By Lisa Schiller, Media Relations, BBB

Milwaukee, Wis. – Free trial offers are an extremely popular marketing tactic, especially for subscription services. With so many online consumers, there is no way to touch, see, or experience a product before buying it. That means free trials can be a win-win situation for sellers and buyers. Consumers get to “try before they buy,” and sellers get to cultivate interest in their product and hopefully make a sale.

That said, consumers should be aware of a few aspects of free trials if they want to avoid unwanted charges.

How to take advantage of free trial offers

  • Review the signup form and look for pre-checked boxes. If you sign up for a free trial online, look for boxes that have already been checked, advises the Federal Trade Commission.  That checkmark “may give the company the green light to continue the offer past the free trial or sign you up for more products.” 
  • Mark your calendar. Your free trial probably has a time limit. Once that passes, if you haven’t canceled your “order,” you may be on the hook for more products. Know the cancellation date and put it on your calendar.  
  • Always review your credit and debit card statements. This will help you know immediately if you are being charged for something you didn’t order. If you see charges you disagree with, contact the company directly to sort out the situation. Call your credit card company to dispute the charge if that doesn’t work. Ask the credit card company to reverse the charge because you didn’t actively order the additional merchandise.
  • Research the company online. See what other people say about the company’s free trials — and its service. The FTC points out that “complaints from other customers can tip you off to ‘catches’ that might come with the trial.” 
  • Find the terms and conditions for the offer. Even if you heard about an offer through a radio, TV, or print ad, the company should still provide the details on its website. As many Scam Tracker reports show, you shouldn’t sign up if you can’t find the terms and conditions or understand exactly what you’re agreeing to.
  • Always protect your personal information online. When you sign up for a free trial online, you’ll likely need to provide some basic personal information and your credit card number. Before you hand over your information, review the site’s privacy policy and ensure the website is secure, that is, it starts with “https://” and has a lock icon on the sign-up page.
  • Want to subscribe past the free trial? Understand how to cancel future shipments or services first. Know the policies for canceling or pausing your subscription. Do you need to respond or cancel by a certain time each month?

For more information

To avoid getting scammed with any free trial offer, periodically review BBB’s Scam Tips and tips for smart shopping online.

You may also want to read BBB’s tips for safe delivery of your online purchases.

Always look for businesses that follow BBB Accreditation Standards and BBB Standards for Trust

For an online version click here

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, all available for free at There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin. 

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