Streaming services offering free trials (and how to earn rewards after they end)

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As millions of Americans are quarantined due to the coronavirus, many big-name streaming platforms are extending limited-time offers on their services. Here’s a breakdown of free trials offered by some of the most popular U.S. streaming services.

Hulu

Hulu plans start at $5.99, but you can currently get a free trial for 30 days when you sign up. According to Hulu’s site, if you cancel your membership during your free trial period, you won’t be charged.

It’s important to note you may already have access to Hulu if you’re signed up for Spotify Premium.

Netflix

Netflix is also offering a free, 30-day trial. If you cancel your membership online before the end of the trial period, you won’t be charged the standard $8.99 monthly fee (or more depending on the plan).

Bear in mind, Netflix has announced it’s cutting video streaming quality in certain areas of the world. In a statement last week to Business Insider, the streaming giant confirmed it would be reducing streaming quality in Europe for 30 days, which may affect you if you’re currently based abroad.

“We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” said Netflix in the statement.

Quibi

Mobile streaming service Quibi launched on Monday, April 6 and offers TV shows in the form of short, easily-digestible segments.

When you sign up by April 30, 2020, you get 90 days free of charge. After that, plans start at $4.99 a month and increase to $7.99 a month for ad-free viewing.

Disney+

The free trial period for Disney+ isn’t as impressive as other streaming services, but it’s something; get seven days free when you sign up. After that, you’re charged $6.99 a month.

Keep in mind if you’re a Verizon Unlimited customer (or switch to Verizon 5G Home Internet), you’re eligible for a free year of Disney+.

Apple TV+

Now, you can get a free, seven-day trial of Apple TV+. If you purchase a new Apple product, such as an iPhone, Apple TV, Mac or iPad, you can receive a significantly longer one-year subscription to Apple TV+.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime is offering Prime Video free for 30 days ($13 a month after). If you’ve utilized this free trial in the past, understand you’re only eligible once every 12 months.

HBO Now

For a limited time, HBO is offering the chance to stream TV shows and movies, ad-free, without a subscription. Simply download either the HBO Now or HBO Go app for access to 500 hours of free content, including full series like “The Sopranos” and “Succession.”

If you’d rather have the whole gamut, HBO Now is offering a seven-day free trial ($14.99 per month thereafter). You can cancel up to 24 hours before your subscription renews in order to avoid the next month’s charges.

YouTube TV

Stream live TV free for two weeks when you sign up for YouTube TV by April 15. The service costs $49.99 a month, but you won’t be charged until the trial period ends.

Sling TV

On March 18, Sling TV initiated “Stay in & Sling,” offering Sling Blue free for 14 days until April 15, 2020. Most notably, you don’t need to input your credit card information — simply sign up with your email and get access to over 45 live channels. The service normally costs $30+ a month.

“To stay informed in these uncertain times, Americans need access to news from reputable sources,” said Warren Schlichting, group president at Sling TV, in a statement. “With many Americans finding themselves staying at home, we have an opportunity to use our platform to help them deal with this rapidly evolving situation.”

With Sling Blue, you can watch news channels like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, as well as kids and movie channels like Nick Jr. and A&E.

CBS All Access

Up until April 23, 2020, you can get a free, month-long trial of CBS All Access by entering the promotional code “GIFT” at checkout (meaning you have just under a month left of free access to the platform if you sign up today). After, you’ll be charged $5.99 or more per month depending on your plan but can cancel before the end of your free trial period to avoid the charge.

Showtime

New subscribers can get Showtime free for 30 days — via Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, your TV provider and more — if they sign up prior to May 3, 2020. You’ll be charged $10.99 a month after your trial ends unless you cancel your subscription before your 30 days are up.

Post-free trial: How you can earn rewards on streaming services

Though free trial periods are a thoughtful gesture (and surely appreciated by those practicing social distancing and abiding by stay-at-home orders), these services still come at a cost after the fact.

A recent Bankrate survey found 42 percent of U.S. adults have used someone else’s account information to access a subscription service — either video streaming, music streaming or online journalism — presumably to save money. In doing so, survey respondents said they’re saving an average of $513 a year.

If you split the cost of a streaming service with family or friends, it may benefit you to charge the service to a credit card that offers rewards on streaming services.

Bankrate’s list of top credit cards for streaming services

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Rewards:

  • 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 percent)
  • 6 percent back on select U.S. streaming services
  • 3 percent on transit purchases (including rideshares, tolls, parking and taxi)
  • 3 percent at U.S. gas stations
  • 1 percent on all other purchases

Welcome bonus: $250 back in statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months of card ownership

Annual fee: $95

Editor’s take:

Earning as high as 6 percent anything (points, cash back or miles) on select streaming service purchases is more or less unheard of — unless, of course, you’re talking about the Blue Cash Preferred.

To qualify for 6 percent cash back on select U.S. streaming services with your card, the purchase, in most cases, must be made with the provider directly rather than a third party. A few of the providers that qualify for cash back rewards include Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and YouTube TV. You can view the full list, here.

Overall, this card is ideal for on-the-go families due to its high rewards rate on U.S. supermarkets, gas stations and transit.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Rewards:

  • 5 percent cash back on two categories you choose (including TV, Internet & streaming services) on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter.
  • 2 percent cash back on one everyday category of your choosing
  • 1 percent cash back on every other eligible net purchase

Welcome bonus: $150 bonus when you apply online and spend $500 in eligible net purchases within 90 days of account opening

Annual fee: $0

Editor’s take:

The U.S. Bank Cash+ is a great option for those who don’t mind tracking spending categories and are interested in skipping the yearly charge to own it. The U.S. Bank Cash+ offers 12 categories to choose from each quarter to earn 5 percent cash back on up to $2,000 in combined spending, including TV, Internet and streaming services. The rest of the cash back calendar can be found here.

A few examples of qualifying streaming services include Disney+, Sling TV, YouTube and Netflix. If you’re interested in viewing additional sample merchants, you can do so, here.

Unlike the Blue Cash Preferred, the U.S. Bank Cash+ doesn’t charge an annual fee — but your spending on streaming services will be capped at $2,000 per quarter in combined spending with another category of your choice. Realistically, if you don’t spend more than $667 a month on streaming services, this cap won’t mean much to you.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Rewards:

  • 3X points on popular streaming services, travel, gas and dining
  • 1X points on other purchases

Welcome bonus: 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months ($200 cash redemption value)

Annual fee: $0

Editor’s take:

The Wells Fargo Propel is a solid no annual fee choice that earns you an unlimited 3X points on eligible online streaming services. According to Wells, you can earn bonus rewards points on Apple Music®, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora®, Sirius XM Radio Inc. and Spotify Premium.

You’ll get a lower rewards rate on streaming services compared to the options listed above, but you also won’t owe an annual fee — unlike the Blue Cash Preferred — or be tied to a quarterly category cap like the U.S. Bank Cash+.

One unique feature of the card is its cell phone protection benefit. If you pay your cell phone bill with the Wells Fargo Propel, you’ll be protected from damage or theft of your device (a deductible applies). This perk may come in handy if you use your phone for streaming music and videos in public spaces.


Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.