Thursday, March 4, 2021

Apple Account Locked Due to Failed Trade-in

Dustin Curtis (tweet, Hacker News, 9to5Mac, David Heinemeier Hansson, John Gruber, Nick Heer):

I went to update a few apps in the App Store on my Mac, I was met with a curious error.

The internet is filled with stories from people whose Google accounts were locked for unexplained reasons, causing them to lose all of their data, including years of email, so I was somewhat concerned. But I’d never heard of similar cases involving Apple’s services, and I wouldn’t expect such behavior from a customer-focused company like Apple, so I figured it was a glitch and made a mental note to try again later.

The next day, stopped working.

Fortunately, iMessage and Photos continued to work.

When I received an email in mid-February asking about the trade-in, I responded (as it had invited me to do) explaining that I never received the kit and asked for another one. I didn’t get a response.

Very soon after, it seems that Apple simply added the amount of the credit I received when I purchased the M1 MacBook Pro to my Apple Card balance. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. Imagine if I had used any other credit card – it would have just been an ordinary charge. But because it was the Apple Store and Apple Card, apparently, things escalated very quickly.

Benjamin Mayo (also: MacRumors, John Gruber, Ezekiel Elin):

The company says that Apple Card and Apple ID are not linked in the way that the blog post alleged, and the company does not disable Apple ID services because of missed Apple Card payments.

The situation arose because the trade-in process was left unresolved, and Apple was following its standard procedures in matters of money owed; this is not anything specific to the Apple Card. When an account is marked as in bad standing, use of Apple ID services is restricted; things like Apple Music or App Store purchases. iCloud is wholly separate and is not disabled at all.


If the issue persists, Apple disables all paid services for that Apple ID until the money is recovered — as the account is essentially in debt.

This doesn’t make much sense to me. The apps and music had already been purchased; they are not a debt. I can see preventing additional purchases and maybe partially disabling the computer that was only partially paid for, but repoing unrelated purchases is unnecessarily harsh for what could be as simple as a lost UPS shipment that was not the fault of the customer. And what if you need access to your financial or password app in order to get your credit card in order?

People are saying that it’s good news that missing an Apple Card payment doesn’t endanger your Apple ID, but is the takeaway actually worse, that any type of credit card is susceptible to this problem?


This is entirely unrelated to Apple Card.

As far as I can tell, it really is an Apple Card-specific issue. With a regular credit card, you can imagine that Apple would have pre-authorized a charge for the trade-in in case it didn’t arrive. And if the bank account linked to the card changed, that would not be Apple’s concern. Apple would add the additional charge, which would go on the card account, the issuer would pay Apple, and then from Apple’s point of view there would be no debt.

But with Apple Card you can pay for Apple products monthly with 0% financing, and Apple has apparently made an optimization so that such purchases are paid directly to Apple via ACH from your bank account, rather than via the card issuer. So it very much matters to Apple that the bank details have changed. The ACH will fail. (At that point, you would think Apple could simply add the amount as a regular card charge, subject to interchange fees. That would be more customer friendly. But it’s clear that not only has this not been designed as a coherent system, but the different parts of Apple aren’t even aware of how it works.)

Dave Mark:

No matter, this should be a wake-up call. Do you have a backup plan if your Apple ID suddenly stopped doing its cloud thing?


I think I am less concerned that Apple disabled Dustin’s account as I am that it took so long to address the issue. If the call to Apple customer support had made the issue clear immediately, a couple of clicks would have resolved this. As is, and if true, looks like the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing.

Yes, if this is “standard procedure,” why did it take Apple multiple days to tell him what the problem was? Why are the general Apple support people not able to confer with the Apple ID department? Why did they tell him that it was an Apple Card issue but tell the press that it wasn’t? Why did the e-mail say that he could reply to the e-mail (which erroneously referred to an iPhone purhcase) to get his account back when the card issue was resolved, but actually the Goldman Sachs representative had to e-mail a department at Apple and wait a few days? (And that is more evidence that it is related to Apple Card.)


There’s a UX defect with Messages right now where if you delete some conversations in succession, randomly will a modal popup and ask you if you want to report the contact as spam. Some Apple articles will tell you not to worry if you’ve accidentally reported someone as spam, but it actually does something. It’s not a pedestrian crosswalk button.

I found this out the hard way when my wife could no longer send or receive messages nor sign into Messages and we had to contact Apple support. I’ve accidentally reported tons of people as spam because of this stupid Messages experience, and I can only guess that I’ve reported my own wife so many times from clearing all of my Messages conversations that they disabled her Messages account.


4 Comments RSS · Twitter

Kirk McElhearn

I bought my partner a new iPhone SE a few weeks ago. I traded in an older SE, I and, since I wanted to pay for the new iPhone over 24 months, the trade-in value was taken from the total amount of credit I was taking out. This was obviously before I sent the old iPhone back.

It seems to me that a trade in applied to a credit agreement would be handled differently than a standard trade in. Nevertheless, that credit agreement is not with Apple, but with a financial partner, and I see no way that Apple has the right to do anything to an Apple ID or to devices because of an issue involving that credit agreement.

Well the Apple card is not available in my country, this sort of thing makes it clear that I don’t want Apple having the power to disable my accounts because of some error: I will not get an Apple card.

[…] However, developer and blogger Michael Tsai questions Apple’s explanation: […]

Lily Ballard

I would not expect Apple to pre-auth the trade-in value when using a normal card. Why would they? That’s extremely anti-consumer, as having that pre-authed may prevent the customer from spending their money on other things. Or they may not even have enough credit available for the full price to begin with.

@Lily I didn’t think Apple would take it on faith that the trade-in would arrive, if they are already shipping out the new Mac. But perhaps they just hold the card number and make a regular charge later, in the event that it doesn’t. This would still be different from the behavior with Apple Card because, unless the card was over limit, the charge would succeed even if the bank hadn’t been updated.

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