A week with Curve: in review
I remember registering for my first debit card. Filling out a paper form to receive a Natwest Solo card, as soon as physically possible, aged 11.
10 years later, the leather slab known as a wallet contained:
- a work credit card, two Amex cards, two debit cards, a savings card, two Mastercards, a travel money card
- work pass
- driving licence
- more loyalty cards than I care to admit
- less cash than I remembered
- the odd pub receipt that I don’t remember
I stopped carrying coins in a wallet at university. That saved a tonne of space but I still needed to cull my wallet regularly. When I started work, I got rid of half the loyalty cards but I still had 9 credit cards and a wallet that was over an inch thick.
Half the credit cards got left at home and I had a wallet that was still bulky and frustrating.
So when I read the TechCrunch article introducing Curve, I was pretty much their early-adopter target market.
After a week
I now only carry the Curve card.
After using Curve in a shop with PIN, contactless then a cash machine for the first time, I no longer needed my old cards.
My wallet is now a slimline Tumi that’s as thick as my thumb.
It’s pretty much as simple as that.
I’ve linked it to my remaining credit/debit cards. The process was seamless. While I can switch between them in app, I tend to use my Amex because it is the most generous and I can now use it everywhere without the awkward occasional refusal.
Already, it’s fundamentally different from Apple Pay. Have you ever tried to withdraw cash on Apple Pay? Pay online? Didn’t think so.
In Beta, the app has card switching, transaction history and the ability to add cards. The quality of the app is very high, easy on the eye UX and with notifications embedded already.
The customer service has been nothing short of phenomenal. I’ve been given free reign to ask generally awkward questions about edge cases; at this stage, the team seem to like knowing exactly how the product is fitting into my routine and what adaptations I’ve made (see above for how I use a work pass and avoid card clash).
Fundamentally, Curve is acting as a intermediary between me and all my credit card companies. It shouldn’t take a massive leap to see why that puts them in a strong position for data-based product and owning the customer.
My main concern is that credit card companies act unilaterally against it because it’s just too useful.
I see a number of different avenues for Curve. All add value for me and another party.
- Curve must continue to add perceived value to me as the consumer. It will need more of a moat than being able to switch between cards. I’d love to see an integration or features similiar to Money Dashboard — particularly with budgeting and recurring/bank payments. In turn, this knowledge of its customers could power audience segmentation for brands — linking my spending data and email address. I can’t think of any other provider (even Experian, Mastercard and Facebook don’t have this).
- Loyalty and cashback schemes represent a huge market. Curve have addressed the pain with carrying several credit cards, now for loyalty, without any extra effort at the till? The nascent card-based cashback market is fragmented between online providers, credit card companies and bank accounts. If I can’t remember which card I need to use to get 10% off at Patisserie Valerie, chances are I won’t bother going at all. Any incrementality for the retailer is lost. Curve can get around that with smart targeting of offers and integrating loyalty schemes into their app. A huge task but a good platform to start from.
- Another big play is in matching me to credit providers. I currently shop around a fair amount but the Amex is currently in favour. For me, the cost of switching would decrease further. For Curve, I can be monetised by credit cards acquiring me.
I’ve been impressed with Curve the app, the physical card and the potential that I perceive. After meeting some of the team, they’re smart, engaged and with impressive backgrounds.
I like the concept behind Curve and I certainly have no plans to switch back to having 5 different bank cards.
I hope that Curve can use the premise to expand their consolidation play and create a moat against the others vying for the same space with different approaches.
One day, I hope to look back on my enthusiasm for Curve the same as my first debit card – it will have become commonplace but an important part of our infrastructure.
Curve have exited stealth mode and are now accepting applications. You will get £10 sign up credit through this link (or use nlrkA in-app).
I was on the Beta with Curve but otherwise have no links with them. I have no idea whether my conjectures about the future have any grounding or relevance to their plans.