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Tech tips

Don’t want to pay for these popular apps? Get them for free

“For free.” Are there any sweeter words in the English language? Unfortunately, there is often fine print when it comes to “free” anything.

In the case of Google Play’s newly introduced (free, cough cough) rewards program, known as Google Play Points, the goal of the program is two-fold: You’re given incentive to spend extra money and Google gets more profits.

How does this free rewards program work and is it worth your time? Read on for all the details, and tap or click here to learn about the dangers found in the Google Play store.

OK, so how does this program work?

Google Play Points was initially launched in Japan and South Korea last year, but now it’s hit the United States. The program gives you points for all in-store purchases, downloads and subscriptions.

These points can be exchanged for rewards, which include anything from Play Store credit to donating money to non-profits.

If you frequently play a game you’re subscribed to on the Play Store, you can use your Play Points to gain access to secret characters you wouldn’t otherwise be able to view, or get extra items. This is not true for every game, but you will see bonuses like this when applicable.

Note: You cannot transfer rewards or redeem them for cash.

To sign up, simply go to the Play Store, tap “menu” and hit “Play Points.” To earn points, buy things on Google Play or install featured games and apps. If you already spend a lot of money in the Play Store, then this rewards system can be used in your favor.

Rewards are increased if you make purchases during special events and they can be multiplied up to four times. The rewards program is split into four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The higher your level, the more points you earn. For example, at Bronze, you’ll earn 1 point for every dollar you spend, while at Platinum, you’ll earn 1.4.

As extra incentive, during your first week in the program, you have the potential to earn up to three times the points per dollar you spend. All points you earn remain in your virtual account one year from your last activity, which includes earning or using them. Once you reach a new level, you can maintain it until the end of the next calendar year.

All of this free stuff in exchange for money you’re already spending sounds great, but before you go hog wild, take a minute to finish reading the terms. As always, proceed through Google Play with caution. Tap or click here to see 145 Google Play apps that were hiding malware.

Time for the fine print

Let’s start with the four levels. Let’s say you qualify for the Platimum. If you return any purchases, you lose all applicable points, so you can be demoted to a lesser level. In their terms page, Google also explains what happens if you reach “Negative Point Balance.”

If you refund or cancel purchases and your remaining point balance isn’t enough to cover the point reversal, your account goes into Negative Point Balance. If this happens, any purchases you make will give you points toward the climb out of this deficit until you break even.

If you change your mind about using your points for certain rewards, that’s too bad. All point items are final, unless Google specifies otherwise, and you can only get one point item per promotion.

Still have questions about the point system, rewards or the terms of service? Visit Google Play Points’ FAQ or contact Google Play Support here.

The choice to play along is yours

If you think joining Google Play Points is worth the investment, it makes sense to be part of the program. Who doesn’t like free stuff to go along with the purchases they’re already making?

But if you don’t really spend money in Google Play, the rewards program won’t really benefit you. It’s all a tactic Google came up with to pressure people to spend a little more money. Get enough people to spend a few bucks a week and Google rakes in the dough.

Buyer beware! If you feel the pull to spend more money, remember points are only applicable to certain apps. Don’t go crazy downloading everything in sight, especially since many apps lurking in the Play store aren’t safe. Tap or click here to learn which Google Play apps are safe.

Ultimately, the decision to participate is yours alone. Which will you choose?

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