By Randi Gollin | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor
6 Min Read | May 2, 2022 in Money
Americans pay an average of nearly $300 a month on subscription services.
With so many options (and free trials), managing your subscriptions can prove challenging.
Routinely auditing your subscriptions can help you avoid paying for a glut of unnecessary services.
Streaming bundles, rewards credit cards, and “friends and family” options can also help you cut subscription costs.
Whether you’re a movie buff, audiobook enthusiast, music fan, news nut, meal kit maven, or all of the above, chances are you’ve signed up for several digital subscriptions to further explore your interests. So many, in fact, that you may be dishing out a more sizable sum for those services than you might anticipate.
A J.D. Power survey conducted in June 2021 found that 57% of U.S. households subscribe to four or more television and movie streaming platforms, with the average monthly spend hitting $55.1 Gamers are also feeling the pull, with approximately half subscribing to at least one gaming service2 – costs of which can range from $4–$10 a month. Tack on audiobook, music, news, exercise, cloud storage, meal services, and other common monthly subscriptions and it’s no surprise that Americans are paying $273 a month on average, according to a mid-2021 survey.3 And that’s not the kicker: 100% of respondents underestimated their actual expenditure.
How can you manage subscriptions in this land of plenty? Let’s break it down.
Digital subscriptions are typically handled as recurring payments automatically charged to credit cards or withdrawn from bank accounts each month or over an established period. Some subscriptions are free at first, luring users with several days – or even months – of complimentary service.
Beyond free trials, there are other incentives to sign up, from access to exclusive video content and connecting with fellow gamers to locking in a cloud solution or home security system at a better price. Tap, add to a virtual cart, and you’re on your way.
Still, with multiple subscriptions in play, it’s easy to lose track. One survey found that up to 42% of “trial hoppers,” who attempt to game the system by utilizing free trials with new email addresses, often forget to cancel their services – and end up paying anyway.4
Here are more tips for managing active subscription services:
If you want to cancel or better manage your subscriptions, multiple tools can help streamline the process. Subscription trackers that link to your credit card or bank account, and can be accessed through mobile apps and websites, can help weed out overlooked subscriptions – and more. Just be sure they use secure encryption techniques and multifactor authentication.
A few examples of how they work:
The downside? Not all of these tools are free. The more robust the features, the more likely you’ll have to pay for a subscription to manage your subscriptions.
There are several other ways to manage your subscriptions, save money, and avoid surprise billing for services you no longer want, need, or remember. Consider these options:
Seek telecommunication bundles: Investigate internet and mobile carriers that offer free or cost-reduced subscriptions to premium streaming platforms. The catch is that you often need an unlimited wireless or Wi-Fi plan, or have a certain number of users on the mobile plan.
Use a rewards credit card: If possible, pay for subscriptions with a credit card that offers cash back or points for specific spending categories, such as streaming subscriptions. To reap rewards, verify that your chosen providers are included on the credit card’s list of streaming subscriptions. Other credit cards may issue statement credits if you use your card to subscribe to participating digital entertainment partners.
Take advantage of streaming bundles: Many of your favorite platforms may be available as bundles, allowing you to subscribe to several streaming “channels” at a discounted rate.
Consider yearly subscriptions: If it’s a service you know and love, choose an annual subscription, if possible. Annual subscriptions can save you up to $30 a year or more, depending on the service.
Get your family and friends on board: There’s no point paying for multiple subscriptions if a service lets you add several people to a single account, allowing all parties to utilize the service at one time – as long as you’re adhering to the service’s terms and conditions. Some services also offer friends-and-family plans that may appear more expensive on the surface, but amount to less when split equally among all users.
Explore free streaming services: Several free ad-supported platforms for streaming TV and movies are available, some as apps or free services through smart TVs, for example. And don’t overlook your local library – a library card can be your gateway to free streaming services, not to mention a source of audiobook rentals and more.
With a seemingly endless choice of streaming entertainment options, and everything from music to meal kits available by subscription, you may be struggling to manage your subscriptions – and paying for more services than you need. Free trial periods and exclusive content provide incentives to join, but recurring payments can quickly add up, especially if you forget to cancel at the end of the trial period. Carefully managing your subscriptions can help you cut unwanted, recurrent costs.
1 “Despite Return to ‘Normal,’ People are Spending More Time and Money on Streaming Services Now than During Height of Pandemic,” J.D. Power
2 “US gaming service subscription rate 2021,” Statista
3 “Americans are spending more on subscriptions and are less aware of their spending, says West Monroe poll,” West Monroe
4 “Survey: How many Americans are ‘free trial hopping?’,” Frontier
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