As someone who buys a lot of iPhone and iPad apps from the iTunes store and an increasing amount from the Mac App Store the perils of having a credit card attached to my Apple account and the saving to be made from iTunes vouchers on offers are a powerful combination to make purchasing in bulk when they are on offer very appealing.

The trouble is that the more I partake of such promotions at various outlets the more pitfalls I become aware of. After my latest experiences where some sleight of hand at the payment point resulted in an activated card being returned to the display and an unactivated card given to me I decided it couldn’t only be me that has to overcome the many and varied obstacles before retiring to tech nirvana, browsing the various online stores armed and dangerous with a credit balance to match.

Hence, writing this best practices guide for safely acquiring iTunes vouchers.

1. Wait for the Special Offers
Stating the obvious but do wait for a special offer and make your real cash go further in the virtual world of the App Store and the Mac Store. The offers are many and varied so check national newspapers and online bargain hunting sites like HotUKDeals for details of imminent deals.

2. Stock up!
When a deal comes around stock up on vouchers, well it would be rude not to ;-), do be aware though that some offers have a limit on the number of vouchers you can purchase in a single transaction so plan accordingly.

3. Take Proof
The offers are many and varied and as I have found many times the staff often have no clue what the details are. Be sure to take a hard copy of any promotional materials you may have seen to backup your purchase.

In my experience trying to explain what a promotion entails at the point of purchase is at best a time consuming and at worst a fruitless endeavour. Staff are never made especially aware of current promotions and with offers including 2 for 1, 3 for 2, £5 off £15 and £5 off £25 confusion is to be expected.

4. Reserve online or by phone
If the store provides an ordering facility take advantage of it and reserve your vouchers for collection ensuring no wasted journeys.

5. Telephone to check specific store
– is participating in the offer
– has stock of the cards you want

6. Avoid Busy Times
There’s enough scope for errors without adding burgeoning queues to the mix so if possible avoid the busiest times.

7. Select Your Own Cards
Since iTunes vouchers are useless unless they are activated they are often available from public areas and not restricted to behind the counter locations. Use this to your advantage and select your own cards.

This ensures that you have the correct number and gives you the opportunity to avoid cards that look like they’ve already been activated.

8. Small Transactions
I always find it preferable to ask for each card to be processed separately thus ensuring I have both a specific activation receipt and a specific till receipt for each card or set of cards in the event that the promotion involves a multiple purchase.

9. Watch the Staff Closely
Sadly the complexity means there is too much opportunity for sleight of hand intentional or otherwise so be vigilant and watch the staff carefully. Tell them they’ll thank you for it in the end!

10. Check Your Purchases
It’s all too easy when you’re juggling cash, credit cards, iTunes vouchers, till receipts and all the other detritus a retail adventure involves to overlook the obvious. Check you have ALL the cards you’ve purchased before you leave the payment area.

11. Check the Activation Receipt/s Carefully
An activation receipt is the only proof you have that the card you’ve paid for is activated so check it carefully. It will show a minimum of 4 digits from the card’s serial number, sometimes more.

Be aware that the card’s serial number is NOT the code under the scratch off that you enter in the Redeem box in iTunes. The serial number is on the back of the card in either the lower left or lower right corner, per the images:

ITunes Voucher showing serial number

ITunes Voucher showing serial number

ITunes Voucher showing serial number

The code on your activation receipt MUST match the serial number on the card so check each one carefully.

I hope these points help you safely make your real money go up to 30% further online!