Q: I see so many opportunities for subscription services and I'm interested in signing up for some. Is there anything I need to consider first?
A: Subscription services have certainly become more popular. Just about everything can be purchased as a subscription now, including video and music streaming services, meal delivery services, snacks, clothing, personal grooming products, makeup, vitamins, pet toys, wine, and the list goes on.
There are some things to keep in mind before you sign up. Here are BBB's 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. You can find BBB's tips on how to spot a fake social media site by visiting BBB.org. You can also use BBB.org to check out companies and verify if they have a good business rating. In addition, you can do an online search of the company you're considering and include the words "scam" or "complaint" to reveal any red flags you should be aware of. Consumer reviews are another source to consider.
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 consumerfinance.gov: 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, check to see if the company's process allows you to provide an early notification that you don't intend to subscribe to a service, but want to continue to enjoy the benefit of the trial offer. 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. Be sure to check out apps with BBB for their rating prior to using them as well.
Watch out for scams. Scammers may offer you "free trials" or deals on subscriptions that seem too good to be true, hoping you'll sign up and hand over your credit card number. Don't believe deals that seem outrageously good. In addition, if you receive a "renewal notice" that asks you for your credit card information, think twice before you reply. It's likely the message is a scam. Renewal notices are reminders from a company that already has your payment information. Always contact the company directly to verify suspicious messages.
Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga
Chattanooga's Riverview Grande apartments sell for $41.5 million as Dominion acquires more rental properties in area