Sir Richard Branson leaned across the table, smiled, and winked at me.
“It’s pretty sexy, right?”
In his hand was a credit card ‒ a Virgin credit card ‒ with an aesthetically revolutionary ‘clipped corner’.
That boozy night happened, from memory, about 16 years ago. At the time Branson was banging on about his card helping people, while simultaneously sticking it to the ‘fat cat banks’ (and making himself a boatload of cashola).
This week Apple announced it’s launching a credit card (only in the US to begin with), simply called ‘Apple Card’.
And it’s titanium, baby.
As in metal. Laser-etched. There are no numbers on the front ‒ which coincidentally makes it safe to show off on Instagram, if you’re so inclined (and the people who get this card most certainly will be).
And it’ll totally blow the mind of the 7-Eleven attendant when you plonk it down to buy some Cheezels:
Attendant looks down at shiny metal card … then looks up at you, slowly studying your face.
“Are you some kind of celebrity bigshot … Mr Cheezel man?”
This week Apple CEO Tim Cook gushed about his new credit card: “While we all need them, there’s some things about the experience that could be … so much better.”
Okay, so I’m going to pull you up on that one, Timbo. You actually don’t need a credit card. (Well, maybe if you’re spending $319 on wireless Airpods, which make you look like, to quote my old man, a “bloody drongo”.)
Strip out the metal and the marketing and this is just another ‘debt card’, and not a particularly revolutionary one: Apple’s fine print shows it charges up to 24.24% interest on the card.
However, there are a couple of things they’re doing which are interesting:
The first is the tech: as you’d expect from Apple, they’ve got a great app for the card which allows you to easily categorise and track your spending, and ‘gamifies’ and personalises it to help you make better financial decisions. That being said, a lot of these features and tracking are already here in Australia with Up Bank. And within a couple of years all banks will offer this.
The second is the card’s rewards system. They’re going with daily cash back instead of points. This makes total sense. Frequent Flyer points are s-o-o-o 2007. Banks and airlines have created their own confusing alternate currency for much the same reason that Zimbabwe issues trillion-dollar notes: to deliberately confuse the poor plebs who are forced to use it.
The Aussie banks will be disrupted over the next decade, make no mistake. However, I’m not sure it will be by Apple, who are just trying to fill another hole by building their ‘ecosystem’ as iPhone sales stagnate.
And remember: the Apple Card is still just a credit card. So while it’s a danger for our banks … it’s also a trap for iPhone users.
Tread Your Own Path!