Spend Control - Take Control of Your Kids’ Spending Habits

Ashley Ferraro, Consumer Operations
Jul 28, 2022
 Min Read

Offering children a cash allowance doesn’t seem as common as it was twenty years ago. Obtaining cash requires visits to the ATM, and putting physical money in your child’s hands means it’s more likely to get lost. And with children spending more and more time online, cash is becoming increasingly obsolete in their eyes. Spend control has become a hot topic among parents because, unfortunately, it’s much easier for a credit or debit card to be misused by a child than a finite amount of physical cash.  Plus, kids want to make in-game purchases, which require using a card.

The good news is that just as online payments become more robust, so do the various technologies designed to referee your kids’ spending. For example, Privacy.com allows you to use virtual cards to limit and monitor spending online.

Parental Controls: Knowing When It’s Time to Use Them

Parental controls may have a somewhat negative connotation for some people. Rather than thinking of parental controls as something that will create a rift between you and your child, consider them as a powerful teaching opportunity. By exercising control over a child’s online spending, you can promote healthy financial habits that your child ideally will carry into adulthood.

You might want to consider new options for managing your child’s spending if...

  • Your child is making purchases on your cards without your knowledge
  • Your child is making purchases at higher dollar amounts than expected
  • Your child is buying things from websites you don’t approve of
  • You’re worried about which websites have your card information based on your child’s online spending

In this guide, we’ll offer tips on how to control credit card spending, set up virtual cards to help manage spending, and translate valuable budgeting and conscious spending skills to your child.

How to Control Spending Habits

How to use parental controls for spend control

Some platforms that are popular with kids offer built-in spend control features for parents. For online retailers and websites that don’t provide a means of self-service spend control, other tools like Privacy Virtual Cards may prove beneficial.

Let’s examine how parents can control spending habits via popular entertainment platforms like Xbox, PlayStation, Roblox, and Apple.

Xbox & PlayStation

Let’s look at PlayStation and Xbox, two console-based online gaming platforms that attract kids (and adults) of all ages. Many games accessed through these systems enable players to spend real money while in the game. For example, the popular game Fortnite, available on both PlayStation and Xbox consoles, allows players to purchase items and skins using in-game currency, which is purchased with real dollars.

As you can imagine, it’s easy for these charges to add up fast and without much of a second thought. This spending can be especially dangerous when their Xbox or PlayStation accounts have a credit card stored on file. To mitigate this risk, both PlayStation and Xbox have implemented parental controls that allow family members to set limits on various account preferences, one of them being in-game spend.

Xbox even developed a mobile app called Xbox Family Settings, available through the App Store or Google Play. In addition to managing screen time and restricting content, spend can be controlled through an “Ask to Buy” feature. As the name suggests, your child will have to request your permission before making a purchase. The app even allows parents to preload funds onto their child’s account.


Roblox has been a staple online game for kids for many years now. The platform can be accessed virtually anywhere, from iPhone to PC to Xbox and beyond. Roblox’s in-game currency, Robucks, can be purchased with real currency and used for buying new games, avatar skins, and more.

The company has introduced monthly spend restrictions which can be accessed via the account’s parental controls settings. This feature allows parents to limit the spending of their child as long as they’re younger than 13 years old. If your child is older than 13, you may need to resort to a Privacy Virtual Card to limit spending. We’ll discuss how to do this in the next section.


According to a 2020 SellCell survey published by Statista, more than 40% of parents believed their children made in-app purchases on mobile devices without their knowledge.

Apple’s ”Screen Time” setting can be used to prevent unauthorized or unwanted purchases on your family’s Apple devices. You can require a password for purchases, disallow certain types of purchases, or deactivate purchases altogether.

Another convenient tool designed by Apple to increase parental control on family devices is the ”Family Sharing” feature. If your child is in your Family Sharing group with their own device, you can enable an ”Ask to Buy” feature. So, your child will have to request your permission before making any purchases with the connected card.

Using Privacy Cards to Implement Spend Control

Although some online merchants have built-in tools designed to help parents monitor and limit their child’s spending, there may still be a need for greater control. If you’re wondering how to get spending under control when these tools aren’t offered, a virtual card might be your solution.

