The Subscription Renewal Drill

It’s that time of year when a few of my news subscriptions come due. That means doing a little dance that saves me hundreds of dollars annually. That I have to go through this routine is borderline immoral, in my opinion. That periodicals will quietly renew for sometimes 5x the “promotional” rate does and should make people’s blood boil. And let’s name these rates for what they are: 1. the normal rate 2. the “can they abuse you?” rate. Fortunately, these shenanigans are easy to bypass.

My system uses:

  • Email aliases

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The essential component is They allow you to make on-demand credit cards with various limitations. This is good for all sorts of use cases, and it is essential for subscriptions. I will only subscribe using a new, one-time-use credit card limited to just a bit above the owed amount. This provides a shield from their auto-renewal robbery.

So fast forward a year, and now they’re complaining that your payment is failing, as it should. Try to cancel. This has been getting better, but it has typically been a horrific process evolving calls, hold times, listening to someone begging you to stay and offering deals, etc. Major annoyance and a waste of time. So cancel if you can, since canceling will sometimes get you immediately to the “Oh, wait, would you like to renew for $29 instead of $149???” and you can pop in a new number and be done. But if you can’t cancel, move on. Yes, they’ll complain about payments failing but route those emails to trash.

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If you can’t cancel easily, move on to creating a new account with the best promo rate you can find. A new account almost always means a new email addres. Sometimes you can get away with sub-addressing (e.g., [email protected]), but I usually make a new email alias for the new subscription (pretty easy with my email provider, Fastmail). Of course, this will mean re-signing into accounts on your devices and will reset your profile if your account has stuff associated with it (comments, game stats, etc.). But, starting anew is a minimal cost for usually substantial savings.

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Do I feel bad about this? Not really. I often do feel like the “efficiency” of some markets makes it too easy to abuse businesses. But in this case, the price difference is huge, and it is a no-brainer that I wouldn’t pay full price. I’d rather do without. So I view it as they’re getting my $40 instead of $0. I can sleep at night.