Apple Card Review: Is This the Game Changer Apple Wants?

Lyle is a writer specializing in credit cards, travel rewards programs, and banking. His work has also appeared on MSN Money, USA Today, and Yahoo! Finance.

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After months of anticipation, the Apple Card is now available, and it launched with the style and hype you’d expect from a new Apple product.

Every credit card company talks up their cards, but Apple has taken it a step further. The card has a lengthy product page with graphics, a short film about it, and the boast that "Apple Card can do things no other credit card can do."

The question on everybody’s mind is whether that’s just talk or if the card truly is that special. As you’re about to find out, despite some good benefits, the Apple Card isn’t the amazing credit card Apple says it is.

Top perks

No fees -- The Apple Card doesn’t have any fees. This includes no foreign transaction fee, which is uncommon among cash-back cards and no-annual-fee cards. Just keep in mind that even though you won’t incur a fee for missing a payment, your balance will still incur interest charges and your credit score will suffer once your account is 30 days past due.

Up to 3% back -- You’ll earn 3% cash back on purchases made through Apple, as well as purchases made using Apple Pay with select merchants that have partnered with Apple. You’ll earn 2% cash back on all other Apple Pay purchases. Considering Apple reported in January 2019 that 65% of U.S. retailers accept Apple Pay, you should have plenty of chances to earn bonus cash back.

Security features -- To use your Apple Card for a purchase, you must authorize the transaction using your iPhone, making it more difficult for anyone to use your card for fraudulent transactions. You’ll also receive instant notifications of every purchase.

Interest charge calculations on each payment -- When you make a payment, you’ll see an estimate of how much interest you’ll pay based on your payment amount. For those who are unfamiliar with credit card interest, this could make it easier to understand how much carrying a balance costs over time.

Detailed transaction information -- Apple color codes your transactions based on the type of purchase. It uses these color codes in spending summaries so you can keep track of where your money is going. Each transaction also includes its location on a map, so you can verify where a charge occurred.

What could be improved

Cash-back rates -- The bonus categories on the Apple Card are lackluster. The 3% on Apple purchases seems solid until you consider that Apple rarely puts its products on sale and you can often save much more than 3% by buying Apple products at another retailer.

While the Apple Card’s cash-back rates aren’t bad, there are cards with more bonus categories or a higher flat rate on all purchases.

Sign-up bonus -- Sign-up bonuses are common even among no-annual-fee cards, so it’s a big drawback that the Apple Card doesn’t have one.

Balance transfer offer -- Many cash-back cards also have 0% intro APRs and offer balance transfers, but this isn’t an option with the Apple Card.

Potential stains from leather and denim -- Apple has cautioned that some fabrics, including leather and denim, could cause permanent discoloration of the Apple Card. While this isn’t a huge issue, it’s frustrating to have a credit card that could be stained if you put it in your wallet or pocket.

Free credit score tool -- Given Apple’s focus on educating consumers about how much interest they’ll pay, it’s odd that the Apple Card doesn’t have a tool to check your credit score. There are plenty of free ways to get your credit score, but many popular credit cards have this feature.

Purchase protections -- While many credit cards offer purchase protections and extended warranty coverage, the Apple Card doesn’t.

Exclusive to iPhone users -- You need an iPhone to get the Apple Card.

Suggested credit score

You will generally need good credit or better to be approved, of a FICO® score in the mid-600's and higher. Many factors are considered during the underwriting process. Approval isn't guaranteed with a higher score or impossible with a lower credit score.

The only specifics Apple states on its support page is that Goldman Sachs may not be able to approve applicants with a FICO® score lower than 600.

This card is right for you if:

The Apple Card can be a smart choice if you're building or rebuilding your credit, because its benefits compare favorably to other credit cards for consumers with fair credit. The fact that it explains how much interest you'll pay based on your payment amount also makes it useful if you're new to credit cards.

Anyone who has good or excellent credit is better off looking elsewhere. To put a number to that, good credit starts at a FICO® Score of 670.

With a credit score in that range, you can qualify for some of the best credit cards, and the Apple Card isn’t one of them. It’s a solid card, but if you shop around, you could find plenty of cards with higher cash-back rates, sign-up bonuses, and/or 0% intro APRs.

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