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Apple has officially kicked off its annual Back to School Promotion. As predicted earlier this week, this year, the company has switched back to offering gift cards with eligible educational purchases rather than tossing in a set of Beats or AirPods.
Of course, you can still use your Apple Gift card to buy Beats or AirPods if that’s what you want, but the new promo opens up a world of new possibilities.
Apple’s Macs and iPads still come with the usual educational discounts. The Back to School promo doesn’t change that, so you’re still saving $50 or more on an iPad and $100 or more on a Mac. However, in addition to those savings, you’ll also get a gift card thrown in.
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The gift card values are also pretty straightforward. Purchase any of the following Macs, and Apple will throw in a $150 Apple Gift Card:
- MacBook Air (M1 or M2)
- 13-inch MacBook Pro (M2 model only)
- 14-inch MacBook Pro (M1 Pro or M1 Max)
- 16-inch MacBook Pro (M1 Pro or M1 Max)
- 24-inch iMac
Notably, the upcoming M2 MacBook Air is included in this year’s Back to School deal, even though it’s not arriving in stores until next month. This should give most students an excellent incentive to wait it out, as the promotion runs until September 26 in the U.S.
Although this year’s lineup is focused exclusively on Apple Silicon Macs, the Mac mini and Mac Studio are conspicuously absent. The ultra-powerful Mac Studio is an understandable omission, as it’s not targeted at students, but Apple clearly feels the same applies to its smaller Mac mini.
The Back to School iPad promo is similarly limited to Apple’s M1-equipped iPad Air and iPad Pro devices. On top of the regular educational discount for these, Apple will provide a $100 Apple Gift Card.
As usual, the iPhone isn’t on the list at all. The last time Apple included the iPhone in a Back to School promo was in 2014. Shop at Apple.com
Apple Gift Cards
Although Apple’s Back to School promos gave out gift cards years ago, the company switched to offering Beats headphones in 2015 and then AirPods for its 2020 promo.
The Beats headphone era provided some of the best deals if you wanted a pair of headphones. For instance, in 2015, Apple included the $200 Beats Solo 2 with the same level of purchase that had previously only warranted a $100 gift card.
However, when it moved to AirPods two years ago, that dropped to the basic $159 AirPods 2 with the standard charging case. Customers could pay the $40 difference to upgrade to the wireless charging case or $90 to get the AirPods Pro, but the base value of the promo was still $159.
So, this year a $150 gift card with a Mac is roughly on par with what Apple has been doing. You can still apply that $150 to a set of AirPods if you want — even the AirPods Max, which were excluded from last year’s promotion.
What’s better, though, is that you’re not stuck with headphones. Apple Gift Cards can be used for anything sold in an Apple Store, either retail or online, and thanks to Apple’s new “Everything Apple” universal gift cards, they can also be used for digital purchases and subscriptions on the App Store, iTunes Store, and other Apple services.
In other words, you could turn your $150 Apple Gift Card into a year-long Apple One subscription or a few years of Apple Music. Or you can spend it on apps or in-app purchases for your favorite games. Load the gift card into your Apple ID balance, and any spending or subscriptions will draw from that balance instead of hitting your credit or debit card.
Apple’s Back to School promotion is available for qualifying educational customers only, which in the U.S. means “current and newly accepted college students and their parents, as well as faculty, staff, and homeschool teachers of all grade levels.” The requirements in other countries may vary; for example, in Canada, Apple defines this as “university and college students and their parents, as well as lecturers and other staff,” excluding K-12 teachers.