Turns out, you can’t cook, you never went to the gym, and you don't read magazines. Whatever it is, it’s no longer useful, and you need to know how to cancel a subscription. The problem is, you have no idea to start!
Whether it’s something you don’t need or don’t use anymore, or it’s a something you completely forgot you subscribed too, canceling a subscription usually isn’t a big deal. But, “usually” doesn’t mean “always.” Sometimes, learning how to cancel a subscription turns into an epic struggle to figure out how to cancel a subscription that doesn’t want to cancel.
It’s easy to lose track of subscriptions, especially if you’re no longer using the service or product. It could be that gym membership. Or, it could be that you got married and you’re using your spouse’s Netflix account.
We’re not pointing fingers (unless we point them at ourselves!), but not everyone thoroughly checks their bank or credit card statements every month. We give it a casual once over and if it looks “about right” we figure everything is fine.
That’s good for the merchant but bad for us. The merchant doesn’t care if you use their service or not, so they’ll keep billing until you get around to canceling. Sometimes subscriptions auto-renew and we didn’t even realize it. Or, we meant to cancel the subscription, but life got in the way, and we never got around to it. Worse, we thought it was canceled, but somehow that subscription came back to haunt us!
Start by auditing your subscriptions. Make a list of every subscription you know you want to keep. Write down the dollar amount you think the subscription should be. Then, grab your bank or credit card statements and confirm that you are paying the right amount for the right subscriptions.
Take those same statements and identify every subscription you “forgot” about or aren’t using anymore. Those are the ones you’re going to cancel later.
Don’t lose track again
Once you’ve figured out which subscriptions you’re keeping and which ones you’re canceling, you need to create a system so you never lose track of your subscriptions again.
Remind, remind, remind
You could create a simple spreadsheet that tracks all of your subscriptions, their renewal information, and whether or not you’ve canceled it. However, you need to be proactive with the spreadsheet, updating it and checking it regularly.
If proactive isn’t your thing, you could set calendar reminders for specific dates in the year reminding you to either cancel an upcoming renewal or to audit yourself again. Also, while you’re at it, set a reminder for any “free offers” you signed up for and need to cancel before they aren’t free anymore.
Put all your eggs in one basket
Calendars and spreadsheets aren’t for everyone. If that sounds like you, consider keeping all of your subscriptions on one credit card or with one checking account. Don’t put some subscriptions on one card, some on another, and others with your checking account.
Keeping all of your subscriptions in one place gives you a quick and easy way to find and keep track of them. If you want to make sure you never, ever, lose track again, consider opening a credit card that has nothing on it but your subscription billings. There’s nothing easier than that!
Just make sure you pay it in full every month. Otherwise, those subscriptions can spiral out of control and the interest will eat you alive.a
How to Cancel a Subscription
With your audit complete, you’re ready to learn how to cancel a subscription. Great! There’s really nothing to it. Mostly.
That’s not as ominous as it sounds. Most reputable merchants want happy customers. And, more importantly, they don’t want to create angry ex-customers, so it’s usually pretty painless to figure out how to cancel a subscription.
Terms and conditions
Start with the terms and conditions. You may have a paper copy of it, or you might have a digital copy. The terms and conditions may also be on the merchant’s website.
The terms and conditions should outline how to cancel a subscription. In fact, the information about how to cancel a subscription may even be on a page conveniently called “Cancellations” or something like that.
Cancellation policies will vary but may include things like how to cancel, when you have to cancel by, or what happens when you cancel. Check directly with the merchant to find out the specifics for your situation.
Contact the company
If you can’t find the terms and conditions or cancellation policy anywhere, contact the company. Reputable companies will likely have a customer service email, chat, or even phone number to help you out.
Be prepared, though. A big part of learning how to cancel a subscription is (possibly) dealing with a customer service agent who wants to keep you as a customer. They may try to upsell you or offer you a special deal. But, you’ve got to be strong and insist on canceling. Be kind, though. The customer service agent is just doing their job.
When you can’t contact the merchant
You’ve read the terms and conditions, and you’ve repeatedly tried to contact the company directly with no luck. Despite all of your efforts, you can’t seem to cancel this subscription for anything. In that case, you’ll need to escalate this matter by contacting your bank or credit card company.
Reach out to their customer support agents and explain the situation. You may be able to stop the merchant from withdrawing money from your bank account or charging your credit card because it is illegal for someone to charge your accounts without your consent.
But, beware. Explaining the situation to your bank, and even getting them to suspend the charges, may not solve your problem.
When you use your bank account
Contact the card issuer and explain the situation. They will likely also have you fill out a form and issue a chargeback to the merchant, which should get the company’s attention. But, just like with a bank account, you need to have evidence to back up your claim.
On that note, don’t think you can close your credit card account and start a new one. If you stay with the same credit card company, they will transfer the recurring charge from your old number to your new number. It’s meant to be convenient for when your number is compromised but will do nothing to resolve your situation.
Keep an eye out for zombies
Yes. That’s exactly what it sounds like. Inactive accounts or old debts that you thought were taken care of aren’t and come back to bite you.
In the event you close the bank account associated with the subscription, and the merchant keeps charging you, the bank could reopen that account, and they don’t have to tell you about it. That means you’re racking up fees from the merchant and the bank and may not realize it.
Make sure you’ve completely resolved the situation with the merchant before you close your bank account for any reason.
With a credit card, there can’t be a zombie account. Once you close the account, the merchant can’t charge you. But, that doesn’t mean you aren’t being charged!
Again, check those terms and conditions. You may still be accruing charges with the merchant, even if they can’t charge your credit cards. That means that one day, you might be in for a nasty surprise in the form of a collections notice.
So, you’ve tried to reach the company and can’t find anyone who can or will help you. You tried going through your bank or credit card company, but they keep allowing the charges through. Now what?
Try social media. Some companies will respond to social media pressure and, of course, some won’t. It just depends on the company. But, it’s worth a shot (if you’re willing to go public about your situation).
Try the FTC or CFPB
If all else fails, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This won’t necessarily do anything for you individually as the FTC can’t and won’t get involved in individual disputes. But, filing a complaint may help alert others to the problem. And, if enough people complain about a specific merchant, the FTC may take action.
Canceling the Subscription May Not Be Enough
Just because you managed to get the charges stopped doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Remember those terms and conditions? You may need to also cancel the contract with the merchant to fully cancel your subscription.
Depending on the specifics, you may still be on the hook for part of or even all of the subscription. For example, if you agreed to pay for a 12-month subscription, but it’s only month 10, you may still need to pay the remaining 2 months per the agreement. It just depends on the specifics of your contract.
Subscriptions Make Life Easy but Don’t Let Them Take Over
Subscriptions are a super-easy way to pay for something over time. As long as you keep paying, you get the benefits of a subscription. But, it’s easy to lose track of subscriptions, and suddenly, you’re paying hundreds of dollars for something you don’t want or need anymore.
That’s why keeping track of your subscriptions is just as important as knowing how to cancel a subscription you no longer want (or need!). Reputable companies make it easy, painless even, to cancel. Less than reputable companies make it a little harder. But, fortunately, there are steps you can take to deal with those companies.
So, go start that audit and cancel those unwanted subscriptions!
Tell us your subscription canceling horror stories in the comment section below!