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We might live in an international world, but what happens when laws and policies can’t keep up with our jet-setting ways Smartphone & Laptop Searches: Know Your Rights Smartphone & Laptop Searches: Know Your Rights Do you know what your rights are when travelling overseas with a laptop, smartphone or hard drive? Read More ? Well if you’ve ever tried to switch from one App Store to another, you’ll have a pretty good idea.

If you need to change from one country’s iTunes media or App Store to another, there are a few very important things you need to know about your existing purchases, apps and media.

Switching Stores

You can only purchase items from a certain country’s iTunes store if you have a valid form of payment for that particular country. That means if you’ve moved to another country Thinking Of Moving Abroad? 4 Tips To Do Your Online Research Thinking Of Moving Abroad? 4 Tips To Do Your Online Research We've all dreamed the dream: escaping responsibilities and moving abroad. It's a deeper commitment than a short-term vacation. What's the best way for you to prepare for such an endeavor? Read More and have set up a new bank account so you can get paid or transfer money locally, you’ll have to switch to your local store in order to use your new card — you can’t use an Australian credit card in the UK App Store, for example.

A few years ago I moved from the UK to Australia and encountered this issue. At the time, I decided to leave things the way they were, and continued to use the UK store and top up money into a spare account as I needed it. This gets old very fast, particularly when you’re thousands of miles away from your bricks-and-mortar bank and something goes wrong (like your card expires or your bank suspends your card because it’s being used across the globe).

So why not just switch to an international store and use your new bank account to purchase apps, books, films and music? Well, the answer is simple — because your purchases are only valid in the country you bought them.

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In other words, you can only re-download past purchases by visiting the store they were purchased in. The company has no requirement to make your purchases globally available in every store. This can be infuriating if you’ve sunk hundreds or thousands of dollars into software and media over the years.

Note: It’s important to make the distinction between simply changing the region associated with your Apple ID, and creating an entirely new one with which to access apps from other stores Anyone Can Download Apps From The US App Store: Here Is How Anyone Can Download Apps From The US App Store: Here Is How You need to jump through some hoops to create a US iTunes account and add funds to it, but if you know how, anyone can download and enjoy apps from the US App Store. Read More .

Once you’ve switched stores, your list of purchases in iTunes and on your iPhone or iPad will be empty, but the apps you already have on your device will continue to update without a hitch. In this sense, your app purchases are tied to your Apple ID and will continue to update until you delete them.

How Do I Switch Stores?

To switch stores on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch:

  1. Head to Settings > iTunes & App Store, tap on your Apple ID, choose View Apple ID and input your password.
  2. Tap Payment Information and update your credentials with payment details for a card registered in the same country as the store you’d like to switch to (e.g. US credit card for the US App Store).
  3. Hit Done and head back to the App Store. You will be notified your credentials are only valid for an international store, and you will be transferred to that store (sometimes this happens later when you try to download an app).

You can also do this on a Mac by opening iTunes, clicking your name and editing your payment method under Account Info. Be aware that you’ll need to cancel your Apple Music membership (if you have one) in order to change stores.

Note: As your payment info is the same regardless of the device you use, you only need to change it on one device.

How Do I Access My Past Purchases?

So what if you downloaded an expensive app which you’ve since deleted and you’d like to get it back without having to pay for it twice. In this case, you’d need to switch back to the store you originally purchased the app in the manner indicated above. In order to access your old past purchases, you’re always going to need a valid form of payment for the App Store country in which you made them.

This might be easy, if you’ve got a business account or family still residing in that country Studying Abroad? Learn How To Stay Connected Back Home Studying Abroad? Learn How To Stay Connected Back Home Read More — or it could be a nightmare if you haven’t, as you’ll need a valid billing address too. It doesn’t appear to be possible to use a gift card as the sole method of payment at this stage.

Why does this happen? Each one of Apple’s digital storefronts is a separate trading entity, operating in accordance with local laws and taxes. This isn’t exactly new, it’s been this way since Apple first started selling via the iTunes platform. Similarly, not every App Store or iTunes inventory is the same, further fragmenting what many consider to be the least fragmented ecosystem.

