As expected, it was announced via a blog post this week that Curve Card users will soon be able to link their American Express cards. This presents the opportunity for spending money from your American Express card pretty much anywhere. The exact timeline for the introduction of this option hasn’t been confirmed, but there is currently a Beta test underway and applications are invited for a second test phase. There is also now much more detail regarding the offer. Read the Curve blog post here.

If you’re not familiar with Curve, here are the basic details:

Curve is MasterCard through which you can spend on any of your normal credit and debit cards (currently limited to Visa and MasterCards, but soon to include American Express). You simply link your cards via an App, select in the App which card you want to charge transactions to, and then pay as normal with the Curve card. The transaction immediately shows up in the App, and is then charged to your chosen card appearing as ‘Crv’ followed by the retailer name on your statement.

There are currently two versions, Curve Blue and Curve Black. Curve Blue has no monthly fee and offers up to £500 of foreign spend per month with zero FX fees (2% thereafter). Transactions are simply charged in the local currency, converted via Curve at the mid market rate and then appear on your card statement in GBP (so avoid any foreign transaction charge from your card issuer). Curve Blue also allows you to earn 1% cashback with up to 3 partner retailers via Curve. Curve Black has a fee of £50/annum, but has unlimited foreign spend per month (up to a maximum of £15,000/year) and allows you to select up to 6 partners for 1% cashback.

You can read more about Curve here, use the code O2MEP for £5 free credit if you do decide to sign up.

Curve’s American Express offer will work as follows:

If you’re using American Express you will need to ‘top up’ your Curve card via the App. You will be charged 0.65% of the amount you top up (e.g. a £100 top up will cost £100.65) on Curve Blue, on Curve Black this will be free for up to £1000/month, and 0.65% thereafter. 

Yes, there is a charge if you use the free (blue) Curve card. However, for me this offer represents quite exciting news, as I was actually expecting the functionality to be limited purely to Curve Black. It also presents some interesting opportunities and solutions in terms of maximising the rewards you’re getting on your American Express card.

Read my Amex Gold Card Review

Amex Gold Travel Hack Loyalty Points UK

So what kind of a deal is this for you, and when will it be most useful?

If you normally get a value of around 1p per point from your American Express Reward points, then after the 0.65% charge you’ll be earning about 0.35p per £1 spent. You could quite easily earn this, and more, on a rewards Visa or Mastercard, so why is this an exciting feature? Well here are 3 key scenarios where Curve will really help you maximise your reward returns with American Express:

1) When Using an American Express Card Abroad:

Using the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card as an example, the foreign transaction fee is 2.99%. This makes the boosted 2 reward points per £1 spent you get abroad from Amex pretty unattractive in most cases, as you’ll be paying about 3p in fees to earn 2p in points. However, remember that with Curve there are no FX fees (up to £500/month with Blue, and no limit on Black), and the charge to your Amex will appear on your statement in GBP. So now there is an opportunity to pay just the 0.65% Amex fee (rather than the 2.99% Amex fee) to earn 2 points per £1 spent abroad, which changes this to a potential earning rate of about 1.35p per £1. That’s a decent return for spending whilst travelling, considering it’s inclusive of all fees and a mid-market exchange rate.

2) When Using an American Express Card to hit a Spend Target:

Many American Express Card’s have a spend target of £2,000 in 3 months to earn a significant points welcome bonus. I’ve highlighted before that this makes the equivalent return on spending in the region of 6-12% (17% if you’re working towards a 35,000 Platinum bonus). For some people, myself included, they’ll organise their spending so that they’re pretty much always working towards a bonus. Where this is the case, if much of your spending is with retailers who don’t accept Amex, this can sometimes be a challenge. So say you’re 2 weeks away from the end of the 3 month period, and still need to spend £500, but you don’t have an obvious opportunity to spend 100% of this with a retailer who accepts Amex. Using Curve card could present the opportunity to hit the target more easily, without drastically changing the retailers you use. In this case, that 0.65% which would equate to £3.25 on a £500 spend, looks pretty good value if you’ve just used it to unlock 20,000 bonus points worth up to £200. 

3) To ‘Fasttrack’ to a Bonus on a Fee Paying Card:

OK, so this one might need some testing once the functionality is live, but…

It struck me that this potentially introduces a very lucrative ‘hack’ for hitting the welcome bonus on Amex Platinum. Amex Platinum is a fee paying card costing £450/year (we covered it in more detail here). With a referral (get one here) you can get a 35,000 points welcome bonus, worth around £350. With Amex Platinum you can get a pro rata refund by cancelling at any point, so it’s not uncommon for someone to hold the card for 3 months, get the points bonus and then cancel to get 3/4 of the fee back.

So… with a Curve card it seems as though there’s a route to hitting the bonus immediately, thus getting back more like 11/12 of the annual fee. Presumably if you were to top up Curve by £2,000 from your Platinum card immediately, the spend would track and give you the points bonus. You could then transfer the points out to a partner scheme, pay the Amex balance and close the account, leaving you to continue to spend the £2,000 on the Curve Card at your leisure. The 0.65% Curve fee would only be about £13, much less than the subsequent months of Platinum would cost.

Of course this is only applicable if you’re just getting Platinum for the points – it is actually a fantastic card, very much worth the fee if you use it well!

As I say we may well see conditions/limits which prevent this one, but at present to me it looks as though it might be possible.

Edit – as per comments, the Beta version has a £1,000/month top up limit, which would mean you might need to wait for the start of month 2 to hit the bonus.

You can read more about Curve here, use the code O2MEP for £5 free credit if you do decide to sign up.

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You can contact me via: takemetothepoints(at)gmail.com