What To Do If Your Child Makes An Unauthorized Purchase With Your Credit Card

With schools and many workplaces closed due to the pandemic, families are spending more time at home. As a result, your kids may have more screen time, which could lead to unexpected credit card purchases from apps, games, or streaming transactions.

If you’ve encountered an unexpected credit card purchase, you may have a hard time disputing the charge and getting a refund. However, there are a few things you can do. 

What To Do If You Find A Surprise Purchase

Here’s what to do if your child accidentally makes a gaming or streaming purchase with your credit card.


Your first step is to explore what happened. “You have to have a discussion with the kids: Where did this charge come from?” Leslie Tayne, founder and head attorney at New York-based Tayne Law Group, told US News My Money.

If the transaction occurred recently, you should have less trouble determining who bought what. A few companies can help with this, like Apple Support.

If your child didn’t make a purchase and suspect it is fraudulent, you should immediately report the incident to your credit card issuer. Most card companies provide consumer protections for this reason. 

On the other hand, they may not deem your kid’s purchases fraudulent, so it might be a little harder to get a refund.

Contact The Business

After you learned who used your card, for what, when it happened, and you know you want a refund, you should reach out to the business in question, not your credit card provider.

“When you’re dealing with a credit card company and dispute something, they generally want to know if you’ve reached out to the merchant,” Tayne noted. 

It’s important to do it sooner, rather than later, since “the sooner you dispute something, the more legitimate the dispute is,” she said.

The merchant will probably be reluctant to issue a refund (or chargeback), so you need to stay calm and think strategically when you state your case. You should also include as many details as you can. 

“It’s going to depend on what the issue is,” Tayne explained. “If the kid is using a game that is deceptive in a way – it looks cartoon-like and makes it super easy for them to purchase something – there is an element of deceit there. If you’re a parent and see that, you can argue with the company about it.”

Talk To Your Credit Card Provider

If the business rejects your claim, contacting the credit card company should be your next move. However, you should know that credit card issuers have explicit policies when it comes to refunds. 

For instance, American Express recommends that customers first file a claim with the merchant. If the problem escalates, American Express will proceed with its normal refund process, which considers the merchant’s policies at the time of purchase.

Keep in mind that merchants are also the credit card issuer’s customers, so there’s no guarantee they will support your claim, Tayne said. When you explain the situation, make sure you include details about the purchase, including when and how it occurred, communications between you and the merchant, and other specifics.

You could also approach the situation by admitting the transaction was accidentally made by your child and request a refund. If you have a positive rapport with the credit card provider, you might have a better chance of getting the outcome your want. 

To submit a formal complaint about a purchase, you should file a written letter to the card company less than 60 days after the first statement featured the charge, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said.

In the meantime, make sure you continue to pay your monthly credit card statement so you can avoid interest payments. If the company sides with you in the dispute, you could get your money back, but not for the interest charged during that time.

Ways To Avoid Surprise Credit Card Purchases

You can avoid this situation by setting up parental controls on smart devices, apps, and gaming systems. But, as Tayne noted, “You can’t keep blaming the kid. At some point you have to step up and get control of it. It’s not so easy, because all these apps require credit cards.”

Here are a few things you can do to manage unexpected charges: 


  • Make a list of every account associated with your credit card. Check them to see if your kids have access to them and cancel inactive ones.
  • Set up parental controls
  • Check your credit card statement every month, or as frequently as every week
  • Contact the FTC if your child was tricked into an in-game purchase 


Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid a surprise credit card charge. In the meantime, use this as a learning opportunity to teach your child the risk of unauthorized purchases so they know the consequences, even if they are unintentional.


  • Musinski, Bob. “Can You Remove Kids Credit Card Charges?” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 5 Jan. 2021, creditcards.usnews.com/articles/can-you-remove-kids-credit-card-charges.
Ian Schindler