Sharing your Netflix account with your cord-cutting friends just got easier

A new service called Slash lets cord-cutters split the bill for streaming services.

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Slash

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If you’re looking ways to defray the cost of cord-cutting, password sharing has always been a convenient—albeit ethically gray—solution. Just exchange some login credentials with a friend or family member, and you’ll both have more to watch without paying extra.

A new service called Slash is making that value exchange even easier. Slash lets you sign up for streaming services such as Netflix with virtual Visa payment cards, then lets you divvy up the credit card payments with other people through their own bank accounts. It’s a way to share the costs of cord-cutting without the awkward quid pro quo of having each person pay for a different service. (You can also use Slash cards to set up free trials without being billed at the end.)

While Slash isn’t the first tool for helping people share their subscriptions, it is a slick way to make sure everyone pays their share. And while some streaming services might  publicly fret about this kind of password sharing, I still think it ultimately does those services more good than harm.

Sharing passwords with Slash

Because Slash is creating new payment cards and transferring money on your behalf, it must verify your identity before you can start using the service. That means you need to provide a social security number alongside your name and address, which is admittedly a bit unnerving. Still, Slash says it doesn’t store social security numbers on its own servers, and instead relies on a pair of well-regarded services to process and store the data.

You must also connect a bank account to pay off Slash’s virtual cards, but that part’s pretty easy if you use online banking. Slash works with a widely used service called Plaid to log into your bank account during the setup process, and it never sees those credentials itself.

Once all that’s squared away, you can start creating virtual cards, each with their own nicknames and monthly spending limits. Clicking on a card reveals the full number, expiration date, and CVV code, which you can use just like any other card while signing up for subscriptions online.

slashcreatecard Jared Newman / IDG

Slash lets you create virtual cards with monthly spending limits.

Each card can also be shared with others by clicking an “Add” button, which generates a link you can send to other Slash users. Once they sign up, Slash will automatically split the monthly payments. Each card supports up to five payees, and you can have up to 10 cards in total for now.

Even if you don’t use Slash to share subscriptions, it’s also useful for joining free trials without linking your real credit card. Slash suggests setting a spending limit of $2 for this purpose, which should be enough to complete the signup process but not enough to actually get billed at the end of the trial. Although streaming services seem to be moving away from free trials in general, I was able to use Slash to get a one-week subscription to Starz without issue.

The only problem is that Slash doesn’t provide a way to share your actual login credentials. For that, you can either use a separate service like Jam, share logins through a password manager or rely on the old-fashioned way of just telling people what your credentials are.

Is Slash password sharing legit?

As with any service that helps facilitate password sharing, Slash operates in an ethical gray area (and using someone else’s password could be considered illegal under an extremely broad interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act). Streaming services’ terms of service typically stipulate that you should only share accounts with people in the same household, and media companies have been known to moan about how password sharing is a problem. Netflix even went a step further recently, testing out a system that asks for extra verification—via email or text message—in suspected cases of account sharing.

But despite all the public hand-wringing, I’m not convinced that streaming services are all that worried about the kind of casual sharing that Slash helps facilitate.

Media executives have told me that they’re wary of frustrating customers with draconian anti-sharing measures, and that their bigger concern involves passwords being bought and sold on the black market. Meanwhile, a source told The Hollywood Reporter this week that Netflix’s much-publicized test was mainly about protecting customers whose passwords may have been stolen. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings even said in an earnings call that “we would never roll something out that feels like ‘turning the screws’” on customers.

My feeling is that password sharing is to some extent beneficial to these services, whose customers have realized they can add and drop streaming subscriptions at will. A recent Deloitte survey found that 37 percent of respondents switched streaming services or dropped one outright in February, which is a natural response to the proliferation of new services with their own exclusive shows. Someone who shares a subscription with others might be hesitant to drop it, and if they do, those who were also using that service might be compelled to sign up for themselves.

Besides, all the major streaming services set limits on how many people can watch at the same time. Netflix’s most popular $14-per-month plan supports two streams at a time, as does Hulu. Amazon Prime and HBO Max support three simultaneous streams, while Disney+ supports four. Apple TV+ supports six, but the fact that sharers must use a single AppleID or be part of a family group could act as an extra deterrent.

Slash co-founder Victor Cardenas says he hasn’t been contacted by any streaming providers about the service, and I suspect that won’t change. The company isn’t selling access to subscriptions, and it only makes money through the interchange fees it collects from merchants, just like any other credit card provider. It’s an interesting service and I hope it sticks around, but password sharing isn’t going anywhere regardless.

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