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

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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).

(EDIT: This article was updated in April 2020 to reflect minor changes to the card and its 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, 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.

You cannot pay HMRC, the Government and ‘financial institutions’ such as credit card companies and mortgages for free using Curve.  There is a 1.5% fee.  The fee is waived if you have the £14.99 per month Curve Metal card, which we discuss in more detail below.  This may be attractive to you if you have substantial tax or credit card bills each month due to the points you could earn on your underlying Visa or Mastercard.

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.

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.

Curve Blue is explained on this page of its website.  You can compare all three cards side by side here.  In summary:

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

Fee for paying off credit cards, tax and other financial transactions via Curve:  1.5%

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’.  The 1.5% fee only applies to HMRC, Government and ‘financial institutions’ transactions.

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 is explained on this page of its website.  You can compare all three cards side by side here.  In summary:

Curve Black fee: £9.99 per month

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)

Fee for paying off credit cards, tax and other financial transactions via Curve:  1.5%

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 – 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.)

1% cashback from three premium retailers for as long as you hold the card.  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?

Curve Metal is explained on this page of its website.  You can compare all three cards side by side here.  In summary:

Curve Metal fee: £14.99 per month (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 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)

Fee for paying off credit cards, tax and other financial transactions via Curve:  None

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 – 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)

Mobile phone insurance (maximum value £800)

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 for as long as you hold the card.  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’

You can pay off your credit cards, as well as pay HMRC and fund National Savings accounts and buy Premum Bonds, for no fee and have the cost recharged as a purchase to a miles-earning Visa or Mastercard (you need to test first that your underlying credit card does not treat these transactions as a cash advance)

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
  • The ability to pay unlimited sums (subject to your Curve Card limits) to HMRC, credit card companies, the Government and ‘financial institutions’ for free whilst earning points on the underlying Visa or Mastercard

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.

If you want to pay off – for free – your credit cards bills with Curve, buy Premium Bonds, pay into National Savings accounts or pay HMRC, you need to get Curve Metal.

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. Are Lloyd’s processing curve withdrawals as a purchase or a cash advance?

  2. I have the Black legacy card – so just to clarify which pool of benefits would i fall into? the current Blue or black? or a mixture. I haven’t used it much recently but would like to start up again and i am travelling a lot in the coming months

    • The Urbanite says:

      Should be legacy benefits with Curve Rewards – mostly 3% discounts at retailers of Curve’s choice. In the Card tab then Manage Your Subscription, the benefits should be listed.

  3. James Whitehead says:

    It is kind of implied in what you say – but might not be clear to all readers that you can actually use ATMs abroad to withdraw fee free currency (within limits and on the required days etc).

  4. You wrote “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“. Where is this stated in Curve’s T&Cs?

    It’s certainly not paragraph 17.1.3, which prohibits:

    “cash recycling”, whereby cash is taken out from an ATM using a Curve Card and then used to repay the credit card in order to gain rewards on the Payment Card or Curve Rewards;

    Paying a credit card on the card company’s web site using Curve does not involve cash or an ATM.

    • Genghis says:

      FUP is fairly clear

      https://www.curve.app/en/fair-use

      Paying off your Credit Card with Curve

      Curve does not allow you to pay off your credit card bills with an underlying credit card selected in the Curve app. However, you will be able to use the Curve card, with an underlying debit card selected, to pay off your credit card bills. You need to always be in compliance with the terms of service of the credit card whose bill you are paying off as well as the terms of service of the underlying card used to make the payment. Curve retains the right to disallow you from the use of your Curve card and services, and such behaviour may result in your Curve account being blocked or cancelled.

      • Anything about charge cards? 😏

      • You’d think it would be fairly easily for curve to identify customers who are doing this – however I have heard nothing about them actually enforcing this rule properly.

        It’s probably one of the limited benefits of the card really. Clamp down on this and there would be a exodus of quite a few customers – not what you need as a fintech start up

        • the_real_a says:

          As many reward programs have found in the past those customers that “abuse” the T&C`s are often THE most profitable.

      • Shocking that people are doing this. I wonder when the underlying cards funding Curve’s ‘apparent’ success will pull the plug. Gone very quiet on the Amex legal case too.

