back to article Apple's credit card caper probed over sexism claims – after women screwed over on limits

Apple is being probed by New York’s State Department of Financial Services after angry customers accused the algorithms behind its new credit card, Apple Card, of being sexist against women. The drama unfolded on Twitter over the weekend as David Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails, the popular framework for the Ruby programming …

  1. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Algorithm probably counts your Twitter followers as part of your credit score - it is how computers find out about you.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      @Blocked Chain Commentard

      If that were the case if you were named Trump, you'd have a credit limit high enough to cover the cost of Warren's Healthcare for all plan. (measured in the tens of trillions). Sorry to go political but I am bashing both sides of the aisle so its fair game. ;-)

      But on a serious note: Its her income that is what did her in.

      Even though they have a shared banking account. Its her annual (self reported) income that did her in.

      It sucks but my wife also has a higher credit rating than I do. I don't have as many lines of credit and I also maintain higher balances since I use a corporate card in my name which I use for travel can have really high balances, even though I pay it off at the end of every month. The banks and cc card companies don't care.

      Now that I switched jobs, added 2 or 3 lines of credit with small limits and $0.00 balances, my credit score has gone back up. (Not that it was bad, but just lower than where it should be.

  2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Joke

    It turned out, however, that Jamie’s credit score was actually higher than her spouse’s.

    So the algo translates to "the higher the credit score, the LOWER the Apple Credit Limit"?

    1. Randy Hudson

      No, it did it based on her indicating she had little or no annual income.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This.

        Anon, because people still don't understand math.

        Apple are not your friends. Friends can lend you or even give you money. Because they are a friend. Thus, should not treat you differently for being a person of any type.

        Apple are a company, and here working as a money broker or bank. If you earn less, you get less.

    2. SimonC

      It's not surprising, a company isn't going to make money by letting you borrow £1000 and pay £1000 back. The ideal customer is someone who makes their payments... eventually... and pays a nice chunk of interest in the meanwhile.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        They will make about $20 from that transaction, from the interchange fees charged to the retailer.

        If you don't pay it off, they will make about another $15 per month.

        So, if you spend $1000 every month and pay off $1000 every month, they will probably make more money out of you than if you borrow $1000 and just make the minimum payment every month.

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    It that's the way the wealthy are treated, I shudder to think how the rest of us are.

    1. Jim Mitchell
      Mushroom

      It appears to be more "how the unemployed spouses of the wealthy are treated" than "the way the wealthy are treated". Credit cards are issued to individuals, not couples. If you want a higher limit, get a job, you moochers.....

      Or do the American capitalist thing and convert your marriage into a corporation, and get corporate credit cards.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "It's the algorithm" is quickly followed by "Well, what exactly is the algorithm?". If it's weighting factors then they're going to have to explain them but the next likely excuse is likely to be "It's AI/ML" .If that's the excuse and the enquiry is pressed hard enough it should become interesting; make them delve into their black box and find out what's in there.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      “AI/ML” just means the training data is part of the algorithm.

      It is possible that an entirely fair and non-sexist human would give higher credit ratings to men due to external sexism factors. But then the dumb computer might conclude that it should always favour men.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Usually it is an trade secret that they cannot divulge, because it would allow the competition to compete unfairly.

      That certainly has worked for the likes of Google and its search ranking algorithm.

      I'm currently listening to Cathy O'Neal's Weapons of Math Destruction.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      make them delve into their black box and find out what's in there.

      trouble is, there's no black box and... NO PILOT?!

    4. baud Bronze badge

      They trained a Neural Net: https://xkcd.com/2173/

  5. Foxglove

    Sad but true...

    'Sometimes being a loudmouth on Twitter gets you somewhere these days'

    I refuse to deal with any 'social media' platform and it has left me with little or no recourse to resolve issues on occasion.

    My option is to not deal with that company again and tell them why,

    I'm not going to change my opinion and if enough other people feel the same as me then things might change.

    Probably not in my lifetime though.

    So I'll die happy with my decision but sad because I'm unable to complain to anyone about anything.

    I so love complaining.

    1. Mark192

      Re: Sad but true...

      "I so love complaining"

      The companies you boycott so love not having your business :-D

    2. matjaggard

      Re: Sad but true...

      OK boomer

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Sad but true...

        Back to Reddit with you! Back, back I say! Take your coat with you while you're at it!

    3. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: Sad but true...

      I refuse to deal with any 'social media' platform... [I'm] sad because I'm unable to complain to anyone about anything.

      I so love complaining.

