Truebill is a service that aims to help you save money on your monthly bills. In return, the company gets a cut of the money it is putting back in your pocket.
On the surface, that seems like a reasonable trade-off. But, like many things in life, this process isn’t as simple as it seems. There are trust hurdles and potential pitfalls to understand before you put Truebill to work on your finances.
Many Clark readers may equate this platform to Trim, which is another financial health company that attempts to lower bills in exchange for a cut of the savings.
I’ll address the similarities and differences between the two in this article. I’ll also fill you in on how Truebill works, consider some safety concerns and take a look at Better Business Bureau reviews.
Understanding How Truebill Works
Let’s start by developing a clear understanding of what Truebill does. According to its website, Truebill works to “optimize your spending, manage subscriptions, lower your bills, and stay on top of your financial life.”
How could it possibly do all of those things? I signed up for an account to take a look around and find out.
To understand how Truebill works, it’s easiest to break the service into four parts: Lowering Your Bills, Managing Subscriptions, Seeking Refunds and Premium Services.
Lowering Your Bills
You’ll probably notice that Truebill advertises itself as a free service. I guess that depends on how you view it. It’s true that there is no upfront fee for letting Truebill attempt to lower your bills, but you certainly aren’t getting those savings without compensating the business.
For every dollar saved by the use of Truebill, the company wants 40% as a “savings fee.” That fee is charged once the savings are secured, and it applies to one year’s worth of savings at one time. So if Truebill saves you $500 annually on your bill, you’ll be charged $200. If Truebill is unable to find savings for you, it costs you nothing.
When you sign up for an account, Truebill will prompt you to enter information about some of your monthly bills into its database through a four-step process.
Step 1: Search for the Bill Provider
The list is actually pretty comprehensive. As you can see from the screen grab above, mainstream companies such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast and DirecTV are eligible for a price check by Truebill. The company touts an 85% success rate in negotiating bills.
Step 2: Give Truebill Access to Your Monthly Billing Statements
This step may be where some of you start to get a little bit queasy when it comes to online security. There are two options: Either log in to your online billing account to connect it to Truebill, or upload a PDF or image of the bill.
Step 3: Provide Contact Information and Enable ‘TrueProtect’
Providing a contact number is simple enough, but the real thing to pay attention to on this screen is the “TrueProtect” program. If you choose this option, you’re allowing Truebill to negotiate a better price on this bill if new deals come available.
Some users have complained about Truebill changing particulars on things like cell phone plans or cable packages for the sake of saving money. I’ll have details on that later.
Truebill changing your plan could be troublesome if it eliminates channels or features you felt were worth the extra money. And you’ll still get hit with the 40% fee because the company will have (technically) delivered on its promise to lower the bill.
Step 4: Give Truebill Authority to Charge Your Credit Card
Before it does anything for you, Truebill is going to make sure it has a way to claim its 40%. The company charges you only if it is successful in lowering your bill. But it appears likely that you could get billed for Truebill’s share of a year’s worth of savings upfront — even though you’ll get those savings only a month at a time.
Managing Subscriptions and Recurring Bills
After you’ve set up some bills for Truebill to analyze, the next service it is going to pitch you is managing your monthly subscriptions.
Truebill wants to be able to monitor these through either a bank or credit card statement. It gives you the option to add your preferred account via this dashboard screen:
Pay special attention to the disclaimer on this screen, which explains why Truebill wants access to your bank account. The site states that Truebill will not bill your account. But remember, the company already has your credit card number on file.
A list of the subscriptions that Truebill says it can monitor on your statements is available here.
The theory is that Truebill will be able to pinpoint all of the recurring monthly charges you have on your account and then help you eliminate unwanted fees. You are able to remove these subscriptions on your own, or you can sign up for Truebill’s premium service, and its “concierge team” will cancel them for you. The premium service plans range from $3 to $12 per month, according to the latest pricing from Truebill.
Seeking Refunds for Fees and Outages
Truebill offers the service of sending a letter to banks in order to request refunds on overdraft or late fees on connected accounts. This process is initiated through the dashboard after you set up your account. It is worth noting that not all banks will allow Truebill to do this on your behalf, so you may be stuck doing some of the legwork.
