Curve Fronted - An Important Update

@Marie: Why don’t Black subscribers get fee reduction or any other preference over Blue?

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They want everyone to get the Metal one rather than the Black one. I have a feeling that nearly all of new “features” added in the future will only be available on the Metal one, so that it looks as if the Metal version gives the most value-for-money, to the detriment of Black subscribers.

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Thank you for your kind words Patrick, I do intend to stay around and keep posting!

I didn’t realise that you were from the UK at first, I think I assumed you weren’t but I don’t know why I thought that. Sorry! I’ve enjoyed this discussion and your input, so thanks for engaging with my posts.

Just to add to your post, since you raised the topic of council tax, my council actually lets you pay by going to the council offices and handing over a cheque or cash payment - in addition to all the other options. I don’t know if this is common, but it goes to show that often there are even more payment options, depending on the business.

You have a valid point about basic bank accounts not being a panacea as well, which I totally agree with. There will always be some people who can’t get one, such as very recently arrived immigrants or homeless people without a fixed address (although I believe a trial is going on with Lloyds to try setting up accounts for homeless people which is admirable).

Cash is always a valuable backup and even though we are increasingly cashless (or at least many of us are!) it does have its place; there are a great many (around 2 million according to the Access to Cash Survey) who still rely on it, and that’s to say nothing of the right to a free choice which you have already, quite rightly, pointed out.

It is starting to look that way. I wonder whether Curve are considering revamping (again) or even scrapping the Black tier altogether, to simplify their offering to a simple free Blue tier and a premium Metal tier? Personally I hope it doesn’t happen but I think they are at least trying to differentiate the tiers so that Metal means something more than “Black + Metal card”.

I think their market research probably shows that whilst many will think the metal card is cool, if you offer most people the option of almost all the benefits but a normal card instead they will go for that, since they won’t be able to justify the extra cost purely for the “cool factor” of being able to wave the fancy card about. Curve appear, therefore, to be looking at adding more value, relatively speaking, to the Metal tier to increase its attractiveness relative to the Black tier. It will be interesting to see how the situation develops on this - hopefully they will go the route of adding innovative new features to all tiers but giving Metal users better limits/allowances as I think this would be the most fair option.

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Some credit card issuers already block Curve as a payment method, i.e. you cannot pay a Barclaycard bill with Curve no matter what the underlying card. A few savings accounts which allow funding by debit card also block Curve. What’s the point in paying for Metal if financial institutions are going to block Curve?

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You could even say the same of the Blue tier, what’s the point of using a Curve card if it won’t work as well as your underlying cards?

Credit card users might have reason to expect this (and associated Curve Fronted charges, since they are, after all, doing something which isn’t normally permitted), but it’s a real problem for those who use Curve linked to debit cards.

Let’s not forget, Curve is a debit card itself and if linked to a debit card you aren’t doing anything which wouldn’t work if you’d used the underlying card directly, so it’s unreasonable for it to not work.

But then this highlights a real problem for Curve, they are totally at the mercy of the card networks (particularly Mastercard since they are the issuer of the Curve card itself).

If other institutions block the Curve BIN, and they shouldn’t do since it would go against Mastercard rules, there is very little Curve can do. They can appeal to Mastercard that their BIN has been blocked incorrectly, but Mastercard will be reluctant to intervene on the side of Curve since they know that Curve is, by design, an unconventional card which does behave somewhat unusually and arguably “hack the system” - as, I believe, Sachar himself put it once, in the context of saying that Curve was never meant to do that (although, in a way, it was a tacit admission that Curve does, in fact, do that to an extent, and relies on the goodwill of users not to exploit loopholes excessively).

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I wonder how this sits with the FCA rules on playing fair with your customer

ttps://www.fca.org.uk/firms/fair-treatment-customers

Outcome 1: Consumers can be confident they are dealing with firms where the fair treatment of customers is central to the corporate culture.
Given that this is yet another change to Curves product without proper notice I’d say they fail on

Outcome 2: Products and services marketed and sold in the retail market are designed to meet the needs of identified consumer groups and are targeted accordingly.

Outcome 3: Consumers are provided with clear information and are kept appropriately informed before, during and after the point of sale.
Based on the level of complaints here, I think your missing on outcome 3

Outcome 4: Where consumers receive advice, the advice is suitable and takes account of their circumstances.
I cancelled my Curve account specifically because customer service contact times are atrocious and they rarely respond with anything relevant.

Outcome 5: Consumers are provided with products that perform as firms have led them to expect, and the associated service is of an acceptable standard and as they have been led to expect.
Clearly not the case based on the feedback from users. For example here Our Exchange Rate Display Issue

Outcome 6: Consumers do not face unreasonable post-sale barriers imposed by firms to change product, switch provider, submit a claim or make a complaint.
I would cite this Our Exchange Rate Display Issue as an example again of not complying with outcome 6 as well as 5

1 out 6 aint great is it Curve?