      Just like a civilisation, you carry the seeds of your own destruction

    4. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: Sad but true...

      The sad truth is also that complaining on twitter is only going to get you a useful response if you have lots of followers, otherwise you just get the same brush-off the rest of us get. So what's actually changed from the famous using their platform to get special treatment in the past? Not much...

  6. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    We trained our scoring algorithm...

    We trained our scoring algorithm using a load of sexist data and lo and behold it produces sexist answers. D'oh.

    Cathy O'Neal's book "Weapons of Math Destruction" documents exactly this kind of illegality and yet companies still press ahead, oblivious. Do none of their staff read?

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: We trained our scoring algorithm...

      Currently reading that. Interesting, but most of what she is telling us is already well known, but she sums it up nicely and uses some very pertinent examples and puts the whole Schlamassal into context.

  7. Mark192

    Are they for real?

    It's all very well whinging that what your partner earns is yours but, should they separate, there's only one of them that's already in the workplace earning $$$. Which one is the safer bet?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are they for real?

      Joint cards exist. If they are suggesting everything is equal, why are they not getting 1 card with 1 limit, but a second card holder?

      Why do they need 2 cards and 2 credit limits both being the high earning one? We could go for nomination other peoples income for another individuals card, that could be possible I think, but would be a massive industry change.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Are they for real?

      In a "community of assets" situation such as that mentioned, where the couple own everything jointly, and all of their income goes into a shared account, should the income generated by either of them be considered to be their personal income? At the point of view that the 'payer' is paying them income, it is presumably going to one of them individually. But at the 'receiving' end, if it's going into a joint account there is no sense in saying that the income belongs to one and not the other.

      So to me it makes sense that both partners be able to list all income that comes into a joint account as 'their' income. Could it be considered fraudulent from the part of the credit card company if both partners applied using the total of their joint income? Or half of their joint income?

      An interesting question for the lawyers!

      1. unimaginative

        Re: Are they for real?

        Yes, because shred income is not joint income.

        It is earned by one one them, one would be liable for tax on it, and so on.

        They might change their arrangements in the future and have separate accounts, in which case the one who earns the higher income would keep it.

  8. sbt Silver badge
    WTF?

    Sex as a cheap substitute

    Credit score is not enough to determine credit limits. Your score shows how well you live within your means, not what your means are.

    Income is going to be the primary factor here. If the algorithms are using sex as a cheap substitute for life-time earning capacity, then yeah, there's a problem. I've not seen anything, yet, in these anecdotal reports that show different limits being offered to folks on the same income. The same or shared net assets probably don't count for as much as these folks think they do.

    Also, why do millionaires need another credit card? I have one with a pretty decent limit and am not a millionaire. These days, it's not like some places only take one brand of card, particularly if you've got one of the big two.

    1. Paul Hargreaves
      Coat

      Re: Sex as a cheap substitute

      > Also, why do millionaires need another credit card?

      Because they're no different to the rest of us (other than the millionaire part).

      Maybe they want them so they can use a different banking app that is more convenient than the one they currently mostly use?

      Maybe they're wanting to spend more via one particular bank because they prefer the policies of that bank?

      Maybe they're transitioning away from a bank they don't like?

      Maybe they like opening their wallet in front of people and musing 'should I use this platinum card, or this centurion card, or this <insert whatever card implies status when buying tat>.

      1. sbt Silver badge
        Meh

        I'll give you the transition argument, but ...

        ... it didn't sound like Woz was making that claim; he was talking about having "unlimited credit cards with other suppliers" (number not specified, but I inferred greater than one).

        If you prefer the app or the bank, well I'd just switch; now you're back to the transition argument. In my country, lots of credit cards or a high limit(s) affects mortgage lenders' assessments of your ability to service a mortgage.

        Your last reason may be true but does not redound to their credit (pun intended).

    2. Jedit
      Headmaster

      "Also, why do millionaires need another credit card?"

      A bit of an aside here, but it limits your exposure on each card and makes tracking easier. Say someone gets your card details and goes hogwild. You, with your one card, don't know where the security flaw happened. The millionaire uses a different card for each site or group of sites, so when his card that he only uses on Amazon gets the unauthorised transactions he knows where the problem is.

      Also, it means you can cancel the one card and still have access to credit.

