EDIT: Curve has now removed additional foreign exchange transaction fees when spending abroad. You can find more info on these changes in this article.
Ahead of a rerun of our popular ‘what is the best card to use abroad’ feature from last summer, I want to take a long overdue look at the card I’ve personally been using abroad for the last two years.
It’s called Curve Card.
What is Curve and how does it work?
Curve card is an entirely app-based debit card.
Using the Curve app, you can link all of your existing Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards to your Curve card. You then select which card you’d like to be the underlying card when making purchases with your Curve card. You can change this selection at any point.
Sounds clever but why should I bother?
Here are some of the key reasons why you should look at getting a Curve card:
Carry just one (or two cards)
Initially, this was how Curve was marketed. A one-card solution to save you having to ‘lug around’ a full wallet of cards.
You can link an unlimited amount of cards to Curve.
While I would always take a backup card in case your Curve card is blocked or declined for some reason, for the most part, your wallet will be considerably lighter.
Save when you travel abroad
Most UK debit and credit cards will add an additional 3% charge for using your card abroad.
When you make a purchase abroad on a Curve card, that transaction is recharged to the underlying credit or debit card in pounds (or alternative currency), thus avoiding any bank surcharges for spending abroad.
Curve utilises the general Mastercard exchange rates + a 1% surcharge.
You are able to use all of your regular cards abroad and earn reward points while avoiding the extra 3% charge.
The Curve app allows you to block and unblock your card at will. If you lose your card or simply suspect it might be being used fraudulently, you can just lock it within the app.
Better still, if you manage to locate the card or verify the source of the suspicious transactions, you can reactivate the card with a push of the button.
There’s surely nothing more frustrating than calling the bank to cancel your card, worried you’d dropped it on the way home, only to find it in a coat pocket just after getting off the phone! With Curve’s one-touch lock/unlock system that isn’t a problem.
Use a credit card even when the vendor says no
Some online sites and smaller shops only accept card payment with a debit card. Here’s where Curve is super useful. As it’s a (Mastercard) debit card, you should be able to use it to pay the likes of HMRC, utility bills and your council tax without issues!
Helpful for getting around HMRC’s ‘ban’ on using personal credit cards for example…
Travel back in time
Without a doubt my favourite Curve feature!
Curve’s ‘Go Back in Time’ feature allows you to switch the card you pay with, up to two weeks after a purchase. Yes, you did just read that!
For example, a number of weeks ago I was abroad and realised that I’d had the wrong underlying card selected in the app when making a big purchase.
With a couple of clicks, I was able to move the purchase from one card to the other. Seriously clever!
Curve Cashback – instant money back
Curve also gives you 1% cashback on all your spending at three retailers of your choice for a three-month period:
The list of retailers to choose from includes:
- Transport for London
- Virgin Trains
- John Lewis
Choose wisely though, because you can’t change this selection at a later date.
Curve Black (see below) cardholders can choose six retailers from an expanded section of retailers.
How much does it cost?
The standard ‘blue’ Curve Mastercard is free (with no subscription fees).
There is a premium Black Curve Mastercard which costs a one-off fee of £50. You’ll receive a limited edition Curve TUMI wallet (worth £60) with a premium Curve Mastercard card.
- UK Purchases (online and in-store) = Free
- UK ATM withdrawals = Free (first £200 each calendar month goes through as a purchase!)
- Purchases abroad = 1% fee
- ATM withdrawals abroad = Flat £2 fee per withdrawal
It’s worth noting that the above is all subject to Curve’s Fair Use policy.
Watch out for…
Lack of Section 75 protection
Using a credit card linked to Curve to make a purchase does mean that you lose the useful Section 75 protection that you would normally have had you used your credit card to pay directly.
However, you aren’t left entirely without protection.
As a Mastercard debit card, transactions made using Curve are covered by the chargeback scheme. While not as strong as Section 75 protection, it does at least offer you some recourse in the event of fraud, faulty goods etc.
This Moneysavingexpert article explains the key differences between chargebacks and Section 75 protection.
Low spending limits (to start with)
New users will find themselves more limited by spending restrictions until Curve can build your risk profile. These are initially:
- £2,000 spend per day
- £5,000 spend per month (rolling 30 days)
- £200 cash withdrawal per day
- £10,000 yearly (rolling 365 days)
In time, this can be increased to:
- £3,750 spend per day
- £20,000 spend per month (rolling 30 days)
- £1,000 cash withdrawal per day
- £50,000 yearly (rolling 365 days)
These limits and how close you are to hitting them are all clearly displayed within the app.
How to get a free £5 for trying out Curve
It’s not just a free card but you can also get £5 of credit for getting a Curve card.
Then use code SPACX (our referral code) when signing up to receive a free £5 credit after making your first purchase.
I’ve been using Curve pretty much since it launched and I’m a big fan.
At the time, I opted for the Curve Black card and am actually quite fond of the Tumi wallet that comes with it. However, you’re fine to opt for the free ‘blue’ version which currently offers all of the same features.
I’ve got no need to apply for a dedicated ‘no foreign exchange fees’ card simply because via Curve I can use my regular UK cards at no charge and still earn my normal miles and points on top of that.