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I thought it best to remind @Marie what the November changes actually were. It is absolutely crystal clear that they only applied to Government payments. It’s only merchant code 9399. If Curve don’t rescind this immediately and give the required two months notice then they are as good as finished.


At the moment, the only type of transaction that will be charged are payments made to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC ). After an initial trial period with HMRC, other government payments such as National Savings & Investments, DVLA Vehicle Tax, and Student Loan Payments will be included as well.

If you are an existing Curve customer as on the 25th of November, 2019, these fees will apply from the 24th of January, 2020.

Any person who signs up to Curve after the 25th of November, 2019, the following charges apply when using a credit card as underlying payment card:

  • For Curve Blue (free) and Curve Black customers (including Curve Black Legacy users): 1.5% of the total amount of the transaction.
  • For Curve Metal customers: no charges apply.

Please bear in mind that your underlying card issuer may charge you fees for making such transactions and Curve is not liable for such fees. Please refer to the terms and conditions of your underlying card issuer.

What other payments will be charged the 1.5%?

In the future, other government payments will also be included. These payments fall under the Merchant Category Code 9399 and include*, but is not limited to, HMRC, National Savings & Investments, DVLA Vehicle Tax, and Student Loan Payments when using a credit card as a funding card.

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At least Blue is free, so if it does not work in some way then no loss. I would probably pay £150 a year for Metal if I knew it would definitely be accepted.

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Well, I’d say its tomatoes tomatos.
They could give the 2month notice now and until then disallow any form of paying for those transactions with the Curve card since its against their t&c.
Instead, you as a customer could say now: OK, I hereby waive the 2month notice, I’m ok with the t&c change, plz enable the 1.5% fee feature for me now.

–> Maybe this would have been the better marketing move, saying:

From today on you cannot use your debit card anymore for transactions with MCC xyz since its against our t&c. Starting in 2 months you can use your Curve card for MCC xyz again for a fee of 1.5%. If you’d like use that feature today already, head over to your app and click on ‘confirm new t&c’.

Lets be clear: People have used the system to gain more points on transactions that are not meant to be earned, otherwise HRMC, Barclays,… would allow paying with a credit card. Curve has allowed it even thou its against their t&c. Now they’re changing the system to make it legitimite and allowing people to do it and ask for a fee to cover the cost. That sounds more than fair to me.

A bit offtopic: In Germany its even a criminal offence to pay off your credit card with another (credit) card: “Kreditkartenreiterei” - no matter how many middle men are involved.

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to be clear HMRC don’t allow payment by card because they would have to charge a fee that’s prohibited in law or make a loss.

Curve is a company founded on loopholes and it’s the very reason for the existence at all. No one here to to my knowledge is disputing the charge but they are disputing the lack of notice that is not compliant with their own terms and conditions let along FCA guidance.

I’m sure I’ll get flagged for this comment but it’s no different from drug dealers giving away free samples to get people addicted and then charging through the nose (no pun in intended) except that’s a different topic entirely.

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Paying off other credit cards was against their T&Cs, but as far as I’m aware other financial transactions (eg. investments,mortgage payments) never were.

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Whilst this is true, if the customer has this happen then it’s a poor experience and doesn’t build goodwill towards Curve. The problem would be if widespread blocking did start to be imposed by merchants, you would end up in a situation where using the Curve card could be like a lottery - impossible to know if it would work. At that stage, the customer would perceive Curve to be unreliable, and probably remove the card from their wallet. Curve has then effectively lost that customer.

Also, every decline wastes the customer’s time and annoys them, which really isn’t good. I get the point that there wouldn’t be a financial loss with Curve Blue, but it is still a loss in some sense.

The problem I just described would be the same with Curve Metal, just even worse (given the cost which the customer would clearly feel they had wasted money on).

You are right that Curve Metal would be far more appealing if closer to the original Curve proposition; no fees when paying 100% of the time, no worries about fees from your providers of underlying cards due to Curve always using the Professional Services MCC, and total reliability due to no merchants blocking the BIN (plus full Amex support working the same way as Mastercard and Visa).

However, these things are out of Curve’s control and we should not blame them. They had to change to dynamic MCC, it seems that Mastercard weren’t happy with the situation before, and the issue of the BIN being blocked is the merchant (not Curve) restricting it. The less said about Amex, the better, but it’s clearly Amex opposed to working with Curve and not the other way around.

Let’s not forget we have come a long way already. Years ago, when Curve was new and in beta, we had other problems - like acceptance being limited due to the card being prepaid, and the BIN being blocked because it was recycled by Wirecard and previously belonged to a defunct company. Also, a big drawback was no digital payments support like we have now (Apple Pay, etc.).

It’s impossible to ever have the perfect product but Curve isn’t too far off it.

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I still dont see more recent version than 2.15.3 on google store. :confused:

Hi Seb. How you doing? :relaxed:

Oh ok that’s a really great service to offer. Is that as well as the other payment options discussed above or is it in place of one or all of them?

Yeah Monzo did also have plans to do the same but I haven’t seen any news regarding that.

