Many magazines and third party sales sites such as Amazon.com now offer an auto-renewal option on your subscription. When your subscription expires, the retailer will automatically renew it for you at the going rate. Sometimes, the incentive for signing up for auto-renewal is a deeply discounted first year. For example, you may get your first year for $5 and then it will renew at $20. The question is, should you go for it?
Auto-renewal is certainly convenient. You never have to be bothered with bills. Your credit card is simply charged at renewal time. But it’s probably not the best deal. When the magazine renews, it often renews at the highest subscription price going. Publishers and retailers know that you’re paying regardless so there’s little incentive to offer you the best deal.
If, however, they have to convince you to renew, you’re likely to see better deals when they start mailing your renewal notices. You can probably even find a better deal on the subscription cards that are tucked into your issues. (I always find it a bit insulting that a publisher will mail me an offer to renew my magazine for, say, $20, but yet the offer on the card inside the magazine is for $15. I always just send in the card rather than using the renewal bill.) You may also be able to find coupons for sites like Magazines.com or other online subscription houses.
If the magazine isn’t that dear to you, you can often get the best deal by letting it expire. Once your subscription has expired, the publisher knows they have to do something great to reel you back in. I’ve often found that about two months after the subscription expires that, lo and behold, a really low offer shows up in my mailbox. If you’re on auto-renewal, you’ll never see these offers.
I have made auto-renewal work for me at Amazon by taking advantage of it when they run their $5 subscription deals. To get that price, you have to choose the auto-renewal option, but they allow you to opt out of auto-renewal at any time. I simply let a couple of months go by then go into my account and turn off the auto-renewal option. I’ve gotten a cheap year of the magazine and I simply wait for them to run the special again and get another year at $5. Amazon is betting that most people will forget or not bother to opt out of the auto-renew and they’ll get you for the higher priced second year. If you’re smart about it and well-organized, you can make it work for you. If the publisher or retailer allows you to opt-out at any time, you can use this tactic and maybe turn auto-renewal into a good deal.
Auto-renewal for magazines is rarely a good deal, otherwise, though. You can do much better by searching for the lowest price or coupons, waiting for a super-cheap deal, or even letting your subscription expire and hoping the publisher gets desperate. There are also plenty of sources of free magazines, so you could quit subscribing altogether.
If you do take advantage of a cheap auto-renewal deal, you have to be organized enough to remember to opt-out before the more expensive renewal takes place. Perhaps if you just can’t bear to be without the magazine or you just can’t be bothered with deal hunting you can appreciate the convenience of auto-renewal, but other than that, you’re better off doing the legwork to hunt down the best deal yourself.
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