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Terri Mauro

Setting Up an iTunes Account Without a Credit Card

By April 25, 2008

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UPDATE: The iTunes Store now allows users to set up an account using only an allowance, and has made it easier to set up an account with a gift certificate -- plus, Joel in the comments tipped us off to a way to do it without credit or gift card. See my illustrated step-by-steps for instructions on:

As I've written before here, I'm a big fan of iTunes. I like giving songs to my kids as rewards, and for a while I've had in mind that iTunes allowances would be a useful idea for them. Pretty good way to learn how to budget money, and less dangerous than cash in your pocket.

My problem was always the need to set up an iTunes account to send that allowance to, and the need to attach a credit card to that account. When my daughter got her new computer, it seemed like an especially good time to create an account for her. But although, at 18, I think she's ready to manage her own music and balance her own allowance, she's surely not ready for unrestricted access to my credit card.

It took some searching around the iTunes support documents to find the solution, but there is one, and I share it with you now. You'll need a gift card or certificate to do it, so if you don't have one, buy one at a store or print one out from your own account. Be sure to log out of your account after.

Now, click the "Redeem" link in the iTunes store, enter the number on the gift card or certificate, and click "Redeem." Since you're not signed into an account, a sign-in screen will come up -- but it will have a "Create an Account" button off to one side. Click on that.

Enter the information you want to use to set up your child's account. You'll need an e-mail address, different than the one you used for your own account. What I did for my daughter, to give her a feeling of independence, was create a free Gmail account for her. I then went into the "Setting" for her Gmail account, clicked on "Forwarding and POP/IMAP," and set it to forward a copy of all her e-mails to my e-mail address. This way I get to see all her iTunes receipts, along with any other troublesome e-mail she receives. If your child won't be using the e-mail account, you can also set it to delete incoming messages after forwarding them.

Back at iTunes, enter the e-mail address and other information, and hit "Continue." You'll now be at the screen that previously asked for credit-card information -- but this time, it will just ask for name and address, and have credit-card icons at the bottom under "optional." Don't take the option.

Your child will now have a functioning iTunes account funded by whatever you choose to put in it (although you may have to redeem the gift card again to have it show up in the account). If your child goes over the deposited amount, a screen will come up asking for credit-card information. Assuming he or she doesn't have that, the transaction will have to be canceled.

It's been working great so far for us. My daughter blew through all of her birthday gift cards, and now understands that it will be a while before she gets to buy anything else. I'm going to set her up with an allowance in May, but if she spends the whole amount on May 1, that's it until June. I think it will be a good lesson for her. And probably a lot less expensive for me than answering her pleas on a daily basis.

If you have any questions about any of this, ask them in the comments and I'll try to clarify. If you've found another way to accomplish this, please share that as well.

Photo courtesy of Apple
Comments
April 26, 2008 at 11:49 am
(1) Janie says:

You are SOOO smart. I am a big believer in rewards– Who would work for free? I’ve taught kids to walk using Cheerios and swim using coins on the other side of the pool, so using music for one who loves it sounds great. I love getting ideas from more “with it” moms! Janie

July 28, 2008 at 8:35 am
(2) Emily says:

What if you dont want to buy a gift card
since im only 13 i need to do it today befre i go on my holiday tomorow:(

August 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm
(3) David says:

Thank you so much for this information. I was starting to get frustrated…

September 12, 2008 at 10:11 pm
(4) jess says:

what if you dont want to get a gift card? i want to set up an account so that i can use genius on itunes but my mom wont let me use her credit card and i cant buy a gift card…

September 13, 2008 at 9:32 am
(5) specialchildren says:

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any way to do it without a gift card. But you can buy gift cards at the store with cash; I think they make them as low as $10 or $15. I’ve seen them at Target and supermarkets, and I know a lot of other stores have them, too.

September 22, 2008 at 7:19 am
(6) ThatDeadDude says:

If you want to do it without a Gift Card, go into the store without an account, and search for free applications. Try download any one of them, and when it asks you to sign up for an account it gives you the payment option “None”.

November 22, 2008 at 11:37 pm
(7) cassandra says:

that doesnt work i just tried that a million times

November 28, 2008 at 11:22 pm
(8) Heyman says:

If I walked into Wal-Mart and was required to give an imprint of my credit card and was charged a $1 authorization hold to verify that my credit card is active before I could pick up a flyer or go shopping I wouldn’t put up with this. Apple, being the monopoly they are, seems to be able to get away with this and people are okay with it. Basically it comes down to me spending more money because my 14 year old wants a free app.

December 8, 2008 at 10:52 am
(9) dsvmusic says:

Or you could just get your kid their own credit card, the kind specially designed for teens/college students with a low cap.

