Banking technology moves at a glacial pace. If I want to search my online bank statements, for example, I can’t go back further than 90 days; letters are still sent to me as PDFs; mobile apps don’t have half the facilities that the websites do. Curve, on the other hand, is the most innovative banking app I’ve ever seen.
Curve’s chief selling point is convenience. It gives you one bank card and app to manage all of your different accounts: personal banking, business banking, credit cards. You don’t need to carry five different cards and remember five different PINs. You make payments using Curve’s supplied Mastercard and decide which account to charge it to.
If you make a mistake and charge a personal transaction to your business account, for example, you can ‘go back in time’ and recharge the transaction to the correct account. I’ve been using it for a few days and it’s brilliant. Here’s how it works.
Curve review: the app
The first thing to say is everything – absolutely everything – is handled by Curve’s superb mobile app (available for Android or iOS). The company does have a website, but it’s just a showcase – you can’t log in or manage your account from the site.
That’s not a problem because the app is immense. You start by adding your different bank cards. You can use the phone’s camera to scan your bank/credit cards’ details, saving you from entering 16-digit numbers.
You assign the card a nickname (say ‘business credit card’) and enter as many accounts as you like. It takes moments, although some cards may need to be verified with a small, refundable transaction before they’re accepted onto the system. Amex isn’t supported.
Curve review: how it works
Once your different accounts have been entered into the app and you’ve been sent your Curve Mastercard, you’re free to start spending.
Perhaps the easiest way to think of Curve is like an equivalent to PayPal. There’s a credit card sat behind your PayPal account that money is debited from when you make a transaction. Well, Curve works in a similar way, except you get to choose which account you want the money to come out of.
Before you buy something, you can go into the Curve app and select the card that you wish future purchases to be made from. You don’t need to do this every time, only when you want to change the account being debited. So if you’re going out for an afternoon’s shopping, you can select your personal credit card before you go out and that account will be used for all the day’s transactions.
The clever bit is the previously mentioned ‘go back in time’ feature. If you make a mistake and assign a purchase to your business account when it should have gone on your personal credit card, you have 14 days to change your mind. You simply tap on the transaction in the app, select ‘Go Back in Time’ and assign it to a different account. The charged account is refunded and the money is taken from the new one.
Curve review: features
There are many other great features in the Curve app. If you’re making business purchases, you can take a photo of the receipt for each transaction. Curve emails a copy of the receipt to you for your accountancy records, and it’s also looking to integrate with leading accountancy packages. Right now it only works with Xero, but it intends to integrate services such as QuickBooks, FreeAgent and Expensify, among others. You can also export all of your transaction as a CSV (Excel) file.
All of your spending is automatically categorised. When I bought my shopping in Waitrose, it was registered as groceries while the train tickets I bought yesterday are logged as transport. You can then filter transactions across all your accounts by category.
So if I get to the end of the month and want to know how much I’ve spent on travel across all (or just some of) my accounts, I can get an instant total. No need to plough through five different sets of statements.
Curve also has its own rewards scheme. Right now, if you use your Curve card in a host of top retailers – including Argos, Boots, Gap, Halfords, Pizza Express and many others – you get 1.5% cashback on the transaction. If you plump for the £50 Curve Black account, that’s boosted to 3%. However, the folk at Curve tell me the rewards scheme is about to be replaced with a new “build-your-own rewards programme in the next few weeks”, so don’t (ahem) bank on those discounts if you sign up now.
Curve review: security
How secure is all of this? Well, the first thing to remember is that this is, in effect, just another MasterCard. You won’t be held liable for purchases made on stolen cards from the moment it’s reported, and given that you’re sent a mobile notification every time a purchase is made, it’s easy to spot fraudulent transactions.
There is a caveat, however. You don’t benefit from the protection afforded by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act that you would normally get from credit card purchases, because these are effectively third-party purchases. That means, for example, that if a retailer fails to send ordered goods, you can’t make a claim against the credit card company, even if you assigned the transaction to them in Curve.
A Curve spokesperson told me that: “If you’re ever unfortunate enough to be a victim of fraud on your Curve card, you can lock it instantly, our fraud team will investigate, you’ll be refunded any money lost and then we’ll take care of the rest at the back end.” If I was making a big, expensive purchase, I’d still use the original card, just to be doubly sure of the Section 75 protection, though.
There are other security benefits to Curve, however. If you only have the Curve card in your wallet and lose it on a night out, you only have to cancel the Curve card and not the five other accounts it’s connected to. Curve will issue you a new card in a couple of days and away you go. The thieves won’t have access to your other accounts.
You can also lock the Curve card from within the app, allowing you to put a stop to potential fraud the moment you discover your card’s gone missing, and without having to spend 20 minutes on a telephone line. If the Curve card turns up down the back of the sofa a couple of hours later, you unlock the card and carry on as before.
Curve review: verdict
Speaking as someone who juggles four different bank/credit card accounts, I’m utterly won over by Curve.
The app is supremely well designed, using one card with one PIN is far more convenient, and features such as the ability to scan receipts and attach them to transactions are super-useful for disorganised clots like me when it comes to the end-of-year accounts.
The basic Curve account is completely free and it might even save you money with its cashback rewards and modest fees for spending/taking money out abroad, which are far better than my bank’s.
It’s about time someone gave the banks a massive boot up the backside, and Curve might be just the folk to do it.