Free trials aren’t really meant to be free.
The goal is to introduce you to a product or service and then hook you so you decide to keep it (and pay for it) beyond the trial period.
Either that or the company is hoping you just forget to cancel so they can automatically start charging you for it. Ever wonder why you have to provide your credit card information to sign up for something that’s free? That’s why.
If you don’t want to become an unintentional paying customer, it’s vital that you know how to cancel free trials.
Consider the Cost Before Signing Up for a Free Trial
Signing up for a free trial is a great way to test out a product or service without spending any money.
Curious how YouTubeTV works but aren’t ready to sign up? Feel like binge-watching your favorite animated classics without forking over the $69.99 Disney+ annual subscription? Free trials can give you a sneak peek.
But they can end up costing you if you’re not careful.
Even if you think you’ll definitely cancel the service before your free trial is over, be cautious about signing up for something that doesn’t fit into your budget. You don’t want to fall in love with a service only to have no choice but to cancel it because you can’t afford it. And you don’t want to overdraft your account in the event that you don’t end up canceling in time.
In addition to hoping you don’t cancel, companies also want to make sure they can actually get paid. Though a free trial shouldn’t cost you anything, you may see a pending charge or pre-authorization on your account, which is basically the company’s way of verifying that your account is legit.
Avoid Paying When Your Free Trials End
One way to avoid going past a subscription’s free trial period is to cancel right after signing up. You won’t have to worry about remembering to do it at the end of the week or month or whenever the trial ends.
However, it’s important to note: Only do this if the company will continue providing the service through the end of the trial period. Some don’t and will cut you off as soon as you submit your cancellation. Then you’ve wasted the opportunity to test out the service.
Using a virtual credit card is another tactic to avoid paying for subscriptions past the trial period. Virtual credit cards are credit card numbers issued by some banks, credit card companies and independent financial companies. (You don’t actually get a physical card.) These virtual cards often are restricted to a one-time use or have a short expiration period, which makes them favorable to people signing up for free trials.
The startup DoNotPay has a similar service that generates virtual credit card numbers you can use for free trials. The card numbers can’t be charged again after a trial period ends, and they aren’t tied to your bank account.
Then there’s always the strategy of simply canceling your free trial right before it ends. Set a reminder (or two) to cut your ties with the service before payment becomes due.
Most companies aren’t going to send you a reminder that your free period is about to be over. (Though Mastercard requires some merchants to do so.) Mark your calendar, set an alert on your phone or do whatever you need to remember to cancel.
Regularly review your monthly bank statements or credit card statements so you can catch any unexpected charges — like a subscription you forgot to cancel.
Make sure you read over the cancellation policy when you sign up for a free trial. Some companies require you to submit cancellation requests a day or two before the start of the first billing period. Generally, when you log into your account, there’s an option to cancel under the section for billing or subscription management. There will probably be multiple prompts to convince you not to cancel, but don’t let them sway you.
How to Cancel 12 Popular Free Trial Offers
We browsed the cancellation policies of several popular services to get instructions on how to cancel their free trials. In every case, make sure you complete all the steps to confirm your cancellation. Lots of companies send email confirmations.
These guidelines are based on canceling directly through each service. Canceling a trial you acquired through a third party — for example, a free HBO trial you signed up for through your cable provider — may require different steps.
1. How to Cancel an Adobe Free Trial
Here are the steps to cancel a free trial of Adobe.
Go to www.adobe.com and log into your account.
Find your plan and click “Cancel Your Plan.”
Select the reason you want to cancel and hit “Continue.”
2. How to Cancel an Amazon Prime Free Trial
According to the terms and conditions for Amazon Prime, you have three business days from when your free trial converts to a paid membership to get a full refund, provided you haven’t used any of the Prime benefits during that three-day period. However, to cancel your trial before it switches to the paid version, visit this page and click the “End Membership” button.
3. How to Cancel an Ancestry Free Trial
According to Ancestry Support, your free trial ends automatically once you cancel it, even if additional days were remaining in the trial period. Cancel Ancestry’s free trial by following these steps.
Log into www.ancestry.com.
Select your name or username in the top right corner and click on “Your Account.”
Go to the section for “Subscriptions” and click “Cancel Subscriptions.”
4. How to Cancel an Audible Free Trial
Here’s how to cancel your free trial of Audible.
Log in to your account at www.audible.com.
Go to “Account Details” and then “Account Settings.”
Click on “Cancel my Membership.”
5. How to Cancel an Avast Internet Security Free Trial
An article from Avast’s support page states the company will send an email notification to remind users before their trial period ends and auto-payment starts. See the steps below to cancel your free trial before you get charged.
Log into your account at my.avast.com.
Click “Unsubscribe” for the subscription you want to cancel.
Select “Unsubscribe from Future Renewals and Let my Subscription Expire on MM/DD/YYYY.” Make sure the date indicates the end of your trial period.
Click “Confirm” and then click “Got it” at the next prompt.
See here for additional instructions on how to cancel if you signed up using a different order distributor.
6. How to Cancel a Disney+ Free Trial
According to the terms in its subscriber agreement, you can cancel at any time during your free trial and still enjoy the service through the end of that trial period. Follow these steps to cancel your free Disney+ trial from your web browser.
Go to www.disneyplus.com and log in to your account.
Click on your profile in the upper right corner of the screen.
Click on “Account” and then “Billing Details.”
Choose “Cancel Subscription” and then hit “Complete Cancellation.”
See here for more information about cancelling your subscription, including directions on how to cancel from some third-party platforms.
7. How to Cancel an HBO NOW Free Trial
HBO’s Help Center states that you must cancel your trial at least 24 hours before the trial period ends. However, you can still enjoy service during the entire trial period, regardless of when you cancel. Here are instructions on how to cancel if your free trial is directly from HBO.
From a computer:
Go to www.HBONOW.com and log in.
Go to your profile icon in the top right corner and then select “Billing Information.”
Click on “Auto-Renew On” and confirm you want to cancel by selecting “Yes, Turn It Off.”
From a phone or tablet:
Log onto the HBO Now app.
Tap your profile icon in the top right corner and then the settings icon.
Select “Billing Information” and then “Cancel Your Subscription.”
A new web page will open. Tap “Auto-Renew On” and confirm you want to cancel by selecting “Yes, Turn It Off.”
See here for information on how to cancel if you signed up for your trial through a third-party provider.
8. How to Cancel a Hulu Free Trial
Visit www.hulu.com and log in or open the app on your phone or tablet.
Choose the “Cancel” option under the “Account” page.
9. How to Cancel a Netflix Free Trial
Log into www.netflix.com.
Go to your account page.
Click on “Cancel Membership.”
10. How to Cancel a Showtime Free Trial
Follow these steps to cancel your free trial of Showtime via your web browser.
Go to www.showtime.com and log in.
Go to “Account Settings” from your profile icon.
Click on “Your Subscription” and then “Cancel Your Subscription.”
See here for information about how to cancel your subscription through third parties.
11. How to Cancel a Starz Free Trial
Log into www.starz.com from your web browser.
Click on the gear icon found in the upper right side of the screen.
Select “Subscription” and then “Cancel my Subscription.”
The “Cancel” tab on this page contains additional information about ending your Starz subscription from third-party providers.
12. How to Cancel a YouTube TV Free Trial
Cancel your YouTube free trial by following the steps below.
Go to tv.youtube.com and sign in to your account.
Go to “Settings” and then to “Membership.”
Choose “Pause or Cancel Membership” and then click on “Cancel Membership.”
See here for additional information about cancelling on an Android or Apple device.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.