With cross-border payments, Curve seeks to challenge legacy providers

Image via Curve

U.K.-based payments startup Curve launched a cross-border in-app money transfer feature, with hopes of making a dent in the lucrative remittance market. The cross-border payments sphere, currently dominated by Western Union, is a field in which startups like TransferWise and WorldRemit are making inroads.

Now, London-based Curve wants to attract more digital-native customers with an app-based, international peer-to-peer payments feature which rolled out in late December. The tool allows customers to send and receive money from their Curve accounts across 25 currencies free of any currency conversion fees. 

The company’s core offering includes a physical and digital card that consolidates multiple bank accounts and cards into one physical and digital payment card, supported by Mastercard. With the international money transfer capability, Curve users can choose from which account they would like to send the payment, and recipients do not have to be Curve customers. Non-Curve customers can receive a link to confirm their phone number and link a recipient account.

Curve, a four-year-old company, reportedly raised more than $74 million in total, including a $55 million Series B led by Gauss Ventures in July. In December, it launched payments through wearables, including on Garmin, Fitbit and Sony Wena devices in December 2019 and has begun to expand outside of the U.K.

The startup wants to simplify payments across borders for its customers who will no longer need to use another app to send money.

“Customers want to send money to their friends and family with just a few touches. But with so many different options and the rise of challenger banks, the process is unnecessarily complicated, and customers end up having 3-4 apps just to send money,” said Diego Rivas, Curve’s head of OS product, in a statement. “Now, they have one simple, smart platform which can move money from any account to any account, securely and fee free.”

Nathalie Oestmann, chief operating officer at Curve, emphasized the platform’s interoperability with other payment platforms as a selling point.

“We don’t want to limit people to having to be within our ecosystem — but we always encourage them to be part of our ecosystem,” she said. “We hope that the experience [using Curve Send] is a good one. However, [customers] don’t have to make sure somebody has to become a user. You can just send money and not have to worry about that.”

While Curve emphasizes the convenience of the cross-border mobile money transfers, customers may incur additional fees from their financial providers.

Though Curve will not charge customers for sending money or converting across different currencies, customers who send funds from their credit cards may be subject to fees from their provider if the credit card company considers the exchange a “cash advance.”

See also: UK startup Curve adds wearable payments as it plans US expansion

“Because there’s so many banks out there, we don’t know when they’re going to charge a fee, so we’re learning as we go along based on user experience and we are compiling a list,” said Samantha Marinho, product marketing manager at Curve. “We show a message [in the app] that just says that ‘you might be charged for this depending on your cards terms and conditions.’”

The peer-to-peer payment service is currently available in more than 35 countries in Europe, and that the service is part of Curve’s international expansion strategy, including plans to launch in the U.S. during the second half of this year.

“We will be extending [Curve Send] around the world and we need to customize it as we’re going out into new markets,” Oestmann said.

Curve is one of several U.K.-based fintech companies that are planning to expand to the U.S. market, including Monzo and Revolut.

The company is banking on the appetite among U.S. consumers for easy payment solutions, but it will be a challenge to unseat incumbent providers like Zelle and Venmo. For example, in the third quarter of 2019, Zelle reported $49 billion sent on 196 million transactions.

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