Money at 30: My Initial Apple Card Review
Earlier this year, Apple announced what many had suspected: it was releasing its own credit card. While Goldman Sachs would be the ones actually issuing the product, the card would combine the user-friendly tech and stylish aesthetic that the company’s cult has grown accustomed to. Now the Apple Card is here — and so, naturally, I had to get one for myself.
I’ll admit that my interest in Apple Card came more from wanting to review it more than feeling I actually needed to add it to my mix of rewards credit cards. Thus, having used the card for a few weeks now, I wanted to share my initial thoughts. So is the Apple Card worth it? Let’s take a look at what you need to know.
What is Apple Card and How Does it Work?
The benefits of Apple Card
Apple Card is a rewards credit card that offers some genuinely useful perks while waiving some common fees. Perhaps the card’s biggest pitch is its cashback structure, that allows cardholders to earn 3% back on Apple products, 2% on any purchases they make using Apple Pay, and 1% back on everything else. In terms of fees, there’s no annual fee, over-limit fees, late fees, foreign transaction fees, etc. Meanwhile Apple describes the APRs as “competitive,” although some experts have said they aren’t that great (I intend on never incurring interest, so it’s all the same to me). Elsewhere some of the highlights of Apple card include a simple and seamless application process, unique iPhone-based dashboard, a fancy titanium physical card, Daily Cash cashback, and more.
Prior to actually applying for Apple Card, I knew I’d need to unfreeze at least one of my credit reports. Thankfully, after looking online, I learned that Goldman Sachs (the card’s issuer) typically pulls from TransUnion. Sure enough, I unfroze my TransUnion report and was able to apply mere moments later.
As for the application process itself, this is one area where Apple Card stands out. First, since the company already has a lot of my information thanks to my Apple ID, most of the fields were auto-filled. In fact I believe the only additional information I needed to type in was the last four digits of my social. After that, you’ll need to submit a photo I.D. to verify your identity. This is also a simple process as you can simply hold your license up, fit it within the rectangle that will appear on your screen, and it will automatically capture the image.
Once you’ve confirmed your info and submitted your I.D., you’ll (hopefully) be taken to a screen that will detail the credit limit and APR you’ve been approved for. From there you can either accept or decline the card. Speaking of decline, a friend of mine who was denied the card said he was impressed with how forthcoming Apple and Goldman were when explaining why his application was not accepted (high balances on other cards). If you accept, your new Apple Card will be added to your Wallet and ready to use immediately.
Using in Wallet
As I mentioned, your Apple Card will be ready to use within seconds of your acceptance. Just like your other Apple Pay cards, Apple Card will display in Wallet waiting to be chosen. However tapping the card will present you with a different experience than with other cards you may have set up.
For one thing, you may notice that your Apple Card changes colors (no, you’re not imagining it). While the card starts off solid white, your purchases will add color to it. Moreover the categories of these purchases will inform the color blend that displays. For example, general shopping transactions will add an orange aura to your card while transportation purchases will add a blue hue. Then, once you’ve paid off your balance, you go back to plain white as you’ve cleared your colorful slate.
Regardless of what color your card is showing, tapping it will allow you to access your Apple Card dashboard. This is where you’ll not only be able to view transactions but also make payments, see the category break-down of your spending, track the shipping status of your physical card, and more. Of course, once you select the card, you can also use it wherever Apple Card is accepted.
One thing I’m admittedly unclear on is whether Apple makes an exception to Apple Pay’s eight-card limit. Seeing as I was up against this limit, I actually deleted one of my lesser-used cards to make room before applying. Therefore, if you can do the same, it might be for the best until I have a better insight into the question.
Since Apple Pay isn’t yet accepted on every website and the physical Apple Card bears no credit card number to refer to, shopping online with your card requires a different course of action. In order to obtain your card number for online purchases, you’ll first go to your card dashboard in Wallet and then tap the button in the upper left corner. Then you’ll tap “Card Information” and use Touch ID or Face ID to access. Once you’ve verified your identity, you’ll be able to view everything you’ll need to enter for your transaction including the card number, expiration date, and security card. What’s more, you can request a new card number whenever you’d like by simply tapping the aptly labeled “Request a New Card Number” button.
