|Cash Back Rating:||2.4 / 5|
|Annual Percentage Rate:||3.1|
In a Nutshell:
While we are unimpressed with the new Apple Card’s cash back rewards program, it does offer some compelling features in its app that may appeal to cardholders looking for a better user experience.
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Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
Other Notable Features: No fees (including cash advance fees, foreign transaction fees, over-the-limit, late payment or returned payment fees), no penalty rate, $0 fraud protection, set up monthly, weekly or biweekly payments, interest calculator and smart payment suggestions,weekly and monthly spending reports, $0 liability, identity theft protection, ShopRunner, Mastercard Travel and Lifestyle services, Priceless Cities, Priceless Golf, onefinestay
Apple unveiled its new Apple Card with a lot of bravado back in March, and the tech world has been buzzing ever since. Apple makes a lot of bold claims about the Apple Card. The card, which is made of titanium and laser etched with no card number, “sets a new level of privacy and security” according to their promotional video. Apple, who has put its own design flourish into the card, claims the card is more “simple, transparent and private” than your usual credit card. According to Apple, “Unlike other credit cards, it helps you easily understand your spending.”
Upon, our initial review of the card we concur: It does appear to be more user-friendly than the typical credit card. However, some of the functionality that they tout isn’t exactly unique (perhaps just better executed), and its underlying cash rewards program is underwhelming.
With a world of cardholders hungry to earn more cash back rewards, will a better user experience surpass the lure of earning more cash back with other cards? For rabid Apple users, it’s probably a moot point, since they’re likely to snatch up any new Apple product. For the remainder of cardholders, we’re waiting to see how much the design of card’s app actually facilitates its adoption.
Here’s a breakdown of where the Apple card succeeds or falls short:
Earning cash back
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Apple Card is that its cash back program is not that rewarding. Cardholders receive bonus cash on Apple purchases: 3 percent cash back on everything you pay from Apple – including Apple Store, apple.com, App Store and iTunes purchases – and 2 percent cash back on Apple Pay purchases. Also, recently added to the card: You can earn 3 percent cash back on Walgreens, Duane Reade, Uber and Uber Eats purchases. You also earn 3 percent cash back for Apple Pay purchases made at T-Mobile stores (not online). All the rest of your purchases earn only 1 percent cash back.
Of course, Apple users are avid about purchasing Apple products, which can add up to a significant amount of spend each year. However, when we consider how much an average Apple enthusiast might spend on Apple products per year (around $726 for households with an income between $50,000 and $75,000 according to a 2015 study from Slice Intelligence) this still only constitutes a small portion of overall spend. By our estimates, the overall rate at which the average cardholder can earn cash back with the card (around 1.19 percent per dollar spent) is really low compared to other top cash back cards.
In comparison to cards such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, which offers 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase, or the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers up to 2 percent cash back – 1 percent when you make a purchase and 1 percent when pay off that purchase – a rate of 1.19 percent cash back is paltry. If you are looking for a go-to cash back card, there are much better options.
The Apple Card does have the edge over other cards on Apple and Uber purchases. If you want to earn the most cash back possible, it may make sense to load the card into your iPhone and use it exclusively for Apple, Apple Pay and Uber. But keep in mind that, unless you buy an exceptional number of Apple products each year or use Apple Pay heavily, this is not going to add up to a ton of cash back.
|Tip: Since the card offers 2 percent cash back on Apple Pay purchases, you could potentially earn 2 percent cash back on every purchase if you manage to use Apple Pay everywhere you shop. Apple Pay has yet to be adopted by all merchants (and many who accept it don’t know how to process the transactions), and we estimate that most users — even Apple users — use Apple Pay for a small percentage of their purchases. However, the card does have the possibility to function as a 2 percent cash back card, especially as Apple Pay becomes more broadly adopted.|
Redeeming cash back
The Apple Card’s value proposition is really all about user experience, and this extends to redeeming your rewards. All the cash back that you earn is applied on a daily basis to the Apple Cash card in your Wallet app. From there, you can immediately redeem cash back for purchases in stores, on websites or in app, or as a payment to your Apple card. You can also deposit cash back into a bank account, and you can even transfer it to a friend via Apple Messages. Since is all in the form of Apple Cash, you don’t have to worry about losing value on any of these redemption options – your cash back is always worth 1 cent.
