If you’ve got multiple debit and credit cards bulking out your wallet or purse, then Curve could be for you.
I’ve been trying out the Curve card for a while now, and it’s just been properly released for everyone to get their hands on it. Find out what I think in my latest FinTech review.
Plus, there are a couple of new customer offers. You can get a free £5 credit when you first sign up with a referral code, then 1% cashback at up to six retailers, including John Lewis, Tesco and even Apple.
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What is Curve?
Essentially Curve lets you use more than one bank or credit card through a single “smart” card.
You manage your Curve card via an app. You can add as many bank or credit cards as you like to the app, either by taking a photo or adding the details manually. You then select in the app which card you want a transaction to be charged to.
If you use Apple Pay or Google Pay or your phone it’s the same principle. You just use a physical card and PIN to pay rather than your handset. The card is accepted anywhere that takes MasterCard.
Curve isn’t a bank like Monzo, and it doesn’t take your cash and save it up like Chip. It’s just a new middleman.
Multiple cards as one
Regular readers will know I’ve quite a few current accounts and a few credit cards – all with different benefits.
However the only ones that I regularly use – and carry in my wallet – are my cashback Amex and Tandem credit cards and my main and business bank account debit cards. To carry the rest would just be impractical.
Curve in theory allows me to add every single card and just carry the single Curve card with me instead. However there are a few restrictions. You can only add MasterCard or Visa cards to your Curve account, not any others such as American Express or Maestro. For me this is an issue as I use my Amex more than any other card, but it might not be a problem for you.
Types of Curve card
There are three options: Curve Blue, Curve Black and Curve Metal.
Curve Blue is free, Curve Black costs £9.99 a month, and Curve Metal, costs £14.99 a month or £150 if you pay upfront for a year.
This review is mainly focused on the free Curve Blue option, as most of the features apply to all the cards. But I’ll expand to cover Black and Metal where it’s relevant, and there’s an extra summary at the end on these premium options too.
I’ve used Curve for the last couple of years. On the whole it works well.
In shops and online
You use the card as you would any normal debit card. I’ve had no problems paying in shops, and it’s been handy having the option to pay via my linked business account on a few occasions.
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, but it’s unlimited if via your current account.
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.
I have had a few problems using the card online where the card was rejected, but it’s rare and this has only been when trying to spend in a foreign currency – and not every time.
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.
Existing bank offers
If you have any retailer-specific offers on your underlying cards, they won’t be recognised. For example, my Halifax bank account currently offers 5% back off when you buy from Just Eat. I’d get that using my Halifax card, but not using that same card via Curve. However, it works fine for non-retailer specific offers. For example, my Tandem credit card offers 0.5% across the board, which would be recognised.
A big attraction with Curve is cashback – or Curve Cash.
Curve Blue cashback
For the first three months, new Curve customers can select three participating brands to earn 1% cashback at. Sadly after 90 days, all cashback ends.
If your connected card is also a flat-rate cashback or rewards card, you’ll earn both together (e.g. 0.5% from a Tandem and 1% on selected retailer).
The list of 60 plus shops includes:
- John Lewis
- The White Company
- Booking. com
There are also food and drink retailers such as Starbucks, EAT and Deliveroo. The full Curve Cash list is available on the Curve website.
I’d pick one of the supermarkets in my three. Spend £100 a week on groceries for the 90 days and you’ll earn £12 by the end. Nothing major but it all helps.
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 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 three months. Petrol is a good option too.
Premium Curve cashback
Black and Metal customers get the cashback all year around, and can also select from further “premium” retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Ocado, Selfridges and Easy Jet. Metal members can add a total of six retailers.
The maximum cashback that can be earned in the first 90 days is £300 (standard) and £600 (Black).
Using your cashback
To use any earned cashback you need to select Curve Rewards on the app. Then purchases via your card will use any money you’ve earned rather than take it from one of the underlying cards you have added. You can’t take cash out of an ATM using this credit.
Using Curve overseas
Last year Curve dropped all fees for using your card overseas. This means you could spend on your everyday debit or credit cards via Curve and avoid the normal hefty costs.
This makes it a very attractive card if you don’t already have a specialist credit or debit card. For a start you don’t need to transfer money between accounts as you would with Starling and Monzo, or worry about paying off the balance as you may with a credit card. There’s no credit check to get it – unlike getting a Halifax Clarity Card or Monzo bank account. Fantastic
However, there are still some conditions. For a start there’s a £500 spending limit abroad and a £200 limit on overseas cash withdrawals. After each of these limits there’s an additional fee of 2% or £2. There’s also an extra 0.5% charge at weekends on Euros and Dollars, and 1.5% on other currencies.
“Black” card users do get unlimited overseas spending, and a £400 cash withdrawl limit, while Curve Metal users have £600 a month. However I still don’t think it’s worth the extra fee.
So I’d use this as a backup card. Ideally, go for the Halifax Clarity Card or Tandem credit card as both give you extra protection if you spend more than £100.
Extra features on Curve
Multiple cards in one and cashback isn’t all Curve does. There are some extras on the app which you don’t get with PayPal or Apple and Google.
Go Back In Time
The Go Back In Time feature is a great idea. 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 14-days.
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.
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.
Manage your card
You can lock your card if it’s lost, or check your PIN – features common on startup banks like Monzo and Starling but good to see here too.
Both Black and Metal come with added insurance as part of the fees. Black has worldwide travel insurance and electronic gadget insurance. Metal has a beefed-up travel insurance with extra lost luggage cover, and adds in car collision damage waiver insurance and access to LoungeKey airport lounges. Check the cover gives you what you need.
How to get a Curve card
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 £5 credit
When you sign up there’s the option to enter a promo code. If you enter 25PBH you’ll have your account credited with £5 (I’ll also get the same amount). To use this reward you need to use the app to select the Curve Rewards before you pay.
I love the idea of Curve, and the three-month cashback option for new users is great.
By adding my main debit card and my business debit card to Curve I’ve reduced two cards to one.
Sadly I’ve not been able to ditch all my cards. I still have to carry my Amex, and I still need a Visa/MasterCard credit card in case I want to ensure I get Section 75 consumer protection.
Even so I think it’s worth getting hold of one. Ideally time it for when you can get maximum benefit from the cashback. Just make sure you still carry a backup card in case a payment with Curve is rejected.
Black and Metal Curve
But should you upgrade?
The cashback is the big draw here – at least at first. Big names such as Apple make it sound pretty attractive. However, to cover the Black fee alone you’d need to spend £1,000 a month at your three choices before you make that money back.
I think it’s better instead to use an American Express Platinum Cashback card which is valid at most retailers and will give you 1% to start. And cashback sites will cover the joining fee.
The added insurance on Black at £10 a month isn’t bad, and worth taking a look at, but you can probably get the same insurance separately for less. Or you could get added breakdown cover from the likes of Nationwide’s own premium account for not much more.
Even with the boosted cashback and insurances, I think Curve Metal seems like an extravagance and not worth the money.
Some really good ideas worth trying out just for the cashback. However it’s let down by not having American Express or Section 75 protection, meaning I still need to carry additional cards. But it’s got some nice features and will hopefully get better as time goes on.