.”

        Are you serious?? Pretty much everyone I know here in the UK has a Revolut card. Hardly anyone I speak to has even heard of Curve let alone has it.

        I have them both and if I could only keep one it would be my curve card. But the popularity of curve even here in the UK compared to Revolut is not even close.

    • TimTam says:

      When reading an article on HfP about Curve, always remember Rob has a relationship with them.

    • marcw says:

      I’d say Revolut has a bigger market share/penetration than Curve. Revolut does not only operate in the UK, but pretty much whole Europe.

      • Dune says:

        It does. It was reported Revolut surpassed 3 million users in late 2018. Compare that to Curve’s 500,00 (figure quoted in Telegraph article). But as has been said about HfP has a business relationship with Curve, so Curve is always bigged up.

        • Dune says:

          * It does. It was reported Revolut surpassed 3 million users in late 2018. Compare that to Curve’s 500,000 (figure quoted in Telegraph article). But as has been said above HfP has a business relationship with Curve, so Curve is always bigged up.

          • Rob says:

            Revolut has nothing to do with miles and points though, which might explain it …. except that some credit cards still treat Revolut loads as a purchase.

            Happy to do an article listing all credit cards which treat Revolut as a purchase. All will immediately block it however following the publicity, so it is fairly self defeating … but if it makes you happy I can do it.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          How many are actually active?

          I prefer the curve model 5 days of the week. Revolut comes in handy though

        • David says:

          Why would revolut be mentioned here? Curve has been mentioned here and already credit cards are treated Curve reloads as cash advances rather than a purchase. What are you trying to argue here? That Revolut is better for points earning on credit cards so there should be an article about it? Having seen how that worked out for Curve I think it should be the exact opposite.

      • Alan says:

        Agree – clearly Revolut a much bigger entity at present!

        • New Bee says:

          Rob,I am interested in finding out which credit cards work with Revoult,hehe

        • Mike says:

          New Bee, the credit cards of a certain bank whose name rhymes with HMRC still treat Revolut top-ups as purchases. I shall say no more.

        • New Bee says:

          Big dave – thank you x

      • Big Dave says:

        you can use curve and revolut together in interesting ways, For example: (sic.)
        “I use Revolut with my Curve Card all the time. If you want Revolut, rather than Curve, to handle the Fx exchange, then simply adjust the Revolut Card currency in Curve to the currency you want to purchase in. So, for example, when I’m in Europe I set my Revolut Card to Euro in Curve. When in the UK to GBP. When in Australia to AUD. Etc “

    • the_real_a says:

      Revolut launched as a loss leader with no limits on the foreign ATM withdrawals, so hundreds of thousands of backpackers and “one time a year” travelers took out the card as a cheap way to fund a holiday. I would be more interested in the “active users” which would be a fraction of this number, and from that number which are materially active (i.e. not just holiday money for 2 weeks a year).

    • Art50 says:

      After all these years Curve only has 500,000 cardholders; Revolut has over 3 million. So your comment doesn’t hold water.

  • Alex says:

    Presumably the monthly limits to withdrawing cash and spending abroad is calendar month?

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