      1. sbt Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Not the consumer's problem, surely

        I can cancel a card and get a replacement within 24 hours. That's pretty standard here. I can use a debit card for a short time if needs be. Otherwise, it just seems like a lot more in annual fees, monthly payments to organise, etc. I've been buying online and travelling overseas for almost 15 years with the same CC number, no issues.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Not the consumer's problem, surely

          If some fraudster maxes out your credit limit, that isn't something you can fix in 24 hours.

          Also, do you plan on staying in the house for the next 24 hours? There are places, London Buses for example, where you can't even spend cash.

          1. paulf Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: Not the consumer's problem, surely

            Neither of my cards charge an annual fee. Direct Debit pays off the balance in full each month automagically.

            Replacements aren't difficult to sort providing you have the means to call your card issuer (i.e. a working phone and signal) and you're at home as they usually insist on sending the new one to the card holder's registered address because security and all that. Then. as @katrinab notes, what do you do in the mean time? If you're used to using a credit card for absolutely everything it becomes a significantly more fucking difficult world to navigate if you're suddenly using those paper rectangles with the intricate art to pay for things again!

          2. sbt Silver badge
            WTF?

            Can fix in 24 hours

            Yes, it is. It's part of the fraud protection/prevention features offered by my issuing bank. They're likely to shut it down without me even reporting it well before the limit is reached anyway. A new card with new number is needed in most cases regardless of whether the limit is reached.

            Remember I said I had a debit card anyway? Also, I doubt Woz is worried about being able to travel by bus. This is about wealthy folks needing multiple credit cards.

            At some point when the plastic goes away and you're swiping with your phone's NFC thingy, regularly using multiple CCs is just going to be an inconvenience.

    3. Vehlin

      Re: Sex as a cheap substitute

      > Also, why do millionaires need another credit card? I have one with a pretty decent limit and am not a millionaire. These days, it's not like some places only take one brand of card, particularly if you've got one of the big two.

      Because different cards are better for different things. Some cards give you airline bonuses, some give hotel ones, others are better for general purchases, etc.

      1. sbt Silver badge
        Meh

        Different things

        OK, I've never bothered with the points thing and APR is a don't care since I pay off in full every month. I have a low-fee card with no bells and whistles and they seem to waive the fee every year anyway. Life's too short to chase the mostly worthless bonuses and must be even more of a waste of time for the rich.

        1. commonsense

          Re: Different things

          It's not a waste of time though, is it? Some cards give you cashback for pretty much nothing. No annual fee. Some give you points which, if you spend a fair bit, can easily cover a long haul business class upgrade or two, which outweighs the fee.

          If you're not bothered about points or APR, then why have you got a card with a fee at all? There are plenty of fee-free cards out there.

          1. sbt Silver badge

            Fee free

            Well, I expect I'd change it if they started actually charging the fee.

        2. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Different things

          Amex paid me £129 in cashback last year, no annual fee.

          Some places don't take Amex, also Amex is pretty expensive for foreign transactions, so for those places, I have a Mastercard. It paid me £15 in cashback last year, again, no annual fee.

          1. sbt Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Wow, cashback

            OK, that's great for you. I'm still not getting why Woz and folks with his wealth would bother.

    4. paulf Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Sex as a cheap substitute

      @sbt, "Also, why do millionaires need another credit card? I have one with a pretty decent limit and am not a millionaire. These days, it's not like some places only take one brand of card, particularly if you've got one of the big two."

      I'm not a millionaire by a very long chalk - nor do I expect to be unless I win the lottery! I do have two credit cards though. One with Bank A on Visa, the other with completely unrelated Bank B* on Mastercard.

      I've never come close to the credit limits on either of them (and definitely not combined!) but this is simple system redundancy (this is a tech site, right?). When one bank or clearing processor has a brain fart and the system goes TITSUP** I have an alternative that should still work.

      As an aside, I seem to recall a very early episode of South Park which, in their typical rude style, portrayed a female only class being taught the essential skill of how to find a suitable man to marry. The teacher said two credit cards is the right number. Someone with one card probably can't get a second because they're poor. Someone with loads of cards likely has money problems and big debts!

      *Unrelated as in they're not part of the same group, or using the same back end platform.

      **Total Inability to Support User Payments?

      1. sbt Silver badge
        Alert

        Redundancy

        Sure, I get the point. I also have a debit card, linked to a totally different bank/back end. But in my experience, the thing that fails most often is the link to, or the payment terminal network (operated by one bank), so when you're standing at the counter and the machine doesn't work, no amount of cards will help. Cash is king once more. I've not once found myself in a situation where I could use one card, but not the other.

    5. SimonC

      Re: Sex as a cheap substitute

      But every single factor is the same! Every single one! Everything on the application forms are identical, and the same, and so the result should be the same because everything is the same!

