Not long after the announcement of its revolutionary new Apple Card credit card, Apple began issuing the card to internal corporate employees as a pilot test rollout, offering us an early peek at the cards themselves and what they’re going to look like.
Now, with the card expected to be available throughout the U.S. this summer, Apple has expanded the test group to include its huge base of retail employees. According to Bloomberg, Apple launched an internal “beta program” this week offering the card to all of the employees working at its Apple Retail stores in the U.S. — with over 70,000 retail employees worldwide, and half of its store locations in the U.S, this is a group that easily numbers in the tens of thousands.
Since the initial trial was limited to only a select set of Apple corporate and Goldman employees, this move represents the first large-scale rollout, and will provide Apple with the opportunity to work out any issues with the credit card before it actually gets into the hands of consumers.
Apple Retail employees are still required to apply to the program in some way, which presumably also involves going through the normal card application procedure, if for no other reason than to test and validate the entire process from beginning to end. Apple is also still requiring that employees participating in the trial not discuss the card, although they will of course be permitted to use it in public to make purchases.
Sources say that employees were notified of the expanded availability of the card via an internal message and can sign up directly from their personal devices. Many of the rank-and-file employees have already applied, and already have the digital Apple Pay version of the card on their devices. Physical cards are expected to arrive in workers’ hands within two to three weeks. The report also notes that the employees are getting the same APR range that Apple is offering to consumers, so there don’t seem to be any obvious employee perks here other than of course earlier access.
Notably, employees applying for the program are required to be using iOS 12.4 or iOS 13 on their iPhones, which have not yet been released to the public, although the former is currently available as a public beta. Bloomberg has also seen screenshots of the employee beta showing that the card is “fully functional” at this point, including the ability to receive daily cash back, pay bills, see an order status for a physical card, and receive technical support via text messaging, schedule payments, access their credit limit and manage connected bank accounts.
The Apple Card is expected to launch in the U.S. this summer, likely not long after the public release of iOS 12.4, which is a minor update that seems to have been created for the sole purpose of supporting the new credit card in advance of the larger iOS 13 update that’s expected to arrive this fall. Sources also indicate that Apple has already begun discussions with financial regulators about an expansion of the card into Europe, something that Apple’s partner Goldman has already hinted at as well.