KSL INVESTIGATES

Subscription overload: How to cut down on those monthly costs

Mar 11, 2022, 6:07 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 10:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — These days, you can subscribe to just about anything. Five dollars a month here to watch TV shows, or $10 there to stream music, store photos online, get a shaving kit delivered monthly – you name it. So, how much trouble can all these add up to? It turns out, many of us are feeling subscription overload.

First, you subscribed to Netflix to keep in the know about “Stranger Things.” Then, you couldn’t get enough of “Baby Yoda” on Disney+. Then before you knew it, “Ted Lasso” roped you into Apple TV+.

Many of us also subscribe for music, or to buy pet food or to get shaving or beauty boxes, and on and on.

More than half of us, wind up subscribing to a service we really do not want, according to a new survey shared with the KSL Investigators by Bankrate.

“Chase says that 71% of Americans are wasting at least $50 a month on subscriptions that they’re not really using,” said Bankrate’s senior industry analyst, Ted Rossman said. “So, that’s pretty staggering.”

Six hundred dollars a year staggering.

So, just how are we getting trapped into unwanted subscriptions?

Well, it is easy to sign up for something and then quickly forget those monthly payments will hit our credit cards or bank accounts, even for a service we no longer find useful. Another way we often find ourselves in an unexpected subscription – we forget to cancel a free trial.

“There’s the free trial that turns into a paid subscription without your knowledge or permission,” Rossman said. “Sometimes there’s stuff that we used to like that kind of falls out of favor and then we forget to cancel it.

Here is the rub: Rossman said breaking up with a subscription service is often hard to do.

“A third of our survey respondents said that it’s difficult to cancel services, and sometimes that’s by design,” he explained. “In fact, we found that almost as many people have had a subscription problem in these past two years during the pandemic versus all the pre-pandemic times combined.”

Rossman said many companies have come to rely on negative option marketing, where a business presents consumers with a subscription offer, and if the consumer keeps quiet or fails to act, the business considers it an acceptance of their offer.

Here is what can help: Turn off the auto-renewal option when you subscribe — just assume you won’t renew. Also, keep a list of your subscriptions with details on how you signed up and how you can cancel each service. Set a reminder in your calendar a few days before a free trial renews. You can also turn to your credit card company.

“Visa and Mastercard have unveiled new rules that are supposed to make it easier,” Rossman said. “It remains to be seen how merchants really follow through on this, but they’re supposed to be more transparent about notifying you what you’re getting into — giving you reminders over time, giving you clear instructions for how to cancel if that’s in fact what you want to do.”

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission said it plans to crack down on companies making it hard to cancel services. The agency said subscription services must provide clear information on cost, charges, and how to cancel. And cancelling should be just as easy as signing up.

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Subscription overload: How to cut down on those monthly costs