On Tuesday morning, I woke up in my hotel room in Sunnyvale, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, with a brand new corporate-issued MacBook Pro, which gets unlocked by my Apple Watch, that is connected to my iPhone, which syncs to my iPad in the iCloud.
My life -- or my iLife, it seems, has become entirely Apple Integrated.
My former Microsoft colleagues will laugh at me for being assimilated by the mothership which is only a few miles away from where I am writing this article. But it's fine, really. I'm still using Office 365 on all my devices -- you can pry Outlook out of my cold, dead hands.
Checking in with other tech industry news yesterday during my lunch hour, I discovered that the amazingly great minds in Cupertino have introduced a number of new services, such as Apple News Plus, which seems like a really good deal at $9.99 a month, with all you can eat magazines and selected premium newspaper content shareable across up to six family members. As content consumption goes, that seems like a huge no-brainer to me, so I signed up for it immediately.
Apple TV Plus, on the other hand, I am not so sure about yet. It won't be launched until the fall, which is a while from now, so I will reserve my judgment until then. I'm currently a Roku Premiere customer who uses CBS All Access, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, so it would take a lot in terms of original content from Apple and its partners for me to jump ship to an Apple TV device in my living room and my bedroom.
Apple is also porting their service to Roku, Amazon streaming devices and also smart TV's, so switching to a different device isn't a hard requirement for Apple TV Plus either.
And while the content consolidation feature on the new Apple TV app for my existing services sounds great, Netflix and Amazon aren't going to be part of that picture, so I'd still have to use their own apps on Apple or non-Apple devices anyway.
But assuming the content is really good and if the next-generation Apple TV is that much better a piece of hardware -- especially now that it supports the new Apple Arcade gaming platform? OK, maybe I will switch.
Apple's app and content ecosystem, as I am learning, is quite sticky. And the company is making that stickiness bet not just with premium subscription content to go on their devices, but with premium financial services as well.
The digital-first Apple Card is Intended to be used virtually, primarily using the company's Apple Pay service, the Apple Wallet app embedded in iOS and WatchOS, and with the enhanced security it also offers. It has cashback rewards that go directly into Apple Cash, which is usable by Apple Pay.
The rewards themselves are decent -- 3% on anything you buy from Apple, across their entire product and services portfolio, 2% at any vendor that accepts Apple Pay, and 1% at any vendor that doesn't.
Also: Apple Pay: A cheat sheet TechRepublic
There are no annual fees, and in the event you end up at a credit card terminal that won't take Apple Pay from your iPhone or Apple Watch, there is this nifty titanium credit card you can whip out to show how exclusive, hip and cool you are.
Remember American Express Centurion? Yeah, neither do I.
The coolest part of the thing -- and the reason why I would really want one -- is the financial management application for Apple Card that is integrated into Apple Wallet. It classifies all your purchases with dashboarding and color coding so you can get a snapshot view of your spending habits. And you can adjust your statement pay schedules and optimize your payment balances in order to avoid interest fees if you can't pay in full.
As a next-generation payment technology, especially coupled with Apple Pay -- which I particularly love using on my Apple Watch -- it sounds like a real winner.
There's just one problem: I don't know if I can justify using one. Because while Apple's ecosystem is sticky, do you know what is even stickier? My existing rewards programs on my existing credit cards.
I've been consolidating my credit cards over the last few years, and now I'm down to only four.
How did I end up with all these cards? They all have their own rewards programs that heavily incentivize their use.
My Chase Sapphire Reserve has a ton of benefits, so I use that for large and regular everyday purchases, such as for dining. It replaced my AMEX Platinum as my business travel card a few years ago. I use it for almost everything, and I like the fact it can get me into airline clubs and it generates a lot of travel points. It's a super-premium card and costs $450 a year, just like a high-end AMEX.
However, I am now completely a home-based employee and will be traveling a lot less in the future, now that I am no longer consulting and I am writing full-time.
Arguably, this is the one I could most easily swap out for an Apple Card, as this is the one I most regularly use Apple Pay with, but Chase is my primary bank for ingesting funds, with my checking, savings, and my mortgage, and I have consolidated account visibility when using their app.
I added an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card when it was introduced a few years ago. It's issued by Chase, so I have full visibility of it in Chase's app, along with all my other banking stuff. And Amazon gives me 5% cash back with purchases on Amazon.com and Whole Foods. Given that the balance of my online purchases are at Amazon, I've dedicated this card to this activity.
I have a USAA Card because we've used them as our primary commercial bank for paying bills as long as my wife and I have been together. It was her bank before we were even dating over 25 years ago. I've tried to get her to ditch them, because I'd love to consolidate our accounts, but to no avail. She's in charge of paying bills and refused to budge. Our home and automobile insurance also goes with this. As does their app. Could I ditch this card? Sure, but it's got no fees. It's easy enough just not to use it.
Finally, I have a Costco Citibank Visa which I only acquired a few weeks ago, during the process of becoming a Costco member. Why? Because if you want to get 4% cash back on their gasoline, and at any other service station, you need it. You also get 3% on restaurants and travel, 2% on anything bought at Costco and 1% from all vendors. Frankly, I am strongly considering knocking out my expensive Chase card and using this as my everyday card.
My situation is certainly not unique. Anyone in the 35 and older set is going to have had long-term relationships with financial institutions, have a lot of points, and have cards for dedicated activities. Replacing any of these with an Apple Card is not an easy proposition.
What I would prefer from Apple is the ability to turn any of these cards into Apple Cards -- to get the enhanced Apple Wallet, dashboarding, and balance payment capabilities, but with the native rewards programs of each card issuer. I would even be willing to pay Apple for this service, as much as $50 a year, just to introduce some virtual account consolidation into my life.
Just as Apple TV is going to do this for content providers, an "Apple Wallet Plus" could do this for financial services providers.
I totally get it that being the financial services provider itself is a more lucrative proposition than being a financial services consolidator. But there's no reason why Apple can't offer this for the rest of us that can't easily cut out our existing providers.
Are you ready to jump on being a Apple Card early adopter? Or would you prefer Apple Wallet Plus to consolidate management of your existing cards instead? Talk Back and Let Me Know.