How to save money on free trials… without getting burnt

Published by Andy Webb on 31 July 2017.
Last updated on 01 August 2017

A person checks apps on their tablet

We find 30 free trials from retailers and service providers that can save you money on shopping, entertainment and food – plus how not to fall into subscription traps.

If you’re offered something for free, you’ll probably wonder what the catch is – and with free trials that’s a wise move.

The whole reason these trials are offered is to hook you in and get you to pay for a service or product month after month. So while they can be a great way to see if something is right for you, sadly the cynic inside of me is confident that a chunk of the business model is based on people failing to cancel.

Horror stories include consumers being unaware a trial was followed by a subscription until they’d been charged or discovering forgotten direct debits months after a trial has finished. Charity Citizens Advice estimates that two million customers have problems cancelling subscriptions each year, and four out of five people who had a problem with recurring payments did not realise they had signed up until money was taken from their account.

This has led to the government announcing that it will publish a consumer green paper, which will outline plans to end ‘subscription traps’ – something that was also confirmed in the Queen’s Speech in June.

That said, if you’re smart and follow a few simple rules you can take advantage of dozens of free trials and save yourself a pretty penny while you’re at it.

We’ve outlined 30 free trials we think are worth a look, with a combined value of £251.70.

Five rules to beat free trial traps

1. Know when to cancel

When you start a free trial, the most important bit of small print you need to read is when to cancel. Some subscriptions require you to cancel three or four working days before the trial ends. Fail to do it in time, and you’ll get charged the full amount.

There are a couple of ways to make sure you don’t fall foul of this. First, you can cancel straight away. You’ll still get your trial, but you won’t be charged when the free period ends. Alternatively, put a note in your diary for a few days before you need to cancel.

If you do miss the cancellation date and get charged, it’s worth calling up the company as soon as you notice. If you haven’t used the service since the trial ended, you may be able to get a refund – although there is no guarantee.

2. Know how to cancel

When you sign up for a trial, it is often as easy as clicking a few boxes and typing in your bank details. If only cancelling was as simple. Some will require you to phone up – and that can be a long and frustrating experience so ensure you know how to cancel before taking out the trial.

3. Time when you take the trial

You want to sign up when you know you’re most likely to maximise the benefits. So if it’s likely things will be busier than normal at work or you’ve only a few weeks before you jet off on holiday, you should delay starting the trials. You won’t use them enough to take advantage.

4. Stagger your trials

To really take advantage of trials, you should spread them throughout the year and avoid trying similar services at the same time.

5. Double up if you can

With most of the trials listed, you’re only allowed one trial per person. However, some, including Amazon Prime, allow you to have another trial after 12 months. Once you’ve completed your trial, you could also get other household members to sign up.

Our 30 free trials to try

With each of the trials listed, we’ve taken the offering available by going direct to the retailer or service provider’s website. However, it’s worth a quick online search to see if there are any extended trials offered via third party websites – just ensure they’re legitimate first.

How to cancel: With most of the trials detailed below, you can cancel by going into your online account any time before the trial ends and choosing the cancel option. We have specified where this isn’t the case.

The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ free trial – Save £7.99

1. Amazon Prime

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £7.99

Cost after trial: £79 a year or £7.99 a month

How to cancel: Go into your online account any time before the trial ends, and choose the cancel option. If you’re a regular Amazon shopper, this trial enables you to benefit from free same or next-day delivery on most items, even if items cost less than £20 – the benchmark for Amazon’s usual free delivery. You also get early access to deals and exclusive access to flash sales. It makes sense to time your trial close to a big shopping month, such as Christmas.

But this trial also offers you so much more on top. You’ll be able to try out streaming services too. Prime Video has popular original shows, such as The Man in the High Castle and The Grand Tour, as well as films and TV series new and old. There’s also Prime Music with more than two million songs and Prime Reading with thousands of books, magazines and comics.

By the way, if you’re a student, you can get a six-month free trial.

Music streaming free trials – Save £89.91

The trial of Amazon Prime isn’t the only way to save on streaming music. You can get between one- and three month free trials from Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play Music, Spotify, Tidal and the extended Amazon Music Unlimited too.

Not all the same artists and tracks will be available on each service, but with so many songs available you won’t be lacking in music to listen to. Plus, signing up to Amazon Prime and then each of the six other services one after another can get you 10 months of free tunes.

2. Apple Music

Length of free trial: 90 days

Worth: £29.97

Cost after trial: £9.99 a month

3. Deezer

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £9.99

Cost after trial: £9.99 a month

4. Google Play Music

Length of free trial: 60 days

Worth: £19.98

Cost after trial: £9.99 a month

5. Spotify Premium

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £9.99

Cost after trial: £9.99 a month

6. Tidal

Length of free trial: 30 day

Worth: £9.99

Cost after trial: £9.99 a month

7. Amazon Music Unlimited

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £9.99

Cost after trial: £9.99 a month

Film and TV streaming trials – Save £29.31

Once you’ve taken advantage of the month of Amazon Prime Video, you can try these eight other fi lm and TV streaming services.

Netflix provides a good mix of both movies and TV shows including highly rated original dramas such as House of Cards and Stranger Things.

NOW TV features all the programming you would get on SKY TV, such as Game of Thrones, and has separate trials for entertainment and cinema (you’ll need to take both trials at the same time). For children, NOW TV has a Kids Pass trial, while animation is well covered in the Disney Life service.

