Kim Schaller, Card Services Officer
With New Year resolutions falling by the wayside it’s more tempting than ever to sign up for a free trial of a miracle weight loss tablet, the anti-aging wrinkle cream, or muscle building supplement. We’ve all seen the clever advertising through email, T.V., radio, and social media that seems too good to be true. While many of these companies are legitimate, there are companies who are taking advantage of consumers.
3 Reasons to Stay Away from These Traps
For the most part, free trial offers are simply not worth the time, effort and potential risks. Many times, the offers are not truly free. Offers are usually filled with restrictions, additional club memberships, return shipping charges, and activation fees. Some dishonest businesses make it tough to cancel, hiding terms and conditions of their offers in teensy type, using pre-checked sign-up boxes as the default setting online, and putting conditions on returns and cancellations that are so strict it could be next to impossible to stop the deliveries and the billing.
Here are the main reasons why you should avoid free trial offers.
1. Release of Your Personal Information
At the very least, in order to register for most offers, you need to give out your email address. Sharing your email can open up new hassles. Companies sell its customer lists to other companies; your spam emails will increase exponentially. Your inbox will be bombarded with junk mail. Junk mail can even continue after you cancel the service or opt out.
Most offers will also require that you submit your credit card number to cover the cost of Shipping and Handling. Your card is now on file with the company to charge after the free trial period depending on their Terms & Conditions. There is also a risk of identity theft when sharing your financial information online especially if you don’t really plan on paying for anything.
2. Difficult Cancellation Process
Oftentimes, it is much more difficult to cancel a free trial than to start one. Although you sign up online, you might have to cancel over the phone. These calls can take forever. Remember, the companies don’t want you to cancel the offer. They have absolutely no motivation to make the cancellation process easy or convenient.
If you cancel a free trial note the time, date, and name of the person with whom you had spoken with. Many times, you find that you cancelled within the terms only to see you have been charged again the next month.
3. Are You Going to Remember to Cancel?
It is your responsibility to cancel the service or subscription by the end of the free trial. Companies consider the order date as day one of a free trial. Read the fine print. Make sure you are marking the cancellation deadline on your calendar and set up some sort of alert (through your cell phone or an online tool like Google Calendars). Cancel before the trial period expires. Again, they have no incentive to remind you. Companies make money when people forget to cancel. You may not even notice until you see unusual charges on your credit card bill or bank statement.
Overall, there are far more disadvantages to a free trial offer than advantages. Do you really need or want the random service or product because they’re “free”? There are simply too many risks involved, and if you’re not careful, these offers can cost you a lot of money.
If you decide to move forward with an offer, read the fine print and find out what the cancellation process entails, and mark your calendar before you move forward.