A new financial app and card service called Curve has launched, offering users the chance to replace their entire wallet with a single credit card.
Curve says it will eliminate the need for consumers to carry a wallet or purse full of plastic by giving users a single Mastercard credit card that links all your existing accounts together.
The company says consumers now carry an average of eight cards with them on a daily basis.
Users then spend on this card rather than their normal bank cards. All spending can be tracked and managed using Curve’s free Android and Apple smartphone and tablet apps. The key feature of Curve’s product is that you can change which bank card you spend on at any time, even after the purchase has been made.
However, there are some major downsides to the product including no Section 75 protection – see the Moneywise verdict below for full details.
Until today, Curve had been operating in a beta testing phase, with more than 100,000 people signing up so far. Curve says there are currently 50,000 people on its waiting list and that these people will start to be issued cards from today.
The main Curve product is currently free, although a premium version is available for a one-off payment of £50 which offers rewards to users.
How exactly does it work?
The Curve card operates in the same way as any normal bank card, and will be accepted anywhere in the world that accepts Mastercard as a form of payment.
Users load their existing credit and debit cards onto the app and then set a default account for any payments to be taken from when they spend using their Curve card.
This can be changed at any time, even after a purchase has been made. For instance, if you connected a credit and debit card from your bank to Curve, you could spend on one card initially but then change your mind to spend on the other.
Users have two weeks to change their mind, during which period Curve can refund the purchase and apply the charges to another card instead.
Curve says this is a unique feature that cannot be copied by other apps as it is patent pending.
Curve itself never holds your money, but instead acts as a layer between your bank or card company and the retailers where you are spending.
Curve is the latest newcomer to try and disrupt the banking industry. Apart from potentially slimming down your wallet, it offers users the chance to better manage their finances and keep tabs on their spending.
As with all new financial products, its long-term impact remains to be seen. Fellow app Monzo was one of 2017’s must-have financial products, but the company was beset with issues such as card outages and failed payments on multiple occasions.
However, to use Curve you must retain your existing cards and accounts so there is always the option of closing your account and returning to your old bank cards. Rather than ditching your wallet entirely users should also always carry a back-up card, just to be safe.
But there are downsides to using this product which must be considered. The biggest is that any purchases made using Curve are not protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
This protection means your credit card company is legally obliged to refund you if a purchase goes wrong, even if it is the retailer’s fault. However, this protection doesn’t apply when your purchase goes through a third party such as Curve.
Mastercard is still able to offer its less comprehensive chargeback service when you use Curve though.
You may also be missing out on rewards points and cashback when you use Curve. Debit and credit cards which reward spending at a specific retailer will not work using Curve, because transactions are recognised as coming from Curve, not the original card provider.
But if you earn rewards on all spending then you will still be able to accrue points when using Curve.
While Curve promises to remove exchange fees for overseas spending, this offer is not quite as generous as it seems. For spending abroad, it will still add a 1% fee on top of the actual exchange rate while cash withdrawals are subject to a £2 flat fee.
This makes it more expensive than the Moneywise best buys for overseas spending. With the Mastercard Halifax Clarity Credit Card and the Visa Credit Barclaycard Platinum Travel Credit Card users are charged the Mastercard and Visa exchange rates respectively, which is normally within 0.1% or 0.2% of the actual exchange rate.
The 1% Curve charge will be applied even if you choose to spend using these travel cards via your Curve card. The only way to get around it is if you have an overseas card loaded onto the app, and then go into the settings and change the currency to the location you’re visiting i.e visitors to France should change the default currency to euros within the app.
The basic Curve card is currently free, but there are no promises this will remain the case in future.
So, if you’re keen to cut down on the number of cards you carry and better manage your finances, Curve is a product worth looking at. But beware that you’ll lose Section 75 protection, could be missing out on rewards from your bank, and may be hit with higher overseas spending fees.