Managing subscriptions: 12 tips to help you save

Subscriptions can be an easy way to get regular access to services and products you love—from video streaming to subscription boxes. Noticed recurring payments and subscriptions taking up more and more of your budget? You’re not the only one. 

It can be hard to keep track of what you’re subscribed to, what you’re still using and when all those free trials end. And no one wants to pay for things they don’t use. This guide is here to help you learn how to manage subscriptions and keep your budget in check. 

Key takeaways

  • Subscriptions can be a convenient way to access various products and services—but over time, subscription costs can add up.
  • There are several kinds of subscriptions, including usage-based plans, “freemium” and tiered plans, and free trials or promotional periods. 
  • Tools like Eno, your Capital One assistant, can help track subscriptions and cut down on unwanted recurring charges.

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What is a subscription service?

A subscription business model works by selling access to a product or service. Generally, customers save a payment method—like a credit card—with the subscription service provider. Then, they’re automatically billed for the service in regular intervals, typically monthly, quarterly or annually. In many cases, those regular charges will continue indefinitely until canceled. 

Here are some examples of some common of subscription services:

  • Video and music streaming services
  • Gaming subscriptions 
  • Food boxes or meal plans
  • Vitamins or pet supplies 
  • Newspapers, magazines and digital media
  • Web hosting and software plans

Subscription pricing models and how they work

Not all subscription plans are the same. Here’s a quick overview of common types of subscriptions so you know how they work and what to expect.

Subscription plans

Subscriptions are all about convenience and getting the best value—whether it’s a streaming service, regular deliveries, shipping discounts or an auto-renewed membership. Regular, flat payments are calculated based on the length of the contract, with longer terms typically offering the best value. 

Usage-based plans

Usage-based plans are how most companies bill for regular services depending on how much you use, like data plans, internet services, cloud storage or home utility providers. It’s a win-win: You get reliable service and the transparency of paying only for what you need, and companies get regular customers.  

Rates may fluctuate based on how much of the service you use, like a cell data overage or running your AC more in the summer. Others may increase year-over-year to cover increased operating costs.

“Freemium” and tiered plans

Tiered plans are all about giving you the flexibility to customize what you need from a service. Many companies offer pricing structures with more value at higher rates, like basic, plus and premium plan structures. Freemium plans let users start for free but pay for additional features a la carte. Some plans charge based on how many users are on an account. Sometimes called per-user plans, they go up in price as more individuals are signed up on one account.

Free trials and promotional periods

Free trials might come with nominal fees or no fees at all. And companies might bet on you loving a product or service so much you sign up when the trial expires. But they’re not always so cut and dried. Promotional periods and introductory packages typically come with some strings attached. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re signing up for and what it takes to cancel.

Helpful tips to manage subscriptions and recurring payments

Set-it-and-forget-it payment plans can be easy, convenient and affordable ways to pay. And staying on top of all those recurring charges doesn’t have to be a big hassle. 

Here are some ways to manage your subscriptions to ensure you’re only paying for the products and services you’re using: 

  1. Calculate the cost of subscriptions. Take some time to review all the subscriptions you’re currently paying for. It might help to calculate the annual cost of each service, and then add all those annual costs together. That way, you’ll have a clear picture of how much you’re spending on subscriptions per year, and where you want to cut costs.
  2. Consider your usage. Take stock of how often you’re using each subscription service you pay for. If you find you’re not using some subscriptions enough to justify the cost, it might be time to cancel. 
  3. Review terms and conditions. Before you sign up for any service, be sure to read the fine print so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to. That way, you’ll understand things like the cancellation policy, how you’ll be billed and how much you’re agreeing to pay. 
  4. Look for pre-checked boxes. When scrolling through a subscription service’s terms and conditions, look out for any boxes that are pre-checked. Sometimes, you might want to opt out of things that have been automatically checked off for you. 
  5. Examine free trials. Some subscriptions that offer a free trial might be preset to auto-renew once the trial period ends. So make sure you know how a free trial works before you sign up. And if you don’t plan on using the subscription service after the free trial, be sure to cancel it before you’re billed.
  6. Set calendar alerts. If you sign up for a free trial and don’t want to continue subscribing after it ends, add a reminder to your calendar to cancel before the trial ends. Or, if you decide you only need a subscription service for a certain period, set a reminder to cancel before the next billing cycle. 
  7. Set limits. For usage-based subscriptions or apps that allow in-app purchases, you may be able to set restrictions on how much you can spend so that you—or your child—don’t accidentally spend more than you mean to. 
  8. Monitor your statements. Regularly check your debit and credit card statements for changes to recurring charges. You can also look back at your statements after canceling a subscription to make sure you aren’t still being charged. 
  9. Consolidate your plans with friends or family. Some services let you share a plan with friends or members of your household. And that can help keep things more affordable. 
  10. Look out for any communications. Companies may send renewal notices or information about price increases. So keep an eye on things like your email, mail and in-app notifications to know about any changes in subscription pricing. And make sure you know about ways to identify and prevent phishing, too. 
  11. Use the same card. Charging all your subscriptions to one payment method might help you keep track of recurring charges. Plus, having all your subscription charges on one card can help you use your credit card to budget
  12. Get help managing your subscriptions. You don’t have to manage your subscriptions all by yourself. You can lean on different apps and services that can help you track and manage all your recurring charges and subscriptions.

Tools to manage subscriptions

Using a subscription management app or service can help you stay on top of all your recurring charges. Plus, it can help you trim services you’re not using from your budget and alert you to things like price increases. 

Eno, your Capital One assistant

Eno is one tool Capital One cardholders can use to stay on top of recurring charges and subscriptions. Here are a few ways Eno can help you look out for your money and manage subscriptions: 

  • Eno makes note of recurring payments. If one of those recurring charges increases significantly, Eno can reach out and let you know. 
  • Eno can detect when you start a new free trial. If you opt in, Eno will send you a message the day before the free trial ends. So if you want to continue with the service, you can. But if you would rather cancel, you can do so before you get charged. 
  • Eno will let you know if a duplicate charge is spotted. That way, you’ll be able to look into repeat charges right away if they don’t seem correct. 
  • Eno can monitor your account for unusual activity. If Eno detects a suspicious charge that might be fraudulent, you’ll get an alert immediately. 

And that’s not all Eno can do. Read even more details about all the ways Eno can help.

How to manage subscription services in a nutshell

Subscription services are becoming more and more popular. And even though $5 here or $15 there may not seem like much at first, those charges can add up quickly. 

But by monitoring recurring charges—and potentially leaning on a service or an app to help you manage your subscriptions—you can keep more money in your wallet and only pay for the things you use. For more budgeting advice, check out these money management tips to improve your finances

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