How to Tame Those Auto-Renewal Subscriptions

Syndicated

LONDON - DECEMBER 5: In this photo illustration a credit card is cut in half by a pair of scissors on December 5, 2007 in London, England.  The British economy is beginning to feel the effects of the credit crisis which began this year. House prices have begun to fall and the retail sector is predicting a difficult Christmas period. (Photo illustration by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

I can't be the only one who does this:

  • I hear about a new (or new-to-me) website... or an existing one that appears to have something I want.
  • I buy a subscription, vowing to cancel if the site sucks or I don't need it anymore.
  • I forget that I even have a subscription to that website.  A year goes by.  The subscription auto-renews.
  • I become cranky (well, crankier than usual) when I realize that I spent money on a site I don't use.

I've gotten more disciplined about tracking these things, but my system isn't perfect.  While looking for something else on my credit card company's website, though, I found a solution:  Virtual Account Numbers

Your credit card company assigns you a virtual credit card number that is different from the one you normally use.  You can specify how long it's good for and how much it's worth.  Then you order your subscription using this account number (which looks just like a regular account number -- whoever you're buying from won't know the difference).  If you set it up to expire well before your subscription auto-renews... well, it won't.  The site you've subscribed to will treat it just like any other expired credit card number, and they'll contact you for a new one.  Then you can decide whether you want to give them one or not.

These seem to be designed for people who are nervous about shopping online, but I think it's handy for this as well.  I'm not sure if all credit card companies offer it, but both of mine do.  Citi calls them "Virtual Account Numbers," and Bank of America has them listed under "ShopSafe."

Cool, huh?

Kerry Scott used to be a corporate HR executive.  Then she realized she liked dead people better.  Now she's a genealogist.  She blogs at Clue Wagon.

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