Forget Apple’s new TV service coming this fall — the biggest announcement Apple made this week, full stop, is the Apple Card, an extension of the Apple Pay service that’s been around for almost five years now.
On September 9, 2014, at the same event where Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the iPhone 6, Apple introduced a service called Apple Pay.
Apple said it created Apple Pay because plastic credit cards felt “outdated and vulnerable.” A credit card can be stolen, and its important numbers and security codes are exposed by default.
Apple Pay offered a more elegant, secure way to pay for goods. A couple of button presses could summon your favorite payment method — credit card, debit card, gift card, you name it — on your iPhone or Apple Watch, which you’d then touch to a merchant’s NFC panel to pay. That’s it. All the identifying information on your card is kept private and secure from merchants, but also from Apple.
On Monday, Apple took its vision of Apple Pay one step further by partnering with a pair of financial institutions (Mastercard and Goldman Sachs) to offer a credit card unlike any other out there.
The Apple Card brings Apple’s trademark simplicity to the credit-card system. Apple not only redesigned the card itself, but reimagined what it looks like to pay for goods, get rewards for those goods, and pay off the card.
Here are the tenets of the Apple Card, and why it’s Apple’s biggest announcement of 2019 so far:
The Apple Card lives in your Wallet app on your iPhone.
Unlike with other credit cards, you don’t have to wait days to get it — you can register in minutes.
The Apple Card works worldwide, in any store with Apple Pay, across all Apple devices.
Apple encourages using your iPhone for Apple Pay, but it also created a physical card if you go to a place where that’s not accepted. (This will become a status symbol in no time. Just watch.)
The physical Apple Card is a traditional Mastercard made simple, with just three components: the chip, your name, and the Apple logo, all laser-etched on a piece of titanium.
The card features no other identifying information, like a credit-card number or security code. Those live in its chip and in your iPhone’s Wallet app.
In the Wallet app, you’ll see tons of information about your Apple Card: what you’ve spent recently when payments are due, and how much you’ll owe when it comes time to pay the bank.
Apple says it wants to give Apple Card customers “a healthier financial life,” and providing this kind of information that’s easy to read and understand goes above and beyond what most card issuers do for their cardholders.
Most credit-card companies let you view statements showing transactions and payments — but they’re not always easy to identify. Sometimes the names on the transactions don’t match the places you know you’ve visited.
Apple says the Apple Card uses machine learning and Apple Maps to transform those difficult-to-understand transactions into easy-to-understand purchases.
Apple Card customers can track their spending by date or category and see how it varies from month to month.
The Apple Card has rewards too. Every time you spend, you get what Apple calls Daily Cash. Apple lets you see exactly how much money you’re getting with each purchase.
Unlike credit-card points, which aren’t always easy to remember or understand, Apple’s Daily Cash is money you can use right away, via the Apple Cash card in the Wallet app.
You can send your Apple Cash to your bank account, or use it to pay off your Apple Card or pay back friends via the Messages app.
Apple says you’ll get 2% cash back for using Apple Pay, 3% for using Apple Pay to buy products directly from Apple, and 1% for any transaction using your physical Apple Card.
The Apple Card also changes how you see and pay your bills. Many banks let you pay a minimum amount, but they usually don’t tell you that paying less up front means paying more later, in the form of interest.
With the Apple Card, you can schedule more frequent payments and fine-tune them to control what interest, if any, you’ll be charged.
Notably, Apple insists that the Apple Card has no fees, including late fees, annual fees, international fees, over-limit fees, or any hidden fees.
One last thing about the Apple Card: Apple says that if you have any questions or issues, you can message its customer service directly through the Wallet app — no need to find a phone number, answer a bunch of automated questions, and then wait on hold for a representative.
As a consumer, I can’t help but feel excited about the Apple Card. It solves a lot of the minor annoyances of owning a credit card in a really simple and beautiful way. I love that the card will be with me as long as my iPhone is on me, and that getting in touch with customer support looks easy, and that charts will visualize my spending habits to help me improve my financial health.
The Apple Card looks good from a consumer standpoint, but it also looks like a sound business decision for Apple. It’s designed to encourage more people to rely on Apple to pay for goods, which ought to translate to lots of long-term revenue — especially since the Apple Card is exclusive to iPhones.
Giving people rewards in the form of daily cash should also encourage people to further use the Apple ecosystem, especially since you get more when you buy more Apple stuff — and all your “cash” is really inside your Wallet app.
Many people will still prefer more established banking institutions and issuers for their credit cards, but Apple’s solution is better-looking, more accessible, and easier to understand compared with most cards out there.
Not everyone is interested in new TV service, or news service, or a games service, but money makes the world go round, and the Apple Card is something that will be compelling to millions of people.