By Jacob Aldrich

Most people who play video games, or have children who play video games, know all about microtransactions, even if they don’t recognize the word. Buying more lives in a game, getting a new avatar skin, or buying points to upgrade your characters abilities are all just a few examples of the many forms that microtransactions take. But sometimes, micro-transactions can build up over time, or all at once, and suddenly hundreds of dollars have been spent, sometimes unbeknownst to the card holder. Here are some things to know about micro-transactions and the effects they can have.

Recently, a mother was shocked to discover that her 6-year-old child had managed to rack up charges of over $16,000 over a summer, by making in-app purchases off a game she would frequent on an iPad. And there are many more smaller instances of hundreds of dollars being casually spent on skins or other items, until someone sees the charges on the credit card statements. Being mindful and keeping track of a few tips can save a lot of stress and hassle for anyone looking to limit spending on micro-transactions for themselves or others.

One very important tip is to not store your credit card information on apps or in games that have a “pay to play” style and incentivize buying things. If you happen to want to buy things, you’ll have to manually add the information every time, which might give you pause before spending. Another tip is if there is a game you know you will spend money on, buy a static gift card with a set amount to make the reality more real about the amount of money you want to spend and to not go over that amount. If you, or a child is using an Apple product, there is also a choice to turn on screen time and in doing so allows for the option to turn off in-app purchases entirely, which could possibly be turned back on when someone proves they can be responsible with their purchases.

Overall, micro-transactions make up a big part of e-commerce and is projected to be over a $100 billion dollar industry by 2027 and can provide with making games more enjoyable. But doing a little bit of responsible bookkeeping and keeping a watchful eye on where money is flowing is important, and can be the difference between a normal statement and one with thousands of dollars’ worth of micro-transactions.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you have experiences with using micro-transactions in games or apps?
  • Have you ever spent more in a statement period than you had realized?
  • Do you feel micro-transactions should be banned for children under a certain age?
  • Is it possible to enjoy games without making in-game payments?

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