Apple’s Gift Cards Are Confusing, Here Are the Differences Between Them

Itunes Gift Cards Credit: Cineberg / Shutterstock
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Apple gift cards are always a popular choice around the holidays when people are searching for stocking stuffers or handy little gifts for those more distant relatives.

But if you go shopping for an Apple gift card today, you’ll quickly see that things have gotten a little confusing.

There are multiple Apple gifts cards to choose from, all called something different, and it’s definitely not clear what any of them do.

To help out, let’s take a look at the Apple cards (not the Apple credit card, which is something else entirely), what they do, and when you should give them as gifts.

Apple Store Gift Card

These are fancy-looking gift cards that are colored much like MacBooks and emblazoned with a shiny Apple logo on the front. The problem is that these cards don’t easily say what they are, so you need to take a closer look and observe labels. These cards will also be a solid color.

The “store” part of these gift cards is key: They are designed to be used in an Apple Store, Apple’s online store, or another place where you can buy Apple products (but not other places, like the Apple section of Best Buy, which will not accept these cards).

These cards cannot be used to buy software, like apps or music or games or anything else that’s made of code. They are specifically made for hardware like iPhones or charging cables or iPad covers. These are good gifts if you know someone who wants some accessories for their Apple products, or if you want to fund the purchase of a big device like an iPhone. Otherwise, they aren’t the best choice for gifts because of their limitations. 

App Store & iTunes Gift Card

These gift cards are, thankfully, clearly labeled on the card itself so you can see what they are. The problem is that the name is still a little confusing. After all, while people may still have iTunes downloaded onto their computers, iTunes has technically been replaced by Apple Music now, so this card’s name is odd and is likely to change in the future or be replaced entirely.

But for now, when you buy one of these cards, you can spend them on pretty much any Apple software. That includes songs, apps, games, books, iCloud subscriptions, and a number of other streaming subscriptions (you would have to check each streaming service individually to see if you can purchase it via an App Store card).

Because these cards are so versatile, they tend to make the best stocking stuffers and applicable gifts when you don’t really know someone – but you know that they have an Apple device. When in doubt, go with one of these.

Apple Music Gift Card

There are also older gift cards that Apple doesn’t technically make or sell anymore, but they are still very present in stores on the gift card racks, and add another layer of confusion to the process. Yes, you can still buy these cards, and they will still work for the foreseeable future, but if possible, choose one of the two cards above.

For the Apple Music card, you can quickly spot one because it has the Apple logo and “MUSIC” on the front. At first, this may seem like a newer card meant to fund music purchases after iTunes was replaced. Not so! It’s just a confusingly named older card that doesn’t really have a unique purpose anymore. However, it can still be redeemed for Apple ID credit that can be used for pretty much any software purchase, just like the App Store & iTunes card. Both go into the same larger, all-purpose pot.

iTunes Store Gift Card

Another older card type is called the iTunes Store Gift Card. These can be hard to spot at first because they have a big Apple logo just like the Apple Store cards (see, we said this was confusing). However, they are not a single color, and the Apple logo is not shiny.

These cards were once designed specifically for iTunes content, but that doesn’t really apply anymore. Like the Apple Music card, these cards go into the same credit pool that can be used to purchase pretty much any software, at least for the moment. There is a chance Apple will eventually stop taking these cards and force all the stores to get rid of them, to make things easier for the consumer to understand.

Oh, and a final note: Please be wary of Apple gift card scams, where people ask for gift cards as payment. It’s a trap!

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