How to block in-app purchases on Android

Martin Brinkmann
May 8, 2013
Updated • May 8, 2013
Google Android

Android developers have multiple options at hand to monetize their apps. They can sell it right away for a price in Google's Play Store, or, implement in-app purchases. These come in many different forms, from adding new levels to a game to new features or virtual items or extras that help you out in the game.

I like how Valve is handling in-app purchases in Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. Only cosmetic items can be bought and they do not give players who buy them an advantage in game. Some app and game developers on the other hand build their applications around this monetization model. Users are tempted to make purchases, for instance if the game cannot be completed without them or if other players who made purchases get advantages in multiplayer.

While you may be able to restrict yourself from making in-app purchases, your children or other users may not be able to do so.

Researchers estimate that unauthorized in-app purchases have reached 30 million Pounds alone in the UK, and the situation is likely identical in many other countries.

It takes a couple of clicks to make a purchase. Below is a screenshot of an in-app purchase in the free to play game The Sims from Electronic Arts. Yes, it is more expensive than most full price games.

google play android in-app purchases

Here is how you prevent your children or other users from making in-app purchases:

  • Open the Play Store on your Android device.
  • Tap on the menu button of the phone and select Settings from the options.
  • Locate the Use Password to restrict purchases option and tap on it to enable it. Depending on the Play Store version, it may be named "Use Pin for purchases" alternatively.
  • If it is disabled, locate the Set or change Pin option here and tap on it to set a pin that needs to be entered then if purchases are being made in Play Store (which includes in-app purchases).

Once you have set the option, a password needs to be entered before in-app purchases are made.

Google Play Store Tips:

  • If you enter the password to authorize a purchase, it will be valid for 30 minutes. What this means is that you won't be asked to enter your password in that timeframe. Keep that in mind and the phone away from others for that time period to avoid additional purchases from being made.
  • You can disable password protection using the same settings menu as well. Just tap on the Password entry here and enter your current password to disable the requirement to enter a password each time you want to make a purchase.

Tutorials & Tips

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  1. Coyote said on May 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    please excuse the rant but that price is ridiculous. And though there are even worse offenders, this is EA a (somewhat) reputable company people would normally trust. To abuse customers by charging outrageous fees for slight improvements/cash/content is embarrassing to see. I don’t have a problem with games that allow people to willingly pay $100 for items that with proper gameplay and advancement would unlock for free. It’s games that lock content that is required, or content that you can’t get otherwise.

    And the option to spend $100 or more on anything in a game is irresponsible programming, it should be banned as a form of extortion.

  2. Taomyn said on May 8, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Unfortunately Google needs to set this back to PIN rather than password – if you’re sensible and use a complex password for your Google account, this is a right pain in the backside. By all means make it a minimum of say 5 digits for the PIN, but at least give me back this choice.

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