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Apple Card: Pay Right From Your iPhone or Apple Watch to Earn Cash Back

While Apple Pay contactless payments aren't accepted everywhere, the Apple Card offers unique opportunities to earn cash back.

The Apple Card* is unique due to its integrations with the Apple ecosystem. You'll have to have an iPhone or Apple Watch to squeeze the best value out of it, but its rewards rates are competitive with the best cash-back credit cards -- as long as you use Apple Pay when you shop.

If you don't use Apple Pay, there aren't many benefits. Though you can request a physical credit card (through the Apple Wallet app),  you can't earn cash back when you use it. And since Apple Pay isn't accepted everywhere -- only 85% of merchants support it -- this may be a dealbreaker for some, and especially those who don't live in cities. 

But the Apple Card has some compelling features. Because it's a natively digital product, you can apply and get approved right on your iPhone, and start using your card instantly with Apple Pay. The other major selling point is that you receive cash back that you earn on a daily basis -- instead of a monthly basis, like most other cards.

Apple Card

7/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR13.99% to 24.99% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward Rates
  • Apple Card gives you unlimited 3% Daily Cash back on everything you buy at Apple
  • With every purchase you make using your Apple Card with Apple Pay, you get 2% Daily Cash back
Annual Fee$0
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Apple Card gives you unlimited 3% Daily Cash back on everything you buy at Apple
  • With every purchase you make using your Apple Card with Apple Pay, you get 2% Daily Cash back

Rewards

The Apple Card features two primary cash-back categories: You earn 3% cash back when you shop at the Apple Store (online or in person), and 2% back when you use Apple Pay to make other purchases.

Shopping with select merchants will also net you more cash back when you pay with your Apple Card via Apple Pay. You can earn 3% unlimited daily cash back on eligible purchases with these merchants:

  • Nike
  • Panera Bread
  • Walgreens
  • T-Mobile
  • Exxon Mobil
  • Ace Hardware

These categories may change at any time without notice.

Unlike with most credit cards, there is no flat 1% cash back rate on other purchases -- you must use Apple Pay to earn the cash back. Check out the best rewards credit cards to earn rewards on all of your purchases.

Apple Wallet

The Apple Card is one of the best credit cards for instant approval because it automatically gets added to your Apple Wallet app, which is included on every iPhone, as soon as you're approved. From your Apple Wallet, you can make online or in-person payments without a physical card -- as long as the merchant accepts Apple Pay.

According to Apple, 85% of all US merchants accept Apple Pay. That's pretty good -- but not as comprehensive as a physical credit card's coverage. Apple will provide you with a physical Apple Card when you request one through the Apple Wallet app -- but you don't earn cash back on transactions made with the card.

For more, check out  our breakdown of the differences between Apple Wallet, Apple Pay and the Apple Card

Alternative cards

You can add any credit card to a digital wallet app like Apple Pay and use it the same way you would Apple Card, but these credit cards are more traditional in that they can also be used to earn rewards outside of the world of digital payments.

X1 Card

The X1 Card is another unusual credit card that can be used instantly upon approval when added to a digital wallet app. You can manage the card from within its mobile app, and X1 will ship you a metal credit card automatically -- no request necessary.

You'll earn a flat 2x points on all of your purchases, regardless of whether you use a digital wallet or pay with the physical card. There are also opportunities to earn as much as 10x points on your purchases. Points can be redeemed for 0.7 cents for statement credits, so the base rate for "cash back" is a 1.4% return on your spending. But if you redeem your points for purchases at select merchants, you can redeem for 1 cent per point -- making your maximum return on purchases 10%. 

If you make a lot of online purchases or otherwise need some flexibility to let others make purchases with your account -- say, a temporary emergency credit card for a babysitter -- the X1 app offers innovative virtual credit card solutions.

For more information, see our full review of the X1 Card.

PayPal CashBack Mastercard®

With a nearly identical rewards set up, the PayPal CashBack Mastercard®* offers a wider net for earning cash back than the Apple Card.

You earn 3% cash back on any purchases you make with PayPal, which works similarly to a digital wallet. You can use PayPal to pay with your smart device wherever contactless payments are accepted, or connect your PayPal account online at checkout where applicable. Eligible merchants include Apple -- so you can earn the same rate on Apple products as with the Apple Card -- Nike, Target, eBay, Walmart, The Home Depot, Wayfair, Overstock and Hotels.com.

The digital payment restriction only applies to the 3% rate. Otherwise, you earn 2% cash back on purchases made anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

FAQs

What is a digital wallet?

A digital wallet is an app that holds your credit card information virtually on a smartphone, tablet or smart watch. You can use your digital wallet app to easily make payments by holding your device up to the card reader wherever contactless payments are accepted, or you can autofill your card information online with merchants who accept digital wallet payments, such as from Apple Pay or Google Pay.

What is a virtual credit card?

A virtual credit card masks your credit card information when making purchases online by generating a valid but disposable temporary credit card number. In the event that your credit card information were to fall into the wrong hands, the information would be useless and your finances safe.

Is contactless payment secure?

Whether you use a physical card or a digital wallet app, there are a handful of security features in place to prevent credit card fraud. For digital wallet apps, a fingerprint, face recognition, or a passcode is required before you make a purchase. For physical cards, EMV chips provide security through encryption.

*All information about the Apple Card and the PayPal CashBack Mastercard has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.