The Curve smartcard lets you combine your various debit and credit cards – all while avoiding foreign usage fees. However, you will lose a vital piece of consumer protection if you do sign up.
Today see the launch of Curve, an app and prepaid MasterCard that allows you to combine all your existing cards in one.
The company behind Curve claims that its smartcard will simplify payments and help everyone become savvier with their money.
But does Curve live up to the hype?
How it works
Curve combines all your other bank cards on to one prepaid card, and works in conjunction with a smartphone app.
To get started you need to download the Curve app, which is available from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Then it’s a case of taking photos of your cards to add them to your mobile wallet (you can store an unlimited number of Visa or MasterCard cards) and adding in the security code like you would when shopping online.
Using the app, you can select what card or account you want to use when making payments. Then your Curve card works just like the card you've selected and draws money from that account.
You can set a default card and then select other cards for specific transactions. You don’t need to open the app for every purchase – just if you want to switch the card used.
Everything is processed like a UK shop transaction, which eliminates the foreign usage fees cardholders often face for using their card abroad.
The app lists every payment made with the card, allowing you to track your transactions and keep on top of exactly how much you've spent.
Curve works on the MasterCard network so can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted – including magnetic strip terminals (still common abroad), chip and PIN, and contactless terminals.
As well as no foreign usage fees, all foreign transactions carried out on the card will be charged at the MasterCard wholesale rate, plus 1%.
This works out much cheaper than most debit cards, which pile foreign loading charges and transaction fees onto overseas purchases.
There is still a £2 charge to use foreign ATMs, but that’s similar to what most banks charge.
What about security?
Curve is basically a prepaid MasterCard, so has bank level protection and all the security features of traditional cards.
With Curve your original card details and data are never revealed to the merchant. Instead, when making a purchase with Curve, online or instore, a unique token is used to process your payment, keeping your identity and the actual card numbers safe.
Curve claims these added layers of security protect against fraud and remove the worry that often comes when a bank card is lost, as the original cards are safely at home.
If you lose your Curve card, you can cancel it instantly from your phone or online. Curve will send a replacement card for free.
If you use Curve for big purchases you won’t be covered by Section 75 protection if anything goes wrong – in the same way as PayPal or Amazon are third party purchases, using Curve is not a direct purchase from your original card.
Read: Section 75: credit card loophole means shoppers might not be protected for more. If you don't have time to read through it, the bottom line is you won't be protected if any purchase you make over £100 turns out to be faulty or doesn't arrive.
It's a vital piece of consumer protection and is a big drawback of the Curve card.
Another downside is that it’s not compatible with American Express cards, so if you have a lot of these the app won’t be much use to you.
The card also has spending limits, although these shouldn't be an issue for most people.
The standard caps are: £2,000 per day, £5,000 a month, £200 cash withdrawal a day and £10,000 spend per year.
These limits are increased over time as you build up a spend history. Enhanced limits are: £3,500 a day, £15,000 a month, £500 cash withdrawal a day and a £50,000 spend per year.
With regards to reward schemes, Curve won’t let you accrue additional points often on offer for using cards linked to specific retailers.
For example, supermarket cards such as Tesco and Sainsbury's offer extra points if you use them in the supermarkets in question. Using Curve will mean you just get the standard rewards on these transactions, rather than a boosted return.
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