How to Block Costly In-App Purchases on All of Your Apple Devices

Playing PubG Game on iPhone 11 Pro Credit: Roman Kosolapov / Shutterstock
Text Size
- +

Toggle Dark Mode

For some users, in-app purchases can be a headache. Parents may be trying to keep their young kids from spending money on their games, which can end with disastrous $16,000 bill results.

Students may be trying to control their budgets and avoid temptation. Others may be battling gambling addictions or other issues with digital spending.

Basically, a lot of people have valid reasons to turn off in-app purchases on iPhones, iPads, and other devices – especially at certain times of the year.

iOS doesn’t make it obvious how to do this, but there are some very effective methods. Here’s what you can do.

Head Into Screen Time

The most effective way to prevent in-app purchases is hidden within the Screen Time settings (hopefully, Apple will make it a more obvious feature in the future).

  1. Start by unlocking your iOS device and selecting Settings.
  2. Scroll to the Screen Time option and select it.
  3. If this is your first time using Screen Time, you’ll have to set it up, so select Turn On Screen Time to begin.

The first question is whether you are on your own device or setting up app controls on your child’s device. Either way, you’ll get asked to make a special passcode for controlling these particular settings (the child’s version has a few extra questions at this point).

Be prepared to sign in again with your Apple ID and password during this process. If you want to keep yourself from buying anything in apps, have a friend set up the passcode for you.

Turn Off Purchasing Options

With Screen Time set up, it’s time to put in some safeguards.

  1. Select Content & Privacy Restrictions, and enter your shiny new passcode when asked. Make sure Content & Privacy is enabled for this next part.
  2. Now go to the iTunes & App Store Purchases. Here, you will see an option that says In-App Purchases. Select it, then set it to Don’t Allow.

This will prevent purchases from all third-party apps on this device, whether it’s a game, a betting app, a dating app with unlockable features, or anything else. 

Lock Apple’s Store Apps

There is an additional step you should also consider. Preventing app purchases is only designed to work with third-party buying systems, not with Apple’s systems, which means people can still buy things from the iTunes Store or Apple Books. This may not be a concern for some users who are mostly worried about their kids’ games or controlling certain behaviors. Others may want to prevent buying on the device as much as possible. If you want to turn off the ability to buy on Apple’s apps, you’ll have to lock them.

  1. While in Screen Time, go back to Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  2. This time, choose Allowed Apps. This gives you a list of apps that you can uncheck to turn them off.
  3. You will want to choose the iTunes Store specifically and maybe add apps like Books along with it. 

Turn on “Ask to Buy”

Suppose you are preparing a device specifically so kids can’t rack up purchases without you knowing. In that case, there is an alternative that you should consider, especially for older kids that you can trust a bit more with devices and app management.

  1. First, you have to have the Family Sharing plan via Apple. This lets you share a lot of Apple content with up to five other family members and adds parental control options. It’s also totally free, so you can set it up any time without adding extra fees to your bill.
  2. After family sharing is set up, the “organizer” or person in charge of the Family Sharing accounts should sit down at their Mac and head into System Preferences.
  3. There should now be a little Family Sharing icon on the upper right part of the window, which looks like three little people together. Select it, then go to the section that’s called Ask to Buy. This will show all people in Family Sharing, and allow you to enable Ask to Buy for any of them.

With this feature enabled, you’ll get a little notification every time that person wants to make a purchase. You can immediately review key details and choose whether or not to approve it (or wait to make a decision). It’s automatically enabled for anyone with an Apple account who is under 13 and can be enabled up to 18 years old. 

If Necessary, Ask for Refunds

Did someone already make a mistake by purchasing too much from an app? There isn’t always a good solution for this, but this is the way you can ask for a refund, so you should implement this ASAP if you discover a purchasing mistake.

  1. Head over to Apple’s page for reporting a problem and sign in. This should give you a list of all purchases recently made on that account.
  2. Find the purchase that you really don’t want, and select the Report feature next to the purchase.
  3. You can then choose why you want a refund for this purchase and submit it.

This does not guarantee a refund at all – it’s still Apple’s choice, and the company doesn’t always hand out refunds, even for large amounts, especially if time has passed or there’s suspicious activity on the account. But it’s certainly worth a try.

Social Sharing