You Can't Touch This: Apple's New Credit Card Stained by Leather, Denim, More

(Apple Card promotional image courtesy of Apple)

It might be the most Apple thing ever: A credit card you can’t put in a leather wallet or in a jeans pocket without permanently ruining the fancy coating.


Earlier this week, the Cupertino-based tech behemoth released detailed cleaning instructions for it’s new titanium credit card. In the immortal words of Dave Barry, I swear I’m not making this up:

Gently wipe with a soft, slightly damp, lint-free microfiber cloth.

Moisten a soft, microfiber cloth with isopropyl alcohol and gently wipe the card.

Don’t use window or household cleaners, compressed air, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia, or abrasives to clean your titanium Apple Card.

I’ll be sure and leave a note with Jeeves.

But, wait — there’s more. The same Apple Support page warns that “some fabrics, like leather and denim, might cause permanent discoloration that will not wash off.” And the company isn’t kidding, either. Here’s what happened to one after just a few weeks of use:

I own and love many Apple products, and am also a happy shareholder. But this is ridiculous. And of course social media is having a much-deserved field day at Apple’s expense. Here’s my favorite example:


Not everyone is unhappy:

…and maybe she shouldn’t, if she wants to keep it looking so nice and shiny.

Before we go on, a few words about the physical card and the service provided. When it comes to benefits, the Apple Card is about middle rank, although the 3 percent cash back on purchases of Apple gear can really add up for people deep in the company’s ecosystem. The accompanying app is designed to help cardmembers better manage and improve their credit, which is very nice. Activating the card is as easy as holding it next to your iPhone for a moment (seriously), because of an NFC chip embedded in the envelope and keyed to just your phone. The card itself is made of titanium, but doesn’t have the number engraved (or even printed) on it anywhere. For security purposes, the preferred method of payment is contactless, which generates a unique, one-time, and untraceable card number for each transaction. Again, this is also very nice, and doesn’t require learning anything new for millions who already use Apple Pay instead of their physical debit or credit cards. Just activate with a swipe, and go.


Yet somebody at Apple — I’m looking at you, soon-to-be-departing Jony Ive — signed off on giving the physical card a specialty coating that stains when it comes into contact with the two most common materials for pants and wallets.

What the hell, Apple?

The whole thing led tech writer Dave Mark to ask, “Can you imagine if Capital One or Citibank sent you instructions on cleaning your credit card?”

Tech blogger John Gruber, who is usually a fair critic/fair supporter of Apple, tried to wave away the weird decision:

My first instinct was to make fun of this: This is no big deal, because it’s not like anyone uses a leather wallet or wears denim jeans. I mean, who cleans a credit card? But after thinking about it, I feel like this really is no big deal because all of the credit cards I’ve ever owned get used-looking over time.

Well, yes — but those are plastic credit cards. Metal cards don’t — or at least shouldn’t — have that issue. My Amex doesn’t.

Two years ago, American Express issued my wife her new card, which turned out to be a solid, heavy slab of metal. I thought the thing looked and felt so cool, that I immediately reported my suddenly dumpy-looking plastic card damaged, just so Amex would issue me a new card like my wife’s. Two years later, it looks exactly like it did the day FedEx delivered it. And it’s been in my leather wallet the whole time, cleaned on occasion by wiping it against my denim jeans.


The Untouchable Apple Card is obviously a very First World Problem, and a silly one at that. Apple has enjoyed a remarkable year of transitioning to one of the world’s most profitable service companies, while at the same time introducing some seriously cool new pro-level hardware. But all anyone is going to talk about — at least until next month’s expected iPhone/iPad/MacBook unveiling — is the untouchable and unnecessary coating on its otherwise desirable credit card.

So, nice card — be a shame if anyone were to use it.


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