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Apple Card Makes Credit Cool

Naysayers doubt the success of the Apple Card, but they doubted the AirPods too

The Apple Card, presented at Apple’s product launch event on March 25, 2019.
The Apple Card, presented at Apple’s product launch event on March 25, 2019.
The Apple Card was unveiled earlier this year at the Apple launch event on March 25, 2019. Photo: Michael Short/Getty

IfIf you’d asked Apple customers late last year what they were most looking forward to from the company that regularly flirts with a $1 trillion market cap, they’d likely have mentioned a new iPhone, an updated MacBook, or the (now shelved) AirPower wireless charging mat. It would have been incredibly left-field for anyone to say “a credit card,” yet here we are.

Apple married the contactless payment standard with two-factor authentication when it first released Apple Pay in 2014. Apple later expanded into the peer-to-peer (P2P) payment market with Apple Cash (the artist formerly known as Apple Pay Cash) and now continues its foray into financial services with Apple Card.

Apple Card was first teased on March 26, 2019, at a “Special Event,” where it was held up as the ideal credit card for the digital age. According to the Apple Card product page on Apple.com:

“It represents all the things Apple stands for. Like simplicity, transparency, and privacy.”

The privacy aspect, in particular, is bolstered by the following:

  • The digital card is housed in Apple’s secure mobile payment service and digital wallet (Apple Pay).
  • The physical card contains no sensitive or identifying information beyond the cardholder’s first and last name.

The card number, expiration date, and security code are visible only from within the Wallet app or Settings on an iPhone or iPad. Access to this information is protected by Touch ID or Face ID, which are also used to authorize Apple Card payments made using Apple Pay.

Despite being touted as “a credit card created by Apple, not a bank,” Apple Card is issued in partnership with one of the most prominent investment banks and financial service providers in the world, Goldman Sachs. So prominent in that realm, in fact, that this is the first time Goldman Sachs has ever issued consumer credit cards.

The absence of all but the cardholder’s name may be advertised as a security and privacy feature, but it also makes the physical Apple Card all the more photogenic.

The primary question on the minds of those not so ingrained in Apple’s ecosystem is this: “Why do people care?” While Apple Card does offer a number of perks — no fees, daily cash back, categorized spending data — credit card enthusiasts are the first to point out that Apple Card fails to stack up to more competitive options (such as the Citi Double Cash Card). But is practicality even the main draw?

For many interested parties, I suspect the answer is simple: It’s Apple.

Apple has already established itself as a major leader in the consumer tech and digital service industry. While critics often denounce their price points and the limited ability to customize or modify the hardware and software, many consumers enjoy the simplicity of the Apple experience. As Steve Jobs stated during many a historical keynote: “It just works.”

Most credit cards require consumers to wait for 7–10 business days or longer to receive a physical card in the mail before they can add it to Apple Pay. However, Apple does away with this by making the card available for use via Apple Pay within seconds of approval.

In addition to the oft-celebrated user experience, the success of Apple’s products is closely tied to the immense power of its brand. Any new Apple product or service immediately draws the attention of consumers, news media/tech blogs, and competitors. To many, the Apple logo represents not only a high level of quality and reliability but a high social status as well.

The AirPods are a perfect example. While they were ridiculed for their design and staying power when released in 2016, they have since become a bona fide status symbol. Everyone from Tom Holland (aka Spider-Man) to Diana Ross owns a pair. Their design is unmistakably Apple. Apple seems to be aiming for similar appeal with the physical Apple Card.

If you’re going to go into debt, you may as well go in style.

Approval odds have reportedly been very high, meaning a large number of consumers are likely to qualify. The absence of all but the cardholder’s name may be advertised as a security and privacy feature, but it also makes the physical Apple Card all the more photogenic. Without fear of a card number being stolen and misused, expect to see social media flooded with photos of friends, family, and co-workers “flexing” (aka showing off) their titanium Apple Cards in the coming months.

Apple Card currently requires consumers to own an iPhone or iPad to apply. For new customers and those already ingrained in the Apple ecosystem, this is yet another strategy that helps Apple gain and retain customers while making it harder for them to switch (or switch back) to competitors.

Whether or not you believe Apple Card is for you, Apple’s prominence as a brand made it possible for them to announce a credit card out of left field and to get the general public excited about credit.

Whether or not those approved will manage their credit responsibly is another matter entirely. Apple provides payment amount recommendations when it comes time to pay off the balance each month. However, as with any credit card, it’s up to consumers to take or ignore the suggestions.

But hey… if you’re going to go into debt, you might as well go in style.

If you’re not weird, you’re not normal

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