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As folks are spending more time at home due to COVID-19-related restrictions and closures, many people have turned to subscription services for entertainment and other needs (food delivery, for instance). One recent study by Deloitte found that consumers are now subscribing to an average of 12 media and entertainment services.
If you've gotten hooked on a streaming platform or find that you are tapping for takeout more than usual these days, chances are you're also finding the subscription or membership fees adding up. Luckily, many credit cards now offer discounts or full reimbursements when you use them to pay for subscriptions—some even protect you if you forget to cancel a subscription before a free trial ends. Here's what you need to know.
How to Save on Subscription Services
Modern technology and a slew of subscription services mean that there's an app that can help you with nearly everything—from at-home yoga to ordering from your favorite neighborhood restaurants. If you're wanting to try out a new service or just want to use it to watch one movie, many of these apps and services offer limited-time free trials that save you cash over subscribing and the canceling.
Hulu, for example, gives you a month to binge for free before having to pay. If yoga is more your speed, Core Power Yoga will let you try 10 classes for free. (After that, you'll need to pay $199.99 per year to keep using the service.) Food delivery services even offer subscriptions, such as DoorDash DashPass. DashPass waives delivery fees on orders of over $12 from participating restaurants, which DoorDash estimates saves you $4 to $5 per order. Free trial offers are available for DashPass, after which you'll pay $9.99 per month as a member.
If you want to stick with a subscription long term, you might be surprised to find that many credit cards now offer discounts, statement credits or rewards that can help shrink these fees. Double-check the benefits of any credit cards you already carry and any you're considering to see if they offer subscription service benefits. If this is a perk that appeals to you, here are some of the best credit cards that have such perks.
Save on Streaming Services
It seems like there's a new streaming service launching every day, and more are on the way. If you're stretching your streaming budget, here is a card you should consider using to pay that can help lighten the load.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: This top cash back card earns 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions (streaming services) and 6% back on up to $6,000 (then 1%) per year in purchases at U.S. supermarkets. It also earns 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit including rideshares, parking, tolls and more. Its base rewards rate on most purchases that don't fit into one of the above categories is 1%. The card does charge an annual fee of $95 (rates and fees) which can cut into your savings. Terms apply.
Save on Food Delivery Services
Several rewards credit cards have added statement credits or discounts on food delivery so that cardholders can continue enjoying dishes from their favorite restaurants at home.
American Express® Gold Card: Enroll your account to earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you use this card to pay with Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and participating Shake Shack locations up to $120 annually. Enrollment required. This card also earns 4 points per dollar on restaurants (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.), and 4 points per dollar on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases at U.S. supermarkets (you'll earn 1 point per dollar after the spending limit is reached). You also earn 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or Amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases. Before you apply, understand that the American Express® Gold Card is unlike a traditional credit card in it that may only allow you to carry certain charges from month to month. Its annual fee is $250; terms apply.
Another Perk: Free Trial Protection
If you find yourself taking advantage of free trial offers only to forget to cancel them when before they're up, your credit card might be able to help you manage your subscriptions so it doesn't happen again.
Back in April, Visa released a new policy aimed at helping cardholders manage their subscriptions and free trials more simply. According to Visa, if you sign up for a subscription service with a free trial, the service must contact you either via email or text with a confirmation of the terms of the agreement, be proactive about notifying you of any future payments at the end of the trial period, and provide instructions on how to cancel.
American Express also requires subscription services to get consent from cardholders before starting to bill them on a recurring basis and to make it clear how customers can cancel their subscription if they wish to do so.
For its part, Mastercard does not have a position on digital services yet, but it does require providers of physical products, such as magazines or prescriptions, to get approval from a cardholder at the end of a trial period before they begin billing. To do so, merchants must contact cardholders either via text or email with the amount being billed, the payment date, and contact details along with explicit instructions on how to cancel a subscription.
While none of these policies will get you out of paying if you do forget to cancel, they should at least make it easier to stay on top of your trial period end dates and to pull the plug before you are charged for a service you no longer want.
Find a Credit Card That Helps You Save
As we all spend more time at home, subscription services can be an excellent way to enjoy great entertainment options, restaurant-quality meals and personalized fitness regimens. While each of these services come at a cost, many credit cards can help customers stay on top of their billing, or cut down on the pricing of these services through statement credits and other perks. Check your cards to see if any have recently begun to offer benefits like this, or consider applying for a new credit card that does in order to save a little money on your monthly bills. You can see which cards you're matched with using Experian CreditMatch™.
While you're at it, you can look into giving your credit score a lift with Experian Boost™† . Experian Boost connects to your bank accounts and looks for on-time bill payments, including your Netflix subscription, and adds them to your credit report. These payments wouldn't otherwise show up on your report, and their presence could help to lift your credit scores.