Truebill also monitors outages on things like your cable, internet and phone service and will seek out potential refunds on your behalf. The 40% savings fee will apply to these refunds, but this one seems like a pretty nice perk, as sometimes you can be unaware an outage occurred.
In addition to lowering bills and managing subscriptions, Truebill also has some tools that may be helpful in making sound financial decisions with your monthly budget. However, many of those tools fall under the premium subscription options, which range from $3-$12 per month.
Truebill says premium subscription offerings include:
- Balance Syncing
- Premium Chat
- Cancellations Concierge
- Custom Categories
- Unlimited Budgets
- Smart Savings Plans
A subscription renews automatically but can be canceled at any time.
While all these are nice offerings that could help you make smart decisions, it’s worth noting that services that monitor spending habits and budgets may already be offered by your bank or credit card issuer through their user interface. In other words, don’t pay Truebill for something you may already be getting elsewhere for free.
Is Truebill Safe to Use?
Any time a financial app asks for access to personal online financial records, you’re right to be skeptical. It should immediately raise a red flag, and you should proceed with caution.
Truebill understands that potential users are going to be skeptical of the security risks involved with the service. One of the main tabs on its website, aptly titled “Security,” attempts to put your mind at ease about virtually “handing over the keys” to your accounts.
Here are some key points from the company’s security disclosure:
- Bank-level 256-bit encryption is in use for your data
- Truebill uses the Plaid service to connect with financial institutions
- Because of Plaid, you should not be asked to give banking credentials to Truebill
- Truebill says that it does not sell your data to third parties
- Truebill hosts its data on Amazon Web Services, which also stores sensitive data for the Department of Defense (among others)
So is it safe? It does seem on par with current industry security standards. However, only you can make the determination as to whether these measures are enough to trust Truebill with your data.
Truebill vs. Trim: Differences in Competing Services
For most users, Truebill and rival financial app Trim are pretty easy to confuse. Both set out to tackle many of the same things: lowering monthly bills, managing subscriptions and detecting potential savings. Both offer their services with more than 15,000 financial institutions. The similarities even extend to their names beginning with the same two letters.
But there are some distinctions we can make for the sake of comparison shopping.
The most glaring difference is the percentage each company charges for finding savings. Truebill charges 40%, while Trim is a bit lower at 33%.
Some secondary differences include:
- Trim will cancel subscriptions for free; that’s a premium (read: paid) service at Truebill
- For $10 per month, Trim has a program that will negotiate lower interest rates on your debts and help you set up a payoff plan
- Truebill has free iOS and Android apps, while Trim does not
How the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rates Truebill
It feels like we should tag this portion of the review with a disclaimer: “The following is not for the faint of heart.”
Truebill’s Better Business Bureau profile has red flags all over it. Truebill is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau. It has an “F” rating. (Just like in school, an “F” is the worst score possible.)
The Better Business Bureau indicates there are three key reasons for Truebill’s failing grade:
- Failure to respond to complaint(s) filed against business
- 20 complaint(s) filed against business
- Length of time business has been operating
The customer reviews of Truebill are not any better. As of November 2019, the company had a one-star rating (out of five).
I read through the 20 complaints and was surprised to see 19 of them had been filed within the last 12 months. There are some nightmare scenarios, with details ranging from complaints about Truebill claiming a 40% share of an internet bill savings that a customer negotiated themselves over the phone to Truebill renegotiating a cable/internet/phone bundle to lower costs that resulted in changing a cell phone plan without requesting permission.
Satisfied users don’t often report their experiences to the BBB, but there are enough negative reviews here to make you uncomfortable.
Final Thoughts: Is Truebill Worth It?
In spite of the negative reviews above, Truebill has the potential to help some consumers. Let’s take a quick look at some pros and cons for Truebill to see if it might be the right fit for you:
Truebill: Pros and Cons
|Catches service outages||Takes 40% of savings|
|Monitors subscription renewals||Requires access to sensitive personal information|
|No subscription fee for basic service||Has negative reviews on Better Business Bureau website|
Bottom line: If you’re someone who is on top of your budget and spending each month, Truebill may not be for you. However, if you are too busy to monitor things like auto-renewing subscriptions or service outages, the free service could be worth it. After all, 60% of uncovered savings is better than 100% of a missed savings opportunity.
Have you used the Truebill service? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!