I am trying to download a free app but it keeps telling me to provide a credit card. I try to avoid it but it won't let me and I don't have a credit card.
How can I use App Store without a credit card?
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I don't know of any way to set up an existing Apple ID for use with the App Store without supplying a credit card (or other payment source) (unless it's an iCloud account, I think -- it's not completely consistent). Don't ask me why this is, it makes no sense to me. There are a couple of ways to set up a paymentless account though:
Create a new Apple ID account as part of the purchase of a free app (see Apple Support article HT2534). You'll need to sign out of your current Apple ID, then start purchasing a free app, and tap Create New Apple ID when asked what ID to use.
This means that your App Store "purchases" will be under a different Apple ID than whatever you have set up under your current ID, but since they're free apps anyway, that's not too big a deal. If you want to purchase non-free apps later, you can always add a credit card (or iTunes gift card or whatever) to your old Apple ID and do those purchases under it, but it may be a bit alloying to have to maintain multiple identities. Note that the new Apple ID will have to be linked to a verified email address (other than the one your current ID is linked to).
Add a credit card to your current Apple ID, "buy" a free app, then change the account's payment type to "none" (see Apple Support article HT1918). Since you never actually buy anything, the card never gets charged. I haven't really experimented with this option, but AIUI you can continue to purchase free apps under the account even after the credit card is removed.
I don't know the answer to "how can I use App Store without a credit card", but I think I can partly answer the "why" question in your title.
The reason is that credit card, apart from being a source of payment, is also a way to identify your country or region. For instance, with a U.S. credit card you can make purchases in the U.S. App Store, but with a Chinese credit card you can't—you need to go to the Chinese App Store. Why? Because different countries and regions are subject to different terms of services on the App Store, even for free apps.
I hope the credit card thing isn't all that ridiculous now.