Americans are stacking up digital membership accounts at a frenzied pace.
They’re also concerned about the cost confusion that comes with jumping into the deep end of a monthly membership pool.
Recent data from Bango, a mobile payment service provider, shows that 72% of US adults believe there are too many subscription services. Additionally, the average digital customer is paying for at least five subscription services per month, and 19% for eight or more services.
Not only that.
45% of subscribers say they “find it difficult to keep track of where and how they signed up for these subscriptions.” Another 35% “have no idea” how much cash they’re shelling out for a subscription each month, while 34% say they currently pay for a subscription service. “Never use”.
“It’s not just costing Americans money,” the report states. “It’s also affecting their experience and attitude towards the subscription economy.”
Managing subscriptions is a drag, experts say
A big part of the problem is that multiple subscriptions — and multiple payments — are a hassle for online consumers.
“Cancelling online subscriptions is difficult, and there’s no easy way to manage multiple subscriptions,” said Tommy Gallagher, founder of Top Mobile Bank.
The headache often comes from complicated unsubscribe policies. “That process is often difficult, because online subscriptions can be expensive, and consumers may not be able to afford multiple subscriptions,” Gallagher said.
With most subscription services costing $5 or $10 per month, some financial nuance comes into play.
“Online subscriptions are hard to handle because subconsciously each subscription isn’t a lot of money and it triggers this part of our brain to ignore the cost,” said Jeff Cronenberg, president of Imagine Wealth Group. “The advertising for these monthly subscriptions is so good, that it’s hard to say no. And the structure is so good that unsubscribing is very confusing.”
Pressing the “Cancel” button
How can you cut through the clutter and start canceling subscription services you don’t use or don’t like? Here is a quick list.
Know your limits. Make sure you understand what you’re signing up for and what you’re allowed to access.
“Be sure to set limits on how much content you can access at one time, and be careful not to let your subscription spiral out of control,” Gallagher said.
It’s also good to keep track of how much content you’re consuming and to make sure you’re using the content you’ve paid for. “If you’re not using the content you subscribed to, consider canceling your subscription,” Gallagher added.
Snap an app. Take the easy way out by using mobile subscription management apps like Rocket Money, AskTrim, or Pocket Guard.
Each app can automatically cancel unwanted subscriptions and each can help organize and manage multiple subscription apps. Be prepared to pay a monthly or yearly fee to use the best (ie premium) services each app has to offer.
Go online and review the subscription service in question, especially the cancellation instructions. If that doesn’t pay, go to the source and call the company. While hanging up on a customer service representative is a joyless experience, you’ll work that way.
“Depending on the service, canceling your monthly subscription can be a bit tricky,” said Alastair Hazell, founder of the calculator site. “For example, with Netflix, you can go to their website and click on the “cancel your subscription” link at the bottom of the page.”
If trying to cancel service online is futile, reach out to the company’s customer service department, Hazel said.
Stop payment. If all else fails, there are ways to get around a subscription service brick wall.
“One surefire way to do this is to contact your bank and ask them to stop the charges on your credit card so that the subscription service doesn’t charge you again after you cancel,” said the Made in CA editor-in-chief. Chief Anne Morris.
Or, as a last resort, involve your credit card company through a dispute.
“If it gets to that point, the membership company will cancel your membership because they don’t want to deal with the headache of a credit card dispute, especially if you have proof they asked you to cancel the membership,” Kronenberg said.