Get a free credit report! How about a free month of streaming movie service!? Like downloading music, get 30 days free. How about books? You see these offers in your email, and on millions of websites. In reality, they can be great for testing out a service and getting an idea for whether or not you would use it them enough to justify paying for them. They are also great ways to get something you need at no cost to you (as in the case of the free credit score offers). Be very careful though, since the drawback to these offers can often times come back to bite you in the wallet.
These types of offers are rampant among rewards sites like MyPoints and SwagBucks, as well as various other sites and direct email campaigns. The companies invite you to take a free trial of their services for a set amount of time–usually from 7 days to one month–in exchange for you registering and providing a credit card. Sometimes you have to pay a $1 registration fee to take advantage, which isn’t really so bad in relation to the rewards you can earn for doing so, in addition to having access to the service for this trial period. But at the same time, there is a caveat included which normally states that if you do not cancel the free trial before the predetermined expiration date, your card will be charged a recurring monthly fee until you finally do cancel.
What’s worse is, if you are the type that isn’t diligent about going through your bank or credit card statements, it me be quite some time before you even realize that you have been charged these amounts. Additionally, service providers will not be very accommodating about giving your money back since they provide the disclaimer about what happens when the trial period is over, and thus putting the burden on you to make sure you stop the service before getting charged.
There are a few ways, however, to avoid getting caught in their trap:
Don’t sign up for these offers at all.
Many of these offers are designed to entice you to join their service, but by expressly stating that the trial will automatically convert to a paid plan, these companies are hoping that some of the people who accept will indeed forget to cancel. What can be better for them than to have someone paying for a service without that service actually being used? The remedy here is easy as pie; if you don’t take the chance of forgetting about the conversion to a paying plan you will never have to worry about it!
Cancel as soon as you sign up.
As soon as you sign up for a free trial offer, go to the help/FAQ page and fill out the cancellation form. Many of the companies will make you call their “customer service” number which is simply another way to say pushy sales people department in order to terminate the free trial. All you need to do is tell them that you aren’t interested in anything they have to say or offer you, that you simply want to cancel. Since many services will continue through the entire term, regardless of when you cancel, it ensures that you will be able to take full advantage without worrying about having to pay anything later.
Just remember to get the cancellation confirmation number just in case they screw up and end up charging you.
Set a calendar alert
In the case of some free trial offers, like Netflix, the trial period ends the minute you cancel. If you want to use the entire trial period, but still want to make sure you get out before you pay, all you have to do is set a calendar alert to go off the day before the trial period is set to end. If you don’t use some kind of computer-based calendar, and who doesn’t these days, just leave yourself a bunch of reminder sticky notes all over the place to cancel.
Like most things, these free trial offers can be very useful, if used properly. All you have to do is plan accordingly and you won’t ever have to worry about being burned by these programs ever again.
Have you ever taken advantage of such offers before? Ever been a victim of your own forgetfulness and ended up getting charged? Has anyone been successful in getting multiple months of unwanted charges removed?