How to Turn Off In-App Purchases on Your iPhone

Avoid a surprisingly high iTunes bill

woman with confused expression looking at cell phone

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If you've ever played a super-addictive game like Candy Crush Saga, you'll be intimately familiar with in-app purchasing – and all the money you can find yourself spending to keep your game going.

What You Need to Know About In-App Purchases

Many iPhone apps allow you to buy additional features, functionality, content, in-game expansions or resources, or character upgrades. They let you do this from within the app, rather than going to a separate store, using in-app purchases.

Having the option of in-app purchasing can be useful and fun (and it's an important way for app developers to make the money they need to keep making great apps), but "useful" and "fun" won't be the first words that come to mind if you buy things without realizing you're doing it. If you do buy without meaning to, you can rack up a pretty hefty iTunes bill.

And if you have a child using your iOS device and he or she rings up huge in-app purchase charges without asking you, you could have some unexpected expenses to deal with.

You can turn off the ability to buy within apps to prevent this from happening.

These instructions apply to devices running iOS 12 and higher.

How to Turn off In-App Purchases on iOS

To turn off in-app purchasing, follow these steps:

  1. From your home screen, tap the Settings app.

    Settings app in iOS
  2. Tap General.

    How to restore an iPhone
  3. Tap Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions.

    Turn off in-app purchases on iPhone
  4. Move the Content & Privacy Restrictions slider to on/green.

    Turn off in-app purchases iPhone
  5. When you do this, you'll set a restrictions passcode, which is a 4-digit password that locks certain functions of the iOS device. Choose a passcode you'll be sure to remember, but don't share it with people you don't want making purchases. If they know your passcode, they can re-enable in-app purchases. Enter the passcode twice to set it.

    If you're turning off in-app purchasing because a child uses the iPhone, make sure the passcode isn't the same as the one you use to unlock the device.

  6. Tap iTunes & App Store Purchases > In-app Purchases > Don't Allow.

    Turn off in-app purchases on iPhone
  7. If you change your mind and later want to restore the ability to make in-app purchases, come back to this screen and change the position of the slider. 

How to Identify In-App Purchases In Your iTunes Account

You may have some charges on your iTunes bill that you don't recognize, but how can you be sure that they're from in-app purchases?

If you're viewing your account via the iTunes Store, follow these steps: 

  1. Under the Account menu, click on View My Account and enter the password for your Apple ID.

    Turn off in-app purchases on iPhone
  2. In the Purchase History section, click See All.

    Turn off in-app purchases on iPhone
  3. Review the recent purchases for ones that look suspicious or unfamiliar.

How to Request a Refund for In-App Purchases

In the past, your success or failure with contesting in-app purchases was a toss-up. After all, there's no way for Apple to know that the purchases were made accidentally by a 6-year-old rather than a 36-year-old who now wants to get out of paying the bill for them.

But Apple has made the process easier. To request a refund, follow the instructions on this Apple web page. You'll need to have your order number (which you can find using the instructions in the previous section). 

You can't guarantee you'll get every purchase refunded (for instance, if Apple sees that you have a habit of buying and then asking for your money back, they're less likely to give it to you), but it never hurts to try.

Apple used to provide an option to control your kids' spending on in-app purchases and at the iTunes and App Stores. Unfortunately, Apple discontinued the iTunes Allowance feature in 2016. Your best bet for controlling kids' spending now is to use Family Sharing, which lets you approve kids' purchases before they go through.