Apple Card Review: Come for the titanium card, stay for the app

Christian de Looper/Digital Trends

Mobile payment adoption in the U.S. is weak. While nearly two-thirds of Chinese consumers prefer to use mobile payments, just 8% of Americans do. Americans need a reason and incentive to adopt, and Apple believes its new Apple Card is the answer.

The credit card — which relies on a partnership with Goldman Sachs as the issuing bank — focuses on an instant cashback reward system. With Apple Card, any transactions with Apple — in-store, online, the iPhone Upgrade Program, and even App Store purchases — all earn you 3% cashback. Use Uber or Uber Eats with Apple Pay? You get 3% cashback too (Apple says more partners are coming). Any other Apple Pay transaction nets you 2%, and if you use the physical titanium card, you get 1% cashback off each purchase.

Paired with a trendy titanium card and an innovative user interface inside the Wallet app, the Apple Card has its merits. To see whether it’s worthwhile nabbing as a credit card, I signed up to try it out.

Applying: You don’t need the best credit score

Applying for the card is dead simple, and it’s available through the Apple Wallet app for everyone. Tapping the plus icon in the Wallet app adds the option to apply for the card. Apple asks you to confirm your name and address, verify your identity, and enter the last four digits of your Social Security number, as well as your income. That’s it.

Paired with a trendy titanium card and an innovative user interface, the Apple Card has its merits.

The Apple Card’s application does not require a credit pull. After completing the short one-minute application, you get an offer or a denial. Goldman Sachs only pulls your credit report when you accept the offer, which is a nice plus.

Don’t be scared to apply if your credit isn’t the best. Even with a low 600s credit score, I likely got approved due to two-plus years of flawless payment history, average utilization, and aging collections. I only got a $750 credit line and an interest rate of 23.99%, though, which barely allows me to buy the iPhone XR. Better credit profiles should see a 12.99 or 17.99% interest rate and a much higher credit line.
The beauty is how all of this happens through an app on your iPhone. A lot of the information it asks for may be pulled from your Apple ID, so really all it requires are very few taps on glass.

Features

Once you accept the offer, the Apple Card automatically adds itself to your Wallet. You don’t have to get the titanium card, but you should because Apple Pay isn’t accepted everywhere. Holding the card is something to behold, especially if you’ve never held a metal card before. It’s a hair thicker than average credit cards, and noticeably heavier, but as meticulously designed as any other Apple product – right down to the chip as some have noticed.

Apple Card. Ed Oswald/Digital Trends

The Apple logo is etched into the upper left-hand corner of the matte white card, with Goldman Sachs and MasterCard logos on the back. Other than the magnetic stripe, the only thing else on the card is your name.

Why? For security reasons, and I’m a big fan. Your credit card number lives securely within the Wallet app, away from prying eyes, and you can request a new number if you think it has been compromised. The physical card is lockable within the Wallet app — it has a fixed card number different from the one in the app — and if it’s lost or compromised you can order a new card. If you want to pay for items on the web with your card, you can request a virtual card number from the app, so your real one is never disclosed. It’s a big step for card security.

All your card functionality lives within the Wallet app. Tapping the card brings up a well-designed dashboard that exemplifies Apple’s knack for useful user interfaces. Your card, white at first like the physical card, changes colors based on the categories you use it for, like food or clothing. Below this is your current balance, a small graph of your spending, and a button to make payments.

The real security features of this card are not physical, they’re virtual.

Like any other credit or debit cards in Apple Pay, recent transactions are also listed below the card, with some key differences. Transactions with the physical card also appear, and clicking on specific transactions presents you with a map of the location of the purchase to help you verify that it’s you making the purchases. Need to dispute a transaction? Report it right here within the app. Apple uses machine learning and map data to figure out the store name if it’s not readily available, and when it can’t, it doesn’t try to make a guess — but you can still see the map.ub

Daily Cash is the highlight. Instead of getting a cashback bonus at the end of the statement period like some cards do, with the Apple Card it’s deposited onto your Apple Cash card on a daily basis. You can use the money on your Apple Cash card to pay down your balance if you wish, or transfer it to your checking account.

Privacy and Security

The real security features of this card are not physical, they’re virtual. Apple creates a unique device number for each Apple Card, kept within your iPhone’s Secure Element. To make a purchase, you’ll need both this number and a random security code generated at the time you tap.

Transaction summaries live on device, so Apple doesn’t know what you’re buying. While Goldman Sachs will have access to this data to operate your card (for legal purposes), Apple has forbidden it to sell this data to third parties for advertising purposes.

And as we mentioned previously, you can generate new card numbers right from the app. There’s no need to wait for a new card when your card is compromised.

Better yet, you can chat with Apple Card support right from the app if you need to, meaning there’s no need to wait on the line for a robot to answer.

Using (and Paying on) the Card

Using the card is easy. Your card is usable through Apple Pay either as tap-to-pay or in Apple Pay-enabled apps immediately after approval. Once you receive the physical card, you can use it just like any other credit card. I was worried that inserting it into or swiping it through a reader might scuff up the card’s finish: so far that hasn’t happened.

Paying back your card is where Apple Card shines though, and it’s completely different from any other card. Unlike other credit cards which want you to pay interest (and in turn make them money), Apple pushes you to pay more than your minimum payment whenever possible, so that you can limit interest.

The circular interface to make payments won’t be foreign to long-time Apple fans: it’s reminiscent of the navigation wheel found on early iPods. It shows exactly how much Apple recommends I pay, and also shows how much interest I will accrue if I choose to pay less. Whatever payment you make, it’s automatically reflected in your available credit, and the money was withdrawn from my account the following morning. Who knew paying a credit card could be this pleasant?

How it stacks up to other cards

The Apple Card is play from Apple to get people to use Apple Pay more; the company gets a small percentage every time you tap, which it benefits from in the long-term much more than a simple credit card ever will.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you the Apple Card is the best credit card out there, because it’s not. If you’re at a spot without Apple Pay, the 1% cashback is paltry. There’s also the fact that if you lose your phone, there’s no current way to manage your account. There’s no Android app (and there likely will never be one), and there’s no option to make payments on the web. You’re locked in, and that might be enough to scare some away.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you the Apple Card is the best credit card out there, because it’s not.

But the apparent wide net that Goldman Sachs and Apple are casting for Apple Card may make it an attractive option for those with fair or average credit. For these folks, rewards card options are limited. Capital One’s Quicksilver One (with a $39 fee, Apple has none), and Citi’s Double Cash card are the best options. When comparing Apple Card to these cards, Apple’s offer is competitive, and potentially better.

Others that might be best suited for the Apple Card are Apple loyalists. Every transaction, whether it’s in-store, online, through the App Store, your iCloud storage, and even the iPhone Upgrade Program are eligible for the 3% cashback. Going through my App Store purchases and including my IUP loan, I would have gotten about $12 back if I had the Apple Card over the past 90 days. It’s not much, but still something, and that cash back would have paid for my iCloud storage over that same period with money to spare.

My suggestion? If you are loyal to Apple and have decent credit, and don’t have any top-tier rewards cards (or none at all), it’s worth it to apply. However, if you have outstanding credit, you’ll find better cards elsewhere. It’s also not the card for frequent travelers as you can get genuine rewards elsewhere.

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