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US Consumers Want to Cut Online Subscriptions - But Many Don’t Know How

Too many digital subscriptions are chewing into household budgets.

Americans are stacking up digital subscription accounts at a frenetic pace.

They’re also growing anxious about the confusion over the expense that comes with leaping into the deep end of the monthly subscription pool.

Recent data from Bango, a mobile payment services provider, shows that 72% of U.S. adults believe there are too many subscription services. Additionally, the average digital subscriber is paying for at least five subscription services per month, and 19% pay for eight or more services.

That’s not all.

45% of subscribers say “they find it hard to keep track of where and how they signed up for these subscriptions.” Another 35% “have no idea” how much cash they’re shelling out for subscriptions every month, while 34% say they currently pay for a subscription service that they "never use".

“This is not only costing Americans money,” the report noted. “It’s also impacting their experiences and attitudes towards the subscription economy.”

Managing Subscriptions Is a Drag, Experts Say

A big part of the problem is that juggling multiple subscriptions – and multiple payments – is a hassle for online consumers.

“Online subscriptions are difficult to cancel, and there is no easy way to manage multiple subscriptions,” said Top Mobile Banks founder Tommy Gallagher.

Headaches come from often complex subscription cancellation policies. “That process is often difficult, as online subscriptions can be expensive, and consumers might not be able to afford multiple subscriptions,” Gallagher said.

As most subscription services cost only $5 or $10 per month, some financial subtlety also comes into play.

“Online subscriptions are hard to handle because subconsciously each subscription is not a lot of money and so it triggers this part of our brain to not pay attention to the cost,” said Imagine Wealth Group president Jeff Kronenberg. “The advertising is so good for these monthly subscriptions, that it’s hard to say no. And the structure is so good it’s very confusing to unsubscribe.”

Pounding the “Cancel” Button

How can you cut through the clutter and start canceling subscription services you’re not using or don’t like? Here’s a quick list.

Know your limits. Make sure you understand what you're signing up for and what you're allowed to access.

“Be sure to set limits on how much content you can access at once, and be careful not to let your subscription spiral out of control,” Gallagher said.

It's also good to keep track of how much content you're consuming and to make sure you're using the content that you've paid for. “If you're not using the content that you've subscribed to, consider canceling your subscription,” Gallagher added.

Snap up an app. Take the easy way out by leveraging mobile subscription management apps like Rocket Money, AskTrim, or Pocket Guard.

Each app can automatically cancel unwanted subscriptions and each one can help organize and manage multiple subscription apps. Be prepared to pay a monthly or annual fee to use the best (i.e. premium) services each of the apps offer.

Go online and review the subscription service in question, especially on cancellation instructions. If that doesn’t pay off, go right to the source and call the company. While hanging on for a customer service rep is a joyless experience, you’ll get the job done that way.

“Cancelling your monthly subscription can be a little tricky, depending on the service,” said The Calculator Site founder Alastair Hazell. “For example, with Netflix, you can go to their website and click on the "Cancel Your Subscription" link at the bottom of the page.”

If trying to cancel a service online is a dead end, reach out to the company's customer service department, Hazell said.

Block the payment. If all else fails, there are ways to get around subscription service brick walls.

“One surefire way to go is to contact your bank and ask them to block charges from being made to your credit card so that the subscription service can't charge you again after you've canceled,” said Made in CA editor-in-chief Annie Morris.

Or, as a last resort, have your credit card company get involved via a dispute.

“If it gets to this point, the subscription company will unsubscribe you as they don’t want to deal with the headache of a credit card dispute, especially if you have proof of asking them to unsubscribe you,” Kronenberg said.