Turn on/off payments after free trials

A guy called Josh Browder who founded an automated small claims dispute company called DoNotPay has announced he’s trialling something I’ve been thinking about for ages.

As it turns it my frustration is shared by Josh, but he’s trying to do something about it and I’ve just been pondering!

When you sign up for a ‘free trial’ it’s very rarely a free trial without a catch. Most will want payment details ‘so it’s nice and easy to continue with the subscription once the free trial is over’. You can of course cancel at a certain point, but people forget, we live ever busier lives, and you can guarantee the companies will not be contacting you to ask if you’d like to cancel or continue. Which would be the right thing to do of course.

Josh is going about solving this in a very unethical way. Basically you sign up for a non-existent credit car using fake details, and then it simply doesn’t allow payments to be taken as it’s not connected to a payment source and there’s no credit agreement in place. Emails sent to the fake address will be forwarded to you so you can ignore them or choose to sign up if you wish. Not great but I get what he’s trying to do.

However, it gets a bit more worrying. Josh has signed up for a business account where he can resell accounts/credit accounts. This is backed by several banks that he won’t name as they aren’t aware of what he’s doing. Ticking time bomb basically.

I’m not here to inform you of the latest fintech news though.

Josh’s scheme reignited the spark in me to see if there is a legitimate system in this idea. I don’t think any bank would care to try to help people with something like this, except maybe Monzo…

The way I see it working on the front end is very simple. I sign up for a trial with someone. Could be Netflix, it could be software, a web system, or even a gym. I enter my card number for the payment details and I start the trial.

Within the Monzo app I flag up that this is a free trial period, and I turn payments off or on. This is assuming they’ve carried out an active card check of course. We select the date the free trial is ending, and if there is a date we have to have physically cancelled by we can select that too - these are often very different dates.

Within the app we can see the upcoming ‘cancel by’ date, and the ‘free trial period ending’ dates. Maybe we can request a notification too.

If we have to manually cancel this reminder is easy to set and very helpful if we check our Monzo app frequently.

We can now choose to carry on with the product or service, or to not pay for it simply by toggling the option against the companies name. If it’s turned off payment requests will be declined.

Some may look at this as trying to get loads of free trials and abusing companies’ generosity. I disagree. The tactic of assumption over communication and honesty is basically relying on people to forget. If they are not being dishonest why don’t they simply give people a free trial and ask them if they wish to continue at a later date?

They say they take payment details as it saves you worrying about it later, less hassle for the customer. I say that’s a poor excuse, they take payment details as it’s a fact that most people will forget to cancel or won’t be bothered to do so, and what’s really unfair is that some companies then have you locked into a long contract you can’t cancel.

Now some services may very well demand you cancel through a manual process, and simply won’t accept a declined payment request as notice that you don’t intend to continue with the account. Hence the reminder flag within the Monzo app. Sure, we could add it to our diaries or calendars, but we won’t. And if we did we are more likely to blur over it I believe.

There’s also the challenge that if an active card check hasn’t taken place it’s going to be hard to link up the process of cancelling or accepting to the company.

It will be easy enough for Monzo to build a database of the regular trials people are on, companies like Netflix, Prime, etc, but local gyms - not going to happen. Ideally they will carry out an active card check, and maybe that’s the only way this could work. A reminder to cancel a free trial could still be made to appear in a timeline though, that would be a great help - all money stuff in one app is a good thing.

What’s in it for Monzo? Quite a lot actually. Monzo could setup affiliate links very easily, with much greater rates per signup than the likes of you and me can achieve.

Two directions then. A page with all the offers that Monzo have for us, which would include these free trials, offering us a great deal if we continue. We select the trial, we turn the payment ‘off’ or it’s off by default (that’s the honest way of doing this), and then as the free trial ends Monzo reminds us and asks if we want to continue. If we do there will be an easy affiliate payout for Monzo. If not then that’s just how it should be - we’ve not been tricked into paying for something we don’t actually want.

Second direction is when we sign up for a trial period it shows in the app if an active card check has been carried out or we ‘add’ the trial period by selecting from a list. Then the same process as before - we get asked if want to continue or not.

Maybe other banks will follow, and it could transform the ‘free trials’ market and those trying to catch us out with a twelve month gym membership that we didn’t want no longer manage to rip people off.