Linking a bank account
Before you can make a payment on your Apple Card balance, you’ll need to link a bank account. Luckily this is also a super simple process — especially if you already have an Apple Cash card. Having signed-up for Apple Cash when it first debuted, the Wallet app merely asked if I wanted to use the same bank account I had already linked there. Thus, this could not have been an easier process.
With Apple Card, you’ll earn Daily Cash on your purchases. This cashback will be added to your Apple Cash balance, allowing you to spend it in stores, send it to friends, or apply it to your payment. As we’ll discuss below, Daily Cash seems to arrive in your account within a day or two of the purchase being made. You’ll also get push notifications with updates on when your cashback is available.
Not only is it easy to make a payment on your Apple Card but the card’s dashboard will even push you to do it early. Tapping the “Pay Early” button will bring up a ring representing your current balance. You’ll notice that, near the bottom right side of this ring, there’s a purple dot. This mark indicates one-third of your balance, with Apple suggesting you get ahead by paying that amount. But, by swiping your finger and moving the star button, you can select exactly how much you’d like to pay. Alternatively, there’s a “Show Keypad” option so that you can just type your preferred payment amount.
From there, you can either make your payment immediately of schedule for a later date. When selecting “Pay Now,” an Apple Pay interface will pop up, allowing you to select your bank account and elect whether or not to apply your Apple Cash balance to your payment. Then, just use Touch ID or Face ID to complete your transaction.
By the way, one interesting aspect of Apple Card is that the billing cycle is the same for each user. Instead of ending sometime during the month and payments being due a few weeks later, Apple’s statement cycles close on the last day of the month with payments due on the last day of the following month. For example, although I was approved for my card near the end of August, my statement closed on August 31st with payment due on September 30th.
My Experience Using Apple Card
Where Apple Card fits in my wallet
Before I eventually decided to apply for the Apple Card, my big question was where it would fit in my credit card mix and if it would have actual benefit aside from the novelty. Well it turns out there are at least a few places where the Apple Card bests my other options. The obvious one is with Apple purchases, which earn 3% back. Although I don’t have any large computer or phone purchases in my near future, this could be a huge perk when I do.
The 2% Apple Pay category has also proven more useful than I would have originally assumed. Since obtaining the card, I’ve used it at both Target and the Disneyland Resort to double the cashback I’d earn if I were to use either my Discover It or Uber Visa cards (although using the Apple Card for restaurants at Disneyland instead of the Uber Visa would be a step down). Surely there are other retailers that will fall into this same gap in my credit card reward structure — plus, with Apple Pay continuing to expand — the list will likely grow with time.
No foreign transaction fees
Another area where I could see Apple Card coming in handy is overseas. While I now have several cards that come without foreign transaction fees, there might be an opportunity to increase the cashback I’m earning by using Apple Pay. If my experiences in Hong Kong and Toronto are any indications, contactless payment technology in other parts of the world is way ahead of us, meaning Apple Pay is accepted nearly everywhere. Thus I’m glad that the Apple Card combines extra perks for these types of transactions with no international payment fees so I can get the most of my on-the-road spending.
Among the biggest differences between a traditional credit card and Apple Card is Daily Cash. While most cards add to your cashback balance when your monthly billing cycle is completed or even requires you to reach a certain threshold before cashing out your rewards, Apple Card allows you to access your earnings must faster. However, while Daily Cash is quick, it’s not immediate. Instead the purchases will first need to clear (most will stay “pending” for at least some time) before the cashback can be applied.
After a few weeks of use, I’m still not 100% sure what the timeline looks like in terms of when purchases are made and when your earnings reach your Apple Cash card. However I can say it’s still a pretty darn quick turnaround. I’ve found that this arrangement actually inspires me to use my cashback balance for statement credit, whereas I typically bank my rewards more with other cards. At the same time, I can see how this (near) instant gratification could cause others to spend more. Thus, just like any credit card, your personality and spending habits will determine whether this feature is a good or bad thing.
