Apple Card: A cheat sheet

Apple Card, Apple's first entry into the credit card market, is now available. Here's what business pros need to know about Apple Card.

The Apple Card: A credit card build for the iPhone

Apple announced its entry into the credit card industry in March 2019 with the Apple Card, an Apple-branded credit card designed to help make financial decision making easier. Unlike traditional credit cards, which exist primarily as physical items with digital features, the Apple Card can be thought of as a digital-first credit card. It's tightly integrated with Apple Pay, and while there is a physical titanium credit card made available, Apple intends for Apple Card to be used primarily from an iPhone or an Apple Watch via Apple Pay.

The Apple Card has a lot of novel features that could make it an ideal credit card for people who are already invested in Apple's product ecosystem. This cheat sheet will help explain everything you need to know about the Apple Card, including whether it's worth considering as a credit card for the corporate world. It is also available as a download, Apple Card: A cheat sheet (free PDF).

SEE: Mobile device security: Tips for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What is the Apple Card?

The Apple Card is Apple's first entry into the credit card market. It was created in partnership with Goldman Sachs and will be a Mastercard, meaning it will be accepted wherever Mastercard can be used.

The Apple Card differs from other credit cards, in Apple's words, because it's "a credit card designed for iPhone." Apple Card users have the option to get a physical card, but that seems more like a backup option for when Apple Pay isn't available.

Apple designed the Apple Card to be used almost exclusively with Apple Pay and the Wallet app. Signing up for the Apple Card is done within the Wallet app, which is also where all of the Apple Card's spending metrics are displayed.

Jennifer Bailey, Apple's VP of Apple Pay, said that the Apple Card is designed to help users make better financial decisions, a process that "starts with [giving consumers] a better understanding of their spending so they can make smarter choices with their money."

The Wallet app automatically tracks Apple Card spending, categorizes transactions based on type of purchase and geographical location, and provides both weekly and monthly spending summaries.

Weekly and monthly reports color code spending by category (food, shopping, and entertainment) and track how much has been spent month to month.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's cheat sheets and smart person's guides

Along with its robust metrics, the Apple Card offers other features that are likely to attract people who are interested in opening a new line of credit, including:

  • There are no fees associated with having an Apple Card--specifically, according to Apple, no late fees, no annual fee, no cash-advance fee, and no over-the-limit fee;
  • There is no penalty for a missed payment--late or missed payments will equal additional accrued interest;
  • Payments can be scheduled from the Wallet app, and when choosing a payment amount users will see how much interest they will accrue based on their remaining balance;
  • Buying products from Apple (via the Apple Store or App Store) will net 3% cash back, using Apple Pay with the Apple Card will reward 2% cash back, and purchases with the physical card will reward 1% cash back;
  • Daily Cash is one of the key features that Apple has highlighted. Cash-back rewards are added to a user's Apple Pay balance and can be used for purchases, or to pay down the Apple Card's balance, or to send to other Apple Pay users via iMessage. Cash returns are calculated daily; and
  • Real-time fraud protection alerts users whenever an Apple Card transaction occurs, even one they make, allowing the user to okay or block a purchase. If a fraudulent charge is reported, users won't be responsible for paying.

The physical Apple Card that users get is innovative as well: It's an obvious Apple design--minimal and built of titanium. It doesn't have an expiration date, card number, CVV code, or signature on it, making theft of the card much less of a concern.

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Image: Apple

What are the security and privacy features with the Apple Card?

Security is one of the features Apple touted in its Apple Card announcement. Aside from the physical card designed to discourage theft, the digital side of the Apple Card has a lot of features that make it secure and privacy oriented.

The core of the Apple Card's security, like most of Apple's other security features for its mobile devices, lies in the Secure Element chip. The Secure Element is an encrypted chip where sensitive information, like Touch ID/Face ID biometric data, is stored.

Data stored in the Secure Element is inaccessible to iOS, macOS, and watchOS, is never shared with Apple, and is never stored online. In short, the Apple Card has a security element that requires it to be authorized on a user's particular device using their face or fingerprint for verification.

SEE: Famous con man turned cybersecurity expert urges credit freezing (TechRepublic)

When a new Apple Card is created on an iPhone, a unique device ID is created and stored in the Secure Element. Every Apple Card transaction requires not only the card number, but also the unique device ID and a one-time code that is generated when the Card's owner verifies the transaction using Touch ID or Face ID. In an ideal world where biometric security is foolproof, this means the theft of an iPhone won't necessarily lead to the theft of an Apple Card.

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Is the Apple Card a good corporate card option?

Apple hasn't said the card is exclusively for consumers, but the way Apple discusses and markets it paints the card as almost exclusively a consumer product and not a business one. 

The Apple Card is closely integrated with Apple Pay and the Wallet app, which means it's closely tied to individual Apple IDs. Businesses that want their employees to use an Apple Card would seem to have no way of managing the card since all the payment information is processed via the card owner's Apple ID.

SEE: Travel and business expense policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Even if a business had its employees register for individual Apple IDs, there would still not be a reliable way for them to keep track of card purchases since all the information associated with a card is connected to the device it's created on.

In short, it doesn't seem like the business world was thought of when the Apple Card was designed; whether that will change in the future remains to be seen, but businesses looking for new corporate card should probably look elsewhere.

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How can I get the Apple Card?

The Apple Card is now available to all US-based customers, provided you have an iPhone 6 or newer. Interested customers also need to be running iOS 12.4 or newer, as everything to do with the card is set up in the newest iteration of the Wallet application. 

As for release in other countries, there has yet to be any official word from Apple, but according to TechRepublic sister site CNET, Goldman Sachs executives believe it will be available internationally at a later date.

Applying for an Apple Card is designed to be simpler, according to Apple, but you'll still need to pass a credit check to get the card; even then, the APR will vary based on your credit score. According to Apple's Card website the APR will vary between 12.99% and 23.99% (based on credit score, rates as of August 2019).

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Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 28, 2019, and it was most recently updated on Aug. 20, 2019.


Image: Apple