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You may 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, clothes or wine, and nearly five paid streaming subscriptions.
When asked how much they paid, consumers underestimated their subscription costs by an average of $133 per month, or $1,596 per year, according to a study by C+R Research.
Worse still: the same poll found that 42% of people had stopped using a subscription but had forgotten they were still paying.
For consumers who want help tracking and reversing these payments, a subscription management app could be the answer.
What is a subscription management application?
Subscription management apps monitor your financial account transactions to identify and notify you of recurring charges.
Typically, these apps are free and come with a few add-on features, such as budget tracking tools. But users have to grant access to a lot of sensitive data, and you usually have to upgrade and pay fees for apps to cancel your subscriptions for you.
Setting up a subscription management application typically requires these steps:
- Download the app. Note that some subscription managers can be used in a web browser.
- Link your accounts. You may need to link a checking account, but you can also choose to add other accounts. The more you add, the more subscriptions the app can identify.
- Authenticate your accounts. Enter your financial account login credentials and complete any additional steps required 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 leave these charges unmanaged, nearly half of all consumers know exactly when and how to cancel a subscription. A 2021 Deloitte survey found that 46% of people who used streaming services had canceled at least one of them in the previous six months, and 43% canceled the same day they decided they wanted to. didn’t want the service.
But for someone who isn’t as quick to cancel, a subscription manager might remind you to unsubscribe and save you from having to check each of your financial accounts (although checking your account statements regularly a key habit for good money management).
Most apps also provide budgeting tools, but they’re nearly identical to the tools now included in many mobile banking apps. And these budgeting tools aren’t particularly effective if you don’t link all of your financial accounts and take the time to label and track different expense categories.
There are also security risks associated 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, a lot of sensitive information can be stored in the database of application and represent a major security risk for users.
Subscription management apps: quick comparison
Truebill was named one of Forbes’ 50 Most Innovative Fintech Companies of 2021.
The company offers its basic services for free and has a sliding scale for premium services. Users who don’t pay will have to cancel their subscriptions manually, but Truebill will cancel subscriptions for premium users.
To set up Truebill, download the app and link a current account from one of 15,000 partner banking institutions, then choose your monthly payment amount. It might not be obvious right away, but $0 is an option.
The free service also includes monthly monitoring of your VantageScore 3.0 credit score. But as with most features in the app, you will need to provide additional information or permission to access the feature, in this case soft credit. It should be noted that you may also need to provide your social security number and grant limited power of attorney, even for unpaid service.
Truebill allows users to choose what they want to pay for additional features, and the amount you choose does not affect the product you receive:
- Top-of-the-range 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.
- Invoice negotiation: Users can have their invoices negotiated by a Truebill agent. If negotiations are successful, you will choose to pay between 30% and 60% of the first year savings.
Users can access the platform through a web browser or on the Hiatus app. Monitoring subscriptions is free, and using the app’s budgeting tool, which tracks spending based on user-chosen categories, is free.
For $10 per month, premium subscribers have access to an agent who will negotiate certain monthly bills on their behalf and can cancel subscriptions. Hiatus reveals, however, that negotiations may result in changes that do not improve your current payment arrangement.
You can choose to pay more for the premium service, but that part can be a bit confusing. You can select your own price for premium subscriptions, from $7 to $21 or a plan of $36 per year. But like TrueBill, paying more doesn’t mean getting extra features.
Trim doesn’t currently have an app, but users can create an account directly through the company’s website. Subscription monitoring is free, but you can pay for additional products and services:
- Invoice 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 bank: 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 balance of $2,000.
Users should note that it may take up to two billing cycles to get a discounted rate after bill negotiation is complete. Additionally, medical bill trading and bank account trading are not available in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, DC.
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 must also grant a limited power of attorney and appoint Trim as your agent and attorney in fact, if they wish to have Trim communicate with third parties on their behalf.
On the positive side, Trim provides certain limits on the financial liability of its users. In the event you discover an unauthorized account transaction, Trim’s website states that you cannot lose more than $50 as long as you notify the company within two days of the event. Otherwise, you could be liable for losses up to $500.
TrackMySubs works a little differently than other subscription managers. The Australia-based company allows up to 10 subscriptions of your choice to be tracked for free, and you choose how far in advance you want to be notified before a subscription fee is charged.
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 must pay a fee. Note that the prices displayed on the website are in Australian dollars (AUD), so they do not correspond to what you will be charged in other currencies. Here is what the upgrades cost approximately in USD:
- $3.37 gives you 20 subscriptions with unlimited alerts
- $6.74 gives you 50 subscriptions with unlimited alerts
- $10.11 gives you unlimited subscriptions with unlimited alerts
Users can create an account through the company’s website or possibly through the Chrome extension, but the Chrome extension doesn’t seem to work at this time.
For someone who has security concerns, TrackMySubs might be the best subscription management solution. Entering each subscription manually means you keep your financial account numbers and login credentials private. In addition, the company does not sell or provide personal data to third parties.
On the other hand, the process of creating an account can render the service useless. “Many of our users have told us that 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 with free subscription management features.
App users will need to create a profile using a LinkedIn, Google, or Apple account, and they may need to allow sharing of information from that account in order to proceed.
You can then link your financial accounts if you want to use multiple financial tools, or you can choose not to link the accounts, which means manually entering subscription information.
Free accounts on PocketGuard come with recommendations on how to reduce subscription costs and other bills, but if PocketGuard successfully negotiates a price reduction on a user’s behalf, the app charges a fee equal to 40% savings.
For $7.99 per month (or for a reduced annual price), users can upgrade to Pocket Guard Plus and get additional financial tools, including debt repayment tracking for their linked accounts, but upgrading does not provide any additional subscription management services.