Adding your Amex to your Curve card means you can now spend with your American Express everywhere – and still earn points or cashback. It seems like a win-win but is it too good to be true?
* Update: This Amex partnership lasted just one day before American Express pulled out. Curve is apparently trying to resolve the situation. I’ll update here if anything changes *
- How to use American Express cards everywhere with Curve
- What else you get with Curve
- Why Curve’s Amex solution doesn’t quite work
- Curve’s fees and charges
- There’s an alternative cashback credit card
- Why you should still give Curve a try
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I quite like the Curve card, as I shared in my review last year. It allows me to carry a single card with me rather than all my Mastercard and Visa debit and credit cards, yet I can still choose which account the transactions are actually charged to.
Until now the main issue has been you couldn’t link American Express cards, but that’s now changed, along with a few other updates – including to the Curve pricing. This means you can now spend on your Amex anywhere, even retailers that don’t accept the card provider.
It sounds great, so I’ve looked into how it works – and whether you’re better off looking at alternatives.
How to use American Express cards everywhere with Curve
When you add a Mastercard or Visa card to your Curve app, you are using the Curve card in the same way you’d use Apple or Google Pay on your smartphone or use Paypal online. The Curve card is essentially just a middleman.
With Amex it’s different. Once you add your credit card you are provided with an Amex wallet. This needs to be topped up by transfer from your Amex. So add £100, and a charge of £100 will appear on your Amex bill, and you’ll have a pot of £100 to spend on Curve. There’s no fee from American Express for doing this, and any top-ps will earn you the points or cashback as if you’d spent the money in a shop.
There could however be a charge from Curve for topping up. This depends on which Curve card you have. If it’s the basic Blue Curve card there’s a 0.65% fee. With the Black Curve card the fee only applies if you top-up by more than £1,000 a month. This card also comes with a £9.99 a month fee. The top-end Metal Curve doesn’t have any charges, but will cost you £14.99 a month, or £150 for a year. More on these cards in a bit.
To spend your Amex wallet you need to select it via the Curve app before spending with your Curve card. This is the same as you would when choosing any card you have connected to Curve. It’s easy once you get used to it. Since the Curve card is a Mastercard, you can then use it pretty much anywhere – even shops which don’t take Amex.
What you also get with Curve
My review explains some of the basic features, but you get limited fee-free spending and cash withdrawals abroad and you can earn cashback at selected retailers when you join for the first three months.
You also now get worldwide travel insurance and gadget insurance with both Curve Black and Curve Metal, while the Metal version also gives you car collision damage waiver insurance. You can see a full comparison of the different Curve cards here.
Why Curve’s American Express solution doesn’t quite work
So why am I not excited about this? I feel it’s a case of the Emperor’s new clothes. If you are an Amex fan this sounds amazing, but once you crunch some numbers it’s a huge disappointment.
The top-up fee and monthly Curve card price
Remember, you’d want to use your actual Amex card in places that accept American Express to get the best cashback or reward rate. So any Curve spending is just at places that only take Visa and Mastercard.
For these purchases you need to factor in the fees and monthly charges when working out how much better off you’ll be. And your cashback rate will be hit. For example, with the basic Blue Curve card, knocking the 0.65% off your cashback or rewards rate could at worst mean you’re losing money (if your Amex earns 0.5%), and at best earning an extra 0.85% (if your Amex earns 1.25%).
I’ve worked out the following, assuming you’re earning 1% on your American Express credit card.
Curve Blue (free)
- Spend £100 a month via your Amex wallet and you’ll gain £4.20 a year
- Spend £1,000 a month and you’ll gain £42 a year
- Spend £1,250 a month and you’ll gain £52.50 a year
Curve Black (£9.99 a month)
- Spend £100 a month via your Amex wallet and you’ll lose £107.88 a year
- Spend £1,000 a month and you’ll break even
- Spend £1,250 a month and you’ll gain £10.50 a year
Curve Metal (£150 a year)
- Spend £100 a month via your Amex wallet and you’ll lose £138 a year
- Spend £1,000 a month and you’ll lose £30 a year
- Spend £1,250 a month and you’ll break even
Now, at first sight, the Blue card looks good whatever your spend, and when you factor in the free insurance with the Black and Metal cards, higher spends look good too.
But these figures change drastically when you factor in an Amex alternative.
You can get 0.5% cashback elsewhere
One of the cards in my arsenal is the Tandem credit card. You earn 0.5% cashback on all spending AND you can use it overseas fee-free. It’s essentially my back-up for when I can’t use my Amex or when I go abroad.
In each example above, you’d be better off paying with the Tandem Mastercard rather than adding money to an Amex wallet via Curve.
Say you spend £1,000 a month on Tandem, you’ll earn £60 a year in cashback. That’s £60 more than if you’d used the Amercian Express wallet via a Curve Black, and £90 more than if you’d used the Curve Metal.
The profits with Tandem are smaller when compared versus the Blue Curve card, but you still make more cashback.
And this doesn’t mean you need to carry an extra card around – I’ve got my Tandem linked to my Curve card and only carry the actual Tandem card with me when I go abroad.
The insurance could be better
Of course, this hasn’t factored in the free insurance with the paid Curve options. But that still doesn’t quite balance out, as I think you’ll get a better deal by using the Tandem cashback card for non-Amex purchases and buying your insurance elsewhere.
You might not just get it cheaper, you might get better coverage too – only the Metal version includes baggage and personal belongings cover.
Huge spenders could benefit
There are a couple of times when I think the Amex trick using a Metal Curve card can work out in your favour. First is if you are earning 1.25% on your American Express (the Platinum Cashback card reaches this level after you’ve spend £10,000 on it in a year). From that point onwards, you’ll earn more cashback via the Amex wallet on Curve Blue rather than Tandem.
The other is if you are regularly making large payments you can’t use Amex for. So if you’re spending £2,500 a month, or £30,000 a year, outside of your Amex then you will earn the same amount of cashback after the fees as via Tandem AND you’ll get the free insurances. I can only really see this applying to businesses, but things like tax returns, rent and car payments could possibly boost non-Amex spending areas.
Why you should still give Curve a try
So, though I don’t think it’s worth using the Amex wallet via Curve to use your American Express card everywhere, I do think the Curve card is worth a look.
You get a free £5 credit
If you download the app and sign up with the code 25PBH you’ll receive £5 credit to your rewards wallet which you can spend as you like.
You get 1% cashback at the start at shops like Apple, Ikea and John Lewis.
For the first three months, new customers get to select from a list of retailers to earn an additional 1% cashback, on top of anything you earn on your linked card or Amex wallet. Curve Blue customers can choose three, while Black and Metal can pick six from a longer list.
You can slim down your wallet
In my wallet right now I have my American Express card and my Curve card. That’s it.
It’s a great backup card for going abroad
Though I’ll take my Tandem credit card and Starling debit card with me overseas as my main cards, the Curve card is a handy and free option to have with you.