Free trials for software and website subscriptions are popular and very common. They exist with the goal of letting customers try products before they purchase. However, if you don’t plan to buy the service, beware of free trials!
Before signing up, always read the fine print agreement and make sure you know when to cancel before the trial runs out. It may help to write down that cancel-by date so you do not forget! Even if you have every intention of cancelling before the trial runs out, you will still be responsible for payment if you fail to cancel and your credit card is charged. This does not count as fraud.
Always Read the Fine Print
For most free trials (but not all of them), the business will be up front about how the trial works before you sign up. You enter your credit card information to get the free trial, but if you cancel by such and such date you will not be charged. Remember that you are responsible for cancelling.
Always read the fine print before you sign up, especially if the information about how/when to cancel is not obvious. Here are the most important factors to look for to make sure you do not end up getting charged:
- Confirm that you CAN cancel the free trial and avoid being charged for the service.
- Learn exactly how long the free trial lasts, and most importantly, the last day you can cancel to avoid being charged.
- Once you identify the cancel-by date, plan to cancel at least a business day before. Write it down on a calendar or set a reminder on your smart phone.
- Make sure that there are no clauses “trapping” you into buying the service. For example, check that you are not entering into a long-term contract where you will still owe a partial payment if you cancel, etc.
- Be aware that the fine print likely tells you that if you do not cancel by the specified date, you have agreed to be charged for the service.
If You Forget to Cancel, You Are Still Obligated to Pay
If you planned the entire time to cancel the free trial before you were charged, but you forgot to cancel before the specified date, you are still liable for payment. This does not count as fraud. The fine print agreement often stipulates very clearly that your card on file will be charged at the end of the trial.
Unfortunately, you are responsible for this payment and filing a fraud claim or dispute with your credit union can rarely change that. Any time you enter your credit card information online you should be fully aware of what you are signing up for and the terms that go with it. Free trials are a nice way to try out a new program, but if you do not plan to buy the product, be sure you take the necessary steps to avoid being charged.