Ah not quite, Curve’s card issuer is Wirecard, the payment processor is indeed Mastercard. :credit_card:

Nope for me the risk of declines for no reason apart from the fact they rely on a third party for payment processing makes it a lottery.

If you are so unsure about the above that you bring any other card with you just in case, means Curve’s USP as the only card you need is completely meaningless.

The only good thing (for Curve) is that there is no other card like Curve in the UK. Which means they can pull stunts like this as what can you do? Join a competitor…

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Hi @patrice58 and @l8n.me,

I have been a Curve customer since 2016, and during that time I have not experienced any material deterioration of the product for the things I use it for - namely for my own day-to-day spending.

I am aware that, at least in theory, the product is less good in some respects than previously (when I was first a customer, for example, it would have been possible to withdraw hundreds of pounds in cash on my credit card and have it charged as a purchase, amongst other things) but this hasn’t affected my usage of the product since I was not in the habit of using those features.

In fact, I do believe that the product has improved over that time from my perspective, since I value Apple Pay very highly and it has now become available for use with Curve - which adds the capability to cards which do not natively support it. I think this is great!

In fact, as pointed out above by others, it was always against Curve T&Cs to exploit the product for cash recycling or similar behaviour, and I had no wish to break the T&Cs and risk my account being closed since I found the product useful. Realistically, then, I felt that the option of exploiting Curve was not open even then - even if it was technically possible.

Also, when I had the early beta prepaid card, I did suffer some acceptance issues due it being prepaid and also using an old BIN. Those have now gone. Similarly, I used to sometimes have issues using the card online - now that we have full 3D Secure support those issues have also gone. So, at least in my opinion, acceptance for “normal” merchants has improved over time. Curve have also improved their messaging of when Wirecard or GPS are planning maintenance - in the early days they didn’t warn you, but now they do. GPS have also seemingly improved reliability significantly since the early days of Curve and Starling when there seemed to be outages all the time. I now worry less about acceptance and reliability than I used to, and in a physical shop I always have other payment cards in Apple Pay anyway so if I get stuck I can use those - which probably covers 95% of situations, I can’t remember the last time I saw a non-contactless POS.

I don’t have a premium account and I’m not convinced they are the best value premium offering (I believe Revolut’s metal plan probably offers better value for money) but this doesn’t really matter when the free plan is adequate for me.

Perhaps you think I’m being overly positive, but I believe I am like many customers who probably didn’t use these loopholes anyway and don’t reflect the negative feeling on the community (which I had noticed too, by the way).

Finally, perhaps I should have said “issued through Mastercard”, or “issued on the Mastercard network” because of course you are right that Mastercard aren’t the issuer. However, it would be Mastercard which would intervene on Curve’s behalf, I think, as the payment network so the rest of my point is right, as far as I know. Wirecard just do some of the technical wizardry and offer their product up as white-label for others like Curve.

And yes, the council in-person payments are additional to all the other options, I think, although if you want to use Bank Giro Credit you may have to request that they send you Giro slips by phoning up. You don’t get them automatically, so it’s almost instead of that.

PS: I didn’t realise this post was so long, sorry about the long read!

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This method of payment is actually still quite common. You can also use it to pay at bank branches not just post offices.

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I would mostly agree with this. The product has got worse in some ways (like the addition of fees here), but overall hasn’t deteriorated too much.

For me the problem is that it also hasn’t improved much. When I first got it, it seemed like a very rough early product from a scrappy startup. Now it feels like a very rough product with a ton of useless bloat added on to try to generate some revenue. I stuck with it because of what I thought it could become, not because it was a great product at the time. It has so far failed miserably to live up to its potential.

Meanwhile, the market has changed, and things that were once USPs are now available widely. For example, I have several credit/debit cards now with zero FX fees, so there goes that advantage. All the cards I use regularly are now on GPay, so the whole “all your cards in one” thing is no longer an advantage. Most of my accounts show transactions instantly, so again, Curve no longer stands out. Whilst these new fees are justifiable, it’s yet another thing that used to be a reason to use Curve that no longer exists.

Meanwhile the features that would truly make it stand out, like combined spending analytics and budgeting across all cards, have stagnated for years.

The problem isn’t that Curve has got a lot worse (though in my opinion it’s a bit worse) - it’s that Curve has stood still while its competitors have overtaken it.

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Yeah, ideally I would have liked to see more development time and money invested in bringing improvements to core features, but I understand that Curve is a business and had to focus on some monetisation stuff to help pay the bills.

I do hope that now we have had the launch of metal outside of the U.K., they can return to some of these things.

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Why not create a new payment tier for customers who don’t want to pay for Curve Metal subscription. For £75 a year you get to make Curve Fronted payments without charge but don’t get access to any other benefits such as a metal card, insurances etc?

Curve may think this is a bit niche or even not want to offer it in the hope you upgrade to Metal, but it is a good idea!

If they make Curve Fronted too obvious, though, they may run into trouble with Mastercard and Visa.