An App That Helps You Negotiate a Lower Rate on Subscriptions Like Netflix and Spotify
Manage all your subscriptions -- Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and more -- in one place. Truebill will even help you cancel them.
Updated April 24, 2022 8:30 a.m. PT
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Jackie Lam is a contributor for CNET Money. A personal finance writer for over 8 years, she covers money management, insurance, investing, banking and personal stories. An AFC® accredited financial coach, she is passionate about helping freelance creatives design money systems on irregular income, gain greater awareness of their money narratives and overcome mental and emotional blocks.
She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International's Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media. She lives in Los Angeles where she spends her free time swimming, drumming and daydreaming about stickers.
She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International's Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media.
Have you ever added up how much you're spending each month on subscriptions like Netflix, Spotify, Peloton and more? If not, the total might give you sticker shock. And you may not even still use many of the services you once signed up for on a set-it-and-forget-it billing schedule.
Last year, Americans signed up to one extra streaming service on average. That means the approximate annual household spending for streaming sites went above $500 for the first time, according to a survey by J.D. Power. It's not hard to see why. We're lured in by free trials and promo codes -- and stay captive with features like AutoPay and auto-renewal. If your subscriptions are out of control, you're not alone.
One possible solution: another subscription. (I know, I know, but hear me out.) Truebill is an app that helps you identify and cancel subscriptions you no longer use. It can also help you negotiate lower rates for the ones you want to keep. Intrigued? Read on to learn how it works -- and whether it's worth the money. (Plus, here's how to cancel Netflix and some free alternatives to the paid subscriptions you may be canceling.)
Founded in 2015, Truebill is a financial app designed to analyze your spending and save you money on bills and subscriptions. Truebill tracks your expenses, maps out where your money is going and notifies you when bills are almost due. It can also help you cancel subscriptions and negotiate on your behalf to bump down some monthly expenses.
Available for both iOS and Android devices, Truebill claims it has helped over 2 million customers save over $100 million and cancel over $1 million in annual subscriptions.
How does Truebill work?
You'll get started by downloading the app, creating an account and connecting your bank accounts and credit cards. Truebill uses Plaid -- a secure financial data sharing service -- which acts as a go-between to safely sync your financial accounts. If you use a major bank or larger credit union, you shouldn't have a problem connecting them to Truebill. But some smaller banks and fringe applications might not be supported by Plaid. If that's the case for you, Truebill won't be particularly useful.
After syncing your accounts, Truebill analyzes your recurring payments to flag subscriptions and utilities -- such as your cell phone -- to see if it can save you money. You'll also be able to view your cash flow, credit card balances and spending patterns.
The free version shows you bill negotiation recommendations and offers that could save you money. It conveniently provides customer service information, so you can call to negotiate the bill on your own. But you'll need to sign up for a Premium account if you want to have Truebill negotiate your bills for you.
How much does Truebill cost?
If you want to upgrade beyond the free version, Truebill Premium offers a sliding scale, adopting a pay-what-you-can model from $3 to $12 a month (the $3 and $4 options are billed annually). Truebill also offers a seven-day free trial for the Premium tier.
Truebill will compile all your recurring expenses in one place. At a glance, you can see how much you're spending on subscriptions. If the app fails to cancel any subscriptions you know of, you can do so manually.
The free version provides contact information for the service you want to cancel. All you do is hit "cancel by phone" or "cancel by email," and the number or email address pops into your phone, allowing you to quickly dial or compose an email without looking up the company's information.
Truebill's budgeting feature tracks your earnings, bills and other categories. Based on your past transactions, it predicts how much you could save in a given month. It comes with three standard budget categories: rent, utilities and subscriptions, and the free version only allows you to add two more categories, such as "eating out" or "pet expenses."
How does that compare to other money management services? Mint, a free budgeting app, lets you create a simple budget and add unlimited spending categories. Quicken's Simplifi also tracks spending by category and allows you to add more as needed but costs $3 to $4 a month.
The platform's spending tracker helps you see where your money is coming and going each day across multiple categories. Truebill updates your balances once every 24 hours, so real-time changes aren't reflected in the free version. It does, however, send you a heads-up of upcoming expenses, like your rent or credit card payments.
A particularly helpful tool is Truebill's "left for spending" feature, which shows how much you have remaining after factoring in your bills so you can plan ahead and avoid low balances.
Mint's interface is clean and streamlined, but Truebill's upcoming recurring bill timeline is a tad clearer, and dare I say more fun to use.
Low balance alerts
If your bank balance runs low, you'll get pinged with a notification in the app. You can set the threshold amount for each balance. And speaking of notifications, Mint and Truebill both allow you to receive push notifications on upcoming bills and changes in your credit score (see below). Truebill takes this a step further and offers alerts on bill increases, large transactions and your subscriptions.
If you're working on cleaning up your credit or starting from scratch, Truebill has partnered with Experian to provide a free credit score. Mint also offers a free credit score, but Simplfi does not.
Safety and security features
If you're out in public or would like some privacy while using the app, you can set Truebill's interface to "scramble" mode. This masks transactions and other personal info so you (and anyone nearby) won't be able to see sensitive data.
