The One Dollar Trial a Gift that Keeps on Giving

You’ve seen those promotions, maybe you have signed up for one or more – $1 for a month’s trial of an online course or membership site? And no obligation to continue after the trial period. Sound good?

But how do people make money out of that sort of arrangement?

Well, anyone who has ever signed up for one of these deals will know, how you pay your dollar is that you give your credit card details. And once the trial period is up, unless you have remembered or been reminded that you are now about to enter a new phase, where you will be paying some multiple of a dollar – ten, twenty, thirty or more dollars a month – your credit card is now going to be debited for that amount.

But what if you were new to this sort of deal and not a suspicious type of person and had some idea that maybe someone would contact you close to the end of the trial period and ask you did you want to now pay a lot more money to continue?

If that was your view, you could well be in for a big surprise.That’s true too even if you knew how the system worked but had not put any arrangement in place to remind you to make a decision close enough to the end of the trial period not to unwittingly incur the next payment (and perhaps the next and the next).

Whatever your approach or understanding, the longer you left it before you checked your credit card statements, the bigger the surprise.

As the blogger known as TheAntiHype asks in his witty but fundamentally serious post on this subject, titled The Forced Continuity Credit Card Dance, if we are going to get into these low cost (or no cost) trials, we need to have a plan and a system in place:

Work out your business strategy. Decide what you need and only buy what you need to move your business on when you need it.

Check carefully whether you’re signing up for a one-off payment or some regular recurring membership site. And above all – keep records of what you’ve done.

Good advice. Don’t fall into the trap of buying that “gift” of a dollar trial and then unwittingly allow that to transmute into a bigger gift from you back to the course or membership site promoter, a gift that if we are not careful can keep on giving.

As TheAntiHype suggests, we should heed the advice that the Sgt Phil Esterhaus character used to give to the officers about to go out onto the mean streets in the television classic, Hill Street Blues, “Hey, let’s be careful out there!”

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About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.


  1. thehypnoguy says:

    Sounds like everyone thinks everything should be FREE. The people offering the product didn’t get where they are at for free. The continuity part of the offer is in plain site before you say yes. If the product isn’t worth it to you to pay for it then you shouldn’t sample it and whine when you did pay for it after the fact.

    When we offer Trials it is to let you try it and see if you like it first. If we did our job right then you will stick around, if not our loss. If you didn’t cancel it is because you are part of the 95% who don’t take action. That is the same 95% that allow 100% money back guarantees. If you were grown up enough to sign then be grown up enough to cancel on your own. No one should have to remind you to cancel. Nobody will remind you to cancel, if they did then what was the purpose of it all in the first place.

    My 2 cents

    • @thehypnoguy Thanks for your comment. I don’t believe I was suggesting everything should be free. What you say is quite logical. But what I observe is that in a lot of decisions people make or don’t make, logic is often not the determinant. But that’s just sales 101 isn’t it?

  2. Tony Edward says:

    Great post. It seems like I am seeing these $1 offers more and more often in my inbox. The latest was the Matt Bacak one. Which I might add, JP Schoffel sent out an email strongly advising against signing up for the offer. Kudos to JP.

    Are these gurus out of good ideas that they have the succumb to these low ball tactics? Why would they work so hard to build up their name and brand only to tarnish it with a stupid force continuity scam like this.

    I signed up for the Ewen Chia launch super afiiliates launch this year. I cancelled one week before the first month was up. They confirmed my cancellation. But them they charged me anyway. And I see this kind of b.s. over and over again in the IM arena.

  3. I was a victim of such trial sign-ups too although slightly different. I was told it’s completely free to try it for one month. However I made the mistake of not reading the fine prints which had said that after one month they would debit my credit card unless I gave explicit instructions to cancel my membership. Thank God I checked and I got a refund back. I guess we should be careful about such offers, especially for new marketers.

  4. Carat Deals says:

    In addition to forgetting to stop the recurring payment, I also hate when get those “self proclaimed” regular “gura” emails trying to sell you the next hottest thing that will take your business to a new level. So you also need to remember to hit that “unsubscribe link” in your email!

  5. Yep, me too. I’ve been there as well. We all love a great deal and we all love trials. After all, we want to know if (whatever we are trying out) is really of benefit to us.

    It would be nice if there was an email alerting us that the trial is about to end and that our credit card will be charged. However, it’s all about the money in the first place…

    So, who’s dreaming? 🙂

    Great post! I’ll bookmark your site to come back for more.

    Have a successful day!

  6. @Lawren: I think you’ve nailed it with “often we get so caught in our lives with ‘stuff’ that we forget…”. A related factor I’ve found with some of these automatically renewable things is that you need to be sure of the date on which your card will be charged and put your alert in a few days in advance of that. Otherwise you could be caught out if there is an emergency of some kind on the day in question.

    @Tom: I don’t dispute that you may need to spend money to make money. And I do not dispute that many courses and memberships may well be worth the money. What The Anti Hype blogger is advocating and I’m endorsing is to do that in a businesslike way, rather than just being caught up in the hype – and I trust you will agree that the “make money online” world has more than its share of hypesters – make sensible decisions, record what you’ve done and have a system in place to either cancel at or before the end of the trial period or consciously, deliberately keep it going.

  7. Tom Lindstrom says:

    You need to spend some money to make money online.There are very few things that I´m willing to pay for to get targeted traffic to my site.If the trial period offers me something really valuable, I just might pay for a months subscription.

  8. Lawren Smith says:

    I have been there myself. I am fairly new to network marketing. When I first got involved, I signed up for a number of marketing companies that promised to help my website get ranked higher on the search engines. I had to use my credit card, but after a certain time period, the trial period ended and unless I called back, they would begin to automatically deduct a payment from my credit card.

    Well, as you know, often we get so caught in our lives with “stuff” that we forget what we did a month or so ago or even two weeks ago. After some time, I happened to be looking through one of my credit cards statements and was horrified by what I saw.

    I immediately called these companies and told them to cancel my subscription. Since then, I have learned to do one of two things. If you decide to do the trial period, make note of it such that when the time deadline comes close, you are made aware of it. I mark it on my online calendar and I write it down in my notebook. The other choice is to not do it. If you have even an inkling that you are not going to manage to keep track of the amount of time that passes, don’t do it. It is not worth spending money on something that may not work. Of course, what if it does work? Well, then the choice is really up to you, but think long and hard before you decide to do anything. As a entrepreneur, you must make smarter choices. Don’t get caught up in the hype. Your business is worth more than making poor choices.

  9. Hi Des, Thanks so much for highlighting my post. As you say, I do try to make the issues amusing but there is a dark and serious side if you do get caught out by the tactics of some of the “Bad Gurus”.

    The Anti Hype at Guru fodders last blog post..The Forced Continuity Credit Card Dance


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