This story is part of Try this oneCNET’s collection of simple tips to quickly improve your life.

Free trials are a great way to try a product or service before deciding if you really want to pay to use it. But if you’ve ever been burned by a free trial, that automatically turned into paid service subscription you didn’t intend to save, then you realize how frustrating it can be to find out that you unknowingly paid a monthly fee for something you tried once – months ago. These fees can indeed be collected, even if the subscription is only a few dollars a month.

This wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t have to enter payment information to start a free trial. But good luck finding a free trial these days that doesn’t require you to give up your billing information to activate it.

So if you really want to try this service, though you do not want to provide your credit card information to sign up for its free trial, what can you do? In fact, you don’t have to play your credit card number – you can just use a prepaid debit card instead. This can save your bank account – and your mind. We will show you how.

For other tips, here’s our tip for how to save from your water bill with waterless car wash and how to cut a cake with dental floss.

Why do you have to enter your billing information for something that should be free?

The simple answer is that companies want to be able to charge you for a subscription as soon as your free trial expires. Companies often say that requiring a credit card in advance simplifies the process to ensure there are no service disruptions. Of course, it may be convenient and useful in some cases to automatically switch to a paid subscription after a free trial, but it’s probably not something you want to happen for every free trial you sign up for.

The truth is that companies rely on you to forget about canceling your trial period as much or maybe even more than they rely on you to intentionally become a paying customer. Some use tactics such as negative options – when your inaction implies consent to continue charging for a recurring subscription – and others are deliberately trying to do so by confusing and as difficult as possible to cancel. And many do not offer the option to disable auto-renewal when you sign up for a free trial, so you should remember to cancel the trial period before it becomes a paid subscription if you do not intend to pay for it.

Getting into a subscription plan you don’t want is easier than you think. So, know that when a company asks you to enter your credit card details before signing up for a free trial, it’s really about arranging the deck in favor of the company instead of yours – no matter how they try. to rotate it.

Read more: Save money and throw away Netflix, Hulu, Peloton and more for these free options

Why use a prepaid gift card?

Soon Study of the bank rate found that 51% of the 2,497 adults surveyed in the United States said they had suffered unwanted subscription fees. (Bankrate is a subsidiary of CNET.) the subscription economy is boomingconsumers are likely to continue to be increasingly affected by unwanted recurring charges in the future.

You can prevent yourself from becoming a statistic by using a prepaid debit card to sign up for free trial periods. A prepaid debit or gift card is not linked to your bank account, but you can use it just as you would a traditional debit or credit card. Although you may incur a small fee to top up your card balance – depending on the card you use – you can usually top up as little or as little money as you want. So, if you accidentally forget that you signed up for a free trial for a particular service, the maximum you can lose is the amount you topped up on your prepaid card. This way you can save your bank account from accumulating months of subscription fees that you did not intend to buy in the first place.

If you end up wanting to renew your subscription after a free trial, you can add extra funds to your prepaid debit card to avoid service interruptions, or you can always add your regular credit card number if you prefer.

The other bonus of using a prepaid debit card to sign up for a free trial is that you can avoid sharing sensitive credit card information with the companies you’re trying to service. S growing data breachesit is always a good idea to restrict which subjects have access to your sensitive data.

Read more: How to save money around your home: 27 easy tips

How about virtual maps?

The use of a virtual map is another great way to protect your bank account when you sign up for a free trial online. The difference between a virtual card and a prepaid card is that the virtual card is linked to your regular credit card, while the prepaid card is completely isolated from your bank account.

Although yours virtual map is linked to your regular credit card and bank account, your bank account remains secure and your actual credit card number remains private because you can generate a new, temporary virtual card number for each individual purchase you make online. With a virtual card you control. You can generate a card number that lasts only 24 hours, set a specific expiration date or cost limit, or even lock or delete a card as you see fit. This level of control and flexibility makes using a virtual card the perfect solution for times when you don’t want to pay for something you don’t intend to use.

Most credit card issuers offer virtual card options for their customers, so if you want to take this route, consult your bank or credit card issuer to see what options you have.

Where can I get a prepaid debit card?

You can get a prepaid debit card online directly from visa, American Express or Mastercard, each offering different options to suit your needs – whether you want a standard prepaid debit card or a prepaid gift card. Or you can get a card from a third party financial unit such as Revolut or Netspend. Another option is to purchase a physical prepaid card at a retailer such as Target or Walmart.

Some cards will require you to load the card balance in advance in addition to the activation fee. This initial balance, if needed, can be anywhere from $ 10 to $ 500, depending on the card you purchase. Some cards do not charge a monthly fee, but others charge a monthly fee of $ 5 or more (which can often be waived if you top up your balance each month). There are many options, so be sure to read the fine print and know what you’re getting into before committing to a particular card.

To sign up for free trial periods, it’s best to use a card that has no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement.

For more tips, here how to stop spam and how to find out if your state owes you money.

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