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What you should know about subscription services

These days, just about everything can be purchased as a subscription. Video and music streaming services are hugely popular. Meal delivery services provide premeasured ingredients and easy recipes on a subscription basis. You can sign up for regular shipments of snacks, clothing, personal grooming products, makeup, vitamins, pet toys, wine, and the list goes on.

What should you know about a subscription service before you sign up? Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following tips to help you get the most out of subscription services while watching your budget.

★ Do plenty of research. Take time to research a company before you sign up for a subscription or trial. Find the company on social media and review their account. Check to see if the company has a good business rating, and look online for consumer reviews. Do an online search of the company including the words “scam” or “complaint” to reveal any red flags you should be aware of.

★ Investigate free trials. Free trials can be a good way to get to know a company and try out a product, but make sure you understand how they work. Before you sign up, find out how long the trial period lasts, what exactly you are agreeing to, and how and when to cancel if you decide not to subscribe. If any of this information is confusing or unavailable, take your business elsewhere. The Federal Trade Commission adds this warning about free trials, “Free means free. Be suspicious of companies that offer something free but say you have to pay to get it. You may be dealing with a scammer.”

★ Understand how auto-renewal works. Auto-renewals are a convenient way to keep your subscription current if you decide you like the service. On the expiration date, the company charges your credit or debit card and the subscription renews for another period. Keep in mind that companies must send you a renewal notice, which is a brief reminder that your subscription is about to renew, ahead of time. Always check your bank and credit card statements to make sure the cost is what you expected. If you notice a price jump, it could be that you were signed up for a promotional period that ended.

★ Know how to stop a subscription. There are three ways you can stop automatic payments from your bank account according to Contact the company to revoke payment authorization, call and write your bank or credit union informing them you’ve revoked payment authorization, and/or give your bank a “stop payment order.” Usually, contacting the company to revoke authorization is sufficient to cancel a subscription, but monitor your bank statements closely anyway. If you still see unwanted charges, you may need to take further action.

★ Cancel unwanted subscriptions early. Instead of waiting until the last minute to cancel a subscription or free trial, The New York Times says, “there is generally no drawback to ending payments ahead of time.” You can usually cancel early and still enjoy the remaining time left on your subscription for that billing period. Calendar alerts can also help you keep track of when to cancel a subscription, so you don’t forget and end up paying for an extra subscription term.

★ Periodically review your active subscriptions. If you aren’t careful, you could lose track of what subscription services you are paying for. To maintain your financial health, Forbes reminds consumers to figure out how much they are spending on subscriptions. Periodically, review your subscriptions to make sure you’re still using them. If you are signed up for multiple subscriptions, a subscription management app can help you to keep track of and manage them.