Hi there! Have you ever wondered – are free trials totally free as they claim? I was curious too, so I did some digging. The answer I found? Well, it‘s complicated. Stick with me for the real deal on free trials.
Free Sounds Good – But Is It Too Good to Be True?
When companies offer a free trial, it sounds pretty sweet. You get to try out their product or service before spending a dime. Just enter your email, maybe a credit card, and enjoy…sounds easy right?
Many of us love the word "free" so much that we happily sign up without reading the fine print. I mean who really wants to read the boring terms and conditions?
But here‘s the catch – some sneaky companies count on customers forgetting to cancel the trial. Next thing you know, you‘re being charged every month for something you don‘t want or need anymore!
Let‘s uncover what‘s really going on with free trials so you can avoid any unwanted surprises on your bank statement. Knowledge is power, my friend.
The Art of the Free Trial
Free trials are a creative marketing strategy used by companies to acquire new customers. Here‘s how it works:
- Offer product free for limited time – usually 7-30 days
- Remove risk of trying product – don‘t pay if you don‘t like it
- Give time to experience value – so you see benefits firsthand
- Incentivize with discounts – special price if you sign up now
- Require payment details – easier to charge when trial converts
This approach banks on the likelihood that some folks will stick around as paying members after testing it out. And with credit card already on file, transitions are seamless.
So free trials give us the chance to try before we buy, while companies get our business – win-win, right? Well, sometimes…
The Ugly Truth: Forgetfulness Fees
You‘re savvy, so you signed up for the trial fully planning to cancel if you weren‘t into it. But you got busy and gasp…forgot to cancel in time.
Next month, you see a non-refundable charge for a subscription you never intended to keep. Doh!
You‘re not alone – this happens all the time:
- 35% of first-time subscription users forget to cancel free trials
- 63% of online subscriptions start with a free trial
- Up to 30% of gym memberships originate from forgotten trials
This consumer forgetfulness converts to massive profits. For example, popular streaming service XYZ pockets over $500 million dollars a year from free trial conversions.
So while we‘re sleeping, companies are happy to collect those forgetfulness fees!
Read the Fine Print…Or Else!
Free trials lure us in with promises of "100% free" and "risk-free." But take it from me, unless you read the fine print, a free trial can cost you.
Before signing up, be sure you understand:
- Exact trial length – 7 days? 14 days? 30 days?
- Cancel deadline – when must you cancel to avoid being charged?
- Cancellation process – how and where in account settings?
- Payment terms – when is first charge, frequency, amount?
- Auto-renewal – does membership auto-continue after trial?
Also watch for pre-checked boxes when signing up that opt you in for extra charges or memberships. Sneaky, I know.
While most trials are legit, some companies use sketchy tricks to make it tough to actually cancel. Set reminders and read the fine print to avoid signing your money away!
Caught in the Subscription Trap
Janet, 32, Denver, CO
"I signed up for a free yoga app trial but forgot to cancel before I left for a 2-week vacation. By the time I got back, my credit card had already been charged for a full year membership! $150 gone just like that for an app I used once. I felt so stupid."
Situations like Janet‘s are exactly why it‘s crucial to mark your calendars for any free trial deadlines. Apps make it even easier to forget – out of sight, out of mind!
But with phones reminding us about everything nowadays, there‘s no excuse to miss a cancellation date. Set multiple alerts so you don‘t get trapped in an auto-renewing subscription!
Recurring Payment Horror Stories
Chris, 27, Atlanta, GA
"I signed up for a "free trial" skin care membership but they kept sending me products every month and charging my card without my permission! I told them to stop but they said I agreed to a 12-month subscription. $500 in unwanted charges later I finally got my bank to block them."
Lily, 41, New York, NY
"My son downloaded a "free" FIFA game on his tablet without asking me. I had no idea until they charged my card $29.99 for some virtual game add-on package. Monthly! On a child‘s game! I cancelled it immediately but they refused to refund the charges."
The key is – don‘t agree to recurring payments without reading carefully first. Too many "free" trials convert to unwanted recurring charges, even on kids‘ games and apps!
How to Cancel Pesky Free Trial Subscriptions
Didn‘t like the product? Cancel in time but still got charged? Here are some options:
Simply log into your account and navigate to "Billing" or "Subscription" settings to cancel. Click cancel or unsubscribe and confirm.
Look for a cancellation link in your confirmation email. Click and follow prompts.
Chat or call support to have an agent cancel your subscription for you.
Credit Card Company
You can request to block future charges from the vendor with your card issuer.
Complaint with FTC
File an official complaint if the company employs unfair billing practices. The FTC can get involved.
Don‘t let free trials take advantage of you! With some vigilance, you can safely take advantage of risk-free trials.
How to Spot a Shady "Free" Trial
- Requires credit card upfront
- Super short trial period, like 3 days
- Buried or complex cancellation process
- Pre-checked boxes to opt into extra charges
- Vague terms and conditions
- No clear way to cancel online
Use your best judgment before handing over your payment details and signing up. Ask yourself – does this offer seem sketchy or manipulative? Trust your gut!
Free Trial Alternatives
If you want to test a product risk-free but are wary of trials, consider these options:
- Limited demos – try mini version without signup
- Free content samples – download free articles, videos, tools
- Freemium access – use free basic features of paid version
- Money-back guarantees – refund if unsatisfied
The Verdict? Read Carefully!
So, are free trials totally free? Technically yes, for the trial period. But post-trial, charges can sneak up if you‘re not diligent.
The bottom line – don‘t get swayed by the word "free." Read the fine print, set cancellation reminders, and use prepaid cards when possible.
Wishing you happy and headache-free trialing! Share your own tricks and horror stories in the comments.