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Is That Free Trial Actually Free?
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Amanda
Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor
Posted June 15, 2021
In 2019, the Better Business Bureau reported 21,583 free trial complaints. These free trials are frequently offered before signing up for entertainment subscriptions, gym memberships, vitamin and supplement subscriptions, and the list can go on and on. Where it gets sticky is knowing if the free trial will lead to automatic enrollment for the subscription service. Here are some tips to help you determine if that free trial is worth it.
Research reviews
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Always do your research before buying anything online. Start by reading the reviews on the product or service on their website, and search for reviews outside of their main website too. Reviews will let you know others’ experiences with the company and give you details about the product or service the company may not want consumers to know. Sometimes after a little research, it will be made clear that the product being advertised is too good to be true or not of the quality you are looking for. This can also clue you in if others have had issues with being charged after signing up for that free trial.
Read the fine print
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If you are only looking to take advantage of a free trial offer, it is crucial to read the fine print.  Reputable companies will make sure you understand that you are signing up for a subscription after the trial period. They should be transparent about what you need to do so you are not charged when the trial period ends. Other companies will trick you into providing your card information to cover the cost of a small shipping fee and then charge you for the full amount of the subscription for the next month. The fine print will give you information on whether or not you will have to do anything after the free trial period is over and give you a date that you need to cancel your account.
How to cancel a subscription
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If you skipped that last step, take a breath; let’s walk through canceling your subscription. The first place to start is with the company that you signed up for the free trial with. Check your confirmation email, as this usually has a link to their website or it may even include a link to cancel your subscription. Try to follow their cancelation process online, but if you are struggling, you can look for a phone number to call their customer service.

It will be helpful to keep track of your progress through the whole process and keep any cancelation emails you receive. Be sure to request a confirmation email if talking to customer service on the phone. If all of this fails, you can contact your financial institution for their help. Each financial institution has different policies to handle these situations, but most require you to try to reach out to the company first. Having the digital paper trail will give your financial institution evidence that you have attempted to cancel any future payments. They will work with you to find the best solution.
Sources:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0101-free-trial-offers
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/12/buyer-beware-is-that-free-trial-really-free.html
https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/22040-bbb-update-free-trial-offer-scam
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