iTunes Store Had Its Panties in a Major Twist Last Night

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iTunes Store Unable to Process Purchases

I was in book buying mode on the iBookstore on my iPad mini last night. I bought Hamlet: The Shakesperience and another title, and wanted to purchase a couple more. But the iTunes Store decided maybe I shouldn’t, or rather I couldn’t. When I went to purchase a 3rd book I was greeted with this error message:

The iTunes Store is unable to process purchases at this time. Please try again later.

At first I didn’t worry much about this error. I thought it was likely some sort of iTunes Store server strain related issue and guessed it might resolve itself quickly. So I tried again after a few minutes – and got the same error. Then I tried a different book – still the same error. I left it for around an hour and tried again – same result.

I rebooted the iPad, and signed out and back into my iTunes account within the iBooks app – still no change and the same error when trying to buy a book. Just for grins, I tried buying an app in the App Store and a single in the iTunes Store. Both of those purchases went through just fine – leaving me a little baffled, as this seemed to rule out both a general sort of server issue on iTunes and a general problem with my iTunes account.

At that point it was time for some Googling, and depressingly I discovered numerous Apple support community threads from folks afflicted with this issue – ranging back several years and with a lot of entries from just the last few months too.

I read through a number of those threads and found one from November of 2012 that was pretty close to my own circumstances (including that the person with the problem used Paypal as their iTunes Store payment method). Per the suggested solution in that discussion I went to iTunes on my iMac and under my account settings I changed my payment method from Paypal to None, saved the setting, quit iTunes, went back into it, and edited my payment method again – adding back the same Paypal account. I then rebooted my iPad again, manually quit the iBooks app from the Multitasking Bar, and reopened iBooks. And … no change, nearly the same error – though a little longer this time:

The iTunes Store is unable to process purchases at this time. Credit card processing is temporarily unavailable. You may continue to browse the store. Please try to make your purchase later.

I tried signing out of the iTunes store on the iMac, quitting iTunes, reopening the app and signing back in. No change. I tried removing the Paypal payment method and re-adding it again. No change.

By this time it was getting fairly late and I gave up for the night.

This morning I tried a book purchase again and got prompted for my Apple ID password twice rather than the standard one-time entry. Then I got a new error stating that my Paypal account could not be verified, that there was a billing problem with a previous purchase, and that I needed to update my payment method. In the iTunes Store on my Mac under my account and the payment method area it noted that a previous purchase had failed and that the iTunes / Paypal billing agreement had been canceled (thanks a bunch iTunes). It prompted me to submit valid payment information.

I updated my payment method yet again in iTunes on the Mac – and Voila it finally worked and I bought the two books I was after.

Then after just a few minutes I got an email from Paypal – noting some abnormal activity on my account and notifying me that the account was suspended. I had to spend a little time updating security settings online and speaking to Paypal by phone to get my account re-activated. Thanks again iTunes Store.

I wish I could say something along the lines of ‘So the best way to deal with this error is …’ – but I just don’t see much logic at all in how this went down. I made absolutely zero change to my iTunes account in between successfully buying two iBooks and minutes later being rejected when trying to buy others. I could buy an app with the same iTunes account. I could buy a single with the same iTunes account. I removed and re-added the exact same Paypal account, last night and today.

So far I can’t come up with anything better than placing this is in the ‘Twilight Zone’ category of iTunes Store screwups. If any of you have better suggested fixes or insight to add on this issue, I’d be fascinated to hear it.

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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5 thoughts on “iTunes Store Had Its Panties in a Major Twist Last Night

  1. I’ve run into similar situations. Usually though because it’s because I’ve forgotten to make a credit card payment by a day or two, or my card is maxed and all of a sudden it’s the end times. So I’ve changed the way I make purchases. First of all I find it way too easy to spend myself into oblivion without even knowing it. So now I buy iTunes cards at Best Buy or other places and redeem them from my iPad. Now I don’t make any purchases unless I have a credit on my account. Helps to get my credit card balance down too.

    • That’s the thing though. My payment method has always been Paypal, and there was no shortage of funds. And purchases with the exact same account went through fine in the App Store and iTunes Music store.

  2. Go to Apple’s Support site. Look for iTunes support. Submit your issue and you will get some help. They’ve always helped me resolve these sorts of issues.

    • When you need support specifically on issues with the iTunes Store you can’t speak to them by phone, even Apple techs can’t speak to them direct. It takes 24 hours and more to even get an initial ‘So it appears your problem is X’ email reply from them. Basically, it sucks dealing with that particular area of Apple Support.

  3. I just had the same issue – for a few days – and I finally (after reading this) went to paypal through itunes and I had to ‘authorize a payment agreement’ and voila – it now works.
    (Now if I can finally figure out why I can’t send email from my icloud email, all will be good)