“Free” trials can be costly
The Internet is packed full of free offers. Some are for products or services you might like to try before deciding whether they’re worth purchasing. Diet pills, anti-aging creams, and teeth whitening kits are a few common examples.
Yet ― as STCU employee and weekend crooner Austin tells us ― “while those free trials seem good at the time, forget to cancel it, and you’ll be nickel-and-dimed.”
Free trials typically require you to provide a debit or credit card number for payment. If you don’t cancel within a certain number of days, the payment is swept from your account and there often is little you can do to recover the funds.
Crystal Nielsen, an assistant manager in STCU’s card services department (and Austin’s proud supervisor) agrees: Some “free” trials end up costing consumers a lot of money.
“We’re handling more and more cases of disputed charges involving products and services that members thought were free,” Nielsen says.
In many cases, financial institutions are unable to assist members who’ve agreed to terms and conditions they never read or understood.
“Unfortunately, people have to pay really close attention to what they’re signing up for online and ask themselves, ‘Is this free product worth the time, trouble, and money it might cost me later?’” Nielsen says.
The Federal Trade Commission warnsThis link opens a third-party website that is not affiliated with STCU. that some companies make it difficult to cancel your trial offer, publishing strict restrictions of cancellations in very fine print or using prechecked boxes online to “sign you up” for products or services without your knowledge. In general, free trial offers give you a certain number of days to cancel. If you don’t make the cancellation, your costs can be significant.
Bottom line: Read all the fine print. Or, as Austin croons: “Before you start to clickin’, use your intuition. Read those terms and conditions.”
(Note on Austin’s video: That’s a Bennington flag in the background; there’s a “76” in the middle that refers to 1776, the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.)