      Okay so we declared different amounts for our income but everything is the same! It's clearly sexism because everything is the same. We share everything equally, including the money that I make and she doesn't!

  9. Tessier-Ashpool

    Jeez. Which part of ‘I don’t earn anything so Goldman Sachs won’t lend me any money’ do these people not understand?

    If computer says no, it’s for a reason, and that reason likely has nothing to do with what’s between your legs. Here are some quirks of the credit industry:

    If you are debt free, you may be given a low credit rating. Lenders love people who a) are in debt and b) regularly reduce their debt.

    If you pay off your mortgage, your credit score is likely to be reduced. My guess for this is that the lenders love a borrower who has the potential threat of house repossession looming over them. Once you are mortgage free, the best they can do is send in a bailiff crew from Channel 5 to swipe your TV should you default.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      I experienced some of this, when I moved to Germany. I went from being a good credit risk (mortgage and paying off my credit card every month) to a clean slate with no history.

      I had to get a friend to co-sign my first mobile phone contract, because I wasn't a good bet. Once that had been running for a few years, things were better, until I tried to get a mortgage, luckily I had a brother-in-law who was a mortgage broker and we managed to get a bank to accept the risk. I'm guessing now, after 10 years of mortgage payments with no defaults and 20 years of mobile phone contracts without problems, I have a relatively good rating.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      What's that have to do with a married couple with joint accounts getting wildly different credit limits? It would appear Goldman's algorithm determines that the stay at home mother has an income of $0, and doesn't deserve a high credit limit.

      What I don't understand is why the husband and wife have to apply separately. I guess the Apple Card doesn't allow a second signer on the account? Typically the husband and wife will share a single credit card account, and each get a card in their own name. Which is probably why this sort of issue only came up here, since it isn't usual for a husband and wife to apply separately for the same card.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        It's not "doesn't deserve" but "has demonstrated has insufficient income to service".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Joint accounts" =/= "earnings".

        You are arguing up the wrong tree.

        But yes, it would have to be 1 card with 2 signers. I assume these millionaires don't want the spouse to know what they are buying.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      True that's one of few reasons I got a credit card to begin with otherwise I had no history of having "good debt"

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      In Woz's case it sounds like their income goes into their joint account, so they both earn the same amount.

      Mind you, if Apple's algorithms had a special exception for Woz I wouldn't be surprised or bothered.

  10. TheMeerkat

    So someone made two applications for credit from the same address and then got surprised that the second application received lower limit?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > So someone made two applications for credit from the same address and then got surprised that the second application received lower limit?

      Both applications made simultaneously so why didn't the woman get the higher limit? Or both the same (but reduced from what a single applicant might get)

  11. Aussie Doc
    Paris Hilton

    Really?

    "It's the algorithm"

    Modern day version of mum saying "it's because I said so."

    My mum doesn't look like her --->

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rich Bitch

    Sounds like a spoilt rich bitch not getting her own way and having a "I'll sream and scream and scream" moment until she does.

    How the horror of her husband getting a higher credit score than her must have "traumatised"her. I am surprised she hasn't lawyered up.

    And what is the point of a millionaire having a credit Card in the first place? Especially if you pay it off each month? Why not just use a debit card? Or are those for the sub millionaires?

    Talk about Hyacinth Buckett…

    Ishy

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Rich Bitch

      Debit card? No dear, it's the charge card that you want.

      For example, American Express "Black" Centurion card. You can have one if Amex send you an exclusive invitation to apply. You may get this invitation if you are putting $450,000 a year through your existing Amex By the way, that invitation will cost you $10K. Then there's a $5000 annual fee.

      This gets you a list of perks as long as your arm. Mostly for travelling, like lounge access and rental car upgrades. And $250 per quarter credit to spend in Saks 5th Avenue.

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Rich Bitch

        "And $250 per quarter credit to spend in Saks 5th Avenue."

        What does that buy you? a small handkerchief? A replacement button for your coat? A Saks-branded hanger?

      2. The Nazz Silver badge

        Re: Rich Bitch

        Hmmmm Charge card you say, what could possibly go wrong :

        Dick Feller - Credit Card Song 1974

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRhxu-wbCJQ

      3. unimaginative

        Re: Rich Bitch

        I knew a guy who got a black card by lying. Got on the Sunday Times rich list the same way. I think the Reg did a story on him at the time (years ago, during the dotcom boom).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rich Bitch

      > Sounds like a spoilt rich bitch not getting her own way and having a "I'll sream and scream and scream" moment until she does.

