I can’t be the only person who’s parted with hundreds of dollars over the years because I forgot to cancel a service at the end of a free trial (hello, Skillshare) or let subscriptions drag on in the hopes I’d get around to using the product.
Mastercard recently announced that it will require companies to get approval from customers to bill them for recurring subscriptions at the end of a trial period. Merchants will also have to email or text a receipt for each subsequent billing cycle along with instructions for how to cancel. Billing statements will include the merchant’s website or store’s phone number alongside each charge.
The original announcement did not make clear that this service only applies to physical products, like monthly vitamin subscriptions and skincare sample boxes. Mastercard will not require merchants who offer digital subscriptions, such as Netflix (and Skillshare), to notify customers or send receipts.
A Mastercard spokesperson told The Verge that this distinction is due to the “fuzziness” of health care products. And of course, this won’t help you if you charge your subscriptions to your Visa or Amex.
For anything that doesn’t qualify, treat auto-renewing services like you would a ‘free’ trial of a product: set a calendar reminder as soon as you sign up, so you can decide for yourself ahead of time whether you really want to pay for an extra month (or year).
If you’ve lost track of what you’ve signed up for and when your subscriptions renew, you may also be able to employ a budgeting app to help you out. Truebill, for example, shows you monthly recurring charges in a single list, including charge dates and amounts, and you can cancel subscriptions right in the app. (Of course, Truebill itself requires a paid subscription.) Trim offers a similar service via text or Facebook.
Of you can simply create a list of reminders for automatic renewals in your favourite to-do list app. Even though you'll get a few check boxes to tick each month, at least you'll receive a message reminding you about the subscription so you can decide whether to see it or not.
Another option? If you only want to use a product or service for a trial, cancel it as soon as you sign up. Some subscriptions will allow you to keep your access through the end of your trial — or, if you’ve already been charged and can’t get a refund (again, Skillshare), through the end of your paid-for period.