Pokemon GO may be free -- but here are 4 ways the app might cost you

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Pokemon GO may be free -- but here are 4 ways the app might cost you


Pokemon GO is sweeping the nation -- and the world.

By now, you're probably familiar with this app that lets you catch virtual Pokemon in the real world. The game uses your phone's GPS to detect where you are, then has Pokemon virtually "appear" around you (on your game map within the app).

The goal is to capture as many Pokemon as you can; when you get close to one, your phone will vibrate to alert you so you can try to catch the Pokemon.

It's an understatement to say that the app is popular: As of July 11, there have been an estimated 15 million downloads of the app in the U.S. alone.

Another way to think about it? According to data from Sensor Tower, users are spending more time in the Pokemon GO app than on the Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter apps.

Although the app is free, you could still end up spending money to get ahead as you play. Here are four costs you might incur in your attempt to "catch 'em all."

1. In-app purchases

Though you don't have to, you can buy "Pokecoins," the in-game currency for the app, which can be exchanged for various power-ups, extra items and other enhancements in the game.

For instance, you can use Pokecoins to buy "Incense" to lure wild Pokemon closer to you for a brief time or "Lucky Eggs" which will help you earn twice the number of points for completing in-game events.

You can pay as little as $0.99 for 100 Pokecoins, or up to $99.99 for 14,500 Pokecoins.

In general, most consumers don't make mobile in-app purchases; a Swrve report found that only 1.9 percent of active mobile game players made an in-app purchase in February 2016. That said, the players who did make in-app purchases spent a monthly average of almost $25. Across a whole year, that's about $300.

Given the meteoric rise of Pokemon GO, it's possible we could see these numbers increase.

2. Spending at businesses that "lure" you in

Some businesses and landmarks are designated as "PokeStops" -- places where you can collect various helpful items, including Poke Balls (the device used to catch Pokemon).

Some savvy businesses are buying "Lure Modules" through the app, which attract Pokemon to the area around a PokeStop for 30 minutes when applied -- and this could end up costing you in ways you may not expect.

For example, a pizza restaurant owner in New York paid $10 to lure Pokemon to his restaurant -- and his sales went up 75 percent as a result.

The Durham Bulls, a minor league baseball team, also invited Pokemon GO players on Tuesday to pay $5 to gain admission to their home field, where a number of Pokemon had appeared.

Some businesses are even trying to require players to make a purchase if they want to catch Pokemon hiding out in their business space; a Reddit user posted a photo of a Dairy Queen with a sign on its door that says "Pokemon are for paying customers only."

3. Offerings that can help get you ahead

At the end of July, the Pokemon GO Plus device will be released -- a Bluetooth accessory that you can wear as a wristband and is connected to your Pokemon GO app. The device alerts you by vibrations or LED light when a Pokemon is close, and you can press the button to catch it.

The $35 device sold out as a pre-sale item at Amazon, GameStop and other retailers even prior to the launch of the Pokemon GO app.

People who were able to buy the pre-sale device are reselling them on eBay even before they've been shipped, and sold listings have gone for $100 or more. One even sold for a whopping $475.

On Craigslist, people are also selling their Pokemon GO accounts that have reached higher levels in the game, and others are offering services to capture Pokemon for you for a fee.

4. Phone data

Pokemon GO uses your data, and potentially a lot of it. As of July 8, players used the app for an average of 43 minutes a day. And because you need to enable your GPS to play, this could mean using up a good amount of phone data if you're not connected to Wi-Fi.

If you don't have an unlimited data plan, spending on data could really add up. For example, if you have a Verizon contract and you go over your data limit, you may end up paying up to $10 for every 1GB you go over.

Bottom line

There are a number of ways you can get ahead in Pokemon GO, but they could end up costing you in a variety of ways. If you plan to take advantage of these, stay mindful of your spending and make sure you don't break your budget as you play.

About the author: Mika Bhatia is a Staff Writer for Credit Karma. She's worked in financial services and tech, and has now found the perfect union of the two at Credit Karma. When she's not busy coming up with credit-related analogies, she's most likely supporting the Warriors, enjoying a fine cup of British tea or doing yoga (goal: completing a headstand without toppling over).

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