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19 Jun 2019

Curve card offers 1% cashback: is this 'smart card' worth it?

The 'over-the-top' card service now offers rewards.

Customers using the Curve 'smart card' can now earn 1% cashback on their spending, regardless of which credit or debit account they opt to use. But is it as good as it sounds?

Curve allows you to spend money from multiple accounts and providers using a single card. The addition of 1% cashback on purchases through selected retailers might make this even more attractive to some. But you'll need to pay a fairly hefty monthly fee to benefit, and not all retailers will be eligible.

Here, we look into how Curve's cashback works, and whether it's worth trying it for yourself.

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How does the Curve card work?

The Curve card is a fairly unique product, and the different words Curve itself uses ('over-the-top banking platform' or 'smart card') don't really spell out what it does.

So here's how you use it:

  • open a Curve account
  • enter the details of your credit and debit cards from any provider into the app - these are now virtually 'stored' here
  • use your Curve card to spend money anywhere that accepts Mastercard, using the app to choose which account to spend from.

Curve also has a futuristic-sounding 'go back in time' feature, which lets you retroactively switch a past purchase from the last 14 days to a different card.

Instead of weighing down your wallet with cards, you can leave them all in a safe place at home and just carry Curve.

But as we discussed in our full Curve card review, there are some drawbacks.

Normally, when you spend between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, Section 75 of the Consumer Right Act allows you to claim the money back from your credit card company if the retailer breaches a contract or misrepresents a product or service. If you spend on your credit card through Curve, you won't get this.

Instead, you can use Mastercard's chargeback or the new Curve Customer Protection, which will refund eligible purchases up to £100,000. But neither of these are enshrined in law, and there are many kinds of purchases which are not eligible for Curve Customer Protection.

How do Curve's cashback rewards work?

The rewards programme offers instant cashback on purchases from up to six major retailers of your choice, depending on which Curve card you have.

There are over 60 brands to choose from, including supermarkets, such as Sainsbury's and Waitrose, and entertainment subscription services, such as Netflix and Spotify.

Your 1% cashback will be added to your 'Curve Cash' balance, which you can spend with your Curve card.

If one of the cards within your Curve wallet already gives you cashback rewards for all of your spending, you'll accrue Curve Cash on top of it.

For example, you might earn 0.5% cashback on all purchases with a Barclaycard. If you spend on this card via Curve, you'll get 0.5% cashback in your Barclaycard account and 1% cashback in your Curve Cash wallet.

However, the Curve card currently doesn't support American Express. Since Which?'s best cashback credit cards are all American Express cards, you can't make the most of these cashback combos unless Curve manages to add Amex integration in future.

It's also important to note that if you earn cashback or points through selected retailers via a credit card rewards scheme, using Curve could get in the way.

When you spend money from a card through Curve, all transactions are listed as coming from Curve - not the retailers. So, for example, if your credit card pays you bonus points for shopping at Sainsbury's, you won't earn the bonus if you pay with Curve.

You will, however, still get rewards if your credit card gives you cashback on specific categories of spending, such as groceries, since Curve will still track these.

Curve's premium accounts: are they worth it?

Curve's free account, Curve Blue, only lets you choose three retailers to earn cashback from, and you'll only get cashback for a 90-day introductory period.

Premium card Curve Black is £9.99/month, and allow you to choose up to three retailers where you earn cashback. Alternatively, Curve Metal charges £14.99/month, and includes cashback at six retailers. These cards also offer additional perks, including insurance products.

Subscribing for any premium banking service shouldn't be undertaken lightly. It's important that you weigh up the features they offer and calculate whether it's worth the cost.

Paying with cashback

Since we're talking about rewards, the real question is: can you earn enough cashback to cover the cost of the monthly subscription?

To make back the £9.99 a month for Curve Black, you would have to spend a combined total of £999 each month at your three chosen retailers.

Similarly, you'd need to spend a monthly £1,499 to cover the £14.99 a month for Curve Metal - although you'll have more retailers to choose from.

To make a profit on your membership purely from cashback, you'd need to spend more than this.

If you would be spending these amounts of money at Curve Cash-compatible retailers each month anyway, the rewards scheme might make them cost effective. If not, you'll have to decide if the additional features, such as the bundled insurance products, are worth it.

If you're primarily interested in cashback, there are a number of other cards that offer similar rewards - or better - without the monthly fees, although most are credit cards. Read our guide to the best cashback credit cards to see more of your options for earning rewards as you spend.