I’ve had my eye on Curve since it launched in the U.K. in 2015. Curve consolidates users’ payment cards into a single physical card and digital wallet, meaning that users only need to carry one card.
After Curve announced its U.S. launch earlier this year, I signed up for the waitlist and onboarded last week. I’ve only had the card for about a week so far, but overall I’m fairly impressed.
Better than predecessors
The company’s card consolidation technology seems to be winning where other players have failed. Remember COIN, the digital smart card that promised to replace all of the cards in your wallet? The company had a slow and rocky start after its 2013 launch– it didn’t even begin shipping cards until 2015– and then shut its doors in 2017 after being acquired by FitBit in 2016. At that point, some of the company’s backers had not even received their card in the mail even though they fronted $50 for the opportunity to get on COIN’s wait list.
Curve has obviously learned from COIN’s mistakes. To start, the company has a lower customer acquisition cost (CAC) compared to COIN. While COIN shipped a digital, battery-powered card along with a magstripe-reading dongle that customers would use to load all of their payment cards, Curve issues a standard plastic payment card with an EMV chip and NFC-powered contactless payment technology.
The plus side
Curve also comes with a handful of additional benefits including rewards, no foreign exchange fees, an Anti-Embarrassment mode that will allow the payment to go through even if the card is declined (with restrictions), and a Go Back in Time feature that enables users to change which card is used for a transaction up to 30 days after the fact. Unique benefits such as these are typically only found with digital banks. But I like that Curve offers me access to these unique features while I get to keep my primary banking relationship.
Of course, there are a handful of drawbacks I’ve noticed so far, as well. The biggest downside for me is that Curve is working with Mastercard for its credit card network. This means two things– I can’t use it at Costco and I can currently add only my debit card to the app. That’s because at the moment, Curve users can only add credit cards from Mastercard, Discover, and Diners Club. This limitation negates the main benefit of the Curve card, which shouts the motto, “one card to rule them all.” Curve plans to support Visa credit cards in the future, however, so perhaps this is only an issue for beta testers.
The other drawbacks are fairly minor. The PFM capabilities are lacking, perhaps because they expect users to turn to their bank for money management tools. Additionally, call me shallow, but I wish the card itself wasn’t so ugly. With black, white, and red lines, the card has a masculine, retro vibe.
Curve’s potential trajectory
If the progress Curve has made in the U.K. is any signal of its trajectory in the U.S., there is hope that the company will not go the way of COIN. The biggest indication of this is its business plan. Unlike other consolidated payment cards and even some digital banks, Curve operates on a freemium model with the three paid tiers ranging from just under $6 to just under $18 per month. Benefits offered to users in higher tiers include using the Go Back in Time feature more than three times per month, adding more than two cards, and receiving 1% cashback at a limited number of retailers. And for users worried about the color of their Curve card, Curve also offers U.K. users other card design options and even a metal card for those willing to pay for the top tier.