When you’re waffling on signing up for a subscription-based service, that almost ever-present 7-day or 14-day free trial can seem like a huge draw. You think: "why not give the service a shot for a week or two, especially if it’s at no cost?" While this logic is, on its face, sensible enough, the reality is that there are some considerations that you should take before giving out personal financial information to any subscription service. What kind of considerations? Let’s take a look at a few.
- Do I Trust the Company Providing This Service?
Likely the most important thing to consider before signing up for any service online, free or not, is whether or not the company is trustworthy to begin with. While a large company like Spotify or Apple might have established reliability and safety, companies that you haven’t heard of before should be approached with caution. For instance, you don’t want to give out personal financial information to anyone before doing some digging to confirm legitimacy. Do some research online to get a sense of the experiences that other customers have had using this service, and confirm that they don’t use any dishonest or misleading tactics in relation to their “free” subscription.
An example of dishonest/misleading tactics is advertising a free subscription, but then making actual cancellation of the service upon the end of the trial very difficult or confusing. Another common tactic is practically making the monthly fee of the subscription more expensive than advertised. This may include something like a base fee at the price established, but a series of additional charges for other products that are looped-in with the service that surpass the expected charge. During your decision-making process, be sure that you read the terms of service carefully!
- Are They Actually Who They Claim to Be?
This is one that you’ve probably encountered before. A pop-up ad for a generally reliable subscription service appears on your browser, offering some sort of extra-special offer or exclusive deal. While everything looks right - the logo, colors, and style all seem legitimate - the ad itself has an odd URL or the deal doesn’t align with anything that you’ve heard of previously from that company. This is where you should trust your gut. There are plenty of scammers who will use an established and trusted brand to try and steal your financial information. If an advertisement seems slightly off or just too good to be true, visit the company’s actual site and try to sign-up there instead of risking identity theft.
- Are You Going to Remember to Cancel a Service Before You’re Billed?
This is a very common mistake that people make and it can very quickly get costly if too many unused subscriptions have gone from free to paid without cancellation. In fact, many online banking services have made subscription tracking a big part of keeping tabs of your expenses month-to-month. If you have a tendency to sign up for a bunch of free subscription trials - because hey, who doesn’t love free stuff? - you’re opening yourself up to the risk of ultimately forgetting to cancel some of those services and paying a pretty penny for a number of things that you don’t need or want. If you don’t consistently keep an eye on the charges made to your checking account, these smaller sized charges could easily be overlooked until the end of the month. By that time, it’s already too late! This leads directly to our next point:
- Is This Actually a Service That You’re Going to Use?
Even though the prospect of getting something for free can be enticing, it can also end up actually costing you in the long run, as we noted above. Before you sign up for any free trial, give some serious consideration to the likelihood that it’s something that you would actually want to use in the long-run. Sure, getting a bunch of fruit delivered right to your door bi-weekly might sound grand when there’s no price tag on it, but is it something that you’re going to want once it costs $25 per shipment? Maybe you will, but it’s good to actually dive into the practicality of signing up before you do so on a whim, both in terms of your actual need or want for the service and how it ultimately fits into your financial situation.
So there you have it, a few things to consider before you take advantage of free trial offers. Looking for some more pointers on how to manage your finances? HRCCU’s financial coaching guide is a great resource for some tips on building a strong financial foundation!