The Apple Card might be touted as the modern solution to credit cards in the digital era, but the physical titanium card doesn’t support NFC.
The Apple Card is touted as a modern solution to the dilemma facing credit cards in the digital era, but the physical titanium card lacks the near-field communication (NFC) standards that are commonplace on other cards. One of the benefits of the credit card, compared to other offerings from well-known brands in the banking sphere, is its ease of use. The card is nearly too easy to sign-up for, and the process takes just minutes in the pre-installed Wallet app on iPhones. It also has straightforward billing materials, intuitive payment processes, and a fair cashback system. That is, all while using Apple Pay on a compatible device. When using the physical titanium card that can be requested through the app, the experience is much more rudimentary compared to other cards.
It might seem surprising that a technology company worth trillions of dollars even has a credit card, but it’s comforting to know that the Apple Card is backed by some of the best in the business. Goldman Sachs serves as the issuing bank and has a rich history as a multinational investment banking company based in New York City. The card uses Mastercard’s global payments network, which ensures that the Apple Card is accepted at many locations around the world. Mastercard has continued to experiment with the possibilities of technology in transactions and payments — it’s even using biometrics to allow people to pay for purchases. That’s what makes it all the more puzzling that the Apple Card doesn’t support NFC payments.
It turns out that there may be a purely technical reason why the physical Apple Card doesn’t support tap to pay or NFC. The credit card is unique as it is made out of pure titanium and etched with the cardholder’s name using a laser, and features a chip alongside a traditional magstripe. For this reason, Apple Card represents luxury — its heavyweight feel and numberless, all-white appearance make it seem premium. When the card was first introduced in 2019, contactless credit cards were not as commonplace throughout the industry. In the years since, the feature has spread and most new cards issued are NFC-enabled. The titanium makeup of the company’s credit card seemed clever at the time, however, it is the Apple Card’s material that makes contactless payments impossible.
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As Seritag explains, NFC tags work through electromagnetic induction, which sends a signal from the card to the payment terminal to identify the credit card and approve the transaction. It is impossible for electromagnetic signals to pass through metal, ruling out an NFC-enabled titanium card. While it is possible to add some sort of NFC identifier atop a metal surface, it would ruin the card’s aesthetic and performs worse than a plastic card due to the metal’s interference. Without a plastic window to allow the NFC tag to connect with a payment terminal, or about half a millimeter of spacing between the tag and metal, contactless payments would not work properly.
There might be a way to add contactless payments to the physical Apple Card, but Apple is in no rush to bring that feature to its titanium credit card. From the start, Apple has indicated its preference for the Apple Card to be used through Apple Pay on a compatible device over the physical card. This is evidenced through its cashback tiers — Apple Pay yields up to three percent cashback, while the physical card tops out at one percent across the board. It can be frustrating that the most intuitive card in a wallet doesn’t support contactless payments in 2022, but there’s no clear way to add the functionality while preserving the Apple Card‘s image and purpose.
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