Free Trial? Read the Fine Print

In a down economy, everyone is trying to save a buck or ten. As a result, promotions and free trials look more enticing than ever.

For the most part, however, free trials end up costing you in the long run. Be sure to look into the promotion before signing up.

Do not believe the hype

The best advice is “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Free trials are usually just one way of getting customers to sign up for a longer term contract or to receive other products.

Many free trials are free for the first 30 days, but then require you to cancel before the trial period ends. If you don’t, the company will automatically bill you for the product/service. In many cases, you will have a hard time getting the company to reverse the charge(s).

How to protect yourself

The FTC has a great video with tips on how to make sure you don’t fall into the free trial trap.

If something seems like a great deal, do some research on the company. Chances are, if a customer has been misled, there will be comments and/or complaints online alerting consumers of the issue.

Uncheck all checkboxes. Many times, those little check boxes mean you agree to a long term contract and to continue an offer past the free trial period. It may also result in tons of unwanted correspondence from a company.

Mark your calendar. If you decide to take the plunge, mark your calender with a reminder in case you want to cancel the product. There is nothing worse than trying something, not liking it, and then still getting billed for it because you did not cancel your contract.

Never enrolled, but still charged?

If you decide to enroll in a free trial and have to provide billing information, use your credit card in case something goes wrong.

If you never signed up, try calling the company first to dispute the charge. If that does not work, call your credit card company to dispute the charge and see if they can reverse it. Credit card companies are usually fairly helpful in that regard.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarah606/4192806233)