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You might be spending a lot more on subscriptions than you think.
From Amazon Prime to Spotify and countless other services, the average consumer now juggles five retail subscriptions for items like makeup, clothing or wine, and nearly five paid streaming subscriptions.
When asked how much they were paying, consumers underestimated their subscription costs by an average of $133 a month, or $1,596 per year, according to a study by C+R Research.
Even worse: The same poll found that 42% of people had stopped using a subscription but forgot they were still paying.
For consumers who want help tracking and canceling those payments, a subscription management app could be the solution.
What’s a Subscription Management App?
Subscription management apps monitor your financial account transactions to identify and notify you of recurring charges.
Generally these apps are free and come with a few complimentary features, such as budget tracking tools. But users have to grant access to a lot of sensitive dataand you typically have to upgrade and pay a fee to get the apps to cancel your subscriptions for you.
Setting up a subscription management app usually requires these steps:
- Download the app. Note that some subscription managers can be used in a web browser.
- Link your account(s). You may be required to link a checking account, but you can choose to add other accounts, too. The more you add, the more subscriptions the app can identify.
- Authenticate your accounts. Enter your financial account login credentials and follow any additional required steps to authenticate your identity.
Are Subscription Apps Really Useful?
Subscription management apps do something you can do yourself for free: They review account statements and identify recurring charges.
While many people let these charges go unmanaged, nearly half of all consumers know exactly when and how to cancel a subscription. A 2021 survey from Deloitte found that 46% of people who used streaming services had canceled at least one of them in the previous six months, and 43% canceled on the same day they decided they didn’t want the service.
But for someone who isn’t quite as quick to cancel, a subscription manager could remind you to unsubscribe and save you the hassle of reviewing each of your financial accounts (although regularly reviewing your account statements is a key habit for good money management).
Most apps also provide budgeting tools, however they’re nearly identical to the tools now included in many mobile banking apps. And those budgeting tools aren’t particularly effective if you don’t link all of your financial accounts, and take time to label and track various spending categories.
There’s also some security risk involved with using an app to manage subscriptions:
- Sharing sensitive information. From bank account numbers and credit card numbers, to Facebook account information (if you choose to log in through your social media account) and various passwords, loads of sensitive information can be stored in the app’s database and represent a major security risk for users.
Subscription Management Apps: Quick Comparison
Truebill was named one of Forbes’ 50 most innovative fintech companies in 2021.
The company offers its basic services for free, and has a sliding scale for premium services. Users who don’t pay will need to cancel their subscriptions manually, but Truebill will cancel subscriptions for premium users.
To set up Truebill, download the app and link a checking account from one of the 15,000 partnered banking institutions, then choose your monthly payment amount. It may not be obvious right away, but $0 is an option.
The free service also includes monthly tracking of your VantageScore 3.0 credit score. But like most features in the app, you’ll need to provide additional information or authorization to access the feature—in this case, a soft credit sweater. It’s worth noting that you may also be required to provide your Social Security number and grant limited power of attorney, even for the unpaid service.
Truebill lets users choose what they want to pay for additional features, and the amount you choose doesn’t impact the product you receive:
- premium services: A payment of $3 to $12 per month gives you access to budgeting tools and a monthly credit report. If you wish to cancel a subscription, Truebill agents will contact your service provider to cancel the subscription on your behalf.
- bill negotiation: Users can have their bills negotiated by a Truebill agent. If negotiations are successful, you’ll choose to pay between 30% and 60% of the first year’s savings.
Users can access the platform through a web browser or on the Hiatus app. Subscription monitoring is free, and there’s no cost to use the app’s budgeting tool, which tracks spending based on categories the user picks.
For $10 a month, premium subscribers get access to an agent who will negotiate certain monthly bills on their behalf and can cancel subscriptions. Hiatus does disclose, however, that negotiations may result in changes that don’t improve your current payment arrangement.
You can choose to pay more for the premium service, but this part can be a bit confusing. You can select your own price point for premium subscriptions, from $7-$21 or a flat fee of $36 per year. But similar to TrueBill, paying more doesn’t mean getting additional features.
Trim doesn’t have an app at this time, but users can set up an account directly through the company’s website. Subscription monitoring is free, but you can pay for additional products and services:
- bill negotiation: If Trim successfully negotiates a price reduction on cable, internet or phone bills, users will pay a fee equal to 15% of the annual savings.
- Simple savings fund: Trim offers a savings account at 0.001% interest. If you have a Trim subscription you can earn a 4% annual reward once your account has a $2,000 balance.
Users should note that it could take up to two billing cycles to get a reduced rate after bill negotiation is complete. Additionally, medical bill negotiation and bank account negotiation are not available in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, DC
The company discloses that it shares user’s personal information with other financial companies and advertisers, including income, credit history, account history and Social Security numbers. You also have to grant limited power of attorney, and appoint Trim as your agent and attorney-in-fact, if they wish to let Trim communicate with third-parties on their behalf.
On the plus side, Trim provides some limits to their users’ financial liability. In the event that you discover an unauthorized account transaction, Trim’s website says you can lose no more than $50 as long as you inform the company within two days of the event. Otherwise you may be liable for losses up to $500.
TrackMySubs works a little differently from other subscription managers. The Australia-based company makes it free to track 10 subscriptions of your choice, and you choose how far in advance you wish to get a notification before a subscription charge goes through.
The company offers guides on how to cancel Netflix subscriptions and other accounts. But users have to manually enter each subscription and payment due date, regardless of how much they pay to use TrackMySubs.
To manage more than 10 subscriptions, you have to pay a fee. Note that the prices posted on the website are in Australian dollars (AUD), so they don’t match what you’ll be charged in other currencies. Here are what upgrades roughly cost in USD:
- $3.37 gets you 20 subscriptions with unlimited alerts
- $6.74 gets you 50 subscriptions with unlimited alerts
- $10.11 gets you unlimited subscriptions with unlimited alerts
Users can set up an account through the company’s website or possibly via Chrome extension, but the Chrome extension does not appear to be functioning at this time.
For someone who has security concerns, TrackMySubs could be the best subscription management solution. Manually entering each subscription means you keep your financial account numbers and login credentials private. Plus, the company does not sell or provide personal data to any third parties.
On the other hand, the process of setting up an account may render the service useless. “Many of our users have told us that just by going through this process they identified subscriptions they didn’t want and canceled them immediately,” the TrackMySubs website says.
PocketGuard is a budgeting app that comes with free subscription management features.
App users will have to create a profile by using a LinkedIn, Google or Apple account, and they may have to permit info sharing from that account in order to proceed.
You can then link your financial accounts if you want to use a number of financial tools, or you can opt not to link accounts, which means entering subscription information manually.
Free accounts on PocketGuard come with recommendations on how to reduce subscription costs and other bills, but if PocketGuard successfully negotiates a rate reduction on a user’s behalf, the app charges a fee equal to 40% of the savings.
For $7.99 a month (or for a discounted annual price), users can upgrade to Pocket Guard Plus and get additional financial tools, including debt payoff tracking for their linked accounts, but the upgrade doesn’t provide any additional subscription management services.