Cord-cutters: Here's how to audit your streaming TV subscriptions so you don't waste money

Avoid sneaky subscription charges by checking out these links and tools.

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In a perfect world, each of us would have ample time and energy to monitor all our subscription video charges. We could keep spreadsheets, regularly check our banking statements, and never forget to cancel.

Reality, of course, is messier. Between work, family, and household obligations, ending unnecessary subscriptions might be the last thing on your mind at the end of the day. It doesn’t help that many subscription services will run your credit card without any kind of notification beforehand.

While I still think immediate cancellation is the best strategy for any streaming TV service you don’t plan to keep year ‘round, a little extra auditing can’t hurt. Here are some links and tools that can help sniff out sneaky charges:

Checking on major streaming services

To check directly on your subscription status with major streaming services, just head to their respective account pages and sign in. Below are direct links for several major services, along with cancellation links where I could find them:

”Channels” subscriptions and in-app billing

To further complicate matters, several streaming TV platforms now offer their own subscription stores and in-app billing systems, so you can sign up for channels like HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Epix without having to re-enter your payment info every time.

While these stores are useful for managing lots of subscriptions in one place, each one is separate from the other, and your subscriptions do not transfer from one store to another. They also make sign-up as frictionless as possible, with billing info you might already have on file; so if you’re not careful, you could end up with unwanted or even duplicate subscriptions.

Amazon, for instance, has a service called Prime Video Channels, which is available on Fire TV devices and through the Prime Video app on other devices. If you’re a Prime or Fire TV user, you should check the Manage Your Prime Video Channels page to ensure you haven’t signed up for anything by accident.

Roku also offers a subscription store through The Roku Channel, which is an app that’s primarily available through Roku streaming players and smart TVs. This allows you to sign up for services with whatever payment information you have on file with Roku already. In addition, Roku provides in-app billing for certain services, such as Hulu. If you’re a Roku user, you can check on active subscriptions through this link.

Apple, meanwhile, offers a subscription store called Apple TV Channels, available on Apple TV, Roku players, Fire TV devices, and certain smart TVs. Many individual iOS and Apple TV apps also accept subscriptions through Apple’s in-app billing system. If you’re on an iOS device, or you have iTunes installed on a Mac or PC, you can view and manage all these subscriptions through this link.

Finally, there was a period during which Spotify was bundling subscriptions to Hulu at a discount. If you took advantage of that offer (which is no longer available) and want to cancel Hulu, you’ll need to do so through Spotify’s account system.

Subscription monitoring tools

Of course, the best way to monitor your streaming video subscriptions is to see what’s showing up on your credit card statements. But if you’re not in the habit of doing this regularly, or you have trouble parsing the excess verbiage that your bank account uses, payment monitoring apps like Truebill, Trim, and Hiatus can help. With these apps, you can connect a bank account or credit card, and they’ll sniff out any recurring payments based on your past billing history.

truebill Jared Newman / IDG

Truebill is a useful app for viewing all your subscriptions in one place.

I gave all three of the aforementioned services a try, and I like Truebill the best for monitoring subscriptions. The app, which is available for both iOS and Android, has a dedicated “recurring” subscriptions tab, along with a calendar for viewing future charges. You can also get notifications for upcoming subscription payments as well.

Just one thing to keep in mind: When you first sign up for the app, Truebill asks you to pick a price that you think is fair for its services. If you don’t pick $0 per month, Truebill will charge you for its own “Premium” service through whatever bank account you’ve connected. This page on Truebill’s website explains what’s included in the Premium service. The app, however, doesn’t make this totally clear up front, but you can still choose $0 per month and use subscription monitoring for free.

In other words, even the tools that combat sneaky subscription fees employ their own sneaky tactics. Be careful out there.

Update: One other subscription management app to check out is Bobby, available for iPhone and Android. Unlike Truebill, it doesn't monitor your credit cards or bank accounts for subscriptions, so you have to manually add all the ones you're paying for, but it still shows your average monthly subscription expenses and offers reminders when payments are coming up. It's certainly more elegant than setting up a spreadsheet. (Thanks to kfetty for the tip.)

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