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Avoid the Traps of Free Trials
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Ian D.
Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor
Posted January 9, 2018
When signing up for a free trial, customers often unknowingly agree to a recurring membership and relentless email marketing. During the sign-up process, payment information is collected to make recurring payments “convenient” or to cover the small shipping charges for a trial product to be mailed. Despite the tricky nature of some trial offers, savvy customers can take a few simple steps to avoid the financial traps hidden behind these offers.
Explore costs associated with the trial
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Free product trials may have a shipping cost associated with receiving the sample. Research this fee before entering your payment information, as shipping charges can be inflated to offset the actual cost of the product. Some products or services may come with a required up-front charge that is refunded upon cancellation, or you may be required to return a product to receive your money back. By reading all the terms of a trial closely, you can avoid spending unintended money.
Search for ways to cancel immediately after signing up
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As soon as you submit your payment information, it’s a good idea to figure out how to cancel the service when you’re ready. Some trials will allow you to cancel the recurring portion of the agreement immediately after signing up, while still enjoying your free trial period. Doing this can give you peace of mind and prevent you from forgetting to cancel. If you decide you like the product or service, companies always make it easy to continue the contract or membership.
Monitor your financial statements
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When you sign up with a particular payment method, monitor the statements for that account to make sure there aren’t charges you’re not expecting. If you catch a charge early, it’s easier to dispute it and attempt to get a refund than if you’ve been billed several months in a row or if it’s been a long time since the charge was made. Many companies offering free trials count on a small percentage of people forgetting they agreed to a recurring expense and it may be months before the charges are noticed.
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