Why free trials are often not worth it

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Don’t make the mistake of subscribing to a free service if it costs you in the end.

Key points

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

Free trials are extremely common with companies that offer subscriptions or charge ongoing monthly fees. Whether it’s a local gym offering you a free month or an app or streaming service, there are plenty of situations where you might be offered the opportunity to try something “for free.”

Of course, when you receive one of these offers, it’s worth remembering the old adage that nothing in life is really free. In fact, there are a few big reasons why signing up for a free trial can end up paying a hefty price.

There are a few simple reasons why you might not want to sign up for free trials

The big problem with free trials is that you usually have to 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 usually automatically opt in to continue paying for the service as soon as you accept the free trial. And this can become a big problem for several reasons.

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

The second big problem is that some companies make it really hard to cancel once you’ve signed up for a free trial. This is not always the case. Sometimes it’s just a matter of clicking a few buttons to end your subscription. But in other situations, you may need to call the company to cancel, and you could be put on hold for a while or forced to go through other hurdles to successfully close your account.

If it’s hard to cancel, you can keep putting it off until they end up charging just because canceling your subscription is so inconvenient. Or you may simply be unable to close your account due to difficulties and may 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’re considering signing up for a free trial, make sure you understand the potential downsides of doing so. To protect yourself:

  • Find out when and how you should cancel before contracting the service.
  • Check if you can cancel online.
  • Mark your cancellation date on your calendar.
  • Check the company’s reviews to find out if they were cooperative with the cancellation process.

If possible, you might consider canceling the free trial as soon as you’ve signed up. That way, you could opt in if you really wanted to keep the subscription, but wouldn’t risk getting stuck paying for a service you decide you don’t need.

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