Why Free Trials Often Aren't Worth It

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  • Many services offer free trials that automatically renew.
  • These services can seem like a good idea, but could end up costing you in the end.
  • They may be hard to cancel and you could easily forget you signed up. 

Don't make the mistake of signing up for a free service if it costs you in the end.

Free trials are extremely common from companies that offer subscriptions or charge ongoing monthly fees. Whether it's a local gym that offers you one-month free or an app or streaming service, there are tons of situations where you might be offered the chance to try something out at "no cost" to you.

Of course, when you get one of these offers, it's worth remembering the old adage that nothing in life is ever really free. In fact, there are a few big reasons why signing up for a free trial may actually end up coming at a big price.

There's a few simple reasons why you may not want to sign up for free trials

The big problem with free trials is that usually you must provide your credit card information when you sign up for them. And, often, you also agree to allow the company to start charging your card right away when the trial ends. 

In other words, you're generally opted in automatically to continuing to pay for the service as soon as you accept the free trial. And this can become a big problem for a few reasons. 

First, many people simply forget to cancel. You often don't get a reminder before your subscription auto-renews. And, depending on the terms and conditions, you may have to cancel a few days before your trial ends. If you decide you do not want to continue using the service once you have to pay for it but you have forgotten to cancel, you could end up paying for at least a month of service you don't need -- if not more. 

The second big issue is that some companies make it really difficult to cancel once you have signed up for a free trial. This isn't always the case. Sometimes, it's just a matter of clicking a few buttons in order to end your subscription. But in other situations, you may be required to call the company in order to cancel -- and could be left on hold for a while or forced to jump through other hoops to successfully shut down your account. 

If it's hard to cancel, you may keep putting it off until you end up getting charged just because ending your subscription is so inconvenient. Or you may simply be unable to shut down your account because of the difficulties and could be forced to argue with the company for a refund or even dispute the charges with your credit card company. 

Be sure to consider the downsides before signing up for a free trial 

If you are considering signing up for a free trial, be sure you understand the potential downsides of doing so. To protect yourself:

  • Find out when and how you must cancel before you sign up for the service.
  • Check to see if you can cancel online.
  • Make a note on your calendar about the date of cancellation.
  • Check reviews of the company to find out if they were cooperative with the cancellation process.

If it's possible, you could consider canceling the free trial as soon as you've signed up. That way, you could opt in if you actually wanted to keep the subscription, but wouldn't take the chance of getting stuck paying for a service you decide you don't need. 

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