How to prevent people from making In-App Purchases

By , Apr 2, 2016

iOS 9 disable In-App Purchases teaser 001

Every time you buy a rare sword for your hero, a full app unlock, content subscription or other intangibles in apps and games, you’re interacting with Apple’s In-App Purchase system. The beauty of this feature lies in its deep integration with Apple’s ecosystem and the iTunes billing mechanism.

It can also pose a hazard for it’s easy to get carried away and ring up a big bill for purchases made within apps. To save us from racking up lots of in-app purchases, Apple’s provided a way to restrict them.

In this tutorial, we’ll teach you how to disable or restrict the In-App Purchase mechanism on your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac and Apple TV to prevent unintentional or unauthorized purchases.

In-App Purchases: to restrict or disable completely?

Apps that offer extra content and/or subscriptions through the In-App Purchase mechanism show “Offers In-App Purchases” or “In-App Purchases” on their pages in the App Store storefronts on the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac and Apple TV. Folks who use the Family Sharing feature should keep in mind that their in-app purchases aren’t shared with family members.

In-App Purchases can be disabled with Restrictions on an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Apple TV. On desktop, they’re managed using OS X’s Parental Controls and with Restrictions in iTunes.

In-App Purchases are managed separately on every device you own. Disable them and attempting to make an in-app purchase will yield a message saying such purchases are not allowed on this device.

On your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Apple TV, in-app purchasing can be completely turned off with Restrictions. On the Mac, however, you have the choice to A) completely disable iTunes Store, which will also bar you from downloading free stuff or B) remove a 15-minute password window to be prompted for your Apple ID password for all types of purchases, in-app purchases included.

How to disable In-App Purchases on iPhone and iPad

1) Go to Settings → General → Restrictions on your device.

2) Type your restrictions passcode to unlock this feature.

enter passcode enable restrictions

If you have not used Restrictions before, tap Enable Restrictions at the top. Then, create a restrictions passcode that you’ll need to adjust restricted settings.

Tip: The restrictions passcode should be different from the passcode for unlocking your iOS device. Forgetting it will make it impossible to adjust restricted settings.

3) You should now see what’s allowed on your device. To disable in-app purchasing for this device, slide the In-App Purchase switch to the OFF position.

iOS 9 how to disable In-App Purchases iPhone screenshot 001

4) Exit Settings.

Tip: To restrict other purchases, turn off the iTunes Store, iBooks Store and Installing Apps in Restrictions, or remove your payment method from the Apple ID account you use to purchase stuff on Apple’s app and content stores.

How to disable In-App Purchases on Apple TV

1) Go to Settings → General → Restrictions. If that’s your first time here, select Restrictions to turn the feature on. Then, create a four-digit passcode and select OK.

2) Under the iTunes Store heading, choose your level or protection for purchases, rentals and in-app purchases made on the iTunes Store and tvOS App Store. You can select Allow to lift all purchasing restrictions, Restrict to require a simpler four-digit restrictions passcode for purchases rather than your Apple ID password or Block to disable all purchases.

Tip: Settings for Purchase & Rental apply to App Store downloads, content subscriptions, in-app purchases and iTunes movie, TV show and music purchases.

Password Settings Require Password Download Apple TV

As pictured, in Settings → Accounts → iTunes & App Store → Password Settings you can select Require Password under the Purchases & In-App Purchases heading to keep in-app purchasing functionality enabled but protected with a more complex Apple ID password.

How to disable In-App Purchases on Mac

OS X’s Parental Controls let you completely disable the iTunes Store and iBooks Store, but you cannot specifically turn off the In-App Purchase mechanism on the Mac.

The way we’re going to work around this restriction is we’re going to change a setting in System Preferences so that your Mac always asks for your Apple ID password when you buy apps on the Mac App Store or extra content in apps.

1) Open System Preferences on your Mac.

2) Click App Store.

3) Click a pop-up menu next to “Purchases and In-app Purchases” underneath the Password Settings heading and select Always Require in the menu.

OS X El Capitan System Preferences App Store Password Settings Always REquire Mac screenshot 001

Now Mac App Store purchases and extra content bought in apps through the In-App Purchase mechanism must be authorized with your Apple ID password.

4) If you’d like to turn the iTunes Store off on this Mac, launch iTunes, choose Preferences in the iTunes menu, click Restrictions, tick the box next to iTunes Store below the Allow heading and then click OK to save the changes.

OS X El Capitan iTunes Preferences Restrictions Disable iTunes Store Mac screenshot 001

Tip: To disallow making further changes to iTunes Restrictions, click the lock icon in the lower-left corner of the window and enter the administrator password for your computer.

As evidenced by the screenshot, iTunes lets you optionally disallow access to iTunes U and disable Podcasts, Internet radio, Apple Music, Apple Music Connect and Shared Libraries on a per-Mac basis.

5) To disable access to the iBooks Store (and the iTunes Store), go to System Preferences → Parental Controls, click the lock icon and then enter an administrator name and password. If needed, create a restricted user account on this Mac and click Enable Parental Controls.

OS X El Capitan System Preferences Parental Controls Stores Mac screenshot 001

Now select the user account in the list, click the Stores tab and then optionally tick the boxes next to iTunes Store, iTunes U and iBooks Store in the Disable section to prevent this Mac user account from using the aforesaid stores.

Disabling password prompts for free downloads

Now that you’ve disabled in-app purchasing across your devices, improve the experience by getting rid of password prompts for free downloads.

Our tutorials provide step-by-step instructions for manually disabling pesky password prompts for free downloads in the Mac App Storefree iBooks Store downloads on the Mac and free downloads made on your Apple TV.

Wrapping it up

If you’re a parent, disabling the In-App Purchase mechanism on each of the devices you own is the best way I know to prevent your children from racking up a huge iTunes bill when using apps and games on your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac or Apple TV.

Speaking of which, setting an iTunes allowance for your kids is an excellent way to put a cap on their iTunes spending. Accidentally bought something within an app, you say?

Don’t worry, Apple’s got your back. Apple now refunds unwanted In-App Purchases and all you need to do is go through the process of requesting an App Store refund from your device.

Need help? Ask iDB!

Were these tips helpful to you? Feel free to share your own tips in the comments. Not sure how to do certain things on your Apple device? Let us know at and a future tutorial might provide a solution.

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