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While at first glance automatic renewal for subscriptions like magazines or pet food, at first seem to give one peace of mind, they may pose problems when trying to cancel these automatic renewals.1 The most pressing issue is simply forgetting to cancel on time and then you’re left with another year of magazines that you didn’t want.  A lot of times subscription services aren’t willing to cancel such automatic renewals anyway or make it incredibly difficult to do so.  This is also an issue when you sign up for a free trial that requires you to input your credit card information and then you may forget to cancel it before the “free” trial is over.  Additionally, companies conveniently forget to remind consumers that they soon will be charged for an upcoming subscription.  Some free trials are essentially not free when they ask the consumer to pay for shipping costs, for example.  Be wary of anyone asking you to pay something to get something “free” in return, this could be a scam.2

Many subscription services use a “negative option” to get consumers to buy their products. A negative option is when your silence about not specifying to not bill you translates into the consumer getting automatically billed.3 While this practice may be beneficial for let’s say your PG&E bill, it can become detrimental for non-essential subscription items.  Another issue to consider are website using pre-checked boxes to sign up for things without remembering to uncheck those boxes.4

If you currently have any subscriptions set on automatic payments plans, consider removing them, so you have to make a decision every time when it comes to renew your plan.  Try setting reminders to yourself to cancel free trials as well.  Be sure to review the terms on how to cancel free trials; if it is not clear how to cancel such free trials, don’t sign up.5  Before you sign up, check out a company on the Better Business Bureau website to see if any consumers have made complaints relating to free trials or automatic subscriptions.  Additionally, review your bank statements regularly and know what you’re being charged for.