You have to give it to Apple, they know how to generate a ton of buzz around a product launch. Whether it’s a phone, laptop, tablet or even a credit card, you can’t deny that they grab your attention and make you wonder what amazing new “thing” they have for you. And hey, they made turtlenecks and dad sneakers cool too, so that’s saying something.
The thing is, though, just because it’s Apple, doesn’t mean it’s going to be the greatest product on the planet and, just because Apple says it’s changing the game and introducing something new or innovative, doesn’t mean it actually is. Spoiler alert: in this case, it’s not.
I say this as someone who has been (still is?) a massive fan of Apple. I got my first Apple laptop in mid-2005 — a plastic-shelled iBook. It was the quirky choice but I laughed at those with PCs that would freeze with the simplest task.
Apple was a brand for those who were happy to zig while others zag. Your affinity for the brand said something about you. The problem is, what happens when the innovation slows or stops and it’s just about the name.
A New Kind Of Credit Card?
If you believe Apple, the Apple Card is “a new kind of credit card.” It says it right there on the website so it must be true. But, what is really so innovative about this particular credit card? Rather than leave it to marketing words, we’re actually going to break this down.
Sure, 3% cashback on all Apple purchases is a unique and very specific bonus category. In reality, though, how many people are going to get tons of value out of this. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not buying multiple MacBooks and iPhones every year. And revolutionary? No. Some cards offer as much as 5x on certain categories, so it’s hardly “new”.
On other purchases with the Apple Card, you can earn 2% cashback, but only if you use Apple Pay. Otherwise, you’ll earn a meager 1% cashback. Alternatively, you could use the Citi Double Cash (Learn More) and earn 2% cash back on all purchases whether you use the physical card, Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay. Apple is touting “simplicity” as a benefit but this certainly isn’t simple. And yes, the Citi Double Cash is also a “no annual fee” card.
The cashback you earn does get updated daily rather than at the end of your billing cycle though we hope you aren’t buying things you can only afford if you get an immediate 1-3% discount. Oh, and just in case you think that’s a game-changer, the miles you earn with the Capital One Venture Card post to your account as you earn them too. Just saying. Plus, you can earn 10x at Hotels.com with that card, in addition to 2x on everything else, whether you pay with a physical card or your preferred Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Again, not new or even unique.
We understand why Apple is pushing the use of its digital wallet, but touting the ease and security of paying with Apple Pay seems a bit over the top. You can already add credit cards to Apple Pay and other digital wallets and enjoy these benefits regardless of whether you use the Apple Card. In fact, we hope you choose to use better credit cards with your digital wallet, which already exists.
To give Apple some credit, the Apple Card will integrate more fully with Apple Pay to provide you detailed transaction history and reminders that you need to pay your bill to prevent owing interest. Other than the fact that you’re checking this info on Apple Pay, we fail to see how this is anything special, considering you can opt into this with many banks already. Other cards can provide the exact same info via their apps and websites, with optional alerts too.
Oh, That Titanium Card
Continuing the trend of credit cards being metal, the Apple Card will be titanium. As with other metal cards, and yes, there are already lots of them, this means nothing other than you can clang it on the counter to draw attention to the fact that you’re paying with metal. Funny thing: even metal cards get declined if you don’t have money on them. Perhaps, you can use it for self-defense, if nothing else.
Either way, zero practical benefits but plenty of back patting. If Apple and Goldman Sachs would like to provide Titanium level purchase protection, trip delay or other useful features, that’d be different.
What About Fees?
On this one, we’ll give a kudos to Apple. The Apple Card is a no annual fee card with no foreign transaction fees and no late fees — though, you’ll still owe interest if you’re late. There’s nothing wrong with any of these, the issue is when all the variables are taken into account, how valuable are the lack of fees?
Let’s start with the lack of late fees. One of the major tenants of using credit cards to earn points and miles for travel (or cash back) is that you should never carry a balance. The interest and late fees wipe out any value you would have received from the points. While we recognize that life happens, simply banking on the fact that there are no late fees shouldn’t be the standard. It doesn’t encourage good behavior.
As to the lack of a foreign transaction fee, this is solid for a card with no annual fee. Again, though, we come back to looking at this from the perspective of a traveler and cards with no foreign transaction fees are already everywhere. It’s arguably standard now, and while some other cards carry annual fees, they also come with bonus categories that are much more valuable than just those on Apple purchases and Apple Pay purchases. For starters… dining and travel come to mind.
Just A Way To Tell People You’re An Apple Fan?
We’ll never fault a bank — or technology company — for trying to come up with creative bonus categories. The problem is that Apple purchases are rare for the vast majority of people and limiting the 2% cashback category to Apple Pay really just seems like a way to sell more iPhones, especially when you can earn 2% back or better on numerous other cards whether you pay the old school way, or with your phone.
Not to mention the money Apple makes from the processing fee when you use Apple Pay. When you think about it, there’s a reason why there’s no annual fee. They’re going to rake in so much dough if you use the Apple Card to buy Apple products and pay via Apple Pay. It’s a fee-creating dream!
Breaking it down, we just don’t see how this is going to be a great deal for you unless the whole point of having it is to make people think you’re an influencer sponsored by Apple, and the titanium looks good with your white sneakers. Again, I say this as someone who has only used an Apple laptop since 2005 and only just switched to a Google Pixel 3 after 10 years with various versions of the iPhone.
Come to think of it, Apple has a lot of my money.
So, that’s where we are today. Apple put on a big production to announce their new credit card that will be issued by Goldman Sachs. It generated plenty of excitement because that’s how Apple rolls, but calling it “revolutionary” is just silly. Unfortunately, it misses the mark and is little more than a way to let people know you love Apple. When it comes to real benefits — especially for travelers, it just doesn’t pack much of a punch and there are so many cards which reward your spending in more valuable ways.
I’ve always thought it would be super cool to carve metal credit cards into ninja stars. The two I have are new, so no luck so far, though.
I actually almost referred to this card as a ninja star. I often said the same about the old Ritz card.
thanks for the article but think it misses real alternatives to their card at the bottom? I understand that many offer similar characteristics, which you also point out, but after reading the article I’m not sure what you want to say (or recommend). And no, I’m not an apple fan, I’ve a Pixel 2XL. Thank you
Hey Steve – Thanks for reading. I’d be happy to go back and add alternatives. Initially, I just wanted to tamp down the Apple hype but that could be a useful addition.
Fortunately, that’s not how we operate. Thanks for reading. Hope you’ve had a great weekend.
Maybe the point about the card being titanium is that it’s not plastic! You know, when we’re all supposed to be reducing our plastic use?
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