Anyone who has a credit card knows that the whole system’s a mess. Owning one feels like carrying around a relic of a bygone era.
This is why I think Apple's Card was the best thing the company announced in its press conference today. Sure, TV+ and News+ looked cool, but they're essentially just Apple's versions of Netflix and Readly.
Card, on the other hand, offers such a comprehensive retooling of the credit card experience that it represents something genuinely novel, and as much as I hate using the term, game changing.
Here's why I think it's worth keeping an eye on.
Deck of cards
Right now, I have three credit cards in my wallet. I have a Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card which gets me air miles on UK spending, a Tandem credit card for fee-free overseas spending, and a Spree prepaid VISA card which gets me discounts at stores like Asda and Argos.
Two of these cards don’t work on Apple Pay at all, one of them still insists on sending me paper statements each month, and none of them allow me to see my monthly spending by category to see where my money’s actually going. Heck, my Virgin Atlantic card didn't even have an app until a month ago.
Apple's Card appears to offer all the positives of credit card ownership without any of the negatives. It's a card that offers great rewards, fee-free overseas spending, and an integrated app that allows me to properly manage my finances. In short, it should be the one card to rule them all.
Apple’s physical card also appears to be a typically Apple-esque exercise in minimalism. It's a a great looking titanium card featuring just a chip and your name, devoid of all the numbers that are usually found on a physical card. This should in theory make it harder for for criminals to use, as it’s not plastered with data that allow you to go on an online shopping spree.
I also really liked the simplicity and immediacy of Apple’s “Daily Cash” incentive programme. Many credit cards like my Virgin Atlantic one offer airmile-based rewards, but it can be difficult to figure out what value you're actually getting back. Apple Card's 3 per cent back on Apple, 2 per cent on Apple Pay and 1 per cent on card purchases is easy to understand, and compares very favourably with the paltry 0.5 per cent I get on my Tandem card currently.
The way that Apple looks to be managing purchases also looks really smart. Apple was completely right when it said line items on statements can be totally indecipherable. One line on my current statement reads “WDFG Barcelona T2” from when I was at Mobile World Congress -- it was only by Googling that I found out that was the duty-free store at Barcelona airport, and a purchase for a rather nice coconut Toblerone bar (and delicious it was too). Anything Apple can do to improve this situation will help me keep a better eye on my spending.
Better have my money
I’m also done with the fiddly process of transferring money to people via account numbers and sort codes. Just today, it took me five minutes to send my colleague £12 using the current electronic method: log into my Nationwide account, set the payee up as a new recipient, use a calculator-style device to approve it, and then finally transfer the money. True, you’ll have to be an Apple user to transfer money using Apple Pay, but the whole system looks like a doddle.
Sadly, Apple Card is only in the US for now, but if it does make it to the UK I'll be one of the first to sign up. True, Monzo offers a more 21st century approach to banking, but by combining simplicity and rewards in the way it has, Apple has designed what appears to be the most consumer-focussed credit card currently available. And if it forces the traditional credit card companies to up their game then the market will be all the better for it.