Curve, the bank card killer that attracted a lot of attention at the beginning of the year with its ambitions to replace all the plastic in your wallet with just one card is taking another step toward full public launch.
The London-based startup has named German payments technology firm Wirecard as its launch partner and the company that will provide the payments infrastructure behind its Curve card. The deal seals a partnership that’s been in place for some time, with Wirecard underpinning Curve throughout its beta testing period, which kicked off in February. Wirecard also powers the payments behind another European fintech startup in the shape of Berlin neobank Number 26.
At launch the firm is focusing on freelancers, small business owners and ‘solo-preneurs’ who often juggle personal and professional payments flows.
The news comes in the same week the firm say American Express is “pausing” its integration with the card, however. Curve’s Amex integration was a big plus point for the card, enabling customers to pay in places where American Express is not accepted. The company tells PaymentEye that talks are ongoing and that the pause is in relation to American Express “wanting to ensure seamless customer support”.
Payments is a busy space, so here’s a quick refresh on what problem Curve is trying to solve. The basic pitch is that while most of us aren’t about to stop using cards any time soon, there’s no reason why we should have to carry all of them around with us in our wallets. Users can scan in an unlimited number of cards and then pick a dominant one to pay with at the point of sale. Payments then appear in a feed within the app to help users manage spending. One way to think of it is as a similar concept to mobile wallets like Apple Pay, except in the shape of a bank card.
There is no battery required, which means there’s no concern over phone death cutting off your ability to pay like there is with mobile wallets.
(It’s not to be confused with Kerv of course, which is also a London fintech startup, but is building something quite different in the shape of a wearable payments ring.)
“One card to rule them all”
The firm attracted attention back in December when it announced $2m backing from high-profile European FinTech figures including TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus, Betfair founder Ed Wray and Azimo/Tandem co-founders Ricky Knox and Michael Kent. Other investors include Seedcamp, Speedinvest, Kima Ventures and the London Co-Investment Fund
Another reason it picked up interest is its solid-looking founding team, which includes Tom Foster Carter (who was previously COO at kids prepaid app Osper), Israeli entrepreneur Schachar Bialick and Anna Mostyn Williams, formerly head of marketing at Xbox.
Curve is interesting, because it’s offering the convenience of a digital wallet but in the shape of a card, which businesses and consumers are familiar with, which means it does not require a big shift in behaviour from the user. The firm is also able to piggy back on the back of the marketing of companies like Apple, Samsung and Google that have been pitching their wallets as a way to simplify spending.
“Customers need a simple solution, but it needs to work with the existing infrastructure so you can pay with it everywhere,” co-founder Shachar Bialick told PaymentEye in an interview. “Apple Pay is a spectacular vision but it doesn’t really work anywhere which means it cannot change your behaviour.”
“It’s the card which allows us to bring the promise of mobile payments to the consumer today,” he says. “For mobile payments to work, they need to accepted everywhere as well as used by more consumers, and this take a while to become mainstream. The business that successfully manages to transition customers onto future platforms will ultimately end up owning these customers.”
He says Curve will do this by “accommodating existing preferences” for cards via a mobile wallet on a physical card and when the time comes, users will be able to “discard” the card and use their Curve Wallet to pay with their smartphones.
The Amex pause is a blow for the company, but Bialick tells PaymentEye:
“Our mission at Curve hasn’t changed – we’ve set out on a journey to create a single touchpoint between our users and their finances – starting with connecting up your existing bank cards, all your transactions in real time in one screen and zero FX fees, and are still working hard on our future features such as bespoke loyalty, rewards, peer to peer payments and more.
“We look forward to bringing increased value, functionality and service to our users as Curve evolves and are confident our users will always save time, money and earn worthwhile rewards. American Express’ functionality with Curve was just one of our launch features – and we hope that American Express bring back Curve soon.”
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