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Apple Card review: Best for iPhone users who love Apple Pay

For everyone else, the iPhone requirement and the lack of perks limit its usefulness.

The Apple Card works as a physical card or on an Apple Watch or iPhone. 
Sarah Tew/CNET

Is the Apple Card worth it? That's the question nearly everyone asks me after I pull out the sleek titanium card. As far as appearances go, it's hard to find a better-looking credit card. Minimalist and premium-looking, the Apple Card follows the path set by the iPhone or MacBook Air. If you're the kind of Apple user who wants to flex by pulling out a sweet card, it doesn't get much sweeter than this.

Apple actually had a credit card in 1986 and has previously offered a financing card in partnership with Barclays. The company's latest foray into finance, however, is less about the card and more about the phone. The focus is on encouraging you to use your phone instead of the physical card to pay, to the extent that you can't even get an Apple Card without an iPhone. 

Mobile payments are where it's most useful, and for some users that narrows its appeal as an everyday card. After a few weeks of using it, I've found it to be a solid cash-back option, but it isn't yet taking the spot as my go-to payment method.

Who's it for?

If you like using Apple Pay on your iPhone or Apple Watch, the Apple Card is worth considering. With 2% daily cash back on any purchases made through the tap-to-pay mobile payment system, it's one of the more generous cash-back cards on the market. Frequent Uber riders will also appreciate the 3% cash back it offers if you use Apple Pay and the Apple Card in the app. 

The 3% discount on Apple gear from the Apple Store, as well as Apple services and subscriptions, should be used carefully. If you subscribe to Apple Music or iCloud, or buy a lot of stuff on iTunes or the App Store, it's a no-brainer choice. For third-party subscription services, however, like HBO via the Apple TV app for example, other cards offer better cash-back arrangements.

Because Apple rarely puts its own gear on sale at its own stores, you'll likely save more by shopping at another retailer. Sale prices on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers at stores like Amazon or Best Buy often offer larger savings than 3%.

The physical card, while slick-looking, only provides 1% cash back. Since it also lacks the perks you'd get with many other cards, such as extended warranties, it makes less sense for daily use.


The physical Apple Card. 

Sarah Tew/CNET
Now playing: Watch this: Apple Card: Unboxing and setup

Strictly for iPhones

If you want to use the Apple Card, you'll need an iPhone 6 or later running iOS 12.1.4 or later. Android users need not apply as they don't have the required iOS-only Apple Wallet app. 

Signing up for the credit card was seamless and took me only a few minutes. Just open up the Apple Wallet app on an iPhone, tap the plus sign in the upper right-hand corner and choose the option to sign up for Apple Card. Then fill in your info and you'll be taken to the approval screen. 

While not everyone will be approved, the range seems to be fairly wide range and Apple has reportedly been working with Goldman Sachs, the bank behind the card, to cast a wide net. 


The Apple Card lives on your iPhone. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

What's it like to use

The physical Apple Card works just like any plastic or metal card you're accustomed to using. Swipe or tap, sign or not, and you're done. Using Apple Pay is seamless in areas that support it and take Mastercard, the same as it is when used with a Visa or American Express card that you may have previously added to the app. 

The physical card is made of titanium and feels more premium than the metal used in pricey cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum Card® from American Express, but it is also slightly thicker. While I didn't have trouble swiping at a vending machine or when inserting the card into a New York City subway ticket kiosk, the extra thickness made both tasks a bit less smooth than I'm used to, and at times required a bit of extra force to swipe or pull out. Using a chip reader at a local ice cream store (testing credit cards has its own perks), I experienced no issues. 


The Apple Card arrives in a sleek envelope. 

James Martin/CNET

The minimalist look -- which removes all numbers and information beyond your name, a required security chip and logos for Apple, Mastercard and Goldman Sachs --  is much sleeker than traditional cards. It's a really nice flex for those who care about credit card appearances but it's not game-changing. Even Apple's packaging is typically sleek: The card comes in a white envelope that you tap with your iPhone to activate.  

Unlike a number of recent cards, the physical card lacks a tap-to-pay chip for mobile payments, which makes sense given that Apple really wants you to use Apple Pay on an iPhone or Apple Watch. 

