Whatâ€™s a Free Trial?Â A Free Trial is any product, service, or membership that Â is free for a specified period of time and then you are billed at a later date. I strongly discourage you from signing-up for a Free Trial unless itâ€™s for something you plan on purchasing anyways. There are so many things that can go wrong with planning to cancel a Free Trial before youâ€™re billed. Typically your billing information is collected when you sign-up for the Free Trial, but you are not billed until later.
Arenâ€™t Free Trials always called Free Trials?Â Â Free Trials are often disguised under other names. Free trials are also called Free Memberships, Free Products or even Free Samples so itâ€™s important to read everything you can about the offer including the fine print. You are looking for keywords like â€œautomatic renewalâ€, â€œautomatic shipmentâ€ or â€œcancel at any timeâ€ that are used in Free Trials to indicate that you will be billed at a later date.
Whatâ€™s the purpose of a Free Trial?Â Â To give you a real value. Ask yourself what value you expect to get out of a Free Trial before signing-up for it. Be aware that Free Trials are used to get your attention and entice you to buy something you might not normally buy. Just remember a Free Trial means itâ€™s only free for a set amount of time, eventually you will be billed for it.Â The best products and services sell themselves and shouldnâ€™t Â need a Free Trial offer with automatic billing to help them sell. You donâ€™t want a Free Trial to trick you into buyingÂ somethingÂ you donâ€™t want.
Why does it ask for my credit card?Â If youâ€™re asked for your credit card, it might be a free trial. You need to read the Terms of the offer to inderstand why your credit card information is required. Look for when you will be billed and how much you will be billed for.
Canâ€™t I just cancel before Iâ€™m billed?Â You will be billed and itâ€™s never a good plan to cancel before youâ€™re billed. Free trials can be intentionally difficult to cancel because they can deceive you about the billing date, have customer service thatâ€™s unhelpful or nonexistent, or require excessive notification before the date when you want to cancel.
How hard can it be to cancel a Free Trial?Â A perfect example of a Free Trial thatâ€™s impossible to cancel is when you sign-up for a free magazine. Youâ€™re supposed to receive 6 free issues before you are billed and they promise you that you can cancel at any time. What you donâ€™t know is that you might be billed before you even receive that 6th free issue. Or you think you cancelled at the right time but for some strange reason the magazine keeps coming, and they keep sending you a bill, and thereâ€™s no customer service phone numberâ€¦your free trial just turned into an expensive nightmare. I use the term â€œexpensiveâ€ not because the monetary cost would likely be high, but because this frustrating scenario has an emotional cost and costs you your time to resolve.
What if I provide a credit card that expires before it will be billed?Â Â You might think youâ€™re safe by providing a credit card number that will not work when they try to bill you. But the problem is they may still bill you and expect you to pay. In rare cases your nonpayment of this â€œbill you never intended to pay but couldnâ€™t get cancelled in timeâ€ could lead to your account being sent to a collection agency. I know it sounds unlikely but this is a real situation that a few of my readers have dealt with.
When is a Free Trial OK to do? Â When you are getting a Free Trial from a trusted retailer that provides excellent customer service and gives you full access to your account and cancellation options. An example from my personal experience is Amazon. I would do a Free Trial with Amazon because I know how to manage my Amazon account and I have positive experiences with Amazonâ€™s customer service.Â My advice is that itâ€™s better to first have a positive purchase experience with a retailer before you trust them with a Free Trial.
What if my credit card is charged upon sign-up for a Free Trial even though they say it wonâ€™t be?Â Â This is a red flag. If they are billing customers when they shouldnâ€™t be, you need to ask yourself why you are buying from a company that is intentionally or accidentally making billing errors. Try to get the mischarge resolved as soon as you notice it.