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Why you should get a FREE Curve Card to maximise your miles and points from credit cards

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The newsflow from Curve Card has gone a little quiet of late, but the company dropped users an email this week to promote a huge advertising campaign on London Underground which is about to launch.  (They just raised $60m in new funding and need to spend it somehow!)  I thought this was a good time to update new Head for Points readers on why they should have a Curve card.

Curve Card is an intriguing payment product which has a LOT to offer to miles and points collectors.  Whilst this introductory article is a little complex at times, the key thing to remember is that Curve Card is free – in fact, they pay you £5 for trying it – so you have nothing at risk.

The key benefit of Curve is that – if you link it to another Visa or Mastercard which earns miles or points – you will be earning miles on debit card as well as credit card payments, and foreign transactions will no longer have a 3% FX fee.

You will even earn miles and points on ATM cash withdrawals up to certain limits.

Whilst we talk about Curve in a UK context in this article, it is actually available in all 31 countries in the European Economic Area.  This means Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (excluding Crown Dependencies: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man).

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 Mastercard to which you can link all of your existing Visa and Mastercard payment cards

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 credit cards at all, only debit cards, you can still pay with your Curve Mastercard, which is a debit card, and earn miles on the underlying Visa or Mastercard.

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.  You can now earn miles and points when you pay HMRC, with no surcharges.

Note that you cannot, according to the rules, use Curve to pay a credit card bill or any other financial services business if it is recharging to a credit card (debit cards are ok).

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.

Curve has some other unique features:

Cash withdrawals are charged as a PURCHASE.  Yes, a cash withdrawal on your Curve debit Mastercard will be recharged as a purchase to your linked Visa or Mastercard. This is FREE for £200 per 30-day period on the free card.  Note that Tesco Bank and NatWest / RBS do NOT allow credit card holders to make free cash withdrawals via Curve. Others banks may do the same in the future, or indeed may do so already and we haven’t picked up on it.

Overseas purchases are converted without an FX fee during Monday to Friday (except for free Curve Blue which is capped at £500 per 30-day period 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.

ALL miles and points Mastercard and Visa credit cards carry a 3% foreign exchange fee.  By using Curve as an intermediary, you will now pay as little as 0% in FX fees and still earn miles and points.

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 according to the website, although some people have been given more:

Daily spend (inc ATM withdrawals) – £3,750
Daily ATM withdrawal cap – £1,000
Monthly spending limit (on a rolling 30 day basis) – £20,000
Annual spending limit (on a rolling 12 month basis) – £50,000

You may not get this limit from Day 1 but, as you begin to use the card, your limits will be increased.  Feedback from readers who have pushed for increases is that you will struggle to get a limit beyond £50,000 if you purely paying HMRC and making ATM withdrawals.  You stand a better chance if you are putting day to day spending through the card.

What are the three different types of Curve Card?

There are three different Curve Cards you can get:

The basic Curve Card (Curve Blue) is 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 unlimited foreign exchange recharging and provides some travel and insurance benefits

Curve Metal costs £14.99 per month or £150 per year and has a choice of three cool metal cards to choose from, allows unlimited foreign exchange recharging, pay-per-use airport lounge access and a broader range of travel and insurance benefits

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 think about upgrading to Black or Metal once you are 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.  If it doesn’t, add the code when you register your details in the app – you will see a box to insert it.

Once you have received your card, you can link it to your ‘miles and points earning’ Visa and Mastercard products and start spending.

How to choose the right Curve Card for you

What are the features of free Curve Blue?

Curve Blue is free – free to apply and free to operate.

This page of the Curve website compares the three different types of Curve Card.

Curve Blue fee: None

Card:  Plastic, not metal

Availability:  UK residents and various other EEA countries

Foreign exchange fees: £500 per 30-day period for no fee (0.5% fee $ or € and 1.5% fee for other currencies applies to transactions made on a Saturday, Sunday or on a bank holiday) with a 2% fee thereafter

ATM withdrawals: Overseas: £200 per 30-day period for free, 2% thereafter / UK: £200 per 30-day period fair use cap

1% cashback from three retailers for the first 90 days of membership.  This is on top of the rewards you will earn from your underlying card.

Even users of the free Curve Blue can pay any debit card bill and have it recharged as a purchase for free to a linked Visa or Mastercard.  There are no usage limits except for the day / month / annual limits imposed by Curve which are increased as you become ‘trustworthy’.

For most HFP readers, the free Curve Blue will be good enough.

Review of Curve Black card

What are the features of Curve Black?

This page of the Curve website compares the three different types of Curve Card.

Curve Black fee: £9.99 per month, no annual option

Card:  Plastic, not metal

Availability:  UK residents and various other EEA countries

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: £400 per 30-day period for free, 2% thereafter / UK: £200 per 30-day period fair use cap

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. Baggage and personal belongings are not covered for Black cardholders.)

Gadget insurance (maximum value £800 with a £50 excess)

1% cashback from six premium retailers.  This is on top of the rewards you will earn from your underlying card.

This card has the possibility to be attractive to Head for Points readers.  Let’s look at a couple of key areas:

You can charge all of your foreign spending to a miles or points earning card whilst paying 0% FX fees, which should lead to a sharp increase in your points earning

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’

However, I would argue that Curve Metal is a better package than Curve Black as I explain below.

What are the features of Curve Metal?

This page of the Curve website compares the three different types of Curve Card.

Curve Metal 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

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 30-day period for free, 2% thereafter / UK: £200 per 30-day period fair use cap

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 £20 per visit)

1% cashback from six premium retailers.  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:

You can charge all of your foreign spending to a miles or points earning card 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’

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:

  • 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 or stolen baggage (Curve Black does not)
  • The ability to pay £20 per visit for LoungeKey airport lounge access

On this basis, I think Curve Metal justifies the small extra fee over Curve Black.  However, for many HFP readers the free Curve Blue card will be enough.

Conclusion

Curve Blue is a risk-free, NO FEE introduction to Curve.

For most HFP readers, Curve Blue – the free version – will be good enough.  You can easily upgrade via the app to Curve Black or Curve Metal if you choose to do so at a later date.

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 or 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 include the code when you add your personal details to the app.

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Comments

  1. Zoe Pratten says:

    Am I right in thinking that AMEX cannot be linked to a Curve Card?

  2. Don’t forget the 1% cashback for 6 retailers can be worthwhile.i have curve lodged in the Tesco Pay+ app, earning additional clubcard points and 1% back on petrol and groceries. Amazon too. I appreciate that I’d have to spend £15k to break even in cashback terms but at the same time I’m earning Hilton and IHG points respectively. There’s a away to make that work even if you don’t do a lot of foreign spend.

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