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What is Curve X? And is it time to ditch Curve?

Curve
Charge card: Curve just got more expensive

I’m rarely cutting edge. In fact, my edges are blunter than a Jeremy Clarkson put-down. But I was definitely an early adopter of Curve – the app-based bank card that can effectively replace all of your other bank cards. Indeed, I wrote faintly glowing review of Curve for this site in 2018.

Four years on and things are very different. Curve is trying to shove customers towards a subscription tier called Curve X. There will be a free Curve card, but it’s very limited. So, what is Curve X? And is now the time to swerve Curve?

What does Curve do?

Before we get to Curve X, a quick recap of what Curve does, for the lazy sods who can’t be bothered to read my review. Curve provides a physical Mastercard that you can use as a proxy for all of your other bank cards. So, for example, if you’ve got cards for your current account, credit card and your business account, you can link them all to Curve. Then, when you make a purchase using your Curve card, you can assign that payment to one of the linked accounts via the Curve app.

The really clever bit is the facility to ‘Go Back In Time’. If you make a purchase on your Curve card that’s assigned to your credit card and you later decide you actually wanted to pay for that from your current account, you can do so up to 30 days later. The money is effectively refunded to the credit card and charged to the current account. It’s very neatly done.

In short, instead of packing a wallet full of cards, you can just use the Curve card. And if the Curve card is lost or stolen, you don’t need to replace the bank cards behind it. There are other benefits such as free foreign currency exchange and ATM withdrawals, but that’s the crux of it.

So what’s happened to Curve and what is Curve X?

Curve is severely cutting back the features that it’s offering on free accounts. Curve has long had paid-for plans that added extra benefits, but now it’s taking away features that were previously offered to free account holders.

Within a couple of months, free account holders will only be allowed to link two cards to their Curve account, making it much less flexible. They will also only be allowed to Go Back In Time three times a month. Given it’s very easy to forget to assign the correct card before you make a purchase with your Curve card, this a real deal-breaker for me.

At the same time, the company is introducing Curve X, a new subscription plan priced at £4.99 per month, where you can link up to five cards and have unlimited Go Back In Times that can be used up to 60 days later. There’s also a Black tier at £9.99 per month that offers unlimited linked cards, cashback and other benefits.

Why is Curve punishing free account holders?

This kind of bait-and-switch tactic – offering stuff for free that you later charge for – never goes down well with customers. The social media reaction to Curve’s new tiers has been pretty brutal. Check out the replies to the announcement tweet here.

In a blog post announcing the changes, Curve’s CEO and founder blames the economic downturn. He writes:

As you know, the global economy is in the midst of a storm, and we’re not sealed off from the turbulence. It’s prompted us to make some difficult decisions. 

Of course, consumers are not sealed off from the turbulence either. So charging £60 per year for something that was previously free will doubtless prompt many customers to make the much less difficult decision to drop Curve. (Curve is offering Curve X to existing customers for £1.99 per month for the first year.)

I like Curve and I like its features, but they’re not worth £60 a year. Especially with free services such as Google Pay now more widespread, which also allow you to effectively replace your physical cards with your phone for the majority of purchases.

Curve was nice while it lasted. It’s time to move on.

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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