A Tale of Two Cards

September 07, 2019

Both my wife and I recently signed up for and got Apple Cards. The process was stunningly simple and quick. From our phones, and in about 2 minutes time, we were able to complete the application process, get approved, and have the new card in our respective digital wallets. In my case I had ordered an audio book a day or two earlier and within an hour or two of getting the Apple Card that charge happened on the new card generating 3% cash back.

The Apple Card application and approval process is fantastic. Using the card is also very nice. I’m rapidly learning which stores and restaurants accept Apple Pay. Starbucks can do Apple Pay at their drive through. Jimmy John’s can’t, so I park and go in side there. That way I get the card-less transaction 2%; at the drive through I’d only get 1% since I’d have to hand them my physical card.

Prior to getting these cards, both of us had a debit card with our bank, and we both have a VISA card through the bank too. We don’t use the VISA cards. For travel or large purchases we have a Citibank MasterCard. The Citi card is in my name. My wife’s Apple Card application resulted in a higher interest rate than I was offered. We both decided this was due to a lack of credit history under her name. Toward that end she applied for an Amazon VISA card in her name. This card offers 5% cash back on purchases made at Amazon or Whole Foods. We do a fair amount of shopping on an annual basis at Amazon, so 5% back on those purchases is a good deal.

The contrast in the process to get the card and have it fully setup is stark. While she was approved immediately, and was able add it to her Amazon account, she was not able setup an account with Chase until she had the physical card in her possession. While she can, and does, keep track of purchases, there was no way to see the account.

The new card arrived in the mail today - six days after she applied. This is actually pretty good, since at the time she was told it could be two weeks. After dinner she sat down to create her account. The first hurdle was creating a password. Banks have gotten nutty with password requirements, and Chase is no different in this regard. The password had to be 8 - 32 characters long, had to have a number and a capital letter, couldn’t have two or more letters in a sequence (e.g., abc), and couldn’t have more than two of the same letter.

This meant that trying to use a pass phrase, something NIST now suggests, wasn’t possible. The pass phrase she tried had three occurrences of the letter “a”. The web form didn’t display a message it just made the heading over the first password field red. Once we abandoned the pass phrase and used the Chrome suggested password we still couldn’t get the form to submit. Turns out that using auto fill for the phone number resulted in an unformatted number: 3335551212. The form wanted a formatted number: 333-555-1212. Really Chase? Really? It isn’t hard to do a little processing of the digits in the field to format the number for the customer. Again, the only hint the number was the problem was a red heading.

Using color as the only means of conveying information violates user accessibility. It’s also just plain rude. Eventually, after several frustrating attempts, after being made to feel stupid by not being able to fill in a simple form, the “Next” button was enabled.

At which point she was informed that access to the agreements was currently unavailable and she’d have to try again later. This is adding insult to injury. She wants to be a good customer. She wants to setup an account and play by the rules. Unfortunately the rules are obscure, poorly communicated, and seemingly arbitrary.

After signing out and signing back in, she was presented with the agreements, and she was able to digitally sign. Her account is now active and she can finally see a list of purchases.

To recap; the Apple Card application was simple and fast. It required a minimum of information. Approval was instantaneous and came with a fully functioning digital card. Within seconds of any purchase you get a notification on your phone showing you the merchant and the amount. Opening the card in the Wallet app lets you see spending by the week or month. You can see spending categories or spending by merchant. It. Just. Works. Oh, and you can pay any amount you want, at any time, toward your outstanding balance.

The Amazon VISA application process was fairly easy too. Where the process fell apart was having to wait a week to setup the account, and then having to jump through hoops to complete that process. I’ve been creating software for 4 decades now. I know what it takes to design and implement interfaces and back-end processes alike. Interfaces like the one at Chase rely too much on the developer and not enough on feedback driven design. Not providing messages to indicate when a field hasn’t been filled in properly, and relying only on a color change of the heading is a failure. Not formatting user inputs is a failure. Allowing the entire process to complete only to present the customer with a message saying, “Sorry. We can’t finish now because our systems aren’t available” is a failure.

My sincere hope is that the Apple Card is hugely successful. That its ease of use and clear concise reporting of expenditures, and the protection of customer information, sets an example that people begin to demand of other credit providers. Apple disrupted home computing with the Macintosh in

  1. They disrupted portable music, and indeed the music industry, with the iPod in 2001. They completely redefined cell phones with the iPhone release in 2007. Now I hope they are on the cusp of disrupting the credit industry.

If you have an iPhone and want a good credit card experience, go get an Apple Card.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.