Apple’s gift cards have been a bit confusing over the years, especially as the company often brands them for specific purposes, which often only adds to the bewilderment of many.
For example, if you buy an “Apple Music” gift card, can it only be used for Apple Music subscriptions, or can you use it for music purchases too? What about music apps, or other things on the App Store. Do iTunes Gift cards only work for iTunes purchases, or can they also be used for apps too?
Then there’s the question of Apple’s physical products; what gift card do you use to buy an iPhone? Or an iPad? Or a set of AirPods?
The truth is that Apple’s gift cards were always fairly simple, falling into two broad categories: Apple Store Gift Cards were used to purchase physical products either in Apple retail stores or via the online Apple Store, while every other Apple gift card, regardless of how it was branded, simply translated into a credit balance on the iTunes Store and App Store.
In other words, even if you bought an Apple Books or Apple Music gift card, these could be used for any kind of digital purchase from Apple, not just music or books. A $50 Apple Music gift card simply added $50 to your Apple ID account for the iTunes Store and App Store, which could then be spent on anything that would normally be billed to your credit card — apps, books, music, movies, TV shows, or even iCloud storage plan subscriptions. The only thing they couldn’t be used for was to purchase physical hardware products, since this required an Apple Store gift card.
However, even the difference between these two gift cards was a source of much confusion, and the good news is that Apple has set out to make things a lot simpler now thanks to a new, single unified gift card that will be for all things Apple.
‘For Everything Apple’
Apple has put up a new page on its website explaining the new gift card and how it will work, boldly noting that it’s “For everything and everyone” while illustrating how it can be used to purchase everything that Apple sells, both physically and digitally.
This includes (but of course is not limited to), Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and accessories, as well as anything from the App Store, iTunes Store, or Books Store, plus subscriptions to any and all of Apple’s services such as Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+, and iCloud storage plans.
As before, the gift cards can be ordered online and will presumably be arriving in Apple retail stores any day now, and customers will be able to decide what amount they want to put on the card, as well as choosing from one of five designs in the case of a physical card to be delivered by mail. There’s also the option to purchase a virtual card and have it sent via email, in which case three additional unique designs are available, for a total of eight.
With the new gift card, it also appears that users will be able to use the same Apple ID balance that was previously only available for digital purchases to also pay for physical products in an Apple Store. While even the current iOS 14 betas don’t yet seem to reflect this, an illustration on the new Apple Gift Card page shows new text at the top of the screen for adding money to your Apple ID that now says “All of Apple. At Your Fingertips” and notes that the balance can be used to “buy apps, games, products, accessories, and much more.”
“Redeem Apple Gift Cards or add money directly into your Apple Account Balance anytime. Then use it to pay for Apple products, accessories, apps, games, music, movies, TV shows, iCloud, you name it.”
It’s unclear whether existing Apple ID balances will transition directly to the new “Apple Account Balance,” although it might be a nice bonus for those who have recently taken advantage of one of Apple’s bonus promo offers, however it seems likely as Apple notes that even old App Store & iTunes Gift cards can be redeemed into your Apple Account Balance in order to buy Apple products.
In other words, it seems like what Apple has done here is basically expanded its Apple ID payment system so that it can also be used to purchase physical Apple products, and then rebranded the App Store & iTunes Gift Cards as a new “Everything Apple” card. By contrast, Apple notes that old Apple Store Gift Cards cannot be used for digital purchases — they’re still only valid for products purchased at the Apple Store, either in-person or online.
At this point, Apple’s new gift cards are available only in the U.S.; it’s likely we’ll see them rolling out in additional countries soon enough as Apple likely irons out the details with the commerce laws in various countries.