As with everything online the back end is going to be the hard part, but it’s certainly possible. This kid in the US is doing it and it works. It’s just that he’s not being honest with the banks and there are fake details involved. Fake email addresses are not going to cut it, email verification is easy and rapidly finding its way to more signup systems.

If this was done properly, legitimately, then it could be a great attraction to new customers and a great service for existing customers.

Sorry for the long post but it’s a complicated idea and takes a bit of explaining. Happy to dive deeper if anyone is interested.


Vote for this here :smiley:

That’s half hour of my life that I’m never getting back spent typing that out!


Mastercard also making waves on this issue:

Also, I’d read the contract you agree to very carefully before you decide to ‘cancel’ it by simply not paying.


That’s a great start, but it’s only for physical products and services, nothing digital.

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That’s why I said the ‘service’ that’s making the news isn’t legitimate or ethical, and that’s why I spent so long exposing how Monzo could look at developing a system so it was ethical, helpful for us, and financially worthwhile for them.

There is an opportunity to create a disruptive service that changes the way companies manage ‘free trials’, especially for places like gyms who do indeed have complex cancellation requirements and wouldn’t accept ‘failure to pay’ as a form of cancellation.

Gyms rely on people signing up and not turning to make a profit. Just being reminded when we should cancel by would be a massive help.

Why don’t you just put the free trial end date in your phones calendar so you get a notification?

It all sounds a bit dodgy to me. You want Monzo to essentially help you game the system so you can take advantage of loads of free trials, that some of us genuinely have the intention of paying for afterwards?

All companies will do is stop giving out free trials, so we’d all end up losing in the end anyway :man_shrugging:


So it’s not a ‘free trial’ then? Think about it. It’s either a genuine free trial, or it isn’t.

The companies offering genuine free trials are those who communicate with you at the end of the trial and try to puruade up to stay. If you don’t sign up that’s the end of it.

Gym’s are one of the worst for this. And yes you’d have to physically cancel, and for some it’s so hard to actually cancel the OFT is investigating many gym membership systems. I don’t think Monzo can do much about gyms but you really think being reminded that if you want to cancel you must by x date is ‘gaming the system’? Gyms rely on people who don’t want to go to the gym but can’t get out of their contract, 80% of gym memberships are unused. THATS gaming the system.

The point is Monzo could profit from this stuff, and as a business with shareholders looking at things that are not just ‘nice for the customer’ but are also profitable is a good plan. Instead of discussions about the colours of the cards to keep people happy.

If people are signing up for trials using free generated card details and fake/disposable email addresses then surely the system isn’t working as it should? Many banks and card companies provide virtual card numbers and you can generate them yourself online in seconds.

If Mastercard are working on this for physical subscriptions it’s fairly obvious that digital subs are going to be even more of a problem, by virtue of how easy it is to sign up but you don’t get physical reminders delivered to your door each month.

Lastly, you don’t actually have to like or want to use everything something offers you know, if Monzo looked at this and created a solution you don’t have to have anything to do with it.

I honestly thought this was a place to share ideas, not a bank fan club where you get shot if someone doesn’t agree with you. I guess it’s just another forum after all eh


Sounds like you’re focusing on the ‘free’ word and ignoring the ‘trial’ part which means it is for a limited time only.

It is. It’s a discussion board - so you share your idea then it gets discussed.

I’ve only made the one comment about it and you’ve jumped on your high horse and thrown this ludicrous statement out :confused: I guess you’ve said this because you can’t dispute what I’ve said?

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It’s too early for popcorn, I’ve only just eaten my breakfast!


No I said it because you made a ridiculous implication about ‘gaming the system’ and then concluded we’d all lose free trials.

The point is you didn’t do exactly what you stated here; you didn’t join me in a discussion, you asked questions I’d answered in the post, and stated ‘all companies will do is stop giving out free trials, so we’d all end up losing in the end anyway’ hence ending the discussion.

I can dispute what you’ve said, I basically did in the post I took the time to write, so guess again.

And to finish you ‘thrown’ in a line about jumping on my high horse.

Way to shut down a discussion. As I said, just another forum. I’ll leave you to it.

Well that escalated quickly.

Deleted his account. Bye then :confused: :wave:

I thought everyone was in a good mood on a Friday? :laughing: