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Apple Card: investigation launched after claims of sexist credit limits given to women

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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An official probe is being launched into the card and its issuing bank after social media users pointed out the discrepancy in credit limits.

When it launched in August, Apple Card was touted as something of a financial gamechanger.

The tech company’s first foray into a physical bank card came backed with all of its digital nous. A responsive app would track purchases and give feedback to users on their spending habits. There was a fancy rewards scheme that offered customers cashback on Apple purchases. For those who view their Apple devices as an extension of themselves, the credit card seemed like a fantastic idea.

As long as you weren’t a woman.

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A Twitter thread this week has revealed that some men are claiming that they are being given as much as 20 times the credit limit as women on the Apple Card, prompting an official investigation into Goldman Sachs, the bank that oversees the card. 

New York’s Department of Financial Services will conduct the investigation after looking through tweets from programmer David Heinemeier Hansson and Steve Wozniak, one of the original founders of Apple, both of whom have made claims of gender discrimination against the card.

Apple Card is being investigated for allegedly discriminating against female customers.

“The Apple Card is such a fucking sexist program,” Hansson wrote on 7 November. “My wife and I filed joint tax returns, live in a community-property state, and have been married for a long time. Yet Apple’s black box algorithm thinks I deserve 20x the credit limit she does. No appeals work.”

Hansson continued: “I’m surprised that they even let her apply for a card without the signed approval of her spouse? I mean, can you really trust women with a credit card these days??!”

He added: “It gets even worse. Even when she pays off her ridiculously low limit in full, the card won’t approve any spending until the next billing period. Women apparently aren’t good credit risks even when they pay off the fucking balance in advance and in full.”

Responding to Hansson’s original thread, Wozniak wrote: “The same thing happened to us. I got 10x the credit limit. We have no separate bank or credit card accounts or any separate assets. Hard to get to a human for a correction though. It’s big tech in 2019.” 

After seeing the tweets, which have hundreds of comments underneath them, the New York Department of Financial Services announced that it would commence investigations into the credit card.

“The department will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex,” a spokesman for Linda Lacewell, the superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services, said, as per Bloomberg. “Any algorithm, that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class of people violates New York law.” 

In an interview, Hansson said that he did not believe that there was anything “nefarious” in either Apple or Goldman Sachs’ decision to give his wife a lower credit limit than him. (A Goldman spokesperson said: “Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law.”)

But, as Hansson points out, if this is an algorithm making the decision about how much credit to give to men and women, then it’s a bad one. One that is predicated on outdated, sexist modes of thinking about women and money.

Smiling young woman on couch with credit card and laptop - stock photo
Does society still discriminate when it comes to women and money?

“Hilarious how much mansplaining is flowing in this thread. Every single poster questioning my wife’s credit score, a man,” Hansson tweeted. “Every single defense of Apple blaming GS, a man. Almost like men are over represented in the defense/justification of discrimination that doesn’t affect them?”

He also revealed that both he and his wife had their credit score checked, in case there was something happening behind the scenes that they needed to know. Reader, I don’t think it will shock you to learn that his wife’s credit score was higher than his.

He concluded: “So nobody understands THE ALGORITHM. Nobody has the power to examine or check THE ALGORITHM. Yet everyone we’ve talked to from both Apple and GS are SO SURE that THE ALGORITHM isn’t biased and discriminating in any way. That’s some grade-A management of cognitive dissonance.” 

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“Apple has handed the customer experience and their reputation as an inclusive organization over to a biased, sexist algorithm it does not understand, cannot reason with, and is unable to control. When a trillion-dollar company simply accepts the algorithmic overlord like this…”

“So yeah, I completely stand by my original charge: Apple Card is a sexist program. It does not matter what the intent of individual Apple reps are, it matters what THE ALGORITHM they’ve placed their complete faith in does. And what it does is discriminate. This is fucked up.”

Images: Unsplash

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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