The smart app and card has made big changes to what you get.
Regular readers will know I’ve quite a few current accounts and a few credit cards – all with different benefits. To carry them all with me would just be impractical.
But Curve has allowed me to add almost every single card to a digital wallet and just carry the single Curve card with me instead.
I’ve been using the Curve card since it launched in 2016, and though not perfect, it’s been a staple in my wallet. But from summer 2022 there are new limits being put in place for free users. So is it still worth it?
What is Curve?
Curve lets you use more than one bank or credit card through a single “smart” debit card that you manage via an app.
In lots of ways it’s similar to using Apple Pay or Google Pay, with the added benefit of a physical card and some cool features such as changing your payment card after purchase, low or fee-free spending overseas and earning cashback.
However you can only add MasterCard or Visa cards to your Curve account. This rules out others such as American Express or Maestro.
You might also get limited access to some features depending on which Curve card you have.
Types of Curve card
There are four options: Curve, Curve X, Curve Black and Curve Metal. Each has a different cost and access to different features.
- Curve is free (previously known as Curve Blue)
- Curve X is £4.99 a month
- Curve Black costs £9.99 a month
- Curve Metal costs £14.99 a month or £150 if you pay upfront for a year
Curve features and limits by card
I’ll explain these features and limits in more detail throughout the review.
|Curve||Curve X||Curve Black||Curve Metal|
|Go Back in Time||30 days / 3 a month||60 days / unlimited||90 days / unlimited||120 days / unlimited|
|Fee-free overseas spending limits*||£1,000 every 30 days||£2,000 every 30 days||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Fee-free overseas ATM withdrawals*||£200 every 30 days||£200 every 30 days||£400 every 30 days||£600 every 30 days|
|Curve Cash (1% cashback)||None||None||3 retailers||6 retailers|
|Business card allowed||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Travel and phone insurance||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Cost||Free||£4.99 a month||£9.99 a month||£14.99 a month / £150 a year|
What is changing
From July 2022, there will be new limits on the free card. According to Curve, the changes are due to increasing costs and a shift in focus “towards short term profitability”.
Rather than ditch the free option completely, they’ve reduced what it offers and introduced a mid-tier Curve X card.
The big difference between these two cards and the premium cards will be the number of cards you can add. Until now there have been no limits to the number of cards you can add to your Curve card, regardless of the type you have. So you’d be able to get the free option and benefit from this core feature.
Now the free Curve card will only let you add two cards, while Curve X limits you to five cards. Both Black and Metal remain unlimited.
Curve free will also only allow only three uses of the Back In Time feature each month and one smart rule. Curve X will limit you to five smart rules.
I’ll give my full opinion at the end of the review, but this is a huge change and it means the free option is very, very basic.
One year of Curve X for £1.99 a month
Existing free Curve customers will have the option of a 60% discount on Curve X for a year. You’ll pay £1.99 a month rather than the full £4.99. You’ve 30 days to upgrade from when you are notified, which means this offer will end by late July 2022.
Curve card & app features
All in one connected cards
The big sell for Curve, in my view, is the ability to slim down your wallet but still have a physical card to use. However, in reality it never quite meant I could have just one card on me.
As mentioned, you can’t add American Express cards, so I’ve always got that in addition. Plus I always want to have a non-Amex credit card on me for large purchases over £100 at retailers that don’t take Amex (to ensure I get Section 75 protection).
So I generally carry my Curve, Amex and another credit card at all times. It has allowed me to ditch my business debit card and a couple of other debit cards.
However, the new limits on the free and X tier really reduce the ability to maximise this feature. Having just two cards on the free card feels a bit pointless, and blocking business cards on this tier could be a real issue. The slightly higher limit of five cards on X might be enough for some.
If you can manage with these limits, then great. But I think the more you need to carry extra cards or have to add them to your phone’s digital wallet then the less Curve serves a purpose.
Go Back In Time
The Go Back In Time feature is a great idea, and one I tend to use a lot. If you forget to change the payment card you want to use in the app before buying, you can switch it to a different one within a 30 to 120 day window (depending on the card).
This has been really useful for me when spending money for my business. Rather than claim it back, I can just swap the expenditure over to my business bank account.
