How to keep track of your digital subscriptions and stop them getting out of control

Do you know how many streaming services you’re signed up to? What about ebooks and data storage? Here is a quick guide to keeping your subscription costs down

Subscriptions can really add up. From streaming entertainment services and digital books and magazines, to meal kits and beauty boxes, the ways we can regularly spend money feels endless.

It can be hard to keep track of how much we are spending, and on what. It is easier for physical products. If something arrives at your door every month, you’ll notice. When you decide you no longer want that product, you’ll know that you’ve cancelled when it no longer shows up regularly.

For digital services, it is easier to forget that you are paying out money each month. In the past, you may have noticed a payment for €5 or €10 coming out every month from your bank account; these days, with contactless payments and digital wallets, the small amounts you are spending on your subscriptions may fly under the radar, lost among the regular lunch and coffee payments.

And what if you don’t realise you actually signed up? Free trials, followed by automatic rollover subscriptions, are often to blame for this particular scenario. That is how someone who shall remain nameless ended up accidentally paying for two separate Amazon Prime accounts for a year before finally cottoning on to the drain on their bank account.


Sometimes it can be an epic task to cancel a subscription. While companies are happy to let you commit to paying them every month with a few clicks, getting out of that agreement can involve emails or, worse, phone calls to customer service.

But changes may be coming. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission has taken legal action against Amazon because it says the company manipulates customers into signing up for Prime and then makes it hard for consumers to cancel. The process for quitting the service, which the FTC said was referred to internally as “the Iliad”, takes multiple pages on both the web and Amazon’s mobile app.

Amazon isn’t the only company being targeted; the agency has been looking closely at cancellations, and wants to bring in a new rule that would force companies across the board that accept online subscriptions to make it as easy to cancel as it is to sign up.

In the UK, meanwhile, there are moves to force companies to be more upfront with customers about subscriptions and their renewals, and offer cooling off periods.

And in Europe, the EU is also pushing to make cancelling a service as easy as signing up – although the rules are not yet law across the bloc. So it will be some time before consumers can look to the law to solve their subscriptions problem.

So until then, what can we do to keep our subscriptions in check?

Do your research

Before you sign up to a service, read the fine print. Does the trial automatically roll into a subscription when the free period is up? Are you signing up for a month or a year?

You should also look into how to cancel the service if you decide you no longer need it. Some services can be cancelled in-app; others require email confirmation that you want to cancel. There may also be a minimum notice period – and that may be business days rather than calendar days, so double check to make sure you don’t get caught out.

Cancel trials immediately

If you sign up for a free trial, cancel it immediately so you don’t get rolled over into a subscription. You should still get access to the service for the duration of the trial, without the risk of forgetting to cancel the service if you decide it’s not for you.

If you sign up through your smartphone’s app store, finding and cancelling services is simple. For Apple, go to Settings and tap on your iCloud ID, select Subscriptions, and you can see a list of trials, active services and expired subscriptions. Tap on the relevant service, and select Cancel Subscription.

If you are an Android user, you can cancel the services through the Play Store on your phone, or through the web interface at Click on your profile picture, select Payments and Subscriptions, and tap Subscriptions. You can then cancel the relevant subscriptions and see what else is due to come out of your account.

Use a specific card for subscriptions

If you use the same card for every subscription you sign up for, you can keep track of the services you are paying for. Fintech Revolut is a good option for this, allowing you to create a virtual card that can be used solely for subscriptions.

Not only does Revolut notify you every time a payment is taken from your account, it also allows you to tag payments you make as subscriptions so you can see what future payments are due, get reminders when they are about to be paid, and – more importantly – block future payments. Revolut says you should still contact the company to cancel the service, just in case.

Keep track

There are apps that will help you keep track of subscriptions too. Bobby is a free app – with a paid-for layer – that allows you to create lists of your subscriptions for future reference.

As you sign up for various services, you can add them to Bobby, along with the renewal date and amount, and the app can keep you notified of any upcoming payment.

That way you can cancel any subscriptions that you no longer need or want to pay for in plenty of time.

But you may not want to add yet another app to your bulging-at-the-seams smartphone. And some of these apps charge a fee, while all of them require you to hand over personal data.

Instead, you can use calendar reminders, creating a separate calendar within your chosen app for subscriptions and adding each one as you sign up – not forgetting the free trials. A reminder a week before it renews would give you plenty of time to cancel most services.

Anything else?

It is good practice to go through your subscriptions regularly to make sure that they are actually being used. For example, if your Audible credits have built up to the maximum, you can pause your membership for a couple of months to save you money. But be sure to use the credits you have before you make any changes to your membership; while you can retain the books you have bought even after you cancel the membership, the credits die with your membership and won’t be available if you decide to reactivate it at a later date.

Sometimes cancelling an account can get you an offer, either as an incentive before you finally cancel the account or in the following weeks to tempt you back to the service.

But if you really don’t want the service, a discount probably isn’t enough reason to reactivate your account. To save yourself from temptation, unsubscribe from marketing emails so any money-off offers won’t arrive in the future.