Most remarkable is the fact that Apple allows you to redeem any amount of cash back (starting at $1) as soon as you earn it. Most issuers require you to wait until the end of the billing cycle to start using your rewards – the Apple Card doesn’t make you wait.
See related: Apple Card Daily Cash: Deep dive
The card also offers a more reasonable APR range than usual. Cardholders with excellent credit scores may be offered an exceptionally low rate of 12.74 percent. For cardholders with lower credit scores, the APR can range up to 23.74 percent. This is high – but standard for a cash back rewards program.
No fees – at all
One of the Apple card’s most notable features is that it doesn’t charge any of kind of fee – including annual fees, foreign transaction fees, late payment, over-the-limit or returned-payment fees. While there are many cards that waive certain fees – such as annual fees or foreign transaction fees – and even a few cards such as the Citi Simplicity® Card that waive the fee for late payments, it’s rare for a credit card to charge no fees at all. You don’t have to worry about surprise fees appearing on your statement, which is a major plus for transparency.
Wallet App features
Aside from the cash back program and lack of fees, most of the ballyhoo around the Apple Card focuses on the design of its app. The interface does look pretty sleek. However, some of the functionality that they’re plugging is not exactly unique. Here’s a breakdown of the features and what’s new (or not so new) about them:
Weekly and monthly summary reports
The Apple Card includes an eye-catching spending report, viewable within your Wallet App. While spending reports are a common feature on credit cards, they’re not usually broken down by week and month, and Apple puts the report in an especially pleasing bar graph form, segmented by day and color-coded to help you spot trends in your spending. Best of all, you can easily access the report on your phone – you don’t have to dig through a separate website to find it.
List of purchases segmented by spending category
From the main reporting screen, you can tap into each category to see a list of purchases under each category. Most of what Apple is touting on this screen is not new. Other major issuers offer a list of recent purchases segmented by spending categories, and some, such as Chase, will allow you to click into a purchase from a particular merchant to view other recent purchases.
Apple’s map feature lets you view any purchase, including store name and location, on a map within the application. It’s not an entirely new feature – American Express, for one, offers a map on its website – but it’s the first time this feature has been available within a credit card’s app. Honestly, it’s also not that revolutionary of a feature either. Most issuers provide phone numbers and location information on their credit cards statements, and you can easily open Google Maps and paste in the location info to locate a merchant. However, cardholders may appreciate the lack of an extra step.
Interest calculator with payment suggestions
The Apple Card has a nifty calculator configured into its payment screen. Instead of typing in an amount, you can save keystrokes by simply sliding your finger to choose your payment amount. The calculator automatically adjusts to show you the interest you will owe on your selected amount, as well as offering suggestions on paying your bill. This mostly serves as a slightly easier way of inputting payments, but the interest calculator could be helpful for less savvy cardholders who may be unaware how quickly interest adds up.
Your payment due date is automatically scheduled for the end of the month, and you can set up weekly and biweekly payments to match your paychecks. While most issuers allow you to configure payment deadlines, it is a nice touch of consumer friendliness that Apple automatically schedules them for the month’s end. Also, while most credit cards come with a scheduling feature, they don’t always allow you to schedule multiple payments per month.
The Apple Card sends alerts to your mobile device to remind you of an upcoming payment deadline. Text reminders are nothing new – most issuers allow you to set up text alerts, including due date reminders. The one advantage with the Apple Card is that – since it is an Apple product – the process of setting and sending alerts to your iPhone or iPad may be a little more seamless than usual.
Security and privacy
The physical version of the Apple Card doesn’t have a credit card number – providing you a little extra security in case your card is stolen. The card also includes other Apple Pay security features, such as Face ID, Touch ID and unique transaction codes, making it a little more robust than your average credit card.
Also, the card comes with Apple’s pledge to privacy. Apple itself does not have access to any of your data, and, while the card’s issuer, Goldman Sachs, can view your data, Apple promises that they will never share or sell your data. Since it’s common practice for card issuers to sell their customers’ data to third parties, fans of privacy and information security may find this pledge appealing.
See related: Are the Apple Card’s features really that unique?
The Apple card is extremely light on additional perks and is distinctly lacking the travel and purchase protections (e.g., extended warranties) that come with most credit cards. Cardholders are entitled to free ShopRunner service and a few perks through Mastercard Priceless Cities, but that’s about it.