  5. Marcelo C says:

    I believe the information that baggage and personal belonging are not included for black cardholders is not correct, as stated in this document: https://res.cloudinary.com/dzatxn6bx/image/upload/v1556022230/website-v2/Documents/UK/Curve_UK-Black_IPID-23.04.19.pdf

    • It seems I was wrong about ‘personal belongings’ (more likely that Curve has changed it and not told people) but correct about baggage – if you look at the Metal version of the same document it is clear that lost or stolen baggage is covered. The Black policy does not cover this.

  6. I just tried to use my curve card on the tax free childcare gov.uk website to add some money to my childcare account. It says it only accepted debit cards to thought I’d try the curve as the article above suggests you can use to pay HMRC. The website came back saying invalid card. I tried it a couple of times but no luck. So it doesn’t work in this website. I used my Lloyd’s debit in the end. Has anyone else tried using it for childcare payments on the gov.uk website?

    • Curve doesn’t work on gov childcare. Something to do with an intermediary payment processor. You need to go via Revolut if you want to pay with a credit card.

  7. Can anyone explain what their business model is? I can’t fathom how they’ve recently raised 60MM when in effect they are just passing thru transactions to customers other cards.

    Do they receive a portion of the fee charged to the retailer/vendor to process the transaction?

    Are they bundling up the metadata associated with all the transactions and selling this on to interested parties?

    And another question, how is it possible that they can allow customers to change the card they used to pay for the transaction up to 14 days after the initial charge occurred?
    https://www.curve.app/en-gb/go-back-in-time

    Just an interested reader!

    • Easy for Curve to put a credit onto one card and put a charge through another. The shop is contracting with Curve, not the underlying card.

      It is probably a data play.

      This is how they raised the money, I think. Monzo etc have a massive problem – no-one uses them. Only a tiny fraction of people close their original bank account. Most just push money onto Monzo / Revolut from HSBC etc.

      Curve has thousands of people putting £50k – £100k per year through their cards. This looks astonishing to anyone used to investing in Monzo. The problem is that we are all channelling it to HMRC etc …

      • Great thank you, this all makes sense.

        I wonder at what point in the future there will be a consolidation of the various challengers as not all can be sustainable if what you say is true. I would guess perhaps one of the better funded could alternatively purchase Curve and merge their operations to benefit from the more active user base.

        White labelling their mobile offerings for the high street banks who don’t want to spend the budget to roll out a full mobile offering could also be an alternative income stream.

  8. Hey Rob,
    A great update on a great site as always. Thanks for sharing all your info!

    I’m wondering if (where possible on relevant products) you can include more information for those of us living in the Crown Dependencies: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man please? I live in Jersey, and have just had my Curve account closed. I had it for 17 months (since Curve were still in Beta), but it was recently flagged and closed as they can’t operate in Jersey. It’s a huge shame as I found it such a great product (not only for maximizing points, but also for effectively converting non contact less cards into contact less, and the great app features to enable individual notes on a per transaction basis). Sure this is nothing new compared with Monzo, Revolut etc etc, but compared with high street bank mobile app it’s streets ahead!

    • Yes, I know it’s a pain. Unfortunately, this data is not always obviously available (it was with Curve, admittedly) and it is a bit niche – padding out articles with lists of minor exclusions which don’t apply to 99% of readers is not very user-friendly. We rarely mention that Northern Ireland readers are banned from competitions, for example.

  9. I work in the card payment industry, I have a fair idea how Curve is making its money.

    If you have a look at the back of the Curve card, it has the word Commercial on it. Commercial debit cards are charged to merchants at a higher rate thank consumer debit cards, and Curve will be allocated some of that extra profit as the card issuer. Merchants are highly unlikely to check what type of card you are using at point of purchase, and obviously the vast majority will be unaware of this key difference.

  10. Trevor Gardiner says:

    I have the Blue. I noticed the limits on FX and Curve told me to upgrade to Black for a couple of months while in the US and then just downgrade to Blue. They you can upgrade and downgrade when you like. Not sure how this works with card issuing though!

  11. Anthony says:

    I have a blue curve and in rather a hurry I used it to pay for a small (£100) Euro transfer abroad via a company called Transferwise. The transaction went through ok to my Virgin Credit Card. But I see that Virgin has added a ‘Cash Advance fee’ to my account (£5). I had forgotten other warnings and with hindsight I can see where I went wrong. Just wanted to share this as a reminder to all Curve users to think ahead when using their card. Purchases of goods / services only. Pay for what is effectively a cash withdrawal and expect to be charged by the underlying credit card.

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