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The Apple Card just became a lot less useful, at least for some shoppers. New iPhones purchased on the Apple Card Monthly Installment Plan must be connected to AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile cellular service during checkout. In other words, the Apple Card no longer offers financing for SIM-free iPhones.

This change was first announced for Apple Store locations in June of 2023, according to MacRumors. The company is simply extending this new policy to online purchases (as it promised it would). If you aren't with the "big three" carriers, you are effectively barred from enjoying the Apple Card's generous 24-month 0% APR financing for iPhones.

Technically speaking, all iPhones are unlocked, even those purchased through Apple Card Monthly Installments. But this new requirement is tantamount to selling locked phones. Some customers may join AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile just to get a good financing deal. Or, if a customer is already with one of these carriers, they may stick around to finance future iPhones upgrades.

You might be able to get around this problem with a cheap prepaid plan—join the plan, get the iPhone, cancel the plan, and take the iPhone to your carrier of choice. But at that point, you're probably better off with a financing plan from Best Buy or another retailer that's happy to sell SIM-free iPhones. Or just buy the iPhone with cash. Even with a 0% APR promotional period, debt is a slippery slope.

Note that this isn't the only disappointing change to Apple Card's Monthly Installment policies. Starting today, Apple only offers 12-month financing for the Apple Watch, down from 24 months. Existing installment plans are not affected by these changes, of course.

If you want to finance a bunch of Apple products at 0% APR, the Apple Card is still one of your best options. However, it's sad to see Apple chip away at some of the Apple Card's greatest perks. Rumor has it that Goldman Sachs isn't happy with the Apple Card's performance, and perhaps this is a sign of that unhappiness.

Source: Apple via MacRumors