PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Sometimes it seems like there’s a free trial offer for everything.
“Try this or that and we won’t bill you for a while.”
But every trial offer comes to an end.
“All the things if you don’t cancel, you get charged. Yeah, I definitely got burned on that,” admits Dan Gerber of Mt. Lebanon.
He’s not alone.
Turns out that $14.3 billion in unwanted charges hit our credit cards last year, according to a survey by Billguard, an online service that tracks such charges.
They’re called grey charges.
That’s when you sign up for a free service, a free subscription, or a low-priced one; and after three months or six months you get hit with those recurring credit card bills.
It turns out that one out of three Americans have been victims of that.
That’s a lot of us.
“It promised like a student discount of some sort, bought into it, applied for one,” recalls Lisa Czerniewski of Oakland, “and then maybe six months down the road noticed that my rates had changed, everything was different.”
Ron Shevlin, of the Aite Group in Boston, conducted the study.
“These are not fraudulent or illegal charges,” Shevlin told KDKA money editor Jon Delano. “They’re just more deceptive. And they occur as a result of legitimate transactions and consumer behavior. So they’re not illegal, but they’re certainly unwarranted, and to a large extent, deceptive.”
At the Better Business Bureau, Caitlin Vancas says — before you put any trial run on your credit card — make sure “you read all terms and conditions of any potential contract of any free or discounted offer.”
And know when the trial ends and the monthly charges begin.
“Put that date in your calendar or planner, maybe a few days prior to the deadline, to give you time to cancel,” added Vancas.
“When you sign up for something, if you don’t cancel it, you’re going to be charged,” said Mike Sadowsky of Downtown.