Apple's annual "Black Friday" sale is happening in its retail stores and online until midnight tonight. The big difference this year? Rather than taking money off some products, Apple is offering Apple Store gift cards when you purchase major hardware items. Our verdict? That's not as good as a proper saving.
Buy a Mac and you get a $150 gift card. The iPad Air scores a $75 card; other iPad models come with a $50 card. The iPod Touch offers a $50 card; iPod nano models get a $25 card, as does the Apple TV. Various third-party hardware products also score either $25 or $50 cards; the full list is on the Australian Apple site.
The problem with this approach is you don't gain money you can spend anywhere you like — you only gain credit which can also be used with Apple. Yes, you could give the gift cards as presents to someone else, or use them for additional accessories, but that's not the same as an actual saving. You can't put an Apple Store Gift Card on your mortgage.
Case in point: the $150 card for Mac purchases might seem appealing, but it only makes sense models which cost under $1500. For anything more than that, you'd be better off hunting down one of the regular 10 per cent off deals at other retailers, since that puts more money in your pocket.
One other sneaky element? Apple's terms and conditions for the promotion note:
Except where the Australian Consumer Law applies, if the qualifying product is returned, your refund or exchange may be reduced by the full face value of the Apple Store Gift Card.
If I ended up with an item so defective that it wasn't fit for purpose, I'd be reminding Apple firmly that I was entitled to a full refund under Australian law. While it does acknowledge that prospect here, Apple has often shown a dismissive attitude to local consumer law, so you need to be prepared to stand up for your rights.