December 19, 2008 at 7:29 pm
(10) gaby says:

im only 12 and i dont have a thingy or wat evr i got my ipod yesterday and im learing stuff about it so i could knw wat or how 2 use it for x-mas… so now wat do u advice???? 0_o

December 23, 2008 at 11:12 am
(11) specialchildren says:

Sorry, Gaby, you really do need a gift certificate to start your account. You can buy them for as little as $10 at Target. Then use my step-by-step to set it up.

December 26, 2008 at 8:12 pm
(12) Joel says:

I have done it before without buying anything before. I remember i was signing up and it said optional on credit card

December 26, 2008 at 8:29 pm
(13) Joel says:

I Have got it. When you go to itunes store go to the bottom to Top Free Apps. (If u dont have an ipod touch it doesnt matter.) Then click on one of the free apps and try to download it and it will say sign in or create account. Create a account and when u get to the credit card part , there will be a bubble saying NONE.

December 28, 2008 at 3:31 am
(14) Ginger says:

THANX JOEL!!!
i just set up my account without paying!

December 28, 2008 at 8:54 am
(15) Jason says:

Or you could open the account with a credit card and then later delete the credit card details from the account.

December 29, 2008 at 10:49 pm
(16) Javier says:

Joel, awsome dude! You saved my iPod from being cracked in half!

February 7, 2009 at 3:12 pm
(17) Lachlan says:

Thanks so much!!! Your a lifesaver!!!
I’m 13 and I don’t have my own credit card and my parents won’t let me put there details down, so your a big help!!! :) :D

March 3, 2009 at 1:34 pm
(18) Bonnie says:

OMG, something’s wrong if your snooping on your 18 year old daughters emails! She should be ready to have her own credit card at that age.. she is an Adult..

March 9, 2009 at 6:59 pm
(19) sdooo says:

thanks , so hlepful

April 29, 2009 at 3:34 pm
(20) Dylan says:

Thank You So Much~!!!~

July 5, 2009 at 11:37 pm
(21) momof2 says:

So after the account is created, how do I add money to my child’s account without having to set up the automatic monthly allowance? Is there some way to just add $10 one time from my credit card?

July 5, 2009 at 11:46 pm
(22) Terri Mauro says:

Buy a gift certificate, either online or at a store. The online ones, which you can either print out or e-mail to your child, start at $10.

December 18, 2009 at 3:13 am
(23) Frankie Luna says:

Thank you sssooo much =]

December 26, 2009 at 1:38 pm
(24) deb says:

Thank you for your posts…but I am still having trouble. My son had a gift card which we have already redeemed and he has a $15.00 credit. When he tries to purchase an appfor .99, a window comes up wanting billing information. We did select none on our credit card information. Any advice?

December 26, 2009 at 10:23 pm
(25) specialchildren says:

If you set up the account with the gift card, and are logged into that account, and have enough balance showing to cover 99 cents plus tax, it shouldn’t ask for your billing info. On my kids’ accounts, it only does that when they run out of money and try to buy something, which is how I know they’re going to stop spending when the amount I’ve given them runs out.

January 31, 2010 at 12:59 am
(26) Peter says:

omg thanksso much im only15 and my mom wont let me use her credit card so do you ythink if an itunes gift card will work for sure? because im goingto buy the Ipod Touch and in orderto haveit you need anitunes account buit im NOTgoingto be buyinganything thou … so will it work?

February 3, 2010 at 3:54 pm
(27) Jen says:

It’s not working for me. I don’t own a credit card but I have an iTunes Gift Card and it won’t let me redeem it without a credit card number. Don’t tell me I wasted 25 dollars that could’ve went to something that worked…

March 2, 2010 at 4:04 pm
(28) Ciara says:

mine wont work! its soo annoying grr!

March 13, 2010 at 8:51 am
(29) Trick shot shooter says:

First a 15 yr old has no business with a CC. You should at least work for a dollar before someone gives you one. Second I would hope by looking at the title that Terri’s child is special as my own daughter has Rett’s syndrome. Otherwise I whole heartedly agree. I had my own apartment, job with Lucent Tech., new car and an AS degree at 18 years old. All 200 miles away from home. If we treat our young adults like children that’s how our adult’s will act. Look around folks, you ARE surrounded by idiots and some of it is our fault. Pre-teens with cell phones and teens with holes in their jeans. Really? I’ll give my ripped and torn , not CUT, jeans away. The ones I WORKED to put holes in. If my perfectly normal son, not my special little girl, wants to buy a song or 20 at 15yrs old his butt will work for it. Helping his dad, a neighbor, his comminity, a farmer, someone who needs it, he will not be given everything in life, he will not be a dummy, he will be strong, smart, and definitely not spoiled.