On top of the free account features, signing up for the Premium service will also give you these added benefits.
Truebill's major selling point is that it does the legwork, negotiating to try to lower your bills. First, you'll need to connect your account or upload a photo of your bill. If Truebill can lower your bill, the app knocks down the cost right away or issues you a one-time credit.
It's important to note that while Truebill can save you hundreds, there are some upfront costs. Truebill charges 40% of any savings it gets for you -- and it takes the payment immediately.
For example, if Truebill saves you $240 annually on your cell phone bill by negotiating your monthly cost down from $80 to $60, the company will bill you for 40% of that annual savings upfront. In this case, you'd have to hand over $96. Though you'd still save an additional $144 over the remainder of the year, you'd have one higher bill in the near term. So if you can't afford to pay more immediately, you might be better off using the free version and negotiating on your own.
If you have a Premium subscription, you can tap into the Payday advance feature to receive up to $125 in advance of your next paycheck. This amount will then be deducted automatically from your next paycheck, free of interest or fees. After the money drops into your bank account, you can tip Truebill, but that's entirely optional.
Overdraft and late fee refunds
Should you get dinged with an overdraft or late fee, Truebill can provide a script to help you get that money back. While it is a helpful feature, Truebill won't flex any negotiating muscles to get your late fees refunded.
Real-time account balance
Instead of experiencing a lag between data from your financial accounts and when it appears in Truebill, your account balance will show up in real-time if you have Premium. This could be worth the extra money if you tend to run into issues with cash flow and need to make sure there's enough in your account to cover incoming bills. Of course, many bank apps offer the same for free.
Smart savings account
Truebill has partnered with NBKC Bank to enable people with Premium-level accounts to open an automated savings account. I'm not a huge fan of this feature right now since you won't earn interest like you could with a high-yield savings account. It is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., though.
Credit report access
Premium subscribers receive a free credit report, while free subscribers have access to only their score. Although there are other ways to get a credit report for free, it's a handy feature if you need it. The information is well presented and easy to understand.
In-app chat support
Only Premium users can chat with a customer service rep through the Truebill app -- if you have a free account, you'll need to send a message to the Support team and wait for a response. This seems like an odd Premium-level feature, as some apps and financial platforms offer support via chat in real-time for free.
Unless you're using Truebill to keep track of expenses that are tax-deductible, you most likely won't use this feature. But if you do need your data exported for any reason, you can grab it.
If you have any joint accounts, you can create shared budgets and track spending with one Truebill account. This feature might be worthwhile in the future but is still in beta testing, so it's fairly limited.
What I like about Truebill
Negotiates and lowers bills on your behalf
We all pay for convenience in some form or another, and Truebill knows that. It's a great tool for analyzing your subscriptions and helping you lower your monthly payments to put more cash back in your wallet over time.
Built-in features to avoid gaps in cash flow
Truebill's free version has a robust suite of features to help you every month: It tracks recurring bills and subscriptions, provides low balance alerts and offers a daily "left for spending" feature. These components can help you save on monthly bills, stay within budget each month and avoid paying late or overdraft fees.
Payday advance without fees
If you could use a small advance before the next paycheck, you could find the payday advance of up to $125 helpful, particularly since there is no interest charged for this service. This feature alone could be worth the cost for Premium.
What's not as impressive
Limited budgeting capabilities
Unlike similar free or lower-cost money management apps out there, the free version of Truebill doesn't offer a lot of budgeting features. You can only add two categories, which could make it difficult to manage your money.
Hefty upfront costs
If you're using the bill negotiating service, you'll need to budget for the upfront fee Truebill charges whenever it saves you money. This is on top of the $3 to $12 a month (that's $36 to $144 a year) you'll pay to be a Premium member. These costs might be difficult if you're already struggling with cash flow.
Overwhelming amount of data
This might seem like a positive, but for anyone new to budgeting and money management, the amount of data offered can feel intimidating.
Alternatives to consider
Mint. Intuit's Mint is a money management app that lets you see your recurring bills, track your spending and save for goals. Mint also offers a free credit score. Cost: It is free to use, but expect to receive offers.
Simplifi. Quicken's Simplifi is designed for tracking cash flow, budgeting, keeping watch on spending habits, making positive shifts and developing habits to save for specific goals. However, there's no credit score, bill tracking or negotiating features. Cost:It breaks down to $4 a month, or $3 a month if you pay annually.
Trim. Like Truebill, Trim analyzes your financial information through linked accounts and finds ways to help you save. Besides subscriptions and bills, Trim can also negotiate to lower your medical bills. Cost: Trim has a free version and a premium version for $99 a year. It charges 15% of the amount you saved by having Trim negotiate bills on your behalf.
Is Truebill worth the price?
Truebill's budgeting features can be useful for free users. And while negotiating bills can be helpful, the Premium subscription may not have much long-term value. If you know you have bills that you could be paying less for, or that you keep forgetting to cancel, you could pay for a monthly account, negotiate your bills upfront and then downgrade to a free membership. You'll still need to pay for at least one month's subscription -- plus the 40% fee on your savings that Truebill charges -- but you won't need to keep paying monthly for budgeting services you can get for free elsewhere.
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