If you’re a fan of classic, indie or international cinema, you can try BFI Player + and Mubi. Finally, for those who like to indulge in a little reality TV, Hayu will allow you to keep up with the Kardashians.

8. Netflix

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £8.99

Cost after trial: From £5.99 a month

9. NOW TV Entertainment

Length of free trial: 14 days

Worth: £3.26

Cost after trial: £6.99 a month

10. NOW TV Sky Cinema

Length of free trial: 14 days

Worth: £4.66

Cost after trial: £9.99 a month

11. NOW TV Kids

Length of free trial: 14 days

Worth: £1.40

Cost after trial: £2.99 a month

12. Disney Life

Length of free trial: Seven days

Worth: £1.16

Cost after trial: £4.99 a month

13. BFI Player +

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £4.99

Cost after trial: £4.99 a month

14. Mubi

Length of free trial: Seven days

Worth: £1.40

Cost after trial: £5.99 a month

15. hayu

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £3.45

Cost after trial: £6.99 a month

Digital books and magazine free trials – Save £30.92

The e-book offering with Amazon Prime is tiny compared to the millions available with Kindle Unlimited, which you can try via a separate trial. If audiobooks are more your thing, you can get two months for free from Audible and Bookbeat. Elsewhere, Readly offers digital magazines you can read on tablets or computers. For 30 days, you’ll have unlimited free access to current and back issues of magazines from Cosmopolitan to Q to Moneywise.

16. Kindle Unlimited

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £7.99

Cost after trial: £7.99 a month

17. Audible

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £7.99

Cost after trial: £7.99 a month

18. Bookbeat

Length of free trial: 14 days

Worth: £6.95

Cost after trial: £14.90 a month

19. Readly

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £7.99

Cost after trial: £7.99 a month

Credit report free trials – Save £44.93

A raft of new services allow you to see your credit score and access your credit report for free without having to take out a free trial. However, these generally only update once a month.

To get a real time overview of what information is held about you by the main credit reference agencies, get free trials direct with Experian and Equifax. There’s also a service called Check My File, which has data for both Equifax and CallCredit. With each, you also get alerted when something changes on your file.

20. Experian Credit Expert

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £14.99

Cost after trial: £14.99 a month

21. Equifax Credit Report & Score

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £14.95

Cost after trial: £14.95 a month

How to cancel: Cancel more than 24 hours before the renewal date by calling 0800 104 2955.

22. Check My File

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £14.99

Cost after trial: £14.99 a month

The computer essentials free trials – Save £25.83

There are hundreds of pieces of software you can get on free trial, but we’re focusing on protecting your computer – essential for safeguarding your money. There are three main virus protection companies and each offers a free trial. You can use each of them in turn, then buy the one you preferred. For more general computer use, you can try the latest Microsoft Office suite free for 30 days.

Be extra careful with each of these trials, as when they renew it’s for 12 months.

23. Norton Security

Length of free trial: 60 days

Worth: £8.33

Cost after trial: £49.99 a year

24. Kaspersky Total Security

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £3.33

Cost after trial: £39.99 a year

25. Mcafee Live Safe

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £7.50

Cost after trial: £89.99 a year

26. Microsoft Office

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £6.67

Cost after trial: £79.99 a year

Food and drink free trials – save £22.81

Tesco is the only supermarket to let you try its online delivery service for nothing, though regular Ocado shoppers might be offered a free trial via email. The Tesco pass gives free delivery at any time, as long as you meet its minimum basket total of £40.

If eating out is more your thing, you can try Tastecard free for one month. This will give you half-price or 2-4-1 discounts at thousands of restaurants. Once notoriously difficult to cancel, it’s actually very easy to do now. A similar trial for Hi- Life Diners Club gives you 20% off food and drink for 30 days.

And to round off the freebies, you can sign up for subscription snack boxes from Graze. Each week you’ll be sent four different healthy(ish) snacks, with the first set for free.

27. Tesco Delivery Saver

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £8

Cost after trial: £8 a month

How to cancel: Call 0800 323 4048 before the renewal date.

28. Tastecard

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £4.99

Cost after trial: £4.99 a month or £39.99 a year

How to cancel: Cancel online or by calling 0800 5677 24 before 5pm the working day before your trial ends.

29. Hi-Life Diners Club

Length of free trial: 30 days

Worth: £5.83

Cost after trial: £99.99 a year

How to cancel: Call 01253 685160 or use the live chat function on the Hi-Life website. Make sure you do this at least a couple of working days before the trial finishes.

30. Graze Snack Box

Length of free trial: One box of four snacks free

Worth: £3.99

Cost after trial: £3.99 a week

How to cancel: Cancel via your online account at least three working days before your next delivery.

Free trial and pricing details correct as of 25 June 2017.

Cut-price trials to try

There are other services which offer discounted trials to get you started. Just remember to cancel before your trial ends. Examples include:

Hello Fresh – Two boxes of ingredients and recipes for the price of one. Hotel Chocolat Club – Every month a tasting box of luxury chocolates come through your letter box. Get one month for £9.95 rather than £22.95.

Kids Pass – Hundreds of discounts on meals out, activities and cinema tickets for your children. Get 30 days for £1.

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