The Apple Card Is Here, But It’s By Invitation Only (For Now)

Apple Card Titanium Credit: Apple
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All of the signs over the past few days have pointed to an imminent public launch of Apple’s shiny new titanium credit card, but it looks like there’s still one more step to go before Apple opens the floodgates to allow everybody to apply.

Apple has been testing the Apple Card internally for several months now. Apple’s corporate employees began receiving theirs as far back as May, and Apple retail store employees were invited to come on board in late June. However, it seems that Apple is still being cautious and plans to roll the Apple Card out more slowly to the public.

According to TechCrunch, Apple is now offering the Apple Card to non-employees, but by invitation only. Some of those who signed up to be notified about the release of the Apple Card have begun receiving messages inviting them to apply right in the Wallet app on iOS 12.4.

It’s not known how many people Apple has invited to participate in this initial “preview”, but it seems that those who have been invited are being welcomed into the full Apple Card experience, including the ability to order their physical Apple Card, so it’s definitely a strong sign of things to come. According to TechCrunch, the full public rollout is still expected to arrive later this month.

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino notes that he’s been using the card for a few days on his own device, making purchases and experimenting with the various features, suggesting that the first invites began going out a few days ago, likely around the time that Goldman Sachs published the Apple Card customer agreement last Friday.

Panzarino describes the application process as being extremely simple, with much of the information already being pre-filled from the user’s existing Apple ID account. Approval came “in under a minute” and he was able to use his Apple Card — via Apple Pay — immediately following approval, both online and in-person with contactless terminals. In other words, the process is so fast that you could apply for an Apple Card while waiting in a checkout line at a store, and — assuming you were approved of course — would be ready to use it by the time you got to the cashier.

The Clever Bits

While the Apple Card itself works like any other card in Apple Pay — you unlock your iPhone or Apple Watch and tap it to make a payment — the real magic is found in Apple’s tight integration with the Wallet app. Whereas every other card just sits as a static entry in the Wallet app, Apple’s card is an entirely dynamic experience that not only offers useful tracking for your spending habits, but does it in a very clever way.

The card on the screen has a clever mechanism that gives you a sort of live heat map of your spending categories. The color of the card will shift and blend according to the kinds of things you buy. Spend a lot at restaurants and the card will take on an orange hue. Shop for entertainment related items and the card shifts into a mix of orange and pink. It’s a clever take on the chart based spending category features many other credit cards have built into their websites.

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch

This particular technique is a whimsical reflection of Apple’s style and seems like it will make using the card and tracking spending more fun and intuitive than the usual method of looking at boring charts and columns of numbers.

Naturally, the card management interface is also far superior to most other mobile card apps. Panzarino suggests that Amex probably comes the closest, but that Apple’s is still “multiples better to use” than even that. The actual transaction list view is much cleaner than most, with spending category icons and logos and transaction names that are clear and concise, saving you the trouble of having to decipher vague vendor IDs.

While it’s not confirmed yet, we also suspect that all card transactions will appear in the Wallet app, even those made with the physical Apple Card. With the notable exception of Amex, for most credit card providers the Wallet app only shows Apple Pay transactions, and not those made with an actual card.

Apple’s integration is also of course system level, so there are no user ID’s or passwords required, and the Apple Card application option appears on the screen any time you add a new credit card or debit card to Apple Pay.

Rewards

The Apple Card rewards program has already been well-documented, but Panzarino confirms that it’s probably not going to be the best reward program for those who aim for “super specific rewards” such as travel miles. As he explains, Apple’s goal was to provide a simple and easy to understand rewards metric that would have wider appeal to more users, rather than being limited to a specific niche.

As a result, Apple’s system is very straightforward: You get 3% cash back from pretty much anything you buy from Apple, including not only physical products like Macs and iPhones, but also subscriptions like Apple Music and Apple News+, media purchases from iTunes, and books from the Apple Bookstore. You also get the same 3% for anything purchased from the App Store, including third-party apps and even in-app purchases and subscriptions. In short, almost anything that’s billed to the Apple Card by Apple itself will net you 3% cash back.

Then, in an effort to encourage you to use Apple Pay, every Apple Pay purchase, whether online or at a POS terminal, will get you 2%. If you have to use the physical card, you’ll be getting only 1% cash back. This is the first time that using Apple Pay will offer tangible value over a physical card, so it will be interesting to see what impact this has on encouraging retailers to support Apple Pay as Apple Card users begin to flock to retailers who can provide them double the rewards value.

What’s most significant about Apple’s rewards, however, is that they’re delivered daily directly to your Apple Cash card. There’s no waiting for three months for a statement credit, or having to redeem rewards for gift cards. You get to enjoy the value of your cash back almost immediately. You can spend you cash back rewards from your Apple Cash card (via Apple Pay) immediately, or transfer the balance to your bank account in the same way as any other Apple Cash balance. This will also presumably increase the use of the Apple Cash card, which for many users hasn’t served much purpose before now.

The payments interface is also unique in that Apple is pushing very hard to help you not pay interest. It makes recommendations on how to pay chunks of your balance over time before you incur interest.

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch

Panzarino also adds that Apple is making much more of an effort here to promote financial responsibility, with recommendations on how to optimize payments to avoid paying interest, breaking them down by the minimum payment, the minimum “no-interest” payment, and the full payment.

As to when the rest of us will be able to apply for the Apple Card? Well we’re not sure yet, but the more we’re seeing about this revolutionary new credit card, the more excited we are about it, and while it may not replace more specialized cards for those who are heavily into rewards programs, everything we’ve seen so far suggests that Apple has definitely taken the first step toward the credit card of the future.

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