With the announcement of the new Apple Card this week, some fans may have hoped for the reinvention of how we pay for things. But the product’s features make it the credit card equivalent of a Red Delicious: relatively ubiquitous and somewhat bland.
Still, despite a crowded market of cash-back cards, consumers may be able to find room in their digital wallets for another one that will earn rewards, especially on pricey Apple purchases.
As with all Apple product announcements (and, really, all credit cards), the important question to ask is: Is this product right for you?
Why you might want the Apple Card
Coming in summer 2019, the $0-annual-fee Apple Card will earn 3% cash back on Apple purchases and 2% back for everything else — if you make your purchases via Apple Pay on your iPhone. But if you use the physical version of the card, which is an option at retailers that don’t accept Apple Pay, you’ll earn only 1% cash back.
It’s unclear what kind of credit scores you’ll need to qualify for the Apple Card, but assuming you are creditworthy, you might benefit from this card if:
1. Apple juice runs through your veins
Siri is your spirit guide. Every device in your home, car and office comes from the Apple store (which, coincidentally, is where you hang out on weekends). Getting 3% cash back on your numerous Apple purchases would be a big boon, and for all other purchases, you’re already well accustomed to waiving your phone over the point-of-sale device at checkout.
2. You crave instant gratification
Apple says you can apply for the card through the Wallet app on your iPhone in minutes, and you can begin using it the moment you’re approved. No need to wait seven to 10 business days to get a card in the mail. Similarly, when it comes to earning and redeeming your cash back, rewards are credited daily and can be used more or less immediately. Unlike many other rewards cards, you don’t need to wait until your billing cycle closes.
3. You live in, or travel to, cities with widespread Apple Pay acceptance
Apple claimed in announcing the Apple Card that 70% of U.S. retailers accept Apple Pay. Certainly, as of this writing, several major merchants do accept it (or are in the process of rolling it out), including Target, McDonald’s, CVS and Best Buy. It’s also worth noting that the Apple Card has no foreign transaction fees, and Mastercards are widely accepted around the world, so in general it will make a decent travel buddy.
4. You want simplicity in your rewards card
Aside from the card’s elevated rewards rate on Apple purchases, there are no other bonus categories to keep track of. As long as you make your purchases via Apple Pay, you’ll earn a rich rate back on everything you buy. So if you’re not into optimizing rewards by juggling multiple cards to earn higher rates on specific purchases, the Apple Card could work well for you. Everything you need is right there on your phone — even tech support, reachable via text message.
5. You’re occasionally forgetful
Apple says you won’t be charged a penalty rate should you miss a payment. The company does, however, note that “late or missed payments will result in additional interest accumulating toward the customer’s balance.” Regardless, NerdWallet recommends making payments in full and on time because late payments can still hurt your credit scores.
Why you might pass on the Apple Card
The rewards rate for the virtual version of the Apple Card matches many of the highest flat-rate cash-back cards on the market. But it comes with a big asterisk, because you must use Apple Pay to get elevated rates. The physical card earns just 1% back on purchases, and that’s just not competitive when the industry gold standard is 1.5%.
Here are some reasons the card may not make sense for you:
1. You’re an Android user
To use Apple Pay, you must have an iPhone model that can support it (typically iPhone 6 or later). If you’re committed to a different mobile wallet, such as Samsung Pay or Google Pay, consider instead the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. It pays 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay. The card’s annual fee is $0, and you can add it to the digital wallet of your choice.
2. You want travel rewards
Dreaming of a big sign-up bonus that can net you a free flight? The Apple Card doesn’t offer that. A travel rewards card can, though. The $0-annual-fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, for example, earns 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases, not to mention a plum of a sign-up bonus: 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases. If you’re willing to pay the $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2 points per dollar on travel and restaurant purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on all other spending, plus an even larger sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus, points are worth more when redeemed for travel through the Chase portal, and you can also transfer your points to multiple airline and hotel rewards programs.
3. You shop primarily at stores that don’t accept Apple Pay
Some major retailers, including Walmart, don’t accept Apple Pay. And while Costco does, you can only use Visa cards there; the Apple Card runs on the Mastercard payment network. This is to say nothing of the much smaller merchants where you may run into issues: Food trucks, mom and pop stores, bodegas and others simply may not be equipped to handle Apple Pay.
4. You spend heavily in specific everyday categories
You may pony up for a new MacBook Pro once every few years, but if your everyday spending is focused primarily on a specific area, other cash-back cards may make more sense. Maybe you have a large family and do the bulk of your spending on groceries and gas. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 a year in spending (then 1%); 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including such things as taxis, rideshares, parking, tolls, trains and buses); and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Terms apply. The annual fee is $95. Or perhaps you hit the town regularly? The Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card has a $0 annual fee and earns 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores and 1% everywhere else.
5. You’d like to add an authorized user or finance a large purchase
For now, the Apple Card doesn’t allow you to include others on your credit card account. There’s also no introductory APR offer, and with APRs ranging from 13.24% to 24.24% as of March 2019, this is not an ideal card if you need to carry a balance. A card with a lengthy 0% intro APR offer would be a better option.
You could also consider the Barclaycard Visa® with Apple Rewards, which offers “special financing” on Apple purchases for six to 18 months depending on the amount of your purchase. (Note that these are deferred interest offers, not true 0% intro APR offers in which interest is waived. You’ll want to ensure you can pay the entire balance by the time the promotional window ends.)