Someone offers you a publication or some kind of service at a dirt cheap six months or one year introductory rate. You’ve always wanted the publication so you are delighted to obtain it. You give the vendor your credit card number. You have no idea of it at the time, but soon you’ll be receiving the magazine or newspaper seemingly forever. Unfortunately, soon you are going to have people reaching into your wallet on a regular basis without your consent. And some of them think they can do it forever. Indeed, unless you realize what could happen, you will be cheated.


Renewal Rip-off

The scam can be summed up in one simple phrase: Automatic renewal. Once you begin with some publications and services they have automatic renewal clauses in the magazine contract. It is not illegal, but it is unethical.

Now, months or a year later, you might notice something in your card statement—-you have renewed with the magazine and you are renewed, not at the bargain rate that induced you to sign up in the first place, but at a much higher rate. It is a disgusting practice. It is one in which a publication assumes that you want the publication forever.

And they can live out their avaricious assumptions as long as they have your credit card number. Yes, but maybe your card company will protect you. Don’t count on it.

The Card Company RR Enablers

A friend of mine, who went through this chicanery with a publication, was told by the card company that it couldn’t block the automatic renewal. When he signed for the magazine, he had signed on for automatic renewal. However, he was told by the card company that it had a way of blocking automatic renewal for four years. Unfortunately, it told him this when it was too late. You can see tons of card commercials on the tube. I can’t recall one time they said that they can block automatic renewal.

Clearly, the card companies that allow automatic renewals are in a tight spot—blocking them might hurt their relationships with vendors. However, not blocking them inevitably means angry cardholders. And some of those angry cardholders will take it out on the card company. They will cancel their cards as well as they should. Never think twice when any card company has failed you.

Remember, the card business is very competitive. If you have good credit, it is very easy to get another credit card. In fact, in this credit card crazy world—a world in which central banks with fractional reserves often deliberately try to keep interest rates artificially low, which leads to periodic crashes and periods of stagflation— it is easy for virtual bankrupts to obtain cards. So never think twice about dumping a card company if it isn’t giving you the service you deserve. It should serve you, not the other way around.

Sometimes you need to remind companies you deal with that the customer is king. (Once I got a bogus charge from a card company. They refused to remove it. I said fine; that I would pay it. But now, I added, I would no longer carry the card. End of discussion: It removed the charge).

How to Avoid Renewal Rip-off

Once you sign on for a bargain rate with any vendors, immediately notify both the vendor and the card company that you will not automatically renew. If neither will provide you with that protection against rip-off renewal, then cancel the order. A better way, perhaps, of avoiding the scam is to pay by check. These scurrilous vendors haven’t yet reached the point where they can write your checks, although I wouldn’t put past a few of them to try.

Luckily, all vendors aren’t this way, but some are. Some are piggy. Some feed at your trough without permission and then start squealing when you object. They just can’t avoid going into your wallet, every six months or a year, and taking money out of your pocket. They seem to think that—like our big spending governments—they have a right to take money from you forever even if you have changed your tastes in magazines or if you no longer want to go to that gym. No matter, they seem to believe your money belongs to them.

Protect yourself. Check your credit card statement on line as frequently as possible. It is a good defense against all sorts of scams. Avoid renewal rip-offs. And remember knowledge is power. Be sure to tell your neighbors, friends and almost anyone about the pigs, I mean vendors, who practice it and the card companies that condone it.


Gregory Bresiger
Gregory Bresiger

Gregory Bresiger is an independent financial journalist from Queens, New York. His articles have appeared in publications such as Financial Planner Magazine and The New York Post.