5 Things To Do Before You Sign Up for a Free Trial

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The words “free trial” often elicit joyfully raised brows for the money-savvy consumer. But a free trial can end up costing you big money if you’re not careful.

When you sign up for a free trial, the truth is that it will likely end up costing you something — unless you’re vigilant. In this article, I’m going to show you some ways to protect yourself before you sign up for a free trial.

What You Need To Know About ‘Free’ Trials

I must admit that I’ve signed up for free trials for everything from TV streaming channels to food delivery services to magazine subscriptions.

Signing up for a free trial usually involves handing over the following pieces of personal information:

  • Full name
  • Mailing address
  • Email address
  • Credit card information

Of all the data a free trial exacts from us, it’s that last one, credit card information, that brings the most potential risk with it.

Free Trials: 5 Things You Need To Know Before You Sign Up

Let’s talk about some things you need to know before you sign up for a free trial.

1. Understand the Terms

Just about every service you use online today comes with terms and conditions that relatively few people take the time to read. 

But you need to comb through the terms of service so that you know exactly what you’re getting into.

When it comes to free trials, one of the most important things you want to find out before you sign up is whether the company will charge you after the free trial — and what amount of money you’ll pay.

This information may be prominently displayed on the product’s website or packaging, but it’s just as likely that you’ll have to hunt for it in the terms of use/service.


One example: You have to go to Netflix’s help page to find its plans and pricing.

2. Mark Your Calendar 

Free trial periods vary in length. One week is common, but Beachbody on Demand has a 14-day trial, and Amazon Prime‘s trial period is 30 days long.

Whatever the length of the trial, it can go by quickly. That’s why you should always mark your calendar and perhaps set up a reminder in your smartphone’s calendar, so you’ll know when the trial period is set to expire. If you decide you don’t want to pay for the service, you can remember to uninstall the program and/or cancel your membership before you incur any charges.

3. Use One Credit Card for All Subscriptions

It’s a good idea to have all your subscription services on the same credit card account. That way, you can better keep a handle on your monthly expenses.

And yes, your subscriptions should all be put on a credit card, never a debit card.

4. Check Your Credit Card Statements

Once you’ve put all your subscriptions on one credit card, that makes it easy to check your statement for discrepancies like overages, added-on fees and other things you didn’t sign up for.

Money expert Clark Howard recommends that you check your credit card statements monthly

If you’ve signed up for e-statements, make sure you print them out every month and file them away as pdfs or even hard copies. Having a copy of a bill makes it that much easier to prove any disputes you have with your financial institution or the vendor.

“With a paper bill, people will actually look, more likely than not, at their individual charges,” Clark says. “When they get an e-bill, they only look at the balance, the minimum payment due. They don’t actually look at the individual charges they have, because it’s more difficult with an e-bill by far than it is with a paper bill.”

Read Clark’s advice on the one bill you should get via mail.


5. Know How To Cancel

One of the most important things you want to know before you sign up for a free trial is how to cancel it. 

Some services will hide or make it really difficult to find the “Cancel” and even the ‘Sign Out” buttons.

Before you sign up for the trial, Google “how to cancel [the service/product]” and read through it so that you can have an idea of how to go about it.

Final Thoughts

Free trials are not a bad thing. Team Clark regularly recommends that you sign up for free trials for TV and video streaming services so that you can test them before you pay.

But it’s easy to forget about a subscription that you didn’t pay for upfront. That’s why you should remember these steps:

  • Read the fine print to know when you’ll be charged.
  • Mark your calendar.
  • Pay with a credit card only.
  • Check your credit card statements every month.
  • Know how to cancel.

After the trial period, are you using what you pay for? Read our in-depth guide on how to manage subscriptions.