Staying Ahead of the Curve with Financial Time Travel

by on Aug 28, 2017

Despite the obvious convenience of all-in-one cards, most providers have struggled to move from concept to delivery. Many found mass production of concept cards too difficult a problem to solve, while others encountered new problems, such as increasing the chance of charging purchases to the wrong card, unique to all-in-one cards. Easing these pain points is as crucial as meeting distribution goals to succeed in this market, and London-based Curve solved the issue of charging the wrong card with its new Financial Time Travel feature.

Most all-in-one cards intend to store users’ accounts on credit-card-sized microcomputers that mimic actual cards at payment terminals. Curve cards function differently; they’re simple plastic cards, no battery required, each with a unique number connected to a user’s account and managed with an app; in partnership with Mastercard, Curve authorizes purchases and then charges users’ accounts, matching the time of purchase with their default card selection at that time. This model risks charging the wrong card for reasons beyond the user’s control, such as a merchant charging when an order ships rather than at the time of purchase or letting an authorization expire and processing an offline transaction later. But Curve’s new Go Back in Time feature solves this issue by letting users move charges from one loaded card to another up to 14 days after the original purchase.

Curve stands out among the many failures and new players entering the market by not creating flashy new technology with a high price tag. Instead, the startup uses existing technology that’s effective and easy to implement, all with no upfront cost for users and few usage fees. By enhancing payments for users without drastically changing how they pay, adoption is simple and clearly beneficial. Smooth adoption will encourage first-time users to continue using Curve and start exploring its other features.

Currently in beta testing for business users only, Curve’s financial mangement features are tailored to small business owners and executives. Users can view and filter purchases across their accounts in real time, then tag, attach receipts to and export these transactions. While designed to make expense reporting a breeze, these features could benefit anyone looking to track and manage spending when Curve launches a consumer card later this year.

Features that motivate users to make Curve a central part of their financial lives are important for the startup seeking to be more than a combined card provider. As co-founder and CEO Shachar Bialick sees it, the current explosion of fintechs revolutionizing financial services also creates a lot of complexity and fragmentation that end up limiting individual benefits. But this environment also creates an opportunity for Curve: the startup plans to offer a suite of fintech services, initially tailored to business users, called Curve Connect.

Map of Fintech Services for Small Businesses on Curve’s Radar

Though integrating with other fintechs will increase the benefits of using Curve, the startup could also improve by partnering with banks to enhance user experience. Currently, banks see purchases made with a Curve card as e-Commerce, meaning users miss out on the extra rewards many credit cards offer for category spending. While Curve has a rewards program, which offers up to 2.5% cash back for spending at select retailers, it should ensure users receive the full rewards offered by their card issuers as well. Otherwise, users may not use their Curve card for every purchase, limiting the value of the app’s transaction history and integration with services that rely on transaction data.

Though Curve hasn’t announced specific plans to do so, partnership with major banks may be on its horizon. Santander InnoVentures was one of the investors that participated in the series A funding round that raised $10 million for the startup. One can only speculate what such partnerships would entail, but if they allow Curve to alleviate more pain points and increase usability, Curve could become the convergent platform it aims to be.