Apple iPhone Upgrade Program vs Apple Card Monthly Installments: Which iPhone financing plan is right for you?

Iphone 12 Magsafe
Iphone 12 Magsafe (Image credit: Apple)

Ultimately, the choice between the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program and Apple Card Monthly Installments is flexibility. The former allows you to buy a new phone more often, but you'll need to commit yourself to one carrier for at least six months. The latter gives you the flexibility of not being tied to a carrier. You also don't need to purchase AppleCare+, though it's strongly advised.

Early adopters will want to use the iPhone Upgrade Program

We are all pretty much early adopters here at iMore, and I know there are plenty of people out there who also like to get the latest and greatest every year. That's why we think the iPhone Upgrade Program is the better for these folks. Still, there are pros and cons to both options when the time comes to buy a new iPhone in 2020.

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Header Cell - Column 0 iPhone Upgrade ProgramApple Card Monthly Installments
CostStarting at $29.12/mo for iPhone 12 miniStarting at $29.12/mo for iPhone 12 mini
Credit checkYesNo (unless you're new to Apple Card)
InterestZero, same as cashZero, same as cash
Late fees chargedYesNo
Loan length24 monthsNot a loan; 24 equal installments
Upgrade timeAfter six months, 12 paymentsAfter 24 payments (unless paid off early)
BankCitizens OneGoldman Sachs Bank USA
AvailabilityUS, UK, ChinaUS only
Minimum age1818
AppleCare+Included and requiredOptional
CarrierLocked in for 6 months and 12 paymentsNot locked to a carrier at any time.
Eligible for Apple Card 3% Daily CashYesYes
Devices you can buy withiPhone 12 miniiPhone 12iPhone 12 ProiPhone 12 Pro MaxiPhone 12 miniiPhone 12iPhone 12 ProiPhone 12 Pro MaxiPhone 11iPhone SEiPhone XR

While we think the biggest reason to go with the iPhone Upgrade Program is the upgrade part, there are some more benefits over Apple Card Monthly Installments.

First, if you decide not to upgrade, you can still pay off the rest, and you'll get to keep the phone. So the upgrade part is entirely optional, but it's a huge perk. And upgrades can be done once you have made 12 payments (or even as early as six months by paying off the other six months worth of your loan), and you get a new iPhone financing loan once trading in the old phone and obtaining the new one.

You get extra peace of mind

The iPhone Upgrade Program also includes AppleCare+, which is always good to have because accidents happen. It's just a few bucks more each month, and you only get extra peace of mind. There's not much downside there, especially if you usually get AppleCare+ anyways. It extends the coverage on your iPhone for another two years on top of the standard warranty.

But if you go with the Apple Card Monthly Payments and decide to get AppleCare+ later, you can get it separately, and Apple does offer payment plans for AppleCare+ now, which is nice.

The iPhone Upgrade Program is available in more places

The iPhone Upgrade Program is an option in the US, UK, and China. Apple Card Monthly Installments, like Apple Card itself, is currently only in the US.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.