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BEACON Senior News

How to cancel your unwanted subscriptions and save big

Feb 23, 2024 02:32PM ● By Adam Cochran

Tax day is approaching next month, which is a great time to review your budget and cut out any forgotten or unnecessary expenses.

One of the best ways to cut expenses is to evaluate all your subscription services. From streaming movie and music to online storage, software applications, smartphone apps, gym memberships, magazines and retail discount membership programs, these costs can gradually add up to more than $100 per month without much notice.

Many companies use free trial offers to attract customers, knowing that, statistically, a majority will either decide to keep the service or forget to cancel after the trial ends. 

Numerous smartphone and computer apps are free to use, but they hide premium features and add-ons behind subscription paywalls. While some apps charge as little as 99 cents, others, especially those for managing finances or media production, cost hundreds of dollars per year.

As you prepare for tax season, here are a few tips for finding, canceling and preventing unwanted and overlooked subscriptions.

Carefully review your expenses

Check all of your financial accounts, including checking and credit cards, for any unknown fees. Some services, including banks, insurance companies and phone/internet providers, might offer add-on subscriptions that can easily go unnoticed. Although it’s illegal to bury fees, some shady services make committing to a subscription as simple as blindly checking a box as you sign up for a different service.

Many subscriptions, especially those bundled with other services or offered as promotions, don’t begin until after a long trial period. For example, when you subscribe to a new cell phone service, you might receive a year of Apple Music or Netflix for free, only to be charged for service in the second year with little or no advance notice. Some people pay for services for months or years before realizing it.

Any account that is insured by your bank or a major credit card company will work with you on stopping payment or procuring refunds from shady subscription services, but they won’t make it easy. It’s best to try to manually cancel all subscriptions before turning to your bank or credit card company. 

In cases of blatant fraud, you should skip contacting the fraudsters and notify your financial institution and credit monitoring companies immediately.

If all of the charges and subscriptions are legitimate, there are still ways to reduce the amount you’re spending on subscription costs:

Check for perks

You may be paying for Netflix, Apple Music, Hulu or other service when it’s available as a free perk with your Walmart+ or cell phone plan.

Rotate subscriptions

I keep Amazon Prime year-round, but I rotate through the other services every few months. Once I’ve watched everything I want on Netflix, I cancel and sign-up for MAX (formerly HBO MAX) or Criterion for a new variety of programming.

Cancel right away

If you haven't used a subscription service for months, cancel it without remorse. I often sign up for an annual subscription and cancel it the next day to avoid surprises with automatic renewals. Most annual subscriptions continue until the end of the paid period unless you negotiate a refund.

Use a dedicated checking account

If you have concerns that a service may be difficult to cancel, consider opening a low-balance checking account just for subscriptions. If a company tries to charge more than the balance, the subscription will be terminated due to lack of funds. You won't be penalized for not having enough money because it's a subscription, not a contract.

Seek help

If you're overwhelmed by the number of subscriptions, contact the institutions that sponsor the account. They are legally obligated to help you assess and resolve unwanted charges. While they won’t do all the work for you, they can assist in tracking down the original vendor or finding the correct website for unsubscribing. 

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