Don’t let online subscriptions end up costing you money for nothing

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Just yesterday, I handed over a twenty dollar note to pay for a coffee. The barista looked baffled – cash?! In a consumer world where all our payments are cashless it is really easy to lose track of the money floating out of your bank account. Subscription renewals or recurring billing for services are often automated and could be costing you money for nothing.

Regular reviews of how much money you’re paying out each year for online subscriptions could have you cancelling subscriptions you didn’t even know you had!

What subscriptions are Australians spending their money on?

Here are just some of the services or products we’re agreeing to pay automated subscription fees for:

  • Streaming services such as Foxtel, Netflix and Stan
  • Software renewals including anti-virus software
  • Wine clubs
  • Newspapers or magazines
  • Insurances
  • Toll charges
  • Gymnasium or health centre memberships.

The last one is a great example of an often underused subscription. If you’re not getting value for money out of your gym membership, cancel it. Don’t wait until you get the fitness bug again. Commit to regular walking, jogging or cycling to build up your fitness first. Then see if you still want to sign up to gym membership fees!

Put money back in your spending budget

Here are some tips for getting control back over recurring online subscriptions that could be draining your bank account.

Make it a habit to always check your monthly credit card or paypal statements

The first step to identifying where your money is going every month is to check your monthly credit or debit statements in detail. By that, I mean line by line!

I recently discovered an anti-virus software subscription – that I never signed up to that were costing me a good $300 a year! Paypal investigated and I received a refund of 12 months worth of unauthorised monthly debits.

However, some subscriptions are set to automatically renew every 12 months – you won’t pick these up on your monthly statements until it’s too late, so check out the next tip.

Review your emails for the past twelve months and diarise subscription renewals

In most cases, when you sign up to an automated subscription, you’ll receive an email confirming your subscription. The first thing you should always do, is ‘uncheck’ the box that will say words to the effect of ‘automatically renew every 12 months’. But, if you’re not sure if you’ve done this, sweep through your emails for the past year and find evidence of any online subscriptions. Then add a calendar reminder at the 10th or 11th month – so you can then consider whether to cancel the subscription before the auto renewal, or if you’re happy to keep paying.

Contain payment of all your online subscriptions to one account

If you have several credit and debit bank accounts, along with a Paypal account connected to one of these, consider only ever using one payment method for all your subscriptions. In my case, using Paypal meant that when there was a dispute, it was really easy to follow through and confirm whether I was at fault, or whether I’d been duped.

If your bank account details change update all your recurring payments

If your credit or debit account details change, it is your responsibility to let any merchants you have a recurring payment arrangement, such as online subscriptions, know. You’ll also need to stay on top of new expiry dates on your credit or debit cards and update these too.

Keep copies of all recurring payments you’ve agreed to pay

Keep soft or hard copies of all the recurring payment agreements such as subscriptions, that  you enter into from day one. If your keeping email records, set up a folder to keep these all in one spot. And, if you prefer hard copy records, keep them all together in one file.

There are also a number of apps and software that can help you manage your recurring subscription payments, many of these are aimed more at businesses, but may be worth exploring. Just keep an eye on the automated subscription fees!

Cancel any unwanted subscriptions RIGHT NOW!

If you review your bank transactions and find recurring payments for services or products that you simply no longer need, go straight to the merchant’s website and cancel your subscription. Legitimate providers of services and products will make this process easy – usually you’ll just need to log in to your account with them, go to the ‘manage payments or subscriptions’ pages and cancel. If you can’t find out how to do it online, call the company to cancel and make sure to make a note of the date, who you spoke to, and what you requested.

More information on managing recurring direct debits such as subscriptions

Visit the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Moneysmart page: Direct debits

If you have a dispute with a merchant that keeps direct debiting you without your authority, contact the relevant financial institution or bank for advice in the first instance. If you’re using Paypal, you’ll have an extra layer of insurance in that they will facilitate disputes – visit PayPal Online Safety and Security page to find out more.

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