Redeeming iTunes gift cards to use with free-to-play games

Adding credit without registering a bank card

One of the best present ideas for the iPhone and iPad owner are iTunes gift cards. These are used to purchase any digital content from music, books apps and games on the App Store without the need of a credit or debit card. That includes things like gems for Clash of Clans and The Simpsons Tapped out!Although you have probably seen those colourful iTunes vouchers at the tills of many retailers, they are also available online with the option to send them as an email gift to someone else; meaning you can buy them from your couch after reading this.

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Perhaps not seen as the first choice to pay for content on Apple’s digital stores, iTunes gift cards are a great option to load up an account with credit and set a spending allowance. Guessing from the face of the shop assistant, it must be kids and parents mostly that are after them. If you are paying for the content of more than one device in the household, buying a couple of small denomination gift cards is ideal to avoid having banking information protected by a some of weak passwords.

There’s only that much you can do to protect young users from micro-transactions in games pestering them with prompts to pay — loading an account with credit and choosing when to spend can be a learning exercise. Using iTunes gift cards is also a good idea for devices that are generally shared in the household and other people have access to them without supervision. There is some expensive content on both iTunes and the App Store that could lead to unwanted surprises.

Something I have discovered recently is that some shops run some promotions with iTunes gift cards. I was really surprised to see offers up to 20% without requiring you to buy more than what you initially intended, so it’s really worth looking for some of the latest offers on website specialised in deals and voucher codes. Here in the UK it looks like a decent number of national chains have had iTunes gift cards on offer before at specific retail locations. I recommend looking some an online deal to save you a trip to the shop in case they have run out of the staff are not aware of the promotion.

Redeeming the code on an iOS device

If you are a parent the quickest method is to log in with the Apple ID credentials from a PC or Mac and redeem the credit on iTunes directly. Once you are there you can also take the time to check how the previous credit was spent.

If you prefer to do it on the device itself, this can be done on the App Store app. Simply launch the app, select Featured on the bottom tab bar and scroll all the way down. Once you have reached the bottom there is a button called Redeem that will take you to the iTunes gift card and promotional code section.

Now you get two options depending on the type of voucher you have. The newest gift cards that have a rectangle around the scratching area can be scanned using the iPhone’s camera. I haven’t found any of those modern ones so the camera scanning didn’t work — I even managed to crash the App Store app trying to scan a code! You can check out this Apple Support entry so see how it looks like.

The second option is to type the code by hand, which can be a bit tedious since it has capital letters mixed with numbers and it’s typically much longer than app promo codes. This is one of those occasions where having the keyboard option to enable caps lock slider would be very convenient.

Note how on the current iOS 7 version the button to redeem on the top right corner tends to look like it’s greyed out, not being able to tap it. It does seem to recognise your touch when you tap on it or even waiting a little bit, scratch code will be recognised and will confirm you have successfully redeemed your code.