If you’re looking for deals on MacBooks, iPads, Apple Watches, or iPhones, you won’t find those bargains at the Apple Store or on the Apple website. According to senior staff writer Nick Guy, our Apple expert, discounts from the company itself are rare. When Apple does offer promotions, the deals tend to take the form of gift cards (instead of lower prices) awarded when you buy Apple gear. “Even when Apple does offer cash-off deals, they’re often not substantial discounts,” Nick says. If you’re looking for bigger discounts, you’re better off trying other retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart.
You shouldn’t expect to see great Apple deals on the newest items, though, even from third-party merchants. It’s unlikely that a just-released iPhone or Apple Watch will have any discounts at all, but models that have been around a little longer are typically fair game. Here’s what we know about scoring the best Apple deals we’ve found from third-party merchants.
Best Walmart Apple deals
Throughout the year, Walmart regularly offers small discounts on Apple favorites like the iPhone and iPad and on accessories such as the Apple Pencil and AirPods. There’s also the occasional great discount, particularly on Apple Watches and iPads. Those especially crop up during Prime Day. You can also expect Walmart to match Amazon pricing (and vice versa) where possible on Prime Day. Walmart, like Apple itself, has historically offered gift cards on top of new iPhone purchases (with activation) during Black Friday. Walmart doesn’t directly sell MacBooks, and we recommend against purchasing one from any third-party sellers that might list MacBooks on the Walmart marketplace.
Best Target Apple deals
Target offers its own sale pricing on aging but current iPads and both current and last-generation Apple Watches, sometimes during everyday sales but especially during Prime Day. Target’s Apple sale prices typically match the discounts at other major stores, but if you’re a RedCard holder, you can save an additional 5%—not a huge discount, but enough to offset some sales tax. Like Walmart, Target doesn’t sell MacBooks or iMacs, but generally you can find accessories such as iPad keyboard cases, the AirPods, and the Apple Pencil in addition to the iPad and iPad Pro tablets, the HomePod, and the Apple TV. Target also offers Black Friday gift card specials on an iPhone with activation; this is a typical promotion available from a number of retailers, though, so you should choose a store where you get the best gift card value and you’re most likely to use it.
Best Apple deals from Best Buy
Outside of the Apple Store itself, you’ll find that the largest variety of Apple gear available at a major chain is at Best Buy, as the electronics giant, unlike some of its competitors, sells Apple laptops and desktops. Best Buy also has the most regular and heavily advertised Apple sales throughout the year, though only some of those sales offer pricing worth your time. Look out for deals on iPads and Apple Watches during Prime Day—the bargains will be as good as those of competitors. Accessory prices will be, too; Best Buy often discounts the HomePod, for instance. Where Best Buy differentiates itself from the competition is in MacBooks, with regular deals on both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines. The discounts usually aren’t massive, especially for new models—the recent MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are typically available for $50 to $200 off, depending on the full price—but occasionally toward the end of a MacBook generation we see even more significant discounts.
Prime Day Deals on Apple gift cards
You’ll occasionally see discounts on gift cards for the iTunes and App Stores at any retailer that sells them—except Apple, of course. We’ve never seen discounts on gift cards for Apple’s retail stores, though.
But store gift cards do pop up as extras when you buy something else. Apple is notorious for providing gift cards instead of knocking down the price of gear for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and back-to-school promos (which is why we recommend you look elsewhere if you want Apple stuff for cheap-ish). But Apple isn’t the only retailer that runs such deals: Target and Walmart, for instance, have offered similar gift card incentives during the holidays.
Most people would rather save money than receive a store gift card, but if you’re really interested in securing the newest iPhone (and if you happen to run into one of these deals), you might as well get a gift card out of it. Receiving a card doesn’t feel as good as scoring a low price on an iPhone, but both Target and Walmart offer a wide selection of inventory—you won’t have trouble spending the money, even if it’s on groceries for the next month.
What about deals on refurbished Apple iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks?
Buying a refurbished item—one that has been returned or otherwise repaired—directly from Apple is a great way to save money. “Apple’s refurbished products are every bit as reliable as new ones, and almost always cosmetically indistinguishable,” says our writer Nick Guy. They also come with a full one-year Apple warranty and are eligible for the optional AppleCare extended warranty.
But if you see a too-good-to-be-true price on an iPhone, an iPad, or a MacBook on a third-party site, it’s likely to be a unit that has been refurbished by a company other than Apple. Such a deal can feel a little sketchy, and it’s probably best to steer clear, especially for a purchase with a hefty price tag. “With the exception of refurbished products that Apple itself sells, refurbs usually have a shorter warranty than new models and no guarantee of quality,” Nick warns.