I’ve also used it a lot for spending via Chase Bank in order to earn the 1% cashback. This isn’t my main account, so I don’t always have lots of money in there. Go Back in Time has meant I’d pay from my main current account, then switch the transactions to Chase once I’ve topped it up.
But again, the new limits on this feature make it pretty pointless on the free option as you can use it just three times a month.
The paid cards let you do this unlimited times a month, though there are different windows for how far back you can go. You can also only change a payment once.
If for some reason your selected payment card is declined, then you can activate up to two backup cards in the app which will be automatically charged instead. This is available on all Curve cards.
This is a new feature that looks to be expanded on soon. You’re able to create rules for spending on specific cards based on factors like the type or size of transaction. I’ve set up cash withdrawals to always come from my main linked debit card.
You get one Smart Rule with the free Curve, moving up to five with X and then unlimited rules with Black and Metal.
Other app and card features
As soon as you use your Curve card to pay you’ll get a notification on the app, which helps you keep track of what you’re spending.
There’s a timeline of all purchases made on Curve, no matter which card you used. Which helps you see all your spending in one place.
You can also lock your card if it’s lost, or check your PIN and card details.
The best cards to use abroad are the ones that charge you zero fees for spending and cash withdrawals AND earn you some cashback on spending at the same time. My guide takes you through my top travel debit and credit card picks such as Chase Bank and Barclaycard Rewards.
However, Curve is an attractive option as a back up or if you don’t already have or can’t get one of these specialist credit or debit cards.
For a start, there’s no credit check to get it – unlike when applying for a Halifax Clarity or Barclaycard Rewards credit card. You’ll also be able to use your connected main debit or credit card and avoid that bank’s own hefty charges.
However there are limits on spending and withdrawals that reset on a rolling 30-day period. The size of each limit depends on the type of Curve card you have (see table above). If you go above these amounts you’ll get charged a 2% fee.
Plus although Curve is fee-free when using it Monday to Friday, at the weekend a 0.5% charge will be added for Dollars and Euros transactions and 1.5% to other currencies. This is temporarily paused in the summer of 2022, but will return from 1 September.
Curve Flex is a way to borrow cash on purchases you’ve already made. It’s effectively a restrospective Buy Now, Pay Later scheme – but with interest added on.
You can choose a transaction and then split it into installments of 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. Those installments will be taken from a selected card each month to repay the loan.
There’s a soft check on your credit report to see if you can be offered the loan, then a hard check if you proceed.
There’s obviously interest added on top too. Curve says rates begin at 9% though the representative APR is 14.18%. This is probably cheaper than an overdraft or credit card (except 0% cards), but not something that should be used lightly. It’s better to save up for anything you can’t afford.
If you miss a payment because there’s not enough available on the linked account you’ve seven days to pay it (Curve will try this automatically). If you still don’t catch up in this time you’ll be charged £6.
A big attraction with Curve is cashback. There are two ways to earn this, though you won’t get both on all the cards.
This is available on all the Curve card and allows you to earn money back on certain purchases. These offers come and go, such as 15% off Disney+ or 5% back at Five Guys. Watch out for restrictions, such as new users only. You need to activate the offer in the app, then pay using your Curve card.
The money you earn will be added to your Curve Cash wallet, which you have to select before spending to use (Back in Time won’t work).
Curve Cash (Metal and Black only)
The premium Curve cards also offer ongoing cashback at 1%, but only on limited retailers that you must select. For Black, it’s three shops, and for Metal, it’s six shops.
Once you’ve chosen them you’ll earn money back each time you use your Curve card there, and once again the money made will be put in your Curve Cash wallet.
If your connected card is also a flat-rate cashback or rewards card, you’ll earn both together. For example, if you spend on Chase via Curve you’ll get 1% from Chase to your Chase account and 1% for that retailer to your Curve account.
Curve Cash retailers
The list of 60-plus shops includes the following:
|Supermarkets||Food & Drink||Shopping||Travel|
|Morrisons||Five Guys||John Lewis||Uber|
This is just a selection. The full Curve Cash list is available on the Curve website, although annoyingly it includes European brands alongside the UK retailers.
Personally I’d pick one of the supermarkets in my three or six. Spend £200 a month on groceries and you’ll earn £24 over a year.
The big rewards come if you’re looking to make a big purchase or two, such as furniture or white goods at the likes of John Lewis, Apple or Ikea.
