Transactions: The Road Less Traveled...

In part two of our series on the lifecycle of a Curve payment Rona, our Head of Operations, talks us through the occasions where a transaction doesn't quite go to plan (this article was originally posted on Rona's Medium blog).


This time we’re going to discuss transactions that don’t follow the process described in the previous post. As there are so many different elements involved, there are quite a few different cases.

I’m writing this while on a flight (to visit family and friends back home) and I have just used my Curve card to buy something in-flight. This is an example of an Offline transaction.

Online transactions work in the way we described in the previous post (here) — the merchant’s terminal has a connection to MasterCard and to Curve as an issuer and we all make a decision in real time to approve a transaction before taking the money from the customer’s account. However, when you’re mid air there is no connection, and the terminal used for the transaction cannot send the details to MasterCard and to Curve to be approved in real time.

Curve in-flight

The terminal is able to verify some details from the card chip itself (there’s a whole big world in that little chip in your cards..) and offline transactions are allowed up to a certain amount.

Other cases for offline transactions include TFL, trains and occasional rogue merchants. These merchants process these offline transactions once/ several times a day, which is the reason you get a random transaction notification (TFL charge in the middle of the night, anyone?).

As an issuer we always prefer that transactions go online to keep the safety of our customers and their cards. However we do understand that customers want to able to use their Curve card in TFL, airlines and some other offline merchants, so we allow limited offline capability.

Because offline transactions are not always processed in real time (a good example is the TFL charge that comes in the morning after your journey) and the way the Curve card works, offline transactions are sometimes charged to the wrong payment card. For example, you had your Lloyds card chosen in the app when you got on the tube, but the TFL offline transaction came through to us at night, after you had switched to your Barclays card.... 💳 😔

Curve on the Tube

Curve plug 🔌 Now, there’s a great solution — you’ll be able to Go Back In Time!

Deposits: Hotels, Car Rentals and Fuel Pumps

You've just booked your summer vacation and have used your Curve card for the hotel booking. They say they won’t charge you until you get to the resort (can’t wait..) but they want your card details anyway...

Curve on holiday

At this point they send an authorisation request (via the merchant acquirer, MasterCard and our processor) to us as your issuer. We send an authorisation request to the payment card you have chosen in the app. The authorisation request means that the hotel booking amount is blocked and reduced from your available balance, however the funds have not been taken from your account. It’s the hotel’s way of making sure you’ll be able to pay when you get there. We will only charge your card when the hotel charges your card (“capture’s the transaction amount”). Until then the transaction will show up as pending in the transactions list in your app.

Making America Great Again

Visiting the United States? You might notice a few different examples of transactions behaving differently than what you're used to in the UK:

Paying at an MTA vending machines in New York — our cards aren’t currently accepted by them (we’re working to find a solution for that).

Paying in a restaurant in the US — you will be charged the bill amount, then add the tip (be kind!). The tip will most likely show up as a separate transaction in your Curve card.


These are some of our most common scenarios. Want to hear about a specific payment scenario? Get in touch on Twitter.

Rona Ruthen

Head of Operations at Curve

See more posts from Rona Ruthen