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 TSB credit cards and my main bank account debit card. 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.
I’ve used Curve for the last month. On the whole it works well. 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.
There’s a daily spending cap of £2,000, and a monthly cap of £5,000. You can’t spend more than £10,000 a year.
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.
I did have a few problems using the card online. A few times the card was rejected, so I used a different card, only for the Curve transaction to actually go through!
I only noticed this because a few days later a refund was processed. This didn’t affect me but potentially I could have gone overdrawn. Still, it’s very easy to check on the app and contact Curve if something has gone wrong.
When you use your Curve card you break the relationship with the card provider. This matters for a couple of reasons.
First, 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 gives you better protection for anything which costs more than £100. However all purchases via your Curve card are covered by the Chargeback scheme, but this isn’t as good.
Secondly, if you have any retailer-specific offers on your main cards, they won’t be recognised. For example, my Halifax account currently offers 5% back of you buy from Just Eat. I’d get that using my Halifax card, but not using that same card via Curve.
You also can’t use Curve to pre-authorise things like car hire or hotel rooms under £150.
Cashback offer for new customers
A big attraction with Curve is 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 50 shops includes:
- John Lewis
- The White Company
There are also food and drink retailers such as Starbucks, EAT and Deliveroo.
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
There are also two remium options, known as Curve Black, which costs £9.99 a month, and a new Curve Metal, costing £14.99 a month or £150 a year. These customers can add a further three retailers, so six in total.
Premium members can also select from further retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Ocado, Selfridges and Easy Jet.
These big names make it sound pretty attractive. However, to cover the fee you’d need to spend a ridulous amount at your three extra choices before you make that money back, so it’s probably not worth it for most people.
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 on the card will use any money you’ve earned. You can’t take cash out of an ATM using this credit.
Using Curve overseas
From September 20th 2018 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.
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. There’s apparently a short wait right now, but you can see your place in line, and if you refer friends you move up the list.
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 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.
Some really good ideas worth trying out just for the cashback. However it’s let down by not having American Express, fee-free spending overseas 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.