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If I Cancel a Subscription, Will I Get a Refund?—A Guide to Subscription Payments

Ashley Ferraro, Product
Mar 11, 2024
 Min Read
Manage Your Subscription Payments With Virtual Cards

Subscription services have infiltrated numerous aspects of daily life, from entertainment to indispensable professional tools. According to Kantar’s research, over 85% of U.S. households owned at least one streaming subscription in December 2021. Considering subscription e-commerce will likely grow even more popular in the future, you should prepare yourself by learning how it works and what your rights and obligations are. 

This article will tackle the commonly asked question: “If I cancel a subscription, will I get a refund?”. It’ll share general guidelines for subscription cancellation and reimbursement as well as information about the refund practices of a few well-known companies. You’ll also learn helpful tips for dealing with unexpected subscription expenses.

The content in this article is valid as of January 2024. Please visit the official website of the service you’re subscribed to or contact support for the latest and most specific information.

A photo of