My Child Spent $800 on In-App Purchases. What Now?

Free apps and digital games can provide hours of entertainment for kids. And while you don’t want them to spend too much time absorbed in their screens, it can be convenient to have that kind of entertainment available while you’re busy cooking dinner or when you need your child to be entertained during a long drive. At least, it can be convenient until you end up with a huge bill that you weren’t expecting. But if your child is using only free apps, where did the charges come from? Take a look at what you need to know about in-app purchases. 

What Are In-App Purchases?

In-app purchases are purchases that you make while you’re using an app or during gameplay. For example, during a game, you might have the option to buy new weapons, armor, or game currency as you play. While these things might not be necessary to continue playing the game, they may help you advance faster through the game or unlock levels that might not be available otherwise. 

It can be easy to spend more money than you mean to on in-app purchases, even for adults and teenagers. If an app costs money just to download and install, you’ll probably stop to think about whether you really need it and want to spend the money on it. But when you’re already in the middle of using the app and you’re suddenly faced with a decision to spend money, it can be harder to stop and think. And because you’re using digital money to buy digital goods, it may not feel as much like a real expense as, for example, buying food in a grocery store. The effect is similar to using chips in a casino – it’s easy to go overboard because the chips don’t feel like real money – but your bank account still gets hit when you lose. 

And if adults and older teenagers can end up overspending on in-app purchases, it’s easy to understand how younger children, who may not really have a good grasp on what things cost, what the family finances are like, or how long it takes to earn the money they’re spending can easily end up racking up huge bills on in-app purchases. You can find a number of news stories over the years since in-app purchases have become more common detailing these kinds of stories. 

Can You Get Your Money Back?

Is it too late by the time you receive a large bill for in-app purchases?

If you’re looking at a huge credit card bill or an unexpectedly large bank withdrawal, your biggest question is probably whether or not you can get your money back. The answer is that it depends. 

Some app makers, like Epic Games, offer a form for requesting a refund. You may also be able to request a refund from the app store that the game came from – iTunes, for example. The problem is that if the purchase was made on your account by a person who you allowed to access your account, the provider is not necessarily obligated to provide a refund and may choose not to. This is another reason why these stories sometimes appear in the news. Some parents have found that providers are more willing to consider a refund if the case becomes public, as happened with a parent whose 8-year-old ran up a $6131 bill for in-app purchases. 

Preventing In-App Purchases

Whether or not you’ve been surprised with a large bill for in-app purchases, it’s a good idea to guard against the possibility of this happening in the future. There are several ways to do this. You can set restrictions on the ability to make in-app purchases in the settings of an iPhone or iPad or in the Google Play store if you have an android phone. 

Parental monitoring software can also help you set restrictions on purchases your child can make with their device and alert you to purchases so that they don’t get out of control. To find out more about how parental monitoring software can help you prevent unexpected bills,  get our free trial.