They say that a week is a long time in politics, but in fintech three days can feel like a lifetime. Or so it seems in the curious case of American Express vs Curve.
For those of you who haven’t been keeping up, London startup Curve offers an app and Curve Mastercard that lets you consolidate all of your bank cards into one. Put simply, you spend using your Curve card and under the hood you can choose which of your other cards Curve charges.
It means that you only ever need to carry a single card and because all your card spending runs on top of Curve, you get a nice modern aggregated view of your spending and real-time alerts without having to switch banks
. Other benefits, such as zero FX fees
and the truly innovative ‘go back in time’ feature make it one of the few fintech products I actually use day to day, even if it remains quite a niche product in the eyes of other fintech observers.
This week Curve re-introduced support for American Express, which for some existing and prospective Curve users, is viewed as a killer feature because it enables you to spend on Amex and earn Amex rewards at merchants that don’t accept Amex.
Thirty-six hours hours later, however – and not long after I wrote a piece waxing lyrical
about how great its Amex support was – American Express unceremoniously blocked Curve from its network.
Well, that’s awkward.
With that said, I can’t pretend I was surprised, having received a call the night before from Melanie, the American Express Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications. The credit card behemoth was doing the rounds trying to get ahead of the story and pushing the line that it had ended its merchant contract with Curve and has no regulatory obligation to allow Curve onto its network.
The fintech upstart is adamant that American Express is employing anti-competitive behaviour and that UK/EU regulation is on Curve’s side. After being blocked, the company sent an email to customers pledging to “fight Amex’s decision with our full might.”
Grab your popcorn, folks, I have a feeling this one has a long way to run yet.
Bonus: Which London fintech CEO is rumoured to be in the process of searching for their replacement?