American ExpressAmerican ExpressAmerican ExpressAmerican ExpressAmerican Express
United StatesChange Country

How to Save Money by Managing Your Subscriptions

Managing subscriptions like TV and music streaming apps can help you cut costs – a worthwhile task when these services can amount to hefty monthly bills.

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.


Keep an Eye Out for Common Subscription Incentives Like Free Trials

Digital subscriptions are typically handled as recurring payments automatically charged to credit cards or withdrawn from bank accounts each month or over an established period.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:

  • Set a calendar reminder the moment you sign up for that free trial period. When it ends, you can decide whether it’s a keeper.
  • Cancel subscriptions early in your billing cycle instead of waiting until the last minute. If you wait, you might forget. The plus here is that most services allow you to continue using them through your billing period.
  • Add up total monthly subscription expenditures and assess how the total impacts your budget. What initially seemed like a bargain can quickly mount up when you include your other recurring charges.
  • Set a calendar reminder and audit recurring charges monthly or quarterly. No longer using that yoga app you subscribed to six months ago? Cancel it!


Consider Managing Subscriptions with Subscription Trackers

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:

  • Some subscription trackers analyze spending patterns and suggest ways to save. They also suggest how to trim cable and internet bills, contest bank fees, and cancel old subscriptions. Some may even negotiate directly with providers for you.
  • Some options allow you to establish a budget that monitors your spending by category and points out bills that could be pared.
  • Other subscription management solutions use a combination of machine intelligence, behavioral design, and partnerships to not only cut out unused or unwanted subscriptions but also identify other avenues to cut costs.


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.


Other Cost-Saving Measures for Managing 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.


The Takeaway

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.

Randi Gollin

Randi Gollin is a freelance writer and editor who’s covered topics including food trends, shopping, and cyber issues for digital publications and tech and media brands.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

Related Articles

How to Save Money to Achieve Financial Security


Learn how to gain financial success by saving money on groceries, housing, education, and other monthly bills. Acquire the skill of saving money that can make a lasting difference to your financial growth.


Tell me more

How to Save Money on Food and Grocery Delivery


Food delivery is more in demand than ever, whether for groceries, restaurant orders, or snacks. You can save money on food with these tips on delivery from around the web.


Tell me more

How Much Should I Spend on Groceries?


People can spend very different amounts on groceries, depending on their family size, income level, and many other factors.


Tell me more

The material made available for you on this website, Credit Intel, is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax or financial advice. If you have questions, please consult your own professional legal, tax and financial advisors.