Privacy.com users can create virtual cards and manage them every step of the way. Since Privacy Virtual Cards lock to the first merchant they’re used at, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that the card used at one website you’ve permitted your child to play on cannot be authorized at other websites.

In addition to locking to one merchant, Privacy Cards give parents the option to set limits on the card’s spend. You can set daily, monthly, yearly, and total limits on each card, which can be adjusted at any time for maximum flexibility.

Why use Privacy Virtual Cards to help manage spending? Let’s take a closer look at some popular use cases for parents on Privacy.com:

  • Movie streaming services: Let’s say that Hulu is charging you $7 per month for your subscription. Connect a Privacy Virtual Card to your account and set a $7 monthly limit on the card so your kids cannot buy movies inside Hulu without your permission. Any transaction amount they attempt to make beyond what you’ve set for the card will automatically decline.
  • Amazon: When your Privacy Virtual Card is saved on a shared Amazon account, you can still stay in control of how and when it’s used. Any purchase attempted above your predetermined limits or while the card is paused/closed will be declined.
  • Food delivery apps: Sometimes, we run late. That’s just life. If you’re running late to get home for dinner, set up a Privacy Virtual Card to be used on food delivery services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, and more. Adjust the limits according to how much you’d like to spend on dinner that night, and keep the card paused until it’s needed again. This way, dinner is on the table and you’re in control of your spending—everyone’s happy.
  • Groceries: Did you send your child off to college and want to ensure they’re spending money on the right things? Privacy Virtual Cards can be used to shop at Instacart, Shipt, or any grocery store that accepts online or app-based orders. Set limits to implement a monthly grocery budget and adjust those limits at any time, depending on their needs and your preferences.
  • Apple: Although Apple has already integrated several spend control options into its platform, coupling these with Privacy Virtual Cards permits more flexibility for control. You can set spending limits on the virtual card you’ve connected to your Apple account to gain back control. Don’t forget, you can pause or close it at any time if things are getting out of control!
  • Instagram: If your teen likes to shop on Instagram for clothing, makeup, footwear, etc., control their spend using Privacy Virtual Cards. Instagram has integrated an in-app shopping feature so users can complete the checkout process entirely through the app. This means one virtual card can be used at any merchant as long as the shop allows for checkout via Instagram.
  • Gifts/rewards: Straight A’s this semester? Passed their driving test? Birthday coming up? Give your kids what they want—money to spend on the things they love. You can create a Privacy Virtual Card with a total spend limit of the desired amount, and have peace of mind knowing exactly what merchant its being used at, and for how much. Once the maximum limit has been spent on the card, any additional attempts will be declined, and you can permanently close the card if you’d like.

How to Share a Privacy Virtual Card

Privacy makes it easy to share virtual cards with trusted friends and family members through its web interface. Feel confident knowing you'll never need to send your real card info to family members through unsecure platforms.

Since Privacy debits you for each transaction as you make them, there’s no need to preload funds onto the card—you only pay for what you spend.

By clicking into your Privacy Virtual Card and selecting the “Share” option, you’ll be prompted to enter your recipient’s email address.

How to share a Privacy Virtual Card for spend control

The recipient will receive an email with the card number that they can access at any time. They can also access any cards you’ve shared with them previously via email. However, you remain in control of the card the entire time, with the ability to pause, close, or change the card’s limit.

Sharing a Privacy Virtual Card can help manage your kids' spending.

Benefits of Setting Spend Controls

Besides keeping your wallet in good shape, implementing controls for your child’s online spending has additional benefits. First, if Privacy Virtual Cards are being used, you can sleep soundly at night knowing your real card info cannot be compromised through various websites and games your child is shopping at. Imagine the headache you’d deal with if you had to mitigate fraud on your account.

Additionally, limiting your child’s spending habits forces them to manage their budget responsibly. Knowing how to spend wisely within limits is an invaluable skill to be carried throughout a lifetime.

The Future of Parental Controls on Spending

With cash taking a back seat to digital payments in recent years, spend control has become a growing concern for parents. Luckily, many child-facing brands are catching on to the need for greater parental controls on spending.

There are additional spend controls tools, like Privacy.com, that can make monitoring and limiting your child’s online spending much more manageable. Plus, you can set your child up for a successful future by emphasizing the importance of limiting spending and budgeting at an early age.

Get started managing your children’s spending with Privacy Virtual Cards today.

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