Applying for the Apple Card
The Apple Card is only available to qualified Apple users: You need to have an iPhone, iPod or iPad device with the passcode enabled to apply. But, great news for cardholders concerned about their credit scores and approval odds: You can send in an application and find out whether you qualify for the card (and what your APR will be) with only a soft pull to your credit. Once you accept the offer and open the card, Apple will perform the official hard pull to your credit report. This makes applying for the card less risky for applicants on the lower end of the credit spectrum.
Building Credit with the Apple Card
While its rewards rate is lackluster, the Apple Card may seem like good credit-building option for those with a limited or damaged credit history. As of October 11, 2019, however, Apple is not reporting Apple Card payment history to the credit bureaus.
“At this point we do not report to credit bureaus, but we are working on building this functionality,” read a message from Apple shared in an Oct. 10 tweet by Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman. “When we have credit bureau functionality, your past and current payment history will be reported to credit bureaus, which may affect your credit score.”
Other card options
If you love Apple products, you may already be committed to signing up for the new Apple Card, but applicants should be aware that there are better options for earning cash back (or even pairing with your Apple Card to use on other purchases).
If you’re a fan of cash back rewards, the Citi Double Cash card is one of your best bets. It offers up to 2 percent cash back on every purchase – 1 percent when you make the purchase and another 1 percent when you repay for the purchase by the due date. Few other cards offer as high a cash back rate.
The card does come with some drawbacks – you need a minimum of $25 to redeem your cash back, and your cash back expires if you haven’t used your card within the past 12 months. Still, it’s a pretty simple cash back card that offers nearly double the cash back of the Apple Card.
While the Capital One Quicksilver card doesn’t offer as high of a cash back rate as the Citi Double Cash, it’s a great option for cardholders who want a simple cash back card that earns a consistently high rate of cash back. You earn the same 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase – so you don’t need to worry about tracking bonus categories. If you prefer to use a single card for every purchase, you can earn an overall higher rate of cash back with the Quicksilver card than you can with the Apple Card.
Like the Apple Card, the Quicksilver card is very flexible on redeeming cash back – you can redeem any amount for statement credits, checks, gift cards and more. Also, you can earn an extra $150 if you sign up for the card and spend $500 in the first three months.
For cardholders who love the idea of not paying a late fee, the Citi Simplicity card is worth a look. Unlike the Apple Card, it doesn’t offer any sort of rewards program. But it is a good barebones option for newbie cardholders who might be prone to missing payment deadlines. The card doesn’t charge any late fees or penalty rate, and even charges a lower-than-usual interest rate on cash advances. Also, it comes with a 0-percent offer for balance transfers (21 months) and new purchases (12 months) then 16.49 – 26.49% variable APR.
See related: The best credit cards for Apple purchases
Who should get the Apple Card?
- Apple aficionados.
- Cardholders who spend heavily on Apple and Uber purchases.
- Cardholders who frequently shop at Walgreens or Duane Reade.
- Cardholders who regularly visit T-Mobile stores.
- iPhone and iPad users (you can’t apply for the card without an Apple device).
- iPhone users who use Apple Pay heavily – you can potentially earn 2 percent cash back on every purchase.
- Cardholders who want a card that integrates easily with iPhone and other Apple products and services.
- Newbie cardholders who could use some extra help around payments and calculating interest.
- Users who prefer a user-friendly app experience over cash back earning potential.
- Users who are very concerned about data privacy.
How to use the Apple Card
- If you want to maximize your cash back, stick to using the Apple Card for Apple purchases and Apple Pay, and rotate in other credit cards for the remainder of your spending.
- Take advantage of Apple’s payment scheduling option to keep your payments timely.
- Use Apple’s biweekly payments option to pay down your balance more than once per month – this will keep your credit utilization low and can boost your credit score.
- If you use the card for all your purchases, be sure to take advantage of Apple’s reporting features to track your spending patterns – you may discover places where you can cut back.
- Though the card doesn’t charge a fee for late payments, you should still avoid missing your due date, since it could cost you a hefty amount of interest and could potentially land on your credit report.
Is the Apple Card worth it?
While we’re not impressed by the Apple Card’s cash rewards program, we do think the Apple Card includes some very useful features within its app that should make using the card easier than usual. Though our research indicates that cash back rewards are the biggest priority for many cardholders, there are plenty of users that care about user experience as well, not to mention a slew of devoted Apple users who consider any Apple product a must-have. For these types of users, the card may be well worth it.
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