Alex Kaloostian

Apple Certified Master Trainer | Systems Integrator | Video Editor | Motion Graphics Artist

Using iTunes without a credit card – redux!

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A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about a little trick to set up iTunes without a credit card. For some reason, it became one of my most popular posts, and still gets hits. But Apple has made a lot of improvements to the iTunes store since then, and now there are many more ways to do it.

The Basics

For starters, you no longer need to jump through hoops, if you simply want to set up an iTunes account without a credit card. just click the “none” option while signing up. Or, if you’re already signed up, go into your account settings, and change the payment to “none”.

In iTunes, click your account name at the top, then choose "Account Info". Or click the Store menu, and "View Account".

In iTunes, click your account name at the top, then choose “Account Info”. Or click the Store menu, and “View Account”.

In the OS X App Store, click "Account" or click the Store menu, and "View My Account".

In the OS X App Store, click “Account” or click the Store menu, and “View My Account”.

Finally, click "Edit" next to your payment info, then click "none".

Finally, click “Edit” next to your payment info, then click “none”.

So how to use the iTunes or App store without a credit card? Easy, just purchase iTunes gift cards and redeem them. I get them at a local warehouse club like BJ’s or Costco to save a couple bucks. You may be able to save even more by going to the gift card trading sites that are popping up all over the web, like Cardpool, GiftcardZen, or CardCash. (Full disclosure: I’m a BJ’s member, I have no favorites, and I get no kickback from any of the above). Or, you can send someone else a gift directly, without having to cut down any plastic gift card trees. Open the iTunes store, and click on Send a Gift.

You can send a gift directly to someone's iTunes account, and even include a message.

You can send a gift directly to someone’s iTunes account, and even include a message.

My boys have iPads, but they’re way too young to be using my credit card. I used to buy a $15 card for each of them, and when it was depleted I’d do it again. That way, even if they crack my password, the worst I am out is $15. Until i found out about…

Allowances

One of the first flexible options Apple added was allowances, which is great if you have kids with iPhones or Macs and you’d like to allow them some freedom, without running up a huge credit card bill. its easy to set up, but its a little bit hidden. Just go to the iTunes store, click Send A Gift, but then click “Learn More About Gifting” on the bottom. Scroll down to the “About Allowances” section and there’s the link.

You can gift $10 to $50 a month.

You can gift $10 to $50 a month.

Here is Apple’s support document with all the details.

Pretty cool, right? If they run out, they will have to wait until the next month. It teaches them about responsibility, and budgeting, or… something. But what if you don’t want the same amount charged every month? What if you want to be able to decide on a case-by-case basis if that “educational” game is worth buying? Well, now there’s the new…

iCloud Family Sharing

Okay, these options still weren’t enough, and on top of that, people were begging, PLEADING for Apple to include a way to connect accounts together, so that people can share apps and songs and not have to buy them again. You could just share your password of course, but that was a bit annoying, and it was a mess when it came time to update your apps and you had to re-authorize them with 2, 3, or more passwords.

In fall of 2014, to coincide with the new iOS8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple introduced iCloud Family Sharing, and this is just what we’ve been waiting for. Sure, there is one downside: it requires you to sign up for not just iTunes, but iCloud as well, which you may not have had plans on doing. (But you totally should! Even if you don’t use Safari, don’t trust the keychain, and need another email address like you need another hole in the head, there’s still automatic photo syncing and Find My iPhone, which is totally worth it and FREE! But sorry, I digress).

So you start by setting up an iCloud account for the head of the household, this will be called the “organizer“. The organizer enters a credit card or other payment method, then invites up to 5 other iCloud accounts to join the family. No, you don’t REALLY have to be family members; They can be coworkers, friends, or anyone. Let’s just be thankful Apple hasn’t run any “framily” commercials, eh?

Here’s another perk: If your kids don’t already have an iCloud account, or they’re too young, you no longer have to lie about their birthdate – iCloud Family Sharing allows you to set up “child” accounts for them that don’t need a separate email. They also won’t be tracked, or have marketing pushed to them, and some other restrictions, so they are COPPA compliant.

Add up to 6 accounts. The organizer is responsible for the payment info and can decide who else is allowed to make purchases.

Add up to 6 accounts. The organizer is responsible for the payment info and can decide who else is allowed to make purchases.

Once accounts are linked together, any account can re-download music, books, movies and apps that were purchased by any of the other accounts, without needing their password. John buys a song, and if Jane is in the family, Jane can download that song, using Jane’s password.

It seems that some Mac apps can't be shared, and I don't know why. But they are in the minority.

It seems that some Mac apps can’t be shared, and I don’t know why. But they are in the minority.

Furthermore, other family members can make a purchase using the organizer’s credit card, OR ask for permission. The organizer will receive an email, with who requested the item, and what it is. The organizer can reply Allow or Deny. You can also designate other members as “parents”. They don’t have access to the credit card, but they can also allow or deny a purchase. It all breaks down like this:

The Organizer enters a credit card number, and can allow others to share his/her purchases.

The Organizer enters a credit card number, and can allow others to share his/her purchases.

A parent can share their purchases as well, and also authorize purchases from other family members.

A parent can share their purchases as well, and also authorize purchases from other family members.

A child shares his/her purchases, and must ask permission of a parent or organizer, before making new ones.

A child shares his/her purchases, and must ask permission of a parent or organizer, before making new ones.

In addition, iCloud Family Sharing allows all family members to track one another in the Find My Friends app, and sets up a shared family Calendar and Reminders list. All of these are optional.

Here’s Apple’s page on Family Sharing.

And that’s about it. Any questions? Anything I missed? Hit me with some feedback, and please share this! I’m going to be making an effort to post more in 2015. I don’t smoke, and going to the gym more is cliche.

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Author: alexkaloostian

I'm a video editor, motion graphics designer and Mac IT consultant in the Boston area.

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