In the past few weeks we’ve seen quite a number of desperate mishandling cases, where unfortunate parents found themselves thousands of dollars in debt, thanks to excessive in-app purchases made by their kids. With so many apps marketing as free-to-install but requiring incentives in order to make the game easier to play, few users know how to prevent this money spending frenzy and restrict in-app purchases.

Today, we’re going to show both Android and iOS users how to limit access to their precious credit card accounts, without having to tweak too many settings. The list will contain a couple of conventional methods, like setting a PIN-password for those dangerous purchases or completely shutting down access, but we also have some tricks in mind which should work even against scammers. Moreover, a few words for Windows Phone users will be given at the end.

How to Limit In-App Purchases in iOS?


From what we’ve seen around, iOS is the mobile operating system experiencing the most issues when it comes to under-supervised children buying items from the app store. Be it their parent’s iPhone, iPod or iPad, we’ve seen of cases where kids managed to spend over $2500 in half of hour, on greedy applications which ask for money at every important step. Here’s how to avoid that:

Strengthen Access


The first step that needs to be done is to enable iOS restrictions overall. Once this feature is activated, plenty of new options will appear and owners will have more control over their device. Moreover, it will allow us to do some changes that cannot be undone, without a specific password. Let’s get started:

  1. Simply navigate to Settings -> General ->Restrictions.
  2. Tap the “Enable Restrictions” button on the top.
  3. Pick a brand new PIN, which will be asked on any major change from now on (make sure it’s not something guessable and that it’s different from your lockscreen PIN).

Be careful, as once this PIN has entered, iOS will not request it again in the next 15 minutes. This means that if you tweak some settings, authenticate and then pass the device to your kid, it will be left unprotected for the next quarter of an hour.

Disable In-App Purchases and more


The most straightforward solution is to completely disable the purchase of any in-app item, right from the settings menu.

  1. Once again, go to Settings -> General -> Restrictions.
  2. Scroll down to Allowed Content.
  3. Change the In-App Purchases switch to OFF.

This will forbid anyone using the device to spend credit on miscellaneous products, but you will still be able to install paid applications from the store. If you want to limit this possibility also, switch the Installing Apps button to OFF, from the same menu as above. This will completely remove the App Store from the device, but without affecting installed apps. The same thing can also be applied to iTunes.

Set a Monthly Limitation


Another way would be to a set a monthly allowance that would allow your kids to purchase application, songs or any in-game item, up to a limit. For instance, you can set-up a limit of $20 per month, just to keep them happy, but without having to worry about excessive bills.

This monthly allowance can be set up through iTunes and affects all purchases made on the device. Parents can set up a monthly sum of $10, $20 or up to $50, which will be automatically extracted from the bank count attached. Depending on the settings chosen, this sum can be paid at the beginning of each month or in other fashion. Moreover, if the kid fails to spend the allocated sum, all that remains will migrate and add-up to the next month.

In a few words, allowances can be set-up, managed and afterwards modified pretty easily. The best part is that you can even create a different iTunes account on which you can have all of these extra settings, and filter content based on the appropriate age (sadly, because setting up an allowance requires an Apple ID, limitations will apply to both the iTunes accounts).

How to Configure an Allowance


  1. Sign in to iTunes using the Apple ID and password.
  2. Click on the iTunes Store from the left sidebar.
  3. In the Quick Links section from the right edge, click on Buy iTunes Gifts.
  4. In the newly appeared page, scroll down to the Allowance section and then press on “Set up an allowance now”.
  5. Fill the form with relevant entries, such as your kid’s name and the allowance amount.
  6. Click Continue to finish.

Note: You can also choose here to set this allowance to another Apple ID, if your child has one. This would be a great thing to do, because the allowance will not affect your personal account. When asked for a payment method for the new Apple ID, make sure to choose None. This way when the allowance expires, purchases will no longer be possible.

Tip: To manage an allowance, you will have to go to the settings panel of the iTunes Store and click Manage Allowances. From here, users have the possibility of suspending, removing or changing the current cash amount. Moreover, multiple allowances can be created from the very same menu.

Tip 2: Parents can also pre-define which types of content a child can download, from the same menu where we enabled restrictions (Settings -> General -> Restrictions). Here, in the bottom section under In-App Purchases (by the way, this has to be set to ON this time), you can manually choose the rating filters for Movies, TV Shows, Apps and such.

How to Restrict In-App Purchases on Android?


In Google’s camp, users do not have so many solutions. There are no movable boundaries, no allowance limitations, only a PIN method that secures all purchase made on Google Play and on Amazon’s Appstore. There are different ways to set-up queries for these two services, but we’re going to handle them both:

Secure Purchases on Google Play

  1. On your mobile device, be it tablet or a smartphone, open the Google Play application.
  2. Tap on the Menu button and then enter the Settings panel.
  3. Scroll towards the bottom section and then press the Set or change PIN option.
  4. Now choose a PIN code and re-enter it for confirmation.
  5. Lastly, tick the “Use PIN for purchases” option.

How to Limit the Amazon AppStore

  1. Open the Amazon application, from your device.
  2. Press the Menu button and then go to the Setting section.
  3. In the Parental Controls section, press the “Enable Parental Controls” button.
  4. Confirm your choice using the password or check the “Use PIN” box, if you prefer to use a number.
  5. Enter a new PIN and proceed.

Otherwise, simply advise your children not to purchase anything from the store without your permission and teach them the importance of money. You can also protect your device from unwanted use by choosing a strong lockscreen password and by not sharing it.

The situation is a bit clearer on Windows Phone, where users have only the possibility of exhausting all Microsoft Points loaded on your Live ID account. Extra points can only be purchased using the Live ID and password, as well as the CVV card number. Moreover, Windows Phone 8 comes with Kid’s Corner which solves the issue to a great extent by itself.

Also Read:
Feature Writer

Alex holds an engineering degree in Telecommunications and has been covering technology as a writer since 2009. Customization is his middle name and he doesn’t like to own stock model gadgets. When he’s away from the keyboard, simpler things like hiking, mountain climbing and having a cold drink make his day.