Then it’s worth thinking about places you shop at often, such as Starbucks. You’ll get less cashback per transaction but it’ll add up over the year. Petrol is a good option too.
Curve cashback and existing bank offers
If you have any retailer-specific offers on your underlying cards they won’t be recognised.
For example, my John Lewis credit card will give 1.25% back off when I shop at Waitrose. But if I used that card via Curve I’d get just 0.25% back.
So only use the Curve rewards if they are better than what you’d get direct with your bank card.
Both Black and Metal come with added insurance as part of the fees. Black has worldwide travel insurance, while Metal also adds car collison waiver and mobile phone cover.
Don’t just assume these are going to provide the cover you need. Check the policy documents and limits.
As mentioned I’ve used Curve since it first launched in beta. On the whole it works really well.
In shops and online
You use the card as you would any normal debit card. I’ve had no problems paying in shops. On my bank statements, transactions appear as CRV followed by the shop name, so for example CRV*SAINSBURYS.
It works getting cash out of my current account via an ATM too. There’s a £200 a day cap.
You can even get cash out using a connected credit card without incurring extra charges (normally you should never get cash out on credit cards). However there is a limit of £200 a month for this.
Restrictions and limits
You won’t be able to use Curve for pre-authorisations, such as pay-at-the-pump petrol or car hire deposits.
There’s a daily spending cap of £2,000, and a rolling monthly cap of £5,000. You can’t spend more than £10,000 a year. These will increase the longer you have your card.
You’ll be charged 1.5% if you use an underlying credit card for services which don’t allow this (e.g. paying your tax return or paying off a different credit card bill). This feature is known as Curve Fronted.
The Metal tier of Curve has a £10,000 allowance where this charge isn’t added, though Curve warns this could impact your credit score, depending how your credit card company treats these transactions.
Your consumer protection
Any purchase you make with Curve, even the underlying card is a credit card, isn’t covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act. These laws basically give you better protection for anything which costs more than £100.
However, Curve has its own customer protection policy, and ultimately all purchases via your Curve card are covered by the Chargeback scheme.
How to get a Curve card & £10 welcome bonus
You simply enter your mobile number on the Curve website and you’ll be sent a link to download the app, or search in your phone’s app store.
Get a free £10 credit
When you sign up via this link you’ll be eligible for a £10 welcome bonus – double the standard referral offer of £5. There’s no need to enter the promo code as the link has tracking which will register the offer.
Once you’ve signed up you then need to spend at least £5 on the card and do it within seven days of applying. If you don’t want to wait for the card to arrive in the post you can access the details to use it online via the Curve app, or add the card to your digital wallets such as Apple Pay.
To use this £10 reward you need to use the app to select the Curve Rewards option before you pay.
I love the idea of Curve and I’ve been a fan for many years. Sadly the new limits on the free options make it a frustrating product.
I’m not sure what benefits come from having just one card in your wallet rather than two cards, especially when they can’t be an Amex or business card.
I use features like Back in Time because I can, not because I need to. So I’m perfectly happy losing the access to this rather than splash out unnecessary cash. Though ultimately it means I can’t see a use for the free Curve card.
As as I want to use my Amex (for cashback) and non-Amex credit cards (for Section 75), I’ll probably just swap my Curve for my Chase card in my wallet.
It’s still a decent bet as a backup for travel abroad, though I’d encourage you to prioritise a completely fee-free card first.
So perhaps X, Black or Metal are better options?
It’s hard to justify £60 a year for the still limited features on Curve X. The main concern for me is the loss of using a business payment card but I doubt that applies to many of you. And I can just add that card to my Apple Pay instead. So it’s a relucantant no on X.
If you’re going to take full advantage of the cashback with the Black and Metal cards then perhaps you’ll eat into some of the fees – though it won’t be much.
I think Curve Cash is only a decent feature if you can use it in combination with a non-Amex cashback card and earn double cashback rather than instead of. But this extra cashback alone still won’t cover the full £10 or £15 a month.
To justify the charges you’d need to also factor in the travel insurance – as long as you actually need annual cover. If you do use both cashback and the insurance then perhaps £10 a month isn’t too bad.
But taking it a step further for Metal only really works for me if you need the added phone cover and pay £150 upfront. But even then it’s not something I’d personally go for.