The best part of using an Apple Card, however, is the app. 

Great for financial learning 


The color-coded wheel for paying down your bill will show you how much interest you would owe in real time. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Apple Wallet app is where the Apple Card lives and where you'll be able to track transactions, view the credit card number (there is no number on the card) and make payments. It's also where you can lock the physical card and order a replacement if you lose it, or request a new digital number if you think your current one has been "compromised." 

If you lose your iPhone, putting the iPhone in Lost Mode through Find My iPhone or wiping the phone will automatically remove all cards in the Wallet, including the Apple Card. In this case, you can still use the physical Apple Card and regain access to the digital card once you get a new phone, log in to your iCloud account and go to add a card through the Wallet app. 

With regards to the app itself, an intuitive, colorful wheel-based system for calculating payments and possible interest charges (and the lack of annual or late fees) makes the card a great way to develop financial literacy. Rotating the wheel will change how much of your monthly statement you want to pay, with the minimum amount showing red, indicating the highest interest charge. Moving the wheel clockwise to increase your payment changes the amount of interest you would owe, turning the color to yellow. 

To eliminate interest charges you simply move the wheel until it changes the color to green, which amounts to paying the full monthly statement balance. Paying the complete balance will turn it blue with a little star. 


The Wallet app gives you a weekly view of your spending as well as your cash back earned. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The display also shows exactly what you're paying for, such as the minimum fee plus food and drink purchases along the way. A weekly activity view will show which days you spent on which items, as well as your weekly cash back earned. Purchases are color-coded as well, with the virtual card changing colors based off of your spending. 

As its name implies, daily cash is deposited each day. It too lives in the Wallet app on a separate virtual Daily Cash debit card. This "card" can be used for paying down your bill, purchasing new items with Apple Pay or transferring to friends over iMessage. It also can be transferred back to your bank. 

The perks

The biggest perk of the Apple Card is its cash back. At 3% on Apple Store, App Store and iTunes purchases and Ubers through Apple Pay, and 2% when using Apple Pay for everything else, it's hard to find a better cash-back card if you're using your phone or watch to pay. 

The 3% on Uber means the card is actually a better deal for the ride-sharing app than Uber's own Visa card for rides (although the 4% that Uber offers on dining and UberEats makes that card better than Apple's for those items). 

Another perk is the lack of annual fees and late fees, and Apple's app is good enough to count as a perk too.


The physical Apple Card can be used just like a normal credit card. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

A few minor issues

My experience with the card wasn't perfect. Although I got the digital card nearly immediately after signing up, the physical card seemingly got lost in the mail and it took a couple of weeks for a working card to arrive -- longer than the typical few days it should take. 


Support for the Apple Card can be handled over the via iMessage, over the phone or online. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

My account also had a weird issue that prevented me from accessing the digital card number and expiration information associated with the Apple Card, a number I would need for shopping online or ordering something like a pizza over the phone. After several phone calls and iMessages with Apple and Goldman Sachs support I was able to get both resolved, though exactly what went wrong to cause the issue isn't known to me. 

Colleagues who also have the Apple Card have reported no such problems, so it's possible that my case was an exception. 

The Apple Card has been under some scrutiny for becoming discolored if you keep it in a leather wallet. I've had the card in my leather wallet for a few weeks and haven't noticed any changes, but it is something to keep in mind as time goes on.  

How does it stack up?


The Apple Card has plenty of competition. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Using the Apple Card is all told a simple and straightforward experience. And if you are looking for a simple cash-back card, have an iPhone and don't mind using Apple Pay, then at 2% cash back it's one of the better ones you'll find available. 

But as someone with multiple credit cards, I still found myself reaching for my Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card for Amazon purchases and my Uber card for dining. While the Apple Card has become my go-to for the times I take an Uber, it still falls behind cash-back cards like Discover's, which has rolling categories of 5% that will keep me switching to it. 

The 3% at Apple is great, but for most Apple hardware you can often save a lot more by shopping at a third-party store. Also, unlike premium cards, it doesn't have a rewards points program or features like extended warranties and price protection. 

As evidenced by the Uber partnership, Apple seems to be working to build expand the card's value, and at first step, the Apple Card shows promise. But to become my go-to it needs to add a bit more.