How to fill up your App Store credit using your iPhone's camera

Scanning the codes on iTunes Gift Cards

Right before the holidays I treated myself to a big iTunes gift card. It's easy to see these type of vouchers as presents without much personality, but for people buying on the App Store frequently, these are very convenient. The benefit is twofold: as opposed to paying for each purchase with the credit card associated with your Apple ID, buying gift cards when they have store discounts (you get 20% offers from time to time), saves you quite a chunk. Then you also get to control your compulsive App Store spending and avoid surprises with in-app-purchases.

The reason why I write about redeeming iTunes gift cards again is not only because I've run out of credit but because I bought a new one with the new physical design that makes redeeming so much quicker than before. Let me backtrack a bit in case you didn't get to read the original story. Pre-paid vouchers for the App Store are plastic scratch cards with a 12 digit code combining capital letters and numbers. To redeem these, you need to type them carefully on a iOS device or with a physical keyboard on a computer via the iTunes app. The method involving the small iPhone keyboard is especially prone to errors and it has always annoyed me a bit — by the time you have remembered how to do the caps lock you have entered it three times incorrectly.

The cool thing is that from last year, new iTunes gift cards can be read using the iPhone's camera, filling the code automatically for you. Since I have only used digital codes (delivered via email), I only got to try it now and it worked perfectly; it was so quick I barely had the time to take a screenshot and realise what was going on.

You can recognise the new iTunes gift card model by the box around the hidden code. The one I got didn't have the typical scratch material but more of a sticker you have to peel off. The redeem window on iOS 7 is accessible on the App Store app → Featured tab → scroll to the bottom, which already has some indications.

When you tap on the 'Use Camera' button and enter your Apple ID password to confirm — no fingerprint for this — the code on the card will be recognised immediately. The code and the rectangle surrounding it will be highlighted on the iPhone's display and will turn green as the system validates your purchase. Mine was picked on an odd orientation and with poor lighting, making me extra impressed by the camera recognition capability.

Just thought this experience was worth sharing as an example of Apple improving things that can be a little tedious. I can see how iTunes gift cards are used by a young audience, so the process of adding credit to an account can be now more fun for the little ones and more straight-forward for parents.