      Take a moment to think about what you wrote there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rich Bitch

        @ a/c

        No

        1. Bongwater

          Re: Rich Bitch

          Dude what if she is a good woman who had to stop her career to raise children? Can you at least give her a shot before you blast her calling her a rich bitch? If you are wrong and she is not, you look completely obdurate. If you are right, I mean that's great but I look for more in life than calling someone a rich bitch and then being right about it. I like Los Americanos Futbol and hiking for example.

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Rich Bitch

      "what is the point of a millionaire having a credit Card in the first place?"

      It provides a means for you to spend your vast sums money without the card having a direct link to your bank account.

  13. Serek
    Alien

    Get used to it (in opposite direction)

    Working and living in Japan more than 10 years, stable job, good salary, Japanese wife (not working), children.

    We both applied for credit card, no problem, received it, but mine with 1/5th of limit.

    Just saying, get used to it (no one will let you know how it is decided, although in Japan it is pretty visible who is preferred and trusted :) )

    Alien... as alien here

  14. rHiggs

    Impact on you: Brexit or Credit Agencies?

    No one talks about the latter which has far more impact on one's lives. Grandparents and parents managed OK without them. So many EU countries.

    It's worse than SEO.

    Mortgages advertised at 1.7%, rate given 4.5%. It's a secret why.

    Crowd project: reverse engineer credit score agencies.

    Sexism is definitely a noted factor in credit scoring.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Impact on you: Brexit or Credit Agencies?

      No one talks about the latter which has far more impact on one's lives. Grandparents and parents managed OK without them. So many EU countries.

      You've seen nothing yet, wait until brexit and credit agencies are combined, and that great weapon of the US government Moodys decides brexit Britain deserves a downgrade in status. Up goes the cost of gov borrowing which will be passed straight through the economy to ordinary folk.

      Greece without the sunshine.

    2. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: Impact on you: Brexit or Credit Agencies?

      Ah yes, finding out, despite paying bills for years, having an existing credit card (which you have also paid off monthly for years) and mobile phone (ditto), being on the electoral register and having a median income, that you cannot get another credit card (reasons for which see other people's posts) because one credit agency has failed to track your change of address, and even getting that fixed fails to cause two decades of credit history to correctly associate with you, bit annoying. But at least I have some access to credit, there are people completely shut out of this system.

  15. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Homemaker? So, works in the construction industry. Should be able to get plenty of credit.

  16. Maximum Delfango
    Facepalm

    Seriously...

    Credit card companies want to lend just a bit more than people can afford to borrow - so the credit card companies can extract some hefty interest without being too exposed to defaulting. A certain amount of defaulting is built in to the system as the cost of doing business.

    There's no way a credit card company nowadays would base a decision purely on gender. This will be based on sole earnings (credit card companies don't take a spouse's or partner's income into account - why would they), and amount of debt (you are actually penalised for being debt free - see above).

    But still - this has given the perpetually outraged another chance to raise their social media profile by a bit of frothing on Twitter, so that's nice.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Seriously...

      I agree. It's in a credit card company's interests to lend as much as they can assuming they can justify the risk, so arbitrarily reducing a limit based on gender (without justification) makes absolutely no sense.

      Always follow the money.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    women getting stiffed on limits

    As far as I can see this is an anti-male angle, loud & clear! It is self-evident that they give higher credits to men because they want higher return, thus implying that men are more reckless with money (qed). I find this DEEPLY offensive and I wish to complain to the BBC, please direct me to the appropriate department!

    1. Maximum Delfango
      Happy

      Re: women getting stiffed on limits

      You need to be on Twitter - the internet demands it!

  18. fandom

    "The drama unfolded on Twitter..."

    So, it's nothing of importance.

    Although, I guess, it will a couple a years for the world to catch up to that simple fact of life.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I see no evil

    While the first couples disparity might be explainable, the Wozniaks's is not - no 'individual' income - sounds like the couple are joint shareholders of the company that is the single source of income to a joint account. Hard to argue that that isn't anything other than a dumb discriminatory algorithm. Needs to be called out, not excused. What's the betting it would also discriminate on race and religion.

  20. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    x10

    x10 disparity between the Wozniac credit limits

    That multiple is not far off of the multiple that Jobs pocketed for Woz's Breakout design work, for which he promised 50%

  21. Blackjack

    So....

    At least the overpriced monitor stand wasn't sexist.

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