Thursday, August 24, 2017

Teach Kids How To Read The Free Trial Fine Print

Free trial fine print.

“We’re calling about a charge on Johnny’s card. He says he never bought this service.”

We hear that a lot at our family finance site.

More often than not, Johnny did buy that service. Eventually.

Of course, it started out free. And “free” is the only keyword Johnny saw or remembered.

Time to teach Johnny to look for another keyword: “cancel”.

In fact, here’s a good rule for your card-toting kid:

No subscribing without learning how to cancel first.

If your kid can’t locate the cancellation instructions, then either your kid is not ready, or the service provider is too sketchy.

Be sure to review the cancellation terms in full. Some providers levy hefty extra fees for early cancellations. Check out this MoviePass example.

Sadly, lots of online services prey on unsuspecting or un-savvy kids. A classic example from a FamZoo customer service interaction:

“My daughter signed up for a “free” on-line subscription, thinking that it was free, but then keyed in her card and is now getting monthly fees — of $34.95 and $39.95.”

We’ve seen specific complaints about MovieLush and ReelHD to name a couple.

Be sure to turn on card activity alerts so you can be on the lookout.

If you notice a sketchy or unfamiliar charge, show your kid how to google the description along with the keyword “cancel”. You’ll either find instructions from the provider or stories from other bilked consumers that might include a hidden cancellation recipe. If a charge is not legitimate and the merchant refuses to refund it, show your child how to file a claim for the unauthorized charges.

Rule number two for your card-toting kid:

No free trial without a cancellation reminder.

Have your kid enter the reminder on an online calendar or a checklist that will trigger an alert a few days before the end of the free trial period. Include the cancellation instructions found from Rule 1.

That way, your kid will have ample opportunity to not buy the service if it turns out to be less than expected.

With a little education, we can keep those mystery charges off little Johnny’s card.

Want to turn these tips into action? Check out

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