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