You are here

Using a Shopping App

Share this page

Millions of people have downloaded shopping apps to their smartphones. Apps can save you time in checking out, earn rewards, and find coupons and deals. But before you download one, think about the information you share when you use the app, and know how to get help in case of a billing error.

Shopping Apps

If you have some favorite stores or online retailers, you may already have their shopping apps on your phone. Or, you might download an app to get a discount on your first purchase with a business, or early access to sales. Some shopping apps do several things. They might let you store a shopping list and will send you sale alerts, discount codes, coupons, special promotions, or other rewards based on how much you buy.

When you set up your profile or buy something with a shopping app for the first time, it will likely ask you to link or store your payment information. Some apps charge your credit or debit card or your bank account each time you buy something. Other apps let you store value with the app and spend down the stored value every time you buy something. Before you install an app, check its description or user agreement to see if it tells you how the payment system works and what to do if there’s a billing problem.

Billing Problems With Shopping Apps

If you have a billing problem after you use a shopping app, ask the store’s or seller’s staff, or the company behind the app for help. If you paid with a credit or debit card you linked to the app, you can contact them directly for help, too.

The seller

You can solve many payment issues by contacting the seller as soon as possible. If the first employee can’t help you, talk with a supervisor or manager. Explain the problem to each person, and ask what they’ll do to help you. Keep a record of who you spoke to and when, and what they promised to do.

The app

Read the app’s Help, Frequently Asked Questions, or Terms of Service sections to find

  • contact information
  • how much time you have to report billing errors
  • if there are limits on your responsibility for billing errors
  • if the company will investigate your claim, and when the company will share results of the investigation

The app developer may say it won’t take any responsibility for problems.

Your credit or debit card company

If you use an app that charges your credit or debit card when you buy something, these legal protections apply if there’s an unauthorized charge:

If you pay by You could legally be responsible for

credit card

up to $50

debit card

up to $50, if you report the loss or theft to the card issuer within two business days after you learn about it

up to $500, if you report the loss or theft to the card issuer after two business days, but less than 60 days after the statement that shows the problem is sent to you

all charges, if you report the loss or theft to the card issuer more than 60 days after the statement that shows the problem is sent to you

If you pay using stored value loaded on an app, you may not have these protections. Review the user agreement to see what to do if there’s a billing problem.

Shopping Apps Collect Personal Information

While shopping apps might help you get deals, those savings could come at the cost of your personal information. Be sure you understand what information the app collects, and find out how it’s shared, why it’s shared, and what other companies it’s shared with. You can usually find a quick summary of this information in the app store before you download an app.

Location

Many shopping apps rely on location data. For example, some apps collect information about your location so they can tell you whether an item is available at a store near you. Some stores use Bluetooth signals to track people who have the store’s app turned on as they walk around the store. If you don’t want the app to track your location, use your phone’s privacy settings to control whether the app can collect your location.

Personal information

Shopping apps often ask for personal information like your name, mailing address, phone number, and email. Shopping apps also may collect information about the things you buy, including how much you paid, along with when, where, and how you paid. Companies can combine that information with other personal data to develop a detailed profile about you.

To find out what an app collects, look at the privacy policy, User Agreement, or Terms of Service. Look for information about what the app developer will do with your data and how it will keep it secure. Make sure you’re okay with how your information is used, shared, and protected. If you’re not, look for another app.

Report Problems

Many shopping apps offer strong promises about how they protect your personal information. If you use an app and find it doesn’t live up to its privacy or security promises, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.