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According to an article that surfaced on the BBC News website this week, a family faced a huge bill in just 3 weeks for microtransactions spent within an online game. Through the Nintendo Switch Fifa football game, in which unique football players can be purchased, four kids were able to rack up a massive bill of £550 in just one day.

They managed this after their father authorised just a single £8 microtransaction with his linked credit card. But what is a microtransaction and how could it cost you more than you expect? Read ahead.

Microtransactions in online gaming

A microtransaction is exactly as it sounds, a transaction that is usually reasonably small in value and used to purchase in-game items. Mostly, they’re used in online games for things like new playable characters, weapons, cars, and so on.

Once a card is linked to an account, it can be used to buy these items with a single click from within the game. What’s more, it’s not always obvious how much each item costs, especially to younger gamers.

But the cards that you use to purchase these transactions are not always locked behind a password. In some cases, when you register a card to your account, it can be stored for later use. In this case, the children saw how their father had made the payment and went on to make subsequent payments themselves, as the card details were stored and unprotected.

Image credit to Thomas Carter

In this case, Nintendo has agreed to fully refund the parents who were left out of pocket, also removing the in-game items that had been awarded to the players. The parent in question admits that he didn’t take precautions to avoid his card being repeatedly charged. So what could he have done differently?

Avoiding unwanted charges

You could avoid the risk of unwanted charges by simply avoiding having any linked cards on your account. However, there are ways to retain payment information for occasional purchases without having them at risk of overuse.

For purchases on the Xbox One, head into Systems, then go through to the sign-in and security options. Enable the option to request your passkey when purchases are made. Alternatively, on PS4 you will need to create an account specifically for your children. These accounts have a zero monthly spend allowance automatically assigned.

For the Nintendo Switch, log in using your admin, parent account, then open “family group” and open the logins of each family member you want to limit. Enable the option to “restrict spending in Nintendo e-shop” and save the changes.

There are also ways to limit spending on the iPhone and iPad, using Apple’s ‘Screen Time’ feature. Here at WiseGuys, we can help you to get this set up as part of the parental controls on your kid’s devices. If you’d like help, then get in touch with us on 0808 123 2820.