April 7, 2010 at 9:42 pm
(30) Jessica says:

Well I’ve had my iPod for a few months now and it gave me a balance even though I don’t have it set up with a credit card or anything. But I have a 5$ balance and it says I need to put in a credit info :/ why won’t it let me use it?

September 12, 2010 at 5:42 am
(31) Karl says:

Thank you SO much! I did not want to use a credit card and this really helped me. THANK YOU!

October 17, 2010 at 3:21 pm
(32) Kevin says:

overprotective

October 18, 2010 at 10:10 am
(33) specialchildren says:

just protective enough, actually

November 4, 2010 at 10:14 pm
(34) Amber says:

Thank you so much. My mom bought me an iPod touch for Christmas and I didn’t want to ask her for a credit card number. I got a little worried when it wouldn’t let me resume with my account or anything.

I was beginning it get very irritated with itunes >.<

November 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm
(35) dill says:

when i want a new account without a credit card it makes
me put in info bout credit cards. i dont have one though… it pisses me off

November 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm
(36) specialchildren says:

Dill, if you’re in the U.S. and setting up the account through the app store, you should be able to do it without a credit card. There are more instructions on the Apple support site at http://support.apple.com/kb/ht2534. The account you set up through the app store can be used in the rest of the iTunes store too.

December 26, 2010 at 1:35 pm
(37) Mike says:

Great article. Really helped.

December 27, 2010 at 9:09 pm
(38) niecey 101 says:

omg i just got an ipod touch for xmas two dayz ago and when im trying to make an account it tellz me tht i need a credit card and hellooooo im only 11…anyway i keep trying and it wont work!!help plzzzz im getting sad and frustrated with itunes >.<

December 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm
(39) Terri says:

Niecey, if you’re in the U.S., the instructions at http://specialchildren.about.com/od/familyissues/ss/freeitunes.htm should work for you. Here’s another version of the free account instructions on the iTunes site: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht2534. Your age may be a problem, though — the minimum age for setting up an iTunes account is 13.

January 15, 2011 at 6:10 pm
(40) john says:

wow ur soo over protectice ur having ur 18 year od daughters emails sent 2 u and what she buys on itunes u goota learn 2 let go of her or shell never get anywhere in life

January 29, 2011 at 2:44 am
(41) Hiro A. says:

I need help asap!
Okay i feel like making a new account for my itouch after reading this because of my moms credit card problems. But then yesterday, i bought $15 itunes gift card and redeemed it. Ididnt use it yet. Is there a way that i can send the $15 to my new account? Ive thrown the card away so i dont know the codes. Thanks

January 29, 2011 at 2:53 am
(42) specialchildren says:

Unfortunately, Hiro, I don’t think there is — once the gift card is loaded into a particular account, you can’t move it. You could try buying a gift certificate with that money and e-mailing it to yourself, but I’m not sure iTunes allows doing that with money from a gift card.

April 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm
(43) Tiffany says:

yh omg your a big help thankyou lovee !! x

May 2, 2011 at 8:53 pm
(44) daisey says:

I totally agree with cassandra because your advice is not really straight forward it’s crooked, and by the way what happens if there is no “optional” button???
( be more spacific )

<3 <3

May 6, 2011 at 10:02 pm
(45) Lisa says:

i just downloaded itunes and im 14. i tried to make an account but it said i have to put a (credit) or other card number on it to make an account.. what if i just want to buy songs with an itunes gift card ?? can i do that ?

May 6, 2011 at 10:39 pm
(46) specialchildren says:

Lisa, you should be able to do that. Try the instructions at http://specialchildren.about.com/od/familyissues/ss/itunesgift.htm.

June 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm
(47) Aby says:

Thank you for this! I had entered my itunes gift card and thrown it away. Changing my payment option helped me redeem the card without having to enter the code again!

June 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm
(48) specialchildren says:

Glad it worked for you, Aby!

July 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm
(49) Tracey says:

I understand how to do what your article is about. My question is, do you have to have a separate computer to set up the new itunes account or can you have a separate sign in screen (on a pc)? I’m trying to figure out how to share apps and musick between 3 accounts in our house on the same computer. Between 4 people we have 3 itouches, 1iphone and an ipad. My kids get gift cards and wind up spending each other’s money, but they also like many of the same apps and songs. I don’t want them each to have to buy something. Is there a way to have their own account but share apps and songs?

July 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm
(50) specialchildren says:

Yes, you should be able to do this. See if this document has the information you’re looking for: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1203.

October 16, 2011 at 2:09 pm
(51) Twoarmadillos says:

This is brilliant, thanku!! 😃

January 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm
(52) Cheese938 says:

im not understanding anything! So I’m not telling my age but I still DON’T GET IT!!!!!

January 5, 2012 at 5:32 pm
(53) specialchildren says:

Cheese938, what are you having trouble with?

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