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I often sign up for free or promotional trials, be it for a newspaper subscription, a food delivery, or a “pro” version of some otherwise free service. Many of these limited free offers require credit card information and provide that the regular monthly or yearly fee kicks in automatically at the expiration of the initial period.
The problem … as I can attest to, is that the promotional period ends and suddenly there’s a bill for something that I totally forgot all about, I don’t want and I never intended to pay for, and now I have to face the annoying process of trying to cancel the charge.
The typical representative is less than pleasant and superciliously reminds me that, under the terms, I could have canceled at any time, but didn’t (etc, etc, etc. . .).
If I catch the charge early, I’ve found it’s easier to cancel it, but still an annoyance and a time-drainer. The problem gets compounded when I miss the renewal by a few weeks or more.
Just yesterday, I was faced with two automatic renewal issues. Each story is kind of funny.
First, I noticed a $95 charge from Google on my Amex card. I did not recall any Google charge, so I called Amex and reported it. They considered it a probable fraud so they canceled the charge and my card and said they would FedEx a new card. Five minutes after hanging up the phone, I received an email from Google Express informing me that my three-month Google Express trial period had ended, and I was being charged the agreed $95 fee. Oops. I now called Google and canceled that service.
Next, I was going through over 2,000 emails (I was away for the weekend and couldn’t keep up with all the &^&%$### Black Friday/Cyber Monday offers), and I came across an email from NewEgg telling me my Premier membership was up for automatic $49 renewal. I think I had received the elevated membership from a Groupon deal last year. I pronto called NewEgg and asked to cancel my Premier membership. I was told (for some reason unknown to me) that my Premier membership renewed for free, and did I still want to cancel? I said no, and thank you, and asked the nice rep to email me a copy of my invoice showing the $49 credit.
So, how do you handle the Automatic Renewal issue? Here are some suggestions.
When signing up for the initial promo:
- instead of using a credit card, use a gift card with only a few dollars on it (I have never actually tried this, but heard from some people that this sometimes works)
- set alerts on your credit card, of charges when your card is not present
- mark your calendar with the must-cancel-by date
- call the company and say you want to cancel service
- call the company, and try to negotiate for a further free period or reduced fee (this is similar to the retention call with credit cards – you could say something like you like the service, but it’s not worth the full price to you….)
- if the company refuses to cancel the charge, you might (or might not depending on the factual circumstances and the State where you live or the company does business) have a legal right to call the credit card company and challenge the renewal charge.
- if you decide to accept the renewal, you may still be able to ask the company to put the charge on a different credit card than the one you originally provided
What other suggestions do you have?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.