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When a free trial isn’t free

Who doesn’t love free stuff? But when it comes to free trial offers, think twice. Free trials often come with additional commitments and purchases.

These 4 tips and tricks can help protect you if a free offer is not so free.

grey box with the word FREE written out in various fonts and colors

Free trials are designed to create long term customers

Some companies use free trials to sign you up for more products. Sometimes, a lot of products. These can really add up if you aren’t careful!

The free part of free trials eventually come to an end. What happens after that? You continue your subscription and are billed every month until you cancel.

Life gets busy and it can be hard to remember to cancel that trial or subscription. Especially if you like the product, it can be easy to keep it going. However, you’re no longer on a free trial, you’ve now become a customer. That once “free” product is now a monthly bill you have to pay. Not so free, right?

Free trials may come with additional terms

Make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions before signing up for the offer. The exact conditions of the original trial may have fine print making it difficult to cancel.

What was easy to sign up for, may have you jumping through hoops when it comes time to cancel. For example, you might have to call to cancel the trial. To make the situation even more complicated, some companies have limited customer service hours to contact them. And the hold times can be frustrating.

Hang in there. Cancelling a subscription is often designed to be taxing, so you won’t cancel. Spending some extra time making sure the product is cancelled can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Another unexpected cost can be the shipping costs – which might be more than the product or service costs!

Free trial fine print could share your personal information

Most offers ask for your email address.

Simple enough. However, this could open you up to new pitfalls. Some companies sell their customer list. Your email inbox could quickly fill with junk mail you don’t want. If you used your physical address, you may see an increase in snail mail advertisements and offers.

You might be putting your credit card number at risk.

If you’re being charged shipping and handling for your “free” product, you may have to use a credit or debit card. Be careful. There is always some risk of identity theft when sharing financial information online.

Ways to avoid a trial offer’s hidden costs

Research the company

What kind of customer reviews does the company have? Are there any complaints about trying to cancel an offer? No matter how legitimate the business may look, a quick internet search could save you a lot of headache.

Look for any pre-checked form information

When you’re signing up for the offer, are there pre-checked boxes? Pay special attention and uncheck any pre-filled form information. This is a common tactic for auto-renewal or sharing your information with affiliates.

Mark your calendar

If there is a day that your trial will expire, mark your calendar or set an alert to give yourself plenty of time to cancel.

Read your statements carefully

If you’re seeing charges on your credit card or account statement after your free trial has ended, contact the business. You may have been auto-renewed or the trial may not have been cancelled correctly.

Armed with this knowledge, you can easily avoid getting tangled in the web of free trial offers. Shop smartly and save a lot of grief and inconvenience. If you love saving money, check out our other savings articles.

If the business, or merchant, refuses to cancel the subscription, it’s time to contact Numerica at 800.433.1837. Make sure to also report the business at FTC.gov/complaint.

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