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Apple Card vs. Apple Pay vs. Apple Cash: Differences you need to know

Apple's three payment methods live in the Apple Wallet and can get confusing fast.


Apple Pay isn't the same as Apple Cash. We iron it out.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Apple is officially in the credit card game with the Apple Card, a mostly digital card that's available now for those who've received invites. With its tight ties to the iPhone ($899 at Amazon) -- you can't actually use Apple Card without one -- Apple is once again using its services to help make the iPhone more valuable to its loyal users. As with iOS 13, the new mobile software coming to iPhones in fall, making the software on the device appealing is as important as making the device itself attention-grabbing. The role of these services is especially important as iPhone sales continue to slow.

Apple Card is a big enough beast on its own, with a physical card and plenty of fine print, but it won't replace Apple Pay or Apple Cash, which is where things get confusing.

See, Apple Card, Apple Pay and Apple Cash will all be accessible from your iPhone's digital wallet -- they each have their own purpose. Here's what they are, and how you'll use them.

If you're interested in learning more about setting up using Apple Pay, watch the How To Use Apple Pay video below.

Apple Pay is the lynchpin

Apple Pay is the name of the system that makes digital payments with your iPhone possible. It lives in the Wallet app and was designed to replace the need to cart around physical payment cards. As with Google Pay and Samsung Pay, you load the details of your real-life credit and debit cards into the Apple Pay app. Then, you can call up your virtual credit card to make payments online or in stores with your iPhone instead of thumbing through your wallet for your card.

Apple Pay requires your authentication in order to kick off a payment. You'll either scan your face using Face ID, scan your fingerprint or type in your passcode to verify your identity. In stores, you'll hold the iPhone near the NFC payment terminal until you see confirmation. For online purchases, you'll verify your identity, and the software will take over from there to complete the purchase.

Apple Pay works on its own, but you can add an Apple Card as one of your credit cards (see below for more details) and can use Apple Cash to shuttle funds to and from your friends and family.

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Apple's digital card lives in the Wallet app, but there's also a physical card.

James Martin/CNET

Apple Card is tied to your bank account

Apple's new credit card is backed by Mastercard and Goldman Sachs. It acts like a "real" credit card just like the plastic or metal card in your wallet or purse, with interest rates and up to 3% cash back, but it mostly lives as a digital card on your phone.

There's also a physical card element, with Apple shipping you a slick titanium rectangle with your name engraved on it. This is to use on the occasion that a brick-and-mortar store doesn't take Apple Pay.

What does Apple Pay have to do with it? Everything. Apple Card is one more card that you can use digitally with Apple Pay. Instead of loading in and using your usual bank card from Chase or Wells Fargo, you use your Apple Card from Goldman Sachs.

Convenience and a strong emphasis on security are two reasons you'd use Apple Card, and we recommend reading up on all the Apple Card details if you're interested in signing up this summer. Remember, you can continue to use Apple's digital payment system with your own credit cards.

Apple Cash is peer-to-peer

Apple Cash is a service that's built into the Apple Pay platform that lets you send, receive and request money from others through iMessages. 

Apple refers to it as a "prepaid debit card in your Apple Wallet." It's similar to Venmo, but you'll have to add money to your Apple Cash account by using your debit card in the Wallet app. Apple confirmed that credit cards are no longer supported in Apple Cash. Apple Cash works across iOS devices like iPhone, Apple Watch ($529 at Amazon), iPad ($356 at eBay) and Mac.

To use Apple Cash, you must be at least 18 years old and be a US resident. You'll need to have iOS 11.2 or later, or if you're using an Apple Watch, WatchOS 4.2 or later. You'll also want to make sure you're signed into iCloud on each device you want to send and receive money through. You launch the request in iMessages and confirm with Face ID, Touch ID or your passcode.

When you receive cash from a contact, you'll find it in a digital Apple Cash card in the Wallet (you'll have to agree to the terms and conditions to set this up). You can use this cash to make payments in stores, in apps and online -- or you can transfer your balance to your bank account. You can also transfer the balance to your bank account linked to Apple Pay.