Curve was released in 2016 and quickly became a popular workaround to collect Amex benefits in places that didn’t accept Amex themselves. That loophole has since closed, and with mobile payments growing exponentially, we ask is the Curve card still relevant?

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What is Curve – All cards in one

Anyone remember the TravelEx Supercard? Well, the Curve card and app combo is pretty much the same as that.

It takes an ‘all cards in one’ approach and allows you to combine your credit, debit and pre-pay cards in a single app and card for spending. The basic aim is to simplify your spending, and help you to manage your money more effectively.

At Money Saving Answers we regularly test bank accounts, credit cards and prepay cards in and relay our experiences back to you. I personally have over 12 on the go at the moment. Curve helps to eliminate the checkout wallet shuffle that can often occur when carrying/using so many cards.

How much does the Curve card cost?

There three different Curve plans:

Curve Standard – Free

Curve X – £4.99 a month

Curve Black – £9.99 a month

Curve Metal – £14.99 a month

The free plan offers most of the features and benefits of the Curve card. Curve X increases the number of cards you can tie to your Curve account. The Black plan adds unlimited fee-free foreign spending plus higher foreign ATM limits, and travel insurance. The Metal plan offers a fancier card, plus additional insurances such as rental car insurance.

transaction costs for UK spending are free across all plans, but the free package now has a £4.99 delivery fee for the initial card. Often this is waived though.

Those who sign up to Curve via our link get a free £10 bonus.

How does it work?

Curve is a not a bank. The concept is more like the Apple/Google wallet where you store your card details, and at checkout choose which one you want to spend on. You present your Curve card at the point of sale (be it online or instore), and the payment will go through Curve and come off your selected debit or credit card.

Payments will show up on your bank or credit card statement as CRV*shopname. For example, if you used the card for shopping at Amazon (which is set to block VISA payments) it would show on your statement as CRV*AMAZON.

Can the Curve card be added to Apple, Google, or Samsung Pay?

Yes. One of the criticisms of the Curve card when it launched in 2018 was that it didn’t support the common mobile payment platforms. That has long since been resolved and Curve now works with all major mobile payment providers such as Apple, Google and Samsung Pay.

This allows you to get around some limits, such as restrictions on the number of cards you can have in your Apple wallet etc. Though it does become like the film Inception, but instead of a dream within a dream, we have a wallet within a wallet, and a card within a card.

What are the features and benefits of Curve?

You may be wondering why not just use your Apple and Google pay wallets? But Curve offers a number of market leading features not found elsewhere.

A Curve in the space time continuum – go back in time

This an amazing feature. The Curve app effectively allows you to travel back in time and select a different credit or debit card up to 120 days (30 for the free version) after your purchase.

Let’s say your default card has an overdraft and spending on it via your Curve card takes you into that overdraft. When you get home, or anytime within 120 days you can just go into the Curve app and select a different card for that purchase, and the money will be credited back to your account with the overdraft and come off your new card.

Another scenario might be where you have set a personal account as your default debit card in the app, but when out and about end up buying some items for your business. No problem, just add your business card to the app and retrospectively transfer the payments to your business account.

Purchase timeline and review

Most decent accounts now offer instant notifications on purchases but the problem with multiple accounts is that your purchase history is split between them. Curve consolidates your spending by providing a single clear purchase timeline of all your transactions. This helps you to keep track of exactly how much you are spending.

Overseas, travel and foreign spending

This is the big one. Curve dropped all foreign spending charges up to £500 per month. This effectively allows you to use any debit or credit card no matter the fees, as a specialist travel card. You can even withdraw cash from credit cards without it being considered a cash advance by your credit card provider, the free Curve standard card might be worth it for that alone.

It’s not a golden ticket though, as ATM withdrawals abroad are capped at £200 a month, and general spending at £500 a month. There is a £2 or 2% (whichever is higher) fee once you go above these limits.

Upgrading to Curve Black brings greater benefits for those holidaying abroad and turns Curve into a handy travel debit card. This includes free travel insurance, increased ATM withdrawal limits, and cashback on spending. See our tip below on how to get a free Curve Black subscription

Curve vs. Currensea

Whilst on the topic of foreign spending we should mention the Currensea account. Due to the way they work as middle-man between foreign spending and your bank people often compare Curve to Currensea. On the surface they seem similar, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that they are quite different.

Whereas Curve links to your debit or credit cards, Currensea is linked to your bank account. Any spending is debit directly from your account rather than from your debit card. As such you can only link one bank account, whereas with Curve you can link multiple different cards.

For general foreign spending at the point of sale e.g. in restaurants, supermarkets etc.. or purchasing online, Curve is actually cheaper than Currensea up to £1000, but only if these transactions happen a weekday. On weekends or if you go over the £1000 fair use limit a 2% charge is added. In such instances Currensea would work out cheaper with its flat rate 0.5% fee on all transactions regardless.

