It’s hard to top Oprah, but one of the most talked about Apple product announcements yesterday was the Apple Card, a mostly digital credit card set to debut this summer in partnership with MasterCard and Goldman Sachs, the card’s issuer.
I spoke to one friend last night who is genuinely excited about this product. The things he likes about it are simple—there are no annual fees, foreign transaction fees, or late fees, and you get cash back every time you shop. Also, there are no numbers on the (optional to own) physical card that comes with the digital payments service, which lives on your phone. If you lose the card or leave it overnight at a bar, for example, no one can abscond with the keys to your bank account.
These are reasonable things to be excited about. There are also the card’s security measures—two-factor authentication that includes scanning your face or your fingerprint—and the fact that it helps you keep track of your spending in a user-friendly app. To apply, you just need to visit Apple’s wallet app, which is already on your phone if you have an iPhone. The card is designed for convenience, as Apple products generally are, and to keep Apple users inside the company’s growing ecosystem.
Along with Apple’s news, TV, and gaming subscription services, the Apple Card is seen as a way for the tech giant to keep making money as sales of the iPhone decline. It’s also a path for driving adoption of Apple Pay, the company’s digital payments service, a rival to the likes of Square and Venmo. But some see it as a way to get more people used to the idea of paying for things in digital currency—like cryptocurrency.
Besides Apple Card possibly spurring the adoption of “more mobile pay options (including crypto),” Apple could straight up add cryptocurrencies and tokens to its wallet app.
Or Apple could take this a step further and launch its very own coin. As analyst Luke Martin points out on Twitter, it seems like doing so could be a small step for the tech giant, which already has a digital wallet, payment service, and now credit card.
Ultimately, Apple is banking on adoption. If more and more people—like iPhone’s roughly 700 million users—get the Apple Card and end up using it with the Apple Pay app (which gives users two percent cash back, as opposed to the one percent cash back that comes with using the physical card), more people are going to get comfortable with the idea of transacting in digital cash with digital wallets. This could make people who would have once balked at the idea of paying with crypto much more open to it.
Lastly, there are the card’s privacy and security aspects, which some have compared to crypto.
Each Apple Card user has a unique device number that comes with their card. To authorize a purchase, that user needs to provide both that number and a “one-time, dynamic security code,” which is generated with each transaction. In order to create that code, users need to be logged into their phones and authorize their purchase with either their face or fingerprint—a process that sounds a bit like making crypto transactions with the combination of a public and private key (where the public key is, essentially, your face).
Apple further insists that it isn’t going to track users’ transactions. How Apple will both show you your transaction history in the wallet app and not track what you’re buying is unclear, though the company chalks it up to the card’s “unique architecture.” As for the card’s issuer, Apple writes, “Goldman Sachs will use your data to operate Apple Card. But they will never share or sell your data to third parties for marketing or advertising.”
Based on our extremely unscientific poll, opinion as to whether the Apple Card is good or bad for crypto appears to be relatively split.