How To Turn Off In-App Purchases on the iPad (and iOS)

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If you’re a veteran iPad / iOS user you may want to look away as this is a very basic tip. But it’s one that had escaped my notice (despite it being right in front of my eyes) for some time, so I’m hoping it may be helpful to some of you.

If you have kids who use iPads or other iOS devices in your household (their own, or your shared ones), you may well have come across one of the App Store’s money pits: In-App purchases. My daughter is only 7.5 and she has racked up some silly numbers paying for power-ups and the like in a few games that shall remain nameless to protect the guilty. My wife and I have preached to her many times about how we don’t want her playing games that require frequent and expensive In-App purchases in order to advance in the game. We want her playing games where you make your way forward by skill and perseverance, not by putting a serious dent in our iTunes account.

Despite the speeches, we’ve still had some mishaps with In-App purchases, and we’ve had to put a few more draconian measures in place on the devices our daughter uses. In some of the iOS games these in-app extras can add up to some serious expenditure …

InappPurchasesOne measure that I had not taken until yesterday, because I had somehow not noticed it there among the options, is to just turn off in-app purchases altogether. Yesterday I finally spotted this lovely little setting option, and applied it immediately.

So .. if you have kiddos who get tempted by extra mojo in We Rule or other similar shortcuts within games, here’s how you disable In-App purchase:

– Go to the Settings app and tap on the General section in the left-hand pane

– Then tap on Restrictions over in the right pane

– If you have not already done so, start by enabling restrictions, via the bar at the top right. You’ll have to enter and confirm a four-digit passcode when you do this.

– Once restrictions are enabled, you’ll want to look at the first entry in the third section of the Restrictions pane – In-App Purchases under the Allowed Content section, and tap to turn it off.

That’s it. Once you’ve done this, your kids will have to manufacture their own mojo or get your permission for any one-off exceptions that may make sense.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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28 thoughts on “How To Turn Off In-App Purchases on the iPad (and iOS)

  1. I enabled restrictions some few weeks ago to keep my 1.5 year-old from deleting apps. It works great.

    I also turned off the ability for someone to make changes to Location and Accounts, so if my iPad (or iPhone) were stolen I could inhibit a thief from impairing my ability to use the Find my iPhone app.

    Recently I added a few apps and couldn’t figure out what was wrong because they couldn’t locate me, and that’s when it dawned on me that each time I add an app I have to go into the Restrictions settings and turn on Locations, go back to the new app and enable Location sharing, then go back to Restrictions and turn them off.

    • That may prevent an idiot thief but anyone that knows about the “Find My iPad/iPhone” feature would also know that they can just reset the device to prevent it from being tracked. I wish Apple would add a feature to prevent a reset without first entering a password. Also, I would like apple to prompt you for the restriction password instead of having to go to the settings all the time to view something that is restricted.

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  4. “Settings > General > Restrictions > Allowed Content > In-App Purchases > On/Off”.

    Would you select “on” or “off” to disable in-app purchases?
    Is it just me, or is this option ambiguously worded?
    On first encounter, it’s unclear which setting enables in-app purchases.

    The only way I can see to test the setting is to attempt a purchase.
    I can’t even tell whether the correct setting will truly disable erroneous purchases without (costly) experimentation.

    The Apple support documents provide no clarification. It might help to think of the “Restrictions” menu heading in terms of “Parental Controls” to interpret what the settings mean. See, e.g. Article: HT4213 “iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch: Understanding Restrictions.”

    The ambiguity is scandalous.

    • Yeah, I am sick of this. I have a six year old. I turned on restrictions thinking that would cover in-app as well. Not so. I also wasn’t sure whether on or off was the right position. The ambiguity of this IS scandalous. This is a trap that Apple should bare more responsibility for. I am a little wiser now. Starting to wish I had not engaged Apple in my family life. Perhaps next time I’ll try the opposition. For the second time our family suffer the inability to purchase the weeks groceries. Am over it.

  5. Thanks! Made this change just as an added layer of protection against accidental clicks. No child involved, just don’t want to risk misclicks.

    • 1. Touch and hold your finger on the folder you want to rename until it starts to jiggle.
      2. Touch the folder again to view its contents.
      3. The folder name is now editable. Rename your folder.
      4. Press the physical “Home” button to save your changes.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you. My Grandson was visiting last week and spent a few extra $$, too. Now that won’t happen again. I knew there must be a way to lock it, but hadn’t found the time to figure it out.

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  8. This is a GREAT feature! If I change my mind and DO want to make an in-app purchase, do I then just have to enter in my 4 # passcode or something?

  9. My credit card registered with my App purchase expired, when I updated my new credit card details with App purchase, it said that “my payment process is temporarily unavailable” . Can some one advise what I should do in order to reinitiate the payment process. Much appreciated.

    • This means you owe Apple money. It happened to me. Just go onto iTunes store on your computer, sign in and check your receipt.

  10. Just cost me £70 of in app purchases made by my 5 year old. Thanks for this tip. In app purchases are now off. Though I still feel like puking after spending 70 quid on diamonds for some fairies. :-(

    • I know what you mean! Some of these in app purchases are crazy. You’d think the would require a password to buy them. The fact that kids play them and some of them are very young and don’t know what the’re doing. It’s just another scam.

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  12. Thank goodness for this! My daughter couldn’t stop herself from buying Playfirst Diner Dash,Wedding Dash venues and boost ups in the game after I had told her not to do so and ended up raking up $30 dollars of in app purchases. She was very upset at first, but I started a reward system with her now. If she wants a venue or boost up in a game that requires money, it’ll come out of her allowance . And I buy the item she wants so now I feel much better the fact that she earns what is being bought. :) Thanks for the tip!

  13. thanks for the advise….better late than never and VERY VERY much appreciated. I had a call from my bank about unusual purchases on my credit card that was in itunes account info. My 7 yr old thought he had $20 itunes credit to spend….my bill was $ 2100.00 for a few hours playing over 2 days….IN APP PURCHASES !!!!!!!!!!! even though most of the games were 3 or 4 yr + it really is not appropriate…itunes should limit these apps…ban them actually…..we have learnt the hard way…pls spread the word on this money making scam. We the uneducated in the basics are all at risk….thanks again !!

    • Hi there i have ipad 1 and dont see the same list of choices as on your image i have restricts but not in app purchases any clues

  14. Thank you….. Little guy just did an in app purchase…found out via email from iTunes. Quick search gave me your site. Thanks again….have turned on restrictions.

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  16. My daughter spent over £120, mainly through making purchases on The Littlest Pet Shop. I was absolutely bewildered and couldn’t figure out why 50% of the time, she could download apps or make purchases in existing apps without having to enter a password. This is so unethical it’s unbelievable and makes me feel disgusted every time a glance at my Ipad!