Curve is gearing up for its anticipated solution for micro-businesses and entrepreneurs: an all-in-one payment solution that combines multiple cards in one. Earlier this week, the company announced a partnership with Wirecard, which will provide the underlying technology on which Curve's solution functions.
But soon after the announcement, Curve revealed a setback: American Express cards will no longer be supported on its tool.
According to reports Wednesday (May 25) in the Financial Times, Curve has been forced to drop Amex from its list of supported payment cards that can integrate into its own prepaid card and connected mobile app.
Curve told the publication that it has offered a full refund to all of its customers because of the sudden change.
Reports said one of Curve's biggest selling points for its small business and entrepreneur users was that its clients could make purchases on the MasterCard-branded tool using their American Express cards loaded on the solution. That meant merchants that weren't accepting American Express cards at their POS could accept the MasterCard Curve card, while payers could rack up rewards like air miles via their American Express card programs.
Curve also reportedly allowed users to gain rewards points when they withdrew money from an ATM via their American Express card using the Curve card.
According to the company, it lost money when purchases were made using an American Express card because it would be charged nearly 3 percent by Amex in swipe fees.
But it wasn’t Curve's decision, necessarily, to drop support for the card into its product. Reports said American Express asked Curve to stop processing transactions for them because it lacked confidence in Curve's customer service. Curve said American Express had doubts about how it handles disputes like refunds and chargebacks.
American Express and Curve said they could re-enter an agreement at a later time.
Reports also highlighted the challenges that Curve is facing on a regulatory front. Curve's solution, because it is geared toward small businesses, is considered a commercial card and is therefore exempt from the interchange fee caps imposed on consumer cards. That's even though the paycards loaded onto the Curve card could be commercial or consumer.
It allows Curve to charge a 1 percent fee to merchants on top of the 0.2 percent interchange fee charged when consumer cards are used via the Curve card. According to the startup's chief executive and co-founder Shachar Bialick, the firm monitors spend to ensure that its users are legitimately using Curve for corporate spend.
But according to the FT, there is evidence of customers using the Curve card for personal spend without resistance from the company.