How Curve is changing the nature of physical credit cards
The days of thumbing through your wallet, trying to figure out which credit card you want to use are nearing an end. That time is coming quickly if Curve takes off. It’s a new super credit card that’s a lifesaver for people who use many credit cards.
Curve uses its smartphone app to essentially lift the information stored on various credit cards. It then transfers this information to its own single Curve card. The result is a software/hardware hybrid that gives Curve users the choice of which card they’d like to use at the point of purchase without the need to carry multiple cards. Holders of the Curve card just choose which underlying credit card they’d like to use via the app and present their Curve card.
If you carry a card that isn’t accepted as broadly as some other cards, like Amex, Curve improves your acceptance rate. The Curve card is a prepaid MasterCard and consequently, even if your underlying card is Amex, it’s accepted anywhere MasterCard is accepted. The app is designed to help Curve holders track their various purchases and loyalty points across multiple cards.
Curve also boasts that it doesn’t charge any currency conversion fees — card holders only pay the MasterCard wholesale rate + 1%, a relatively low rate according to the LA Times Currency Exchange study.
Curve joins a group of credit and banking offerings that sit on top of existing financial technology infrastructure. It provides a new interface for users to use to connect to their accounts and cards. And with its app tie-in, it provides a user experience that captures much of the traditional interaction between consumers and their financial institutions. Solutions like Curve and all-in-one credit card competitors Coin and Stratos aren’t competing as substitutes to existing financial products — they’re complements that aim to make the existing banking and credit ecosystems easier and more enjoyable to work for today’s demanding consumers who are want their financial apps to be as easy-to-use as the ones they use to travel, order a cab, and go shopping.
“We’re not another new bank or extra service to deal with, we transform your existing fragmented financial world into somewhere crystal clear, designed for the user,” Curve founder, Shachar Bialick told VentureBeat. “Mobile payments have the potential to bring similar benefits, but cards work everywhere and people are used to them. So we’ve created the best of both worlds — all the benefits of mobile payments via a groundbreaking card.”
Bialick believes users will be more likely to adopt his solution versus other options on the market. And it’s precisely because of its old school/new school aspect that users may find it appealing — Curve’s sole product at this point is a physical card. It looks, smells, and feels like the other cards in your wallet. But while competitive offerings look like credit cards, Coin and Stratos are both battery-powered bluetooth devices that tether to mobile phones; Curve is a standalone credit card and can be used without its accompanying app.
London-based Curve first made waves when, in stealth mode, it closed an investment round that included Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of money transfer startup TransferWise, Ricky Knox of challenger bank Tandem, Ed Wray of Betfair, and former members of the Google Wallet team.