Apple unveils new no-fee credit card: The Apple Card

Key Points
  • Apple Card relies on tech giant's Apple Pay service.
  • Users get 2 percent in cash back on Apple Pay transactions, 3 percent on purchases made directly through Apple, and 1 percent on purchases with a physical card.
  • The titanium, laser-etched card looks cool, but 1 percent cash-back isn't very high. 
Apple reveals Apple Card digital credit card
Apple reveals Apple Card digital credit card

Apple just unveiled its new take on an old innovation, a Goldman Sachs-linked credit card called the Apple Card.

Users can sign up through their iPhone and get access to the card in minutes when it becomes available in the U.S. this summer, according to the tech giant's Monday presentation. The new card hinges on Apple Pay, the company's mobile payment and digital wallet service, which has made inroads in merchant acceptance since its inception in 2014.

For situations where Apple Pay isn't accepted, the tech firm created a sleek-looking, minimalist titanium card. It has just your name, etched with lasers, without card numbers and other sensitive information.

The Apple Card pays 2 percent in cash back on Apple Pay transactions, 3 percent on direct Apple purchases, and 1 percent on purchases with the physical card. The rewards will be available on a daily basis, according to Apple executive Jennifer Bailey.

The card is a step into new territory for both companies. Apple, which announced new subscriptions for video and news services Monday, is trying to develop new revenue sources beyond its popular hardware products.

For Goldman Sachs, its first credit card continues a nascent push into consumer financial products after spending most of its 150-year history catering to institutional investors, corporations and governments.

Apple Cash unveiled at the Apple Spring event on March 25th, 2019.
Source: Apple

The card, which lets users manage spending and rewards through the iPhone's Wallet app, was set to be tested by employees of both companies, a person with knowledge of the situation said last month. It will have no fees of any kind, according to the presentation: No late fees, international fees or annual fees.

"Even if you miss a payment, we wont charge you a penalty rate like most banks do," Bailey said. "Our goal is to make it easier for you to pay down your balance, not harder."

Bailey touted the card's simplicity and transparency during her presentation. For instance, Apple will use machine learning and its maps service to list purchase activity in an easy-to-understand way, instead of the cryptic merchant codes that sometimes make credit-card statements hard to understand.

Purchases are grouped in color-coded categories like food, entertainment and more, and spending trends are shown over weeks or months. Payment options are shown dynamically, so users can decide how quickly they want to pay down their debt. Annual interest rates would range from about 13 percent to 24 percent if the service were running now, Apple said.

As it did throughout the entire presentation, Apple touted its emphasis on privacy and security. The tech giant doesn't know "what you bought, where you bought it, or how much you paid for it," Bailey said. The analytics for spending are done on the device, not in Apple servers, she said. And Goldman won't sell purchase data to third parties, either, she said.

The card uses a "special security chip" called the secure element to store the Card number, and each transaction generates a one-time code, she said. The iPhone's facial identification or fingerprint scanner is another layer of security, she said.

Jennifer Bailey, vice president at Apple Inc., speaks during an event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Monday, March 25, 2019.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"With our hardware, software and services, we think Apple is uniquely positioned to make the most significant change in the credit-card experience in 50 years," Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

Apple Pay is accepted by more than 70 percent of U.S. retailers and will work in more than 40 countries by year-end, Cook said. The service will pass 10 billion transactions this year. It will also work in the mass transit systems of Portland, Chicago and New York this year, he added.

Visa shares dropped slightly on the announcement from Apple.

"We needed a bank to do things that were never done in the industry before," Bailey said. "As a newcomer to consumer financial services, Goldman was up for the challenge of doing something more bold and innovative."

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon attended the event in Cupertino, California, but did not address the audience.