What is a Curve card?

How it works and if it's any good

Curve's main appeal is providing a free all-in-one payment card that links to most credit and debit cards, so you only need to carry one. Yet its tiered plans mean you can only link three cards to it for free, so it's relying on its other features to win you over. We take a look at everything on offer and whether it's worth it. 

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What is Curve?

Curve is essentially a Mastercard debit card that you can link to your existing debit or credit cards, so you only need to carry one. You then use your Curve card to pay and it passes on the transaction to your linked card as a purchase.

You can use a physical card you're sent in the post, or set up Curve in Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay and pay with your phone. You can set a default card to use each time or select the card you want to use in the app before paying. 

However, as most of this can already be achieved with a digital wallet on your phone such as Apple Pay (where you can save and pay with your cards in one place), these are the main features that make it more interesting:

  • Use your existing card(s) overseas fee-free (with limits). Curve uses the near-perfect Mastercard exchange rate and each month offers at least £1,000 of fee-free spending and £200 of cash withdrawals Monday to Friday.

    Warning. Don't exceed these limits as it charges a 2% fee for each transaction above this (£2 min for cash withdrawals) – even if the underlying card you’ve picked is a specialist one that wouldn’t normally charge you. There's also 1.5% mark-up at weekends and bank holidays.

  • Use your credit card at places it's not accepted. As Curve is a debit card, it could be accepted where credit cards are not. This is particularly useful if you've a rewards credit card that'll earn you points, though it doesn't work with American Express.

  • Move transactions from one card to another after you've paid. Curve calls this its 'go back in time' feature, and lets you change the card you used for a particular purchase (max £5,000) up to four months after you've made it. This could be useful if you accidentally use the wrong card, or need to manage your credit limit. 

  • Avoid getting declined by selecting a backup card. Curve calls this 'anti-embarrassment mode', but it just means if your selected card gets declined then it will automatically switch to your backup.

    However be careful here, if your initial card has been declined due to busting a credit limit or going overdrawn, this may pass you by unnoticed and may mean it's easier to fall into debt. 

How does it work?

Curve is managed via the Curve app, which is available on Android and iOS. Once registered, you'll need to choose one of its four plans.

The main features we've listed above are available on all of these, however different limits apply depending on how much you're willing to cough up each month. It's worth noting the higher tiers do give you access to things like 1% cashback on up to six retailers and 'Black' and 'Metal' come with travel insurance, but as these can be beaten elsewhere (see Top cashback cardsCheap travel insurance and Best packaged bank accounts) we've focused on the parts that make it stand out.

Here's how the different Curve plans compare.

Main Curve card features and monthly fee

Plan (monthly cost) Cards you can link to it Move transactions between cards? Mon-Fri fee-free overseas limits, per 30 days (1)

Curve

(Free but one-off £4.99 delivery fee)

3 Up to 30 days later, max three per month - £1,000 spending
- £200 cash withdrawals

Curve X

(£4.99)

5

Up to 60 days later, as many as you want - £2,000 spending
- £200 cash withdrawals

Curve Black

(£9.99)

Unlimited Up to 90 days later, as many as you want - Unlimited spending
- £400 cash withdrawals

Curve Metal

(£14.99)

Unlimited Up to 120 days later, as many as you want - Unlimited spending
- £600 cash withdrawals

(1) Rolling 30 days. It charges a 2% fee if you exceed this limit, minimum of £2 for cash withdrawals. At weekends and on bank holidays it adds a 1.5% markup to the exchange rate.

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Is Curve any good?

This largely depends on how much you value the ability to combine your cards onto one debit card, or to move transactions after you've paid. 

Curve has some nifty features but, aside from working out if the monthly fee is worth it for you, there are a few downsides to consider:

  • You can't use an American Express card with Curve. If you tend to pay for everything with an Amex card, Curve might not be that useful to you. And it's a shame, as some of the best rewards credit cards come from Amex.

  • You can't get Section 75 credit card protection. Normally when you buy something costing between £100 and £30,000 and pay for any of it on a credit card, you get Section 75 protection which means your card firm's jointly liable with the retailer if things go wrong (see Section 75 for full info).

    Using Curve invalidates this, though Curve does cover you with its own protection up to £100,000. Though as it isn't as watertight as Section 75, if you do need to make a claim it's worth reading through the terms and conditions over at the Curve website.

  • Avoid if you regularly withdraw cash (11+ every 30 days). Curve allows 10 free ATM withdrawals per rolling 30 days on all of its plans, it's a costly 50p per ATM withdrawal after.

    If your linked card is a credit card, Curve also charges a 2% fee if you withdraw more than £200/month. 
  • If you're only interested in overseas spending, a specialist travel credit or debit card beats it. Our travel credit and debit card guide has our top picks, most with unlimited fee-free spending and ATM use overseas. Plus some offer up to 1% cashback with no fee to pay. 

  • The higher tiers are not worth it for the cashback on offer, due to the monthly fees. Curve Cash is available on the top two subscription tiers, and allows you to choose 1% cashback at three or six retailers in the form of Curve Points.

    These tiers are £9.99 and £14.99 per month though, which seems likely to eclipse any cashback you’re getting, unless you spend thousands at the same shops every month.

    If rewards are what you’re after, our Rewards credit and debit cards guide has free options including the Chase debit card that gives 1% cashback for the first 12 months at most retailers. 

  • You can't pay tax-bills fee-free. As it's a debit card, many used Curve to pay tax bills on reward credit cards to collect points. Yet, while you can still do this using Curve's 'Fronted' feature – allowing you to spread the cost, ideally on a 0% card – you'll pay a 1.5% fee to do so.

    To do it 'fee-free' (max £10,000/month) you'll need Curve's premium 'Metal' plan, costing £14.99 a month.

  • Its 'Flex' is an expensive form of buy now, pay later. Curve lets you take any payment you've made via Curve in the last year and refunds it to you. In return, you agree to repay it back between 3 and 12 months and pay Curve an amount of interest (14.2% rep APR over 9 months) – so it's effectively a short-term loan.

    See our Buy now, pay later guide for full warnings and 0% interest options that would be cheaper.

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