Americans are racking up digital subscription bills at a breakneck pace.
They also worry about the cost confusion associated with jumping into the deep end of the monthly subscription pool.
Recent data from mobile payment services provider Bango shows that 72% of US adults believe subscription services are too many. Additionally, the average digital subscriber pays for at least five subscription services per month, and 19% pay for eight or more services.
That’s not all.
45% of subscribers say they “find it difficult to keep track of where and how they signed up for these subscriptions.” Another 35% “have no idea” how much cash they spend on subscriptions each month, while 34% say they currently pay for a subscription service they pay for. “never use.”
“This is not only costing Americans money,” the report notes. “It also affects their experience and attitude towards the subscription economy.”
Managing subscriptions is hard, experts say
A big part of the problem is that dealing with multiple subscriptions and multiple payments is a hassle for online consumers.
“Online subscriptions are difficult to cancel and there’s no easy way to manage multiple subscriptions,” said Tommy Gallagher, founder of Top Mobile Banks.
The headaches come from the often complicated unsubscribe policies. “That process is often difficult because online subscriptions can be expensive and consumers may not be able to afford multiple subscriptions,” Gallagher said.
Since most subscription services only cost $5 or $10 a month, some financial nuances come into play.
“Online subscriptions are hard to handle because subconsciously each subscription isn’t a lot of money, and it forces this part of our brain to ignore the cost,” says Jeff Cronenberg, president of Imagine Wealth Group. “The advertising is so good for these monthly subscriptions that it’s hard to say no. And the structure is so good that unsubscribing is very confusing.”
Clicking the “Cancel” button
How can you cut through the clutter and start unsubscribing from services you don’t use or love? Here’s a quick list.
Know your limits. Make sure you understand what you’re signing up for and what you’re allowed to access.
“Make sure you set limits on how much content you can access at once, and be careful that your subscription doesn’t get out of hand,” Gallagher said.
It’s also a good idea to keep track of how much content you’re consuming and make sure you’re using the content you’ve paid for. “If you’re not using the content you subscribed to, consider canceling your subscription,” Gallagher added.
Create an app. Use mobile subscription management apps like Rocket Money, AskTrim, or Pocket Guard.
Each app can automatically cancel unwanted subscriptions, and each can help organize and manage multiple subscription apps. Be prepared to pay a monthly or yearly fee to access the best (ie premium) services each of the apps has to offer.
Go online and review the subscription service in question, especially regarding cancellation instructions. If that doesn’t pay, go straight to the source and call the company. While staying with a customer service representative is a gratifying experience, you’ll get the job done that way.
“Cancelling your monthly subscription can be a bit tricky depending on the service,” says Alastair Hazell, founder of The Calculator Site. “For example, with Netflix, you can go to their website and click the ‘Cancel your subscription’ link at the bottom of the page.”
If trying to cancel service online is a dead end, contact the company’s customer service department, Hazel said.
Block payment. If all else fails, there are ways to bypass the brick walls of a subscription service.
“One foolproof way is to contact your bank and ask them to block payments from your credit card so the subscription service can’t charge you again after you cancel,” says Made in CA editor. Chief Annie Morris.
Or, as a last resort, get your credit card company involved through a dispute.
“If it gets to this point, the subscription company will drop you because they don’t want to deal with the headache of a credit card dispute, especially if you have evidence that you’re asking them to cancel the subscription,” Cronenberg said.