Digital card color
Earlier I mentioned how your Apple Card purchases affect the way it displays in Wallet. While it’s kind of a cool idea, when you reflect on the personal finance lesson behind it, it’s a bit conflicted. Sure the idea of a “clean slate” makes sense, but Apple promotes the card with images of the colorful edition. So you need to spend more and in different categories to make your card as pretty as possible? I’m mostly kidding and exaggerating the impact this could have but I do think it is interesting to note nonetheless.
Budget features and transact
It’s certainly not out of the ordinary for credit card apps and sites to show info about your transactions — but what makes the Apple Card rare is how it displays all of this information in such an attractive manner. Akin to the experience Clarity Money provides, the Apple Card dashboard offers an aesthetically pleasing look at all of your purchases, complete with company logos, photos, and more. Additionally you can view what cashback percentages you earned on recent transactions.
As I mentioned you can also sort transactions by category. To do this, you’ll first tap the Weekly Activity widget. Again, this type of experience is similar to some popular budgeting apps — the only difference being that there’s no way to set up actual budgets or get alerts when you’re nearing them. Still, the info that Apple Card provides and the way it’s presented is impressive.
Linking to aggregation apps
Speaking of budgeting apps, one downside is that the Apple Card currently cannot be added to services like Mint or Personal Capital. As someone who likes to view all of my accounts and balances in one place, this is definitely a bummer. Hopefully Apple and Goldman find a way to fix this, although I suspect it’s not a priority of theirs since they’ve made an effort to build some of these spending and budgeting features into the card itself. However I do give them some credit for at least acknowledging it, noting on their site “Exporting data from Apple Card to a financial app like Mint is not currently supported.”
When I signed up for my card, my wife naturally asked, “where’s mine?” That’s actually a good question — which is what sent me looking into how to add her as an authorized user. Well it turns out that, at least for now, there is no way to do that. While that’s disappointing, it’s not entirely surprising since I’m not 100% sure how that would even work. Still, I hope they sort it out and add support for such a feature in the future.
I suppose that, in my excitement over the Apple Card, I managed to overlook something that was missing: a bonus. With most cards, users are incentivized by bonuses that are paid when they reach certain spending thresholds within the first months of using their card (or, in the case of the Discover It card, match your first year of cashback earnings). Sadly the Apple Card has no such offer. I suppose one could argue that the much-hyped physical card could almost be viewed as a bonus but — call me crazy — I’d greatly prefer cash.
The physical card
Last but not least, in typical Apple fashion, the physical Apple Card has often been described as “beautiful” and “sleek.” Made of titanium, the card has also made headlines for the high-maintenance care guidelines Apple released for maintaining the card. After getting my own hands on the card, I have to say that it is pretty much as sexy as they say.
Let me backup and note that it took about four days from the time I was approved for Apple Card before the physical card was delivered by FedEx. From there, activating the card took just a tap or two in Wallet. Plus, continuing the privacy theme, the card itself bears no card number.
While the card is cool and takes a page from cards carrying much higher status (and annual fees), I’ll admit that it’s all kind of unnecessary for me. Since the main benefit is the 2% back from Apple Pay transactions and I already have 1% back cards, I really don’t have a need to carry around my physical Apple Card — especially given all of Apple’s warnings regarding care.
Final Thoughts on Apple Card
As an Apple fanboy, I was already pretty much on board with the idea of Apple Card. However, as a personal finance nerd, I was a bit more hesitant going in. Ultimately, after trying the card for myself, I feel the two sides reconcile nicely. In other words, I think the Apple Card is a worthy rewards credit card that’s earned its spot in my (digital) wallet.
Although the budgeting features found in the Apple Card dashboard might not be as useful as third party apps, the interface provides more insight than most cards. Similarly the payment system and the nudges to clear your balance early and often do give the card a bit of personal finance cred. Plus, while some might feel overly tempted by the Daily Cash rewards, I personally see them as a positive. Of course the 2% and 3% cashback categories are also relatively strong, even if they’re not the absolute highest out there.
With all that, I’m glad I decided to apply for the Apple Card and look forward to seeing where Apple takes the offering from here.
Also published on Medium.