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When everything from meal kits to music streaming to designer shoes is available by monthly subscription, keeping track of automatic charges isn’t easy. Digital subscriptions are particularly tough to track since you don’t get a tangible reminder on your doorstep or in your mailbox each month.
As the popularity of subscription services grows, so does consumer frustration over recurring charges they either forgot to cancel or couldn’t shut off due to a lack of customer service.
Changing your credit card won’t necessarily stop the charges because credit card issuers will now update charges to your new credit card automatically. However, if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to cancel a subscription service, you can contact your credit card issuer or bank for help.
Keep reading to learn more about how recurring credit card charges happen and what tools are available to help you cut them out of your life.
What is a recurring charge?
A recurring charge happens when you sign up for a subscription service that automatically bills your credit card on a regular basis. This is usually monthly, quarterly or annually, but really any schedule may be implemented.
Most often, you see recurring charges with subscription services. The most obvious subscription service that comes to mind is Netflix, but cable packages are also examples of subscription services with recurring charges. Subscription services exist for a wide variety of products and services, from exercise classes to razor refills.
While subscription services are extremely convenient, these companies are literally banking on the fact that it’s easy to forget to cancel these subscriptions if you no longer want them or find you underutilize them.
Recognizing the need for help tracking and canceling recurring charges, several startups, as well as major financial institutions like Capital One and Chase, now offer tools that let users sync their credit cards or bank accounts to get help canceling unwanted subscriptions.
Here’s a look at six of these handy tools, listed alphabetically:
Using artificial intelligence, Trim is a tool that cancels old subscription services and even contests bank fees. Of course, none of these tools can eliminate a bill that’s still under contract, so Trim has implemented features that help users lower those bills with companies like Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon, among others.
It can cost you to use Trim, but you can test out the service with a 14-day free trial and can then choose to use the free version or the premium version with added features, which costs $99 a year. Trim claims to save users over $600 in their first year, so the cost of an ongoing membership may be worthwhile.
Can’t remember where you’ve signed up for subscription services? It can be difficult to pinpoint all of the companies hitting you up with recurring charges. Chase credit card users can get help finding where they’ve saved their card info by using the Chase Account Manager feature. Once you see which companies have access to your card for recurring charges, it’s a lot easier to identify where you want to cut back your spending and exactly where you need to go to cancel your subscriptions.
Hiatus aims to help their users improve their financial management by using machine intelligence to analyze their finances and monitor for unfair rates, as well as help you eliminate unwanted subscription services.
If you’re looking to save on some of your subscription services by linking your financial accounts to the Hiatus dashboard, you may be able to uncover which companies you should request to cut you a deal. On top of identifying these problem areas, Hiatus also provides users with personalized and actionable financial advice.
Capital One customers can use Eno to monitor their accounts, prevent fraud and track spending. Eno can also help users avoid surprise subscription charges by reminding them about when a free trial is supposed to end. That way, you don’t end up accidentally paying for a costly subscription service you don’t want.
Truebill combs users’ transaction histories and creates a convenient summary of all of their subscription services. With the click of a button, users can ask Truebill to cancel most unwanted subscriptions on their behalf. This service has canceled over one million subscriptions for their members, saving them time and stress.
Truebill also helps users stay on top of their bills, making sure they never miss a payment and get hit with a late fee.
DoNotPay calls themselves the “world’s first robot lawyer,” and they are ready to help you appeal parking tickets, get late delivery refunds and cancel any subscription service that is weighing you down. They can also help make sure you can take advantage of free trials without accidentally signing up for a recurring charge.
DoNotPay even provides helpful guides that anyone can check out on how to cancel specific popular subscription services. So even if you don’t sign up for their service, you can find the help you need to start canceling your subscriptions on their website.
How to avoid recurring charges in the first place
After you’ve cleaned up your current subscriptions, you can take steps to avoid recurring charges from happening in the first place.
Set free trial period reminders
As soon as you sign up for a free trial of a subscription service, set a reminder to make sure you don’t accidentally stay signed up. Whenever you sign up for a free trial, you can add the trial’s end date to your calendar or use a task app like Google Tasks to send you a reminder that the trial is coming to an end. Getting a notification before the trial period expires will give you a chance to decide if you like the product or service enough to start paying for it or if you want to cancel before the recurring payment kicks in.
Add the subscription service to your budget before signing up
Before you sign up for a subscription service or any kind of recurring charge, make sure you add that new ongoing spending into your budget. Seeing how the recurring charge affects your budget may make you reconsider signing up. While a $15 monthly charge may not seem that impactful at first glance, when you add up all your recurring charges, you may find a solid amount of your budget is being automatically eaten up each month.
Share with friends and family
If your recurring charge comes from a subscription service that is easy to share (like a Hulu subscription), you can share your subscription with friends and family. Many entertainment providers even account for multiple people using one account and allow for more than one person to use the service at the same time. Before signing up for a new subscription service, see if a loved one would be willing to let you use their login and offer to share one you pay for in exchange. That way, you both save money at the same time.
The bottom line
Recurring charges on your credit card can really add up and eat into your budget. While there are some very helpful services available that can assist you in canceling unwanted subscription services, taking certain steps before signing up for these services in the first place is the best way to save money. It can be helpful to set a date once a quarter to run through your current recurring charges to make sure you still want them and to cancel any you no longer need.