In-App Purchases: How to be a Smart Consumer

Categories: Budgeting, Financial Planning, General Tips

In-app purchases  are becoming more and more common these days. There are plenty of apps where you can find yourself spending money within a couple of quick taps without even thinking about the fact that you’re doing it. We’re highlighting the good, the bad and what you can do to be more aware as a consumer. 

The Good

  • There are countless apps out there, including games, audio books, podcasts, news services, fitness programs, and many more. Lots of apps start out with a free trial version so users can try it and then upgrade if they like it. Try the free version; if you get hooked, you can pay for a premium account to access a wider variety of the app’s offerings. 
  • App stores are updated daily, giving consumers new recommendations as to what is worth their time. They also go a step further and separate apps into their own sections, as well as break those sections into free and paid apps.
  • Many apps can provide a sense of community, such as meeting friends within a game, having chat rooms for people listening to a podcast, or other ways that encourage human connections.
  • Many popular apps have huge entertainment value – that’s why they’re so popular. There’s nothing wrong with having fun on your phone. You just have to be aware of the downsides.

The Bad 

  • Some apps require you to start paying in order to advance their functionality. At that point, you probably know that this isn’t an app you want to be investing your time or money into anymore. Delete it. 
  • Some apps also try to be sneaky with a subscription model instead of a one-time payment structure. They try to trick you into monthly payments without your knowledge. Make sure you read the fine print and details before clicking forward.
  • There are lots of apps out there, including many news and cooking apps, that use psychological psychological techniques to get you totally addicted before hitting you with a paywall. Unfortunately, it’s more common than you might think. Approach these apps with a healthy dose of realism. 
  • Before you know it, these apps can become incredibly time-consuming. Keep an eye on the clock while you’re in the app so you don’t lose a whole evening to a small screen. 

What You Can Do 

  • Many apps will include in the app store description whether it has paid add-ons throughout. Make sure you read the full app description before downloading so you’re aware of what to expect.
  • Lots of users will leave detailed reviews in the app store, so take the time to read some of those. Users will typically indicate at what point in the app they had to start paying for it, which is helpful information to have.
  • There’s no need to assume that all apps are after your money. For instance, The Summit’s apps were developed to improve member experience and offer convenience, unlike some of these apps which are looking for you to spend money. You just have to be cognizant as a consumer and pay attention to what the app is asking you to do. If you start to feel uncomfortable, it’s time to delete that app off your phone.
  • Think carefully about where you’re spending your money. When you track your spending, you’ll notice trends on where your money goes. Set a limit on how much you’ll spend on in-app purchases in a given month and stick to it. You might also consider tying your apps to a debit card that’s linked with your checking account so you can more easily manage spending and any irregularities.