See our guide to the best debit and credit cards for foreign spending.

Anti-embarrassment mode

Ever been at the checkout with a long queue behind you only to find out that your card is declined or the banks systems are down (pretty common occurrence with NatWest). Curve’s anti-embarrassment mode addresses this, by automatically switching to another card in your Curve wallet if your initial underlying card is declined.

You can set the backup card yourself, but it doesn’t matter as if you need to you can use the ‘go back in time’ feature move the transaction to the original card once everything is working again.

Cash rewards program (Curve cash)

Curve cash is a rewards program that allows you to earn cashback when spending with your curve card at certain retailers. You get to choose 3-6 of your favourite retailers from a list of over 100, including Amazon, Boots, Argos, Gap, Halfords, various restaurants and travel companies.

The cashback on offer is between 1-1.5% for Curve Blue customers depending on which scheme you are on, and up to 3% for Curve Black customers.

Crucially if your underlying card (the one linked to Curve) also has a rewards program, you may be able earn through that too.

1% Cashback

New customers to Curve enjoy 1% cashback on nearly all spending during their first 30 days. If you know you have a busy period of spending coming up such as birthdays, or Christmas, then could be a nice additional bonus. Unfortunately, it is limited to just £20. There are better offers available, such as Chase bank’s 1% cashback for 12 months.

What are the fees and limits?

ATMs

Zero for the first 10 withdrawals a month (does any really withdraw that often?) After that there is a 50p fee. If you withdraw from a credit card linked to Curve you can only withdraw up to £500 a month free. There is a 2% fee once you go over this amount. Remember though, that Curve effectively obfuscates the transaction from your credit card supplier, so you won’t pay any cash advance or additional cash interest fees.

Abroad you are limited to £200 fee free, and £2 or 2% whichever higher after that. So don’t exceed that limit if you can help it. Instead use a specialist card and take advantage of the limits of that also.

At the weekend there is a 0.5% conversion fee for popular currencies. Most fintech’s and digital banks charge this to avoid being caught on by shifts in the exchange rate once the FX markets again on Monday. For more exotic currencies this increases to 1.5%

How to get Curve Black for free (via Plutus)

In 2021 Curve partnered with Plutus, an exciting new UK fintech offering a Visa debit card with 3% cashback and a free perk worth up to £10. There are 20 free perks to choose from including subscriptions to Netflix, Spotify, Disney Plus etc.. what is interesting here is that Curve is also included in that list.

Plutus customers signing up for Curve X, Curve Black, or Metal, and paying for it via their Plutus Visa debit card, will receive £10 cashback each month on that subscription, effectively offsetting the cost of the Curve Black plan, or reducing the Metal plan to just £4.99 a month.

See our Plutus review for more information on the available perks, cashback, and get a free $10 bonus if you sign up via our link. Don’t forget, if you sign up to Curve using our links in this article you also get £10 cashback there too.

Is Curve safe?

Curve is not a bank, so your money is safe in your regular bank accounts which most likely has FSCS protection. It also doesn’t store your card numbers in the app, and all information is encrypted. On top of that you can individually turn cards on and off for use within the app.

One of the main drawbacks though is the lack of Section 75 protection. Normally if you would buy something costing between £100-£30,000 with any part of that charged to a credit card, the credit card company becomes jointly liable for that purchase.

Acting a middleman, Curve breaks that direct connection between you the retailer and the credit card company. As such Section 75 protection does not apply. To offset this Curve offers its own customer protection on all purchases up to £100,000 and of course you can still carry out Mastercard chargebacks.

As a personal tester I have not been in a position to test Curve’s purchase protection so cannot say how robust it is. I have used Mastercard Chargebacks in the past though, and although it takes a little while (30 days or so), the process was straightforward.

In any event, if you are eyeing a large purchase, the overriding advice is to always use a credit card directly at least for some of the purchase, then if you want pay for the rest via Curve. I did something very similar to this when purchasing a new vehicle some years ago.

The verdict

Curve is a neat app and card combination with nice assortment of features, with very few drawbacks. If you are one of those people constantly shuffling between a host of debt and credit cards then the Curve proposition certainly helps to solve that problem. It can be especially useful for splitting business and personal transaction, or retrospectively reclassifying them.

For most people though, is the convince of carrying a single card (or app) actually that important? Mobile wallets already contain our most useful cards, and don’t act a middle-man and thus losing section 75 protection.

Features such as the anti-embarrassment mode, travel back in time, are unique but are they enough to temp new users on their own? The rest of Curve’s features have been done before, and cashback and foreign spending are equalled or beaten by a number of other fin techs and digital banks.

For us Curve is a welcome but not really needed entrant into the fintech and digital banking space. Of course you’ll have to decide for yourself if it makes sense for you.

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