Apple Card uses NFC to activate, but has no NFC built in

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As Apple Card’s public test begins this week with a limited number of consumers, details are emerging about how the tech giant is differentiating its product from other cards.

A key difference is the activation process for the titanium Apple Card, which contains no NFC chip. When the card arrives in the mail, customers must activate it by pairing their iPhone with an NFC chip contained in the card's disposable packaging, according to an Apple video demonstrating the process.

The move is a stark departure from most card issuers’ requirement that customers dial a toll-free number or visit a website to activate a card.

Apple eschewed NFC in the card itself to encourage users to conduct contactless payments with their phone or their watch, but the activation process also underscores Apple’s device-centric focus for managing spending and bill payment.

“From the activation approach to the direct-biller approach Apple is using to accept payments for the monthly bill, Apple is concentrating power in its platform,” said Richard Crone, a principal with Crone Consulting LLC.

Customers may pay their Apple Card balance by check or by registering their checking account credentials (there is no option to pay through a bank or third-party billing service). This gives Apple the potential to expand its financial services capabilities, Crone points out.

“Few people write checks, so most will register their checking account on Apple’s platform to pay their bill, giving Apple everything they would need to one day support decoupled debit — something merchants have craved for years,” Crone said.

Apple also has paved a streamlined pathway for voice commerce with Apple Card, by creating an option to use Siri to request an Apple Card and manage its features.

Apple Card will roll out widely this month, the Cupertino, Calif., company announced in July.

“Apple’s Wallet app is the centerpiece for account issuance, and its platform will drive all key operations, with the physical card in the background,” Crone said.

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