Money

I used the new Apple Card for a week in New York City—here's what I learned

Apple card transaction
Apple

Apple announced on Tuesday, August 20, that applications for the much anticipated Apple Card are now open to all U.S. consumers.

Some lucky consumers have been using the card since Aug. 6, when the tech company opened the application to a random selection of people who opted into the "notify me" list that opened earlier this year.

I received an invite to apply for the card during the preview period and jumped at the opportunity to see if the "Daily Cash," rewards, no fees and integration with the Apple Wallet app are really worth the hype.

The Apple Card already has appeal for fans of the brand, offering 3% cash back on goods or services purchased directly from Apple (including Apple retail stores, the Apple online store, the App Store, iTunes, Apple Music and other Apple-owned properties) and on Uber and UberEats, 2% cash back on Apple Pay purchases and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Cash back is referred to as "Daily Cash, " and it is automatically deposited into your Apple Cash card daily.

There are no fees associated with this card, and it comes with a bunch of financial wellness tools that show users exactly how much they will owe in interest if they carry a balance. Below, I break down what I learned from using the Apple Card for a week in New York City.

The application process is quick

The application process was very quick, with most details — name, date of birth, email, phone number and address — auto-filled from my iCloud account. I was required to enter annual income and the last four digits of my social security number to complete the application. I was surprised when I didn't have to include my monthly housing expenses or employment information.

A company spokesperson declined to specify the credit score needed to qualify for a card. The Apple Card is designed for a range of customers and was created with the iPhone user in mind. I was approved in a matter of seconds with a 755 FICO score from Equifax.

After approval, I was prompted to review the credit limit, APR and fees I qualified for before selecting "Accept Apple Card" or "No Thanks" (which declines the card).

After I accepted, the card was added to my Wallet app, and I was able to start using it for Apple Pay and online transactions.

Less is more, a minimalist card design is the way to go

All approved applicants have the option to request a physical card, which is delivered within six to eight days (my card came in five days). I received a notification when my card shipped via FedEx and was able to track its progress through the Wallet app. I was also notified when my card was delivered. I haven't seen real-time tracking for any of the eight credit cards I carry, so this was a nice feature.

The Apple Card is made of titanium, and feels noticeably different from the majority of cards made of plastic. The card has a matte finish and is completely white with just the chip, your name and the Apple logo etched on the front. The back of the card only has the Mastercard and Goldman Sachs logos, plus the magstripe.

There is no tap-and-go feature available with the physical Apple Card, which is somewhat surprising because many other issuers are rolling out this feature. This is another reason (along with the higher cash-back rate) why card users are more likely to pay with Apple Pay.

This sleek design is one of the added features that may sway consumers to apply for the card. In fact, a recent study from CompareCards found that 38% of cardholders said they'd be more likely to choose one card over another because of the material it is made of. And, that number spikes to 53% for millennials. While I was impressed by the sleek design, financial advisors would never recommend that you base your credit card selection off the material of a card.

Quick card activation

The activation process for the Apple Card is what you'd expect from the innovative company — simple and quick. I just had to unlock my iPhone and hold it over the card and packaging. I was prompted to "Activate" my Apple Card, and then I was able to use it right away.

Apple Card packaging with activation instructions.
Alexandria White | CNBC

'Daily Cash' isn't daily

Apple has been marketing the unique "Daily Cash" feature of the rewards program, but I discovered that cash back isn't really daily. You have to wait for a transaction to post to your account before you receive daily cash. A purchase can be pending for a few days, so there's a delay on when you receive cash back.

While this makes sense, it's a bit deceiving to say "daily." But you do receive cash back quicker than other rewards cards that typically take one billing cycle to award cash back.

The first transaction I did with my digital Apple Card was a $10 reload to my Starbucks card, paid using Apple Pay on my iPhone. This transaction was done at 10:25 p.m. and posted the next day. I didn't receive cash back the same night I completed the transaction.

Once the $10 transaction posted, I was notified that I accrued 20 cents cash back (I earned 2% on my purchase since it was an Apple Pay transaction). I automatically received the 20 cents in my Apple Cash card, which I was able to use right away in a number of ways: as a statement credit to my Apple Card balance, spent like cash through Apple Pay, transferred to a bank account or sent to friends via iMessage.

If you don't have an active Apple Cash card, you can easily set up Apple Cash or your cash back will accrue in your Apple Card account, and you can manually redeem it through the Wallet app.

Apple Pay isn't accepted everywhere

While Apple Pay is roughly accepted at 70% of merchants, according to a company spokesperson, odds are you'll run into issues trying to pay with only your digital Apple Card. I encountered several instances where Apple Pay wasn't an option just within the first day of using my card in New York City. And, if I had an issue in one of the world's biggest cities, chances are cardholders in smaller cities will have more trouble using Apple Pay.

Merchants that posed an issue included a card store and a restaurant. In these cases, I had to use a different, physical credit card to pay since I didn't have my physical Apple Card yet.

After receiving my Apple Card in the mail, I was able to use it in situations where Apple Pay isn't accepted. But since the physical card only earns 1% cash back, I opted to use one of my other cards that offers better rewards rates.

Earn the highest cash-back rate on Apple purchases

Odds are you're a fan of Apple's products if you apply for the Apple Card, and with this card you can earn 3% cash back on goods or services purchased directly from Apple. There is no other card on the market that offers more unlimited cash back on Apple purchases.

Apple products cost a pretty penny, so earning a generous amount of cash back is a great way to offset the cost of purchasing AirPods or an iPhone. I'm looking to purchase a new Macbook Air later this year, which starts at $1,099, and I would earn at least $33 cash back if I buy through the Apple store, which is more than I'd earn from any other rewards card.

Update Aug. 20: Cardholders can now earn 3% cash back when you pay for Uber and UberEats purchases with your Apple Card via Apple Pay. This puts the Apple Card in direct competition with the Uber Visa Card. Check out our comparison on the Apple Card vs. Uber Visa Card.

Bottom line

The Apple Card has clear benefits for loyal fans of the brand and people who spend a lot on goods and services directly from Apple. You can't beat earning unlimited 3% cash back on those transactions. And, if you're someone who occasionally misses a payment or travels outside the U.S., the card's lack of fees can add up to big savings.

However, if you're looking for an everyday card, you may be better off with a flat-rate cash-back card like the Citi® Double Cash Card, which earns 2% cash back: 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for purchases.

Don't miss: The Apple Card launches to select users today—here's everything you need to know

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