When I applied for the Apple Card, it was for one reason and one reason only: 3% return in Apple Cash on Apple purchases. Between upgrading to the iPhone 11, eyeing the new AirPods Pro, and stocking up on holiday gifts, I wanted the chance to get some cash back.
Except the first time I tried to use my Apple Card at the Apple Store, it got declined. Not once, but twice as the kind sales associate swiped my numberless titanium card the terminal displayed an irksome error message.
Yep, my physical Apple Card couldn’t be used to get a new iPhone at the Apple Store. I was eventually able to buy the phone with my card, but not before jumping through hoops.
Apple is pushing Apple Pay as the preferred method of carrying out Apple Card purchases. Users get 2% cash back on anything they buy with their mobile iPhone wallet. But it offers the sexy metal card for times when you need to hand over a physical form of payment, like at restaurants.
So maybe I shouldn’t have tried to use the Apple Card at the Apple Store. But because I was trading in my iPhone 8 Plus for one of the new ones on the Apple Upgrade Program, I feared my virtual wallet would be out of pocket during the exchange. And I’ll admit, handing over the titanium card felt pretty damn satisfying.
It getting declined? Not so much.
Baffled, I called over a manager who, without hesitation, said I couldn’t use the clunky card there. If I wanted to charge my new iPhone 11 Pro Max to the Apple Card, I would need to the input the card’s number on the terminal. But because the Apple Card doesn’t have the number etched on it, I had to reference my Wallet app.
After copying the card’s number over to the terminal, the payment went through. I emitted a sigh of half-relief, half-frustration. Why couldn’t I use the Apple Card at the Apple Store?
Searching for a possible answer, I called support and connected with an Apple Card specialist at Goldman Sachs. They said they hadn’t heard of anyone having this issue, so it could be specific to the terminal arrangement at my local store.
But a Reddit (opens in new tab) search proved I wasn’t isolated in my bewilderment. I found two threads explaining similar experiences. Comments speculated it could be an issue with large payments or not having made enough purchases with the card yet.
My colleague Caitlin McGarry wrote about her Apple Card fails overseas, but it seems the credit card’s troubles exist here in the U.S., too. Sure, Apple just announced that it’s beefing up its credit card’s credibility by offering 3% back and zero interest when it’s used to purchase an iPhone. But if I can’t use the actual card at the one place I wanted, I wondered what the point of having it was.
It turns out that you can, in fact, use the Apple Card to purchase an iPhone and get the 3% cash-back. But it requires a work-around. Because the iPhone Upgrade Program is a recurring payment from the store, it requires an extra measure of security to initiate. The titanium card doesn’t have the number nor the CVV printed on it, so the cashier needs to enter the card information manually as a precaution for initiating monthly charges.
I suppose that makes enough sense, although I didn’t figure it out until I went through through the trial-and-error process of upgrading my iPhone.
On Apple’s Apple Card information page (opens in new tab), it says the titanium card can be used anywhere in the world where Mastercard is accepted. Aside from the Apple Store when you’re on the iPhone Upgrade program, apparently.