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Four wins and three misses for Apple Card in year one


Apple Card has been available for just over a year now and looking back over the last 13 months, a new report highlights several aspects Apple and Goldman Sachs have nailed. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some areas ripe for improvement.

An Apple Card analysis from creditcards.com by Ted Rossman dives into what has made it successful over the first year, and notably, some ways the pandemic has helped the appeal of Apple Card.

Apple Pay focus

First, Apple using a digital first strategy with Apple Pay has proved successful, particularly as consumers have been using contactless payment more amid COVID-19:

The pandemic has greatly accelerated consumers’ appetites for contactless payments, mostly because many are afraid to touch bills, cards and payment terminals due to potential germs. Visa said contactless usage jumped 150% from March to July 2020.

Apple Pay is not the only mobile payment method, of course, but it’s the most popular. It’s also possible to pay by tapping a card itself, although the vast majority of American contactless users prefer to use their phones.

Rossman suggests with Apple Card holders getting 2% Daily Cash when using Apple Pay and the increase of contactless payment use in the pandemic, the behaviors could become long-term habits.

Simple cash back formula

While Apple Card has seen some criticism for having middle of the road rewards, the straightforward Daily Cash feature is paying off.

Can you imagine if Apple Card focused on travel and then the pandemic hit? Fortunately for Apple, it didn’t make a big bet on any specific industry (especially one that ended up getting devastated by COVID-19).

The card promotes simplicity and awards daily cash back on all purchases. Those are features that resonate with customers right now. Who couldn’t use more cash, right? Particularly when almost half of U.S. households have lost income due to the virus, according to our sister site Bankrate.com.

Simplicity is nice, too. A 2019 CreditCards.com survey found 72% of cardholders would rather use the same card or two for everything rather than mixing several different cards to maximize benefits.

Differentiating Apple Card

Apple Card was promoted as a simpler and kinder credit card and Apple has followed through with that. Rossman notes Apple Card users getting pandemic relief from monthly payments without interest, something that has set it apart from the competition. There’s also super easy access to customer service directly from iPhone, no fees, and tools to help customers pay less interest.

From the beginning, Apple Card proclaimed that it would be a kinder, gentler credit card with no fees. Its financial management tools would actively encourage customers to pay less in interest, and it would be easy to contact customer service via text messages and phone calls.

During the pandemic, Apple Card’s customer assistance program has excelled. Upon request, cardholders have been able to skip payments without interest, potentially for many months in a row – a perk that has stood out in the industry for its generosity and longevity.

Greater security is also an important aspect of Apple Card with no numbers on the optional Titanium card and the natural security that comes with Apple Pay.

Rewards

The report mentions Apple has done a decent job of expanding its 3% Daily Cash partners. The latest was Panera Bread in August this year. There are now 7 retailers that offer the 3% cash back in addition to Apple. However, Rossman argues Apple’s average rewards rate is still lagging behind its competiors.

Still, while Apple’s expanded list of merchants offering 3% cash back is a start, I don’t personally spend a significant amount of money at any of them, and I’d be willing to bet most people would say the same.

Blending the 3% merchants, the 2% Apple Pay rewards and the 1% physical card return, I suspect most Apple Card users end up below 2% on average. That lags the following cards which extend 2% cash back on all purchases: Citi® Double Cash Card (technically 1% when you buy something and 1% when you pay it off), the PayPal Cash Back Mastercard and the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature card.

This past summer Apple also expanded its 0% interest offer from just iPhone to now include iPad, Mac, and more.

Meanwhile, the report points at Apple Card’s $50 sign up bonuses it ran this summer as weak. We could chalk this one up as both a modest success in the first year and also a major opportunity going forward.

Joint accounts and additional cards

The report from Rossman didn’t dive into these next two opportunities, but they’re important to mention. First, there’s still no joint account support or ability to request additional cards.

There is certainly an untapped market for Apple Card users who share finances. Part of the issue is likely that Apple Card is tied to an Apple ID. Maybe Apple could figure out how to roll Apple Card joint accounts and additional cards into its iCloud Family Sharing. That would make it easy for not only partners to use but also allow parents to give their kids access.

Integration with budgeting software

While Apple Card has definitely made progress over the last year by launching the ability to export transaction data as CSV and OFX files, it’s still behind the times. For example, you can pull in Apple Card to budgeting software like Mint, but it doesn’t include transaction data for now. So you just see things like balance, available credit, and your interest rate.

Hopefully, we’ll see Apple improve integration with Mint and other budgeting software to be as feature-rich as competing credit cards in the coming months.

Wrap-up

Shortly after Apple Card launched last fall, Goldman Sachs’ CEO called it the “most successful credit card launch ever.” While it’s hard to say for sure if that’s the case (and by what metrics) Apple Card has certainly had a solid debut with a lot of potential going forward.

And in the short term with Apple’s September event expected to bring a new Apple Watch and iPad Air and the iPhone 12 around the corner, a new wave of customers may pick up Apple Card thanks to the enticing 0% interest offer.

If you want to apply for Apple Card, we’ve got a detailed walkthrough here.

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