Fed up with carrying several debit and credit cards around with you?
The company behind a new card called Curve, which launches today, claims it is the only card you need to carry as it offers mobile payments.
But does Curve live up to the hype?
How it works
Curve basically combines all your other bank cards on to one card, and works in conjunction with a smartphone app.
To get started, you need to download the Curve app, take photos of your cards with your phone, then add in the security code like you would when shopping online.
Using the app, you select what card or account you want to use. Then your Curve card works just like the card you've selected and draws money from that account.
You can set a default card and then select other cards for specific transactions. You don’t need to open the app for every purchase – just if you want to switch the card used.
Everything is processed like a UK shop transaction, which eliminates the rip-off foreign usage fees cardholders often face for using their card abroad.
The app lists every payment made with the card, allowing you to track your transactions and keep on top of exactly how much you've spent.
Curve works on the MasterCard network so can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted – including magnetic strip terminals (still common abroad), chip and pin, and contactless terminals.
As well as charging no foreign usage fees, all foreign transactions carried out on the card are charged at the MasterCard wholesale rate, plus 1%.
This works out far cheaper than most debit cards, which pile foreign loading charges and transaction fees onto overseas purchases.
There is still a £2 charge to use foreign ATMs, but that’s similar to what most banks charge anyway.
Curve users can also use the contactless element to pay for London transport, with Transport for London calculating the best fare for each day or week, the same as it does for other contactless cards.
What about security?
Curve is basically a prepaid MasterCard, so has bank level protection and all the security features of traditional cards.
With Curve your original card details and data are never revealed to the merchant. Instead, when making a purchase with Curve, online or instore, a unique token is used to process your payment, keeping your identity and the actual card numbers safe.
Curve claims these added layers of security protect against fraud and remove the worry that often comes when a bank card is lost, as the original cards are safely at home.
If you lose your Curve card, you can cancel it instantly from your phone or online. Curve will send a replacement card for free.
If you use Curve for big purchases you won’t be covered by Section 75 protection if anything goes wrong – in the same way as PayPal or Amazon are third party purchases, using Curve is not a direct purchase from your original credit card.
This means that you aren't protected any purchase you make over £100 turns out to be faulty or doesn't arrive.
It's a vital piece of consumer protection and is a big drawback of the Curve card.
The card also has spending limits, although these shouldn't be an issue for most people.
The standard caps are: £2,000 per day, £5,000 a month, £200 cash withdrawal a day and £10,000 spend per year.
These limits are increased over time as you build up a spend history. Enhanced limits are: £3,500 a day, £15,000 a month, £500 cash withdrawal a day and a £50,000 spend per year.
With regards to reward schemes, Curve won’t let you accrue additional points often on offer for using cards linked to specific retailers.
For example, supermarket cards such as Tesco and Sainsbury's offer extra points if you use them in the supermarkets in question. Using Curve will mean you just get the standard rewards on these transactions, rather than a boosted return.