Money at 30: 3 Ways to Avoid Unexpected Renewal Charges

We’ve all done it — you sign up for a subscription and forget about it. Then, probably 12 months later, you find an unfamiliar charge appear on your credit card. D’oh!

While this may be common, there are ways to avoid it. With saving every dollar possible proving even more important these days, here are a few tips that just might prevent you from seeing those dreaded surprising renewal charges every again.

How to Avoid Renewal Charges

Turn off auto-renewal right away

Obviously this is the most effective plan of action if you don’t want to worry about getting hit with future charges. Of course, it’s also easier said than done. For one, not all services make it simple or obvious to disable this feature. Additionally, when you first sign-up for a new service, the idea of canceling (note: there may be a difference between disabling auto-renewal and canceling) might not even pass through your mind. However, at the very least, I’d recommend taking the time to familiarize yourself with any new subscription site, see what your options are, and know how to disable autorenew when it’s time to do so.

Make a master list and/or calendar

If you don’t want to bother disabling autopay from the jump, then the next best plan is to set reminders for yourself. Personally, I keep a master list of all of the current subscriptions I have so that none of them fall through the cracks. On this list (which I simply keep on a Google Doc), I’ll also note the price, renewal date, and other relevant info.

In addition to the list, there are now several ways you can get alerts about impending due dates. Although one would hope that the service in question would send you a heads-up about renewal charges, that’s not always the case. Thus, you might consider adding due dates to your Google Calendar, iCal, or whatever other digital calendar you may have. With this, it’s probably a good idea to set an alert to go off a week or so before the payment is set to hit with subsequent reminders following up three days and one day prior to due date. With any luck, this will give you enough time to assess whether you want to cancel and make the necessary moves if you do.

Consider proxy cards

Finally, one of the more interesting potential solutions is utilizing what are called proxy cards to stop unauthorized transactions. For example, allows users to create vendor-specific proxy cards and set spending limits for each. That way, if you’ve set a card for one-time use, the renewal charge will be declined and you’ll be informed about it.

Incidentally, this method could also be used if you wanted to avoid surprise price increases. So, say you’re renewal should be $100 but rises to $120 unbeknownst to you — if your proxy card had a $100 limit, the higher renewal rate would again be declined. Plus, by making a card for each service you have, your digital wallet will effectively double as a master list. Granted, there are pros and cons to Privacy and other such options, but it might be a good solution for those who have trouble keeping track of their subscriptions.

There may be few things worst than getting hit with an unanticipated charge from a subscription that had long slipped from your mind. Luckily, it may not be too late to help prevent subsequent incidents of this nature. Whether it means keeping better track of your services, trying proxy cards, or just canceling as soon as you sign-up, hopefully these ideas can save you from future frustration.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at

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I don’t usually enroll with free or trial subscription if i don’t really need it, because most of the time, you”ll likely forget about it.

Happened to me several times that I have to pay for subscriptions that I forgot about just because I availed the free trial. Whew.

I set an alarm to my phone;s calendar a week or two before the expiration of my subscriptions to remind me and also I will have time to think if I would continue or not.

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