Topic suggestion for TWIT 744: Apple Card seems to give women lower credit limit than men

Found this thread on Twitter from the creator of Ruby on Rails, David Heinemeier Hansson, regarding the Apple Card credit limit process

It seems that, with all of the other details between DHH and his spouse being identical, Apple Card gave her a far lower credit limit than him. When they contacted customer service - the algorithm was blamed for the decision, but no one had insight on how the algorithm determined the score.

The worst part is that at least one respondent on the thread said the solution was for them to just not use the AppleCard, implying that would solve the problems.


So, having worked in banking IT and seen the programming involved, I can tell you it is almost statistically impossible that every detail used in a credit decision was the same between the two of them. Not coming to Apple’s rescue here, it may well have some bias. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.


Also, the apple card is garbage. There are way better cards out there for rewards if you have superb credit.

1 Like

Yeah, I understand that - but if you read the thread, you saw that his limit was significantly higher (20X according to him) than her limit of $57.24. That also seem statistically unlikely, especially since after multiple calls to Apple Customer Service - they got her limit raised to match his.

1 Like

Right and that much difference seems to indicate a computational error. Hard to prove that was sexist, that would require some kind of trend. Maybe I am missing that.

1 Like

If in fact Mrs Hansson’s absurdly low credit limit was based on her gender wouldn’t we see all women receiving absurdly low credit limits?

Probably, but this is why I think it could make a good discussion topic. Clearly the poster of the tweet has some credibility and would have considered these issues as well.

I just visited the application page. It does not ask for gender identification. Of course the process has millions of bytes of our data. Gender is sure to show up there. I would love to see a great big law suite arise out of this.

Apple loves class action suits :ok_hand::grin:

1 Like

It seems as if the issue is gaining some greater notoriety:


Even Woz and Mrs. Woz got the treatment! I hope they talk about this on TWiT tomorrow.


Yes, definitely not a one-off as some have implied. Exact same thing happened to Woz’s wife (though he was only approved for 10X the credit his wife was, not 20X). Btw, I love how companies always blame “the algorithm” in situations like these – women denied credit, gay spouses kicked out of airline seats, animals popping up in google searches for black celebs – as if algorithms are some kind of essential, natural phenomenon. (Maybe someone should send them all a copy of Cathy O’Neil’s “Weapons of Math Destruction”?)

Human biases will always creep into things we create, including code.

Yeah, that was the whole point of her book (or one of many points, I should say).

Sounds interesting, I’ll add it to my audible que.

1 Like

It is! It was a real eye-opener for me.

Yes. When I first started out, I got a card with a 250UKP limit. The company sent me on assignment and the hotel bill was exactly 250UKP a week. I’d pay the bill Friday morning, rush back to HQ, sign my expenses, get the cash, run to the bank on Saturday morning, pay off the card, so that I could start the same ordeal the next week.

I contacted the bank after a month of this and tried to get the credit limit raised to at least 1,000UKP, as I was putting that much through the card on transactions already and they could see the money was being paid off within 1 fraggin’ day! Nope, no change.

Went to the bank next door and applied for a card with them, they automatically gave me a 4,500UKP limit! So, my own bank, which had known me for years, where I’d never been overdrawn, wouldn’t trust me with more than 250 quid and the bank next door, that didn’t know me from Adam, just handed out wads of cash!

The one thing with DHH’s story is, he never said how much his wife earned, compared to him. He just went on about joint propery, joint returns etc. I don’t know the American credit rating system, but a lot of it over here is based on income (i.e. your pay check), how often you default on payments and a plethora of other checks, it has little, or nothing, to do with the balance on joint accounts or joint tax returns.

It wasn’t until after a page of scrolling that (and 2 days), that we learn she had a higher credit rating. No offence to DHH, but if he had stated that his wife earned the same or more than him at the beginning, there might have been less blowback from the Twitteridiots.

He also rants that Apple has given its reputation over to a sexist algorithm. Apple doesn’t have an algorithm, they have a deal with the bank, that the bank provides an Apple branded credit card. Just a technicality, and that doesn’t mean that Apple shoudln’t have done due dilligence. But until the issue behind the algorithm is cleared up, there is nothing to prove for or against that it is sexist and that the problem didn’t lie with one single parameter that was screwed up on his wife’s rating.

As you say, credit ratings are incredibly complex and it is difficult to prove one way or another, without looking at every input and the alogrithm itself. I hope Apple do do an investigation into the bank and get to the bottom of this, but, after my own experiences in Europe, I’m still in two minds as to whether the gender of his wife actually has anything to do with this.

Edit: Still going down the thread and there seem to be a couple of replies that support his theory.
The bank’s claim that the algorithm is proprietary and cannot be investigated or blamed is disgusting!

1 Like

Also, the thing I do 100% agree with, from DHH’s posts is the lack of a chance to escalate the problem to have the credit rating manually checked. They just upped his wife’s rating, when he kicked up enough stink.

The responsible thing would be to have some senior analyst available that could take her credit rating, double check it and give an answer as to why it was so low.

There are a lot of problems here, it will be interesting to see if it is sexist or just poorly implemented.

I’ve no idea what a community property state is. Maybe there is some problem with the ranking, when it is a community property state?

1 Like

Community property state:

Basically, a jurisdiction in N. America that assumes all income/assets to be joint, unless otherwise specified.

The banking industry (at least in North America) has a long history of discriminatory practices re: women, same-sex couples, visible minorities, and other groups, so it’s not surprising to me that people are jumping on this. I’ve had so many female friends with sterling credit and income treated like sh!t when applying for credit/loans (particularly small business loans) from big corporate banks, I can’t even tell you. Thank god for credit unions, is all I can say.

1 Like

Okay, with some background like that, his complaint starts to make sense. There is no such thing as community property over here. We can buy a house together and we can have joint bank accounts, but for the credit rating, it is your individual income that is counted.

You can get joint credit (E.g. mortgage), but you actually have to submit proof of both incomes (last 6 months payslips for both parties). Otherwise, it is irrelevant what your spouse earns, you can only get an individual credit based on your own income and payment history. (Although if an address has a poor record for payments, it can bomb your credit score - I moved into a flat, where one of the previous tenants had a very poor history of payments and it took a lot of work to get the black mark removed from the score.)

I’ve not heard anything major about sexism in credit ratings here - and discrimination in income is a major topic in the news, so I would expect that sexism in the credit rating system would also hit the headlines here.

1 Like