Apple Card, why did you fail me on my iPhone 13 loan?

I thought my Upgrade Program process would be smooth, as usual. It wasn't.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

Unlike other technology writers, such as my Jason Squared co-host, Jason Cipriani, I don't have a direct review relationship with Apple. That's a privilege few industry writers can achieve, and -- at best -- only one or two persons per publication usually get. So when the new iPhone 13 or any other Apple product is released, I do not receive review loaner units. Every Apple product I write about is purchased with my own money.

This makes it easy to stay objective about the products I cover, but it also has its downsides. It's an expensive habit to buy all these Apple products on a yearly basis, although I see it as the cost of doing (my) business. But paying my own way also means that I get to experience every hiccup of being a regular Apple customer on the rare occasions that it happens.

Today was a perfect storm example -- iPhone Upgrade Day.

As instructed, my wife and I last night logged into our iPhones using the Apple Store App to do our pre-authorized loans from Citizen's One on the Upgrade Program. That part was painless and went exactly like we did last year -- you pick out your phone model, storage, and color, and fill out some financial information. You're then instructed to actually show up at the Apple Store to process the iPhone order the next morning.

I wasn't prepared for what happened this morning.

First, the checkout process at the Apple Store, at least for Upgrade Program purchases, requires a manual entry of credit card information -- this means that my Apple Card, which is stored as a default payment method on my iCloud account, had to be keyed in, along with credit card number, expiration, and CVV. At 8 AM and not quite on my first cup of coffee, this was an annoyance.

I have to assume this has something to do with 3rd-party vendor integration with Citizen's One. Still, nevertheless, the two companies should be able to resolve this and make it easier for Apple's own credit card customers.

This was not the worst of the issues, though. After submitting the Citizen's One loan, the system took about a minute to respond and then promptly told me there was a problem with the credit card authorization, and the loan was denied.

After looking on Twitter, it turned out that the problem was not related to the Citizen's One integration, but in fact, it was Apple Card. So much volume was being pushed through Apple's and Goldman Sachs' transaction services with MasterCard that their vendor integration blew up.


Chaos ensued on Twitter when many customers tried to use Apple Card on their Upgrade Program purchases

Jason Perlow/ZDNet

After several failed attempts with the Apple Card, I ended up having to use our Costco MasterCard to do the loans. I can switch the Citizens One payment to my Apple Card later, but it's a hassle.

My wife's iPhone 13, which she was able to get in-store pickup on, is due September 24. Because I picked a highly desirable color, the Graphite, on my 13 Pro Max, I had to do home delivery, so it pushes things out to October 6-11 for me. Apple doesn't tell you that you picked a highly desirable color; it just tells you a projected delivery date -- had I known, I would have picked a different color.

Apple's customer support rep told me on the phone that he could try to cancel my order and switch me over to a less desirable color. Still, because of the way the loan authorization works, he'd have to cancel that as well, and AT&T would have to cycle through the eligibility through the system for 24 hours -- by which time I would be lucky to get a phone anytime in October. His advice? Leave my order alone.

So because Apple Card's integration wasn't tightly connected to the app, and because the company didn't provision enough servers to handle the demand (something that is easily done with a hyperscale cloud services provider such as AWS or Microsoft Azure), my loan applications -- and those of untold thousands -- failed this morning.

Things happen, I know, but I expected better of a trillion-dollar company.

Editorial standards