Quite simply, Apple doesn’t need to give you access to your international purchases so they don’t. It’s not a policy that’s likely to change any time soon, and instead of getting angry about it you should just…

Backup & Breathe

Fortunately, it’s not all as bad as it seems. As previously mentioned, for as long as your apps were purchased with your Apple ID (regardless of store) they will continue to update. You won’t get the dreaded Apple ID password prompt that you get if you download something using someone else’s account.

So by this logic, if you make a local backup of your apps within iTunes Everything You Need to Know About Backing Up & Restoring Your iPhone from iTunes Everything You Need to Know About Backing Up & Restoring Your iPhone from iTunes Most iPhone users take for granted that the contents of their iPhone is backed up wirelessly to their iCloud account, but it is still useful to know how to restore your iPhone from iTunes. Read More , you’ll never need to worry about not having to access them again. The same is true for other media you’ve downloaded, particularly music which is DRM-free. iTunes gives you the option to transfer both purchases and backup apps when you connect your device and on the Summary tab choose the Backup option.

Once complete, you can find a full backup of your apps within your iTunes folder (/Users/Username/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Mobile Applications) as .IPA files. You’ll be able to freely transfer your apps using iTunes, and these apps will even be copied back across when you restore a backup even though they were purchased in another store. Media will be stored in your iTunes library (/Users/Username/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media), as it always is.

Remember that your apps may take up considerably more space than your other content, so you may want to consider storing them elsewhere (on an external drive perhaps Partition & Use Your Time Machine Hard Drive To Store Files Too Partition & Use Your Time Machine Hard Drive To Store Files Too If your Mac's hard drive is small and your Time Machine hard drive is big, it might be worth using the drive for both backup and storage purposes. Read More ) if you’re tight for space. It’s worth backing up often, particularly if you have a lot of app data (artwork, music files, saved games) that you’d loathe to lose in case of device failure.

Off You Go

Once you’ve got a copy of your favorite apps and other media locally, and you intend on using the same Apple ID in your new country of residence (with a different form of payment) you shouldn’t have any problems. Apps will update, music will play and your new purchases will be made in your new country of residence.

Remember that if you ever need to change store again (perhaps back to your original country) you will have the same problem when it comes to accessing purchases made in your new place of residence. Something to think about if you know where you’re going to be in five or ten years.

Have you done the international iTunes store dance? How did it go?

Image credits: hither and thither (Robert S. Donovan)Swiss Airbus A330-223; HB-IQA@ZRH;27.01.2007/449cm (Aero Icarus), Credit Card (Thomas Kohler)

  1. edinson sanchez
    November 7, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    As I live in south america I had to deal with this forcefully.
    The ecuadorian apple store just came into existence a mere 2-3 years ago. back when I got my first iPhone I could not buy anything. Even tho they sold them in every store around the country. Luckily I had US issued credit card and went on pretending I lived there. Until the ecuadorian app store spawned and I excitedly made the change. Nightmare.

    Why can't they do like Google and have a unique store that processes all payments and stuff ? I am sure google also must deal with individual countries and their legislation.
    I am a developer so i must have an iPhone as well as an Android device. One gives me problems, the other does not. Get on with the times Apple !!

  2. JM
    September 23, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    I would advise to create a secondary iTunes account. I do not believe a 2nd device is necessary as long as you dont mind switching id's. See my write-up on subscribing to iTunes music which required me to have a 2nd iTunes account.

  3. Nikeboy
    September 9, 2016 at 4:09 am

    There's no mention here of the 90 day switching rule.

    If you download a purchase with one iTunes account and switch to the other, you will receive a message stating that you cannot download content to the same machine on a different ID for 90 days. I ran into this last week. The upshot is, if you want access to your original purchases and use a new or country switched account, you'll need to download all of your original purchases locally first (bye bye cloud usage).

    • Tim Brookes
      September 19, 2016 at 3:02 am

      Interesting, when I wrote this article I don't think that was an issue. I remember hopping onto the US App Store to get a few US-specific apps, then back to my home store with no issue. I guess this is Apple's way of combatting that?

  4. Jonah
    June 5, 2016 at 9:35 am

    I am trying to download an app with my iMac that is (only) available in the US store and not in the one of/in my country. When trying to switch, it says I cannot switch to the US store.

    I thought we were living in an global world and that Apple was a 'global' corporation?

    Everyone was (is) so excited about the Apple App Store. Well, I am not. I find more apps in Google Play (and that is my Android-based phone, of course) than in the Apple App Store.

    This kind of method of acquiring and installing programs (as we used to call "apps" in the good ole days) is a (i.o.o.) bad method. Or, in other words: it sucks.

    I will just keep on downloading programs from the Internet.

  5. Ian
    June 3, 2016 at 1:26 am

    So here is another issue I live in France and travel in the US. i needed a local app changed my region to the US and purchased an Itunes gift certificate to be able to download the free app. Now I can not change back to the French region as I am required to use up my credit on the gift certificate before I can rechange stores. What idiot invent these rules? I need to try and find purchases that will cost me the remaining balance of 4.02 USD exactly otherwise I am stuck in the US store that has no value for me as I do not have a US credit card. Apple goes to
    through great efforts to discourage travellers using their services. Mindboggling....

    • Tim Brookes
      June 3, 2016 at 3:06 am

      This is a bit odd, I'd expect iTunes to simply keep your balance at $4.02 on your "US account" and allow you to switch to the French store. Is there not even an option to discard your current balance?

      Have you tried contacting Apple about this? I'm sure they'd happily scrap the balance if you gave them permission to do so.

      • Ian
        June 3, 2016 at 11:32 pm

        "You have a store credit balance; you must spend your credit before you can change stores" I did report the issue to customer service and look forward to the solution.

  6. Ben
    April 26, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    @kiwidaish, what does this do besides giving you that app on the old decrepit iOS device? Does that app then appear on your main iOS device that you wanted it on or something?

  7. Tony
    March 25, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    This also creates a complicated issue for your Mac App Store Apps.

    I'm in the same situation and the auto updates on the Mac do NOT work for either countries, asking endless times to switch from one store to the other.

    The only MANUAL process I found that works is, you have to let's say in the Australian store (as logged in) on your Mac, go to the App updates, click the first one waiting, if it asks you to login to the UK store just hit cancel, continue for all the apps waiting until there are no more apps to be updated from the Australian store. Then logout from Australian store and login to UK store, and repeat the process...

    Very time consuming and really upsetting...

    This is when you maintain 2 different accounts for 2 different countries, I don't want to imagine the nightmare if I merge them...

    At least Apple changed their policy about allowing you to have only 1 App Store account in the World, yes only 1! (4 years ago)

    They cancelled one of my accounts, since I'm also a developer it cut me from my apps that I developed using that account because my developer ID was associated with that.

    When I contacted they enabled it, but this kept happening every once a week, so I escalated the issue and finally a higher in ranking agent took my call. He said that I can only have 1 app store since I have one LEGAL residence. I said how do you know that I only have 1 LEGAL residence? He answered when you live more than 6 months in a country that becomes your residency and you can only have your account in that country.

    My answer quite surprised him and contributed Apple to change their policy with their 1 store limit.

    I said, I live 3 months in country X, 3 months in country Y, 3 months country Z and 3 months on my yacht in international waters, which App Store can I use?

    The answer was silence... :)

  8. Andrey
    February 2, 2016 at 6:53 am

    «Once you’ve switched stores, your list of purchases in iTunes and on your iPhone or iPad will be empty, but the apps you already have on your device will continue to update without a hitch. In this sense, your app purchases are tied to your Apple ID and will continue to update until you delete them.»

    Just to make sure. Is it true for the apps I downloaded from another country's app store that are not accessible in my country's store? Will they continue to update?

  9. Ian Daish
    January 5, 2016 at 8:55 am

    There is a very easy get-around. Acquire an old and otherwise redundant & virtually worthless iPhone 4 or iPad2 (say) and start up a brand new AppleID account on it in the new country that you want to access the App Store. You do not actually need to register a credit card issued in the new country as it appears that you can use iTunes gift vouchers instead. I have just done all this to obtain a free app here in New Zealand to access Lightbox NZ, a local television on-demand streaming service, that I cannot access using my home country (UK) App Store. Job done!
    Ian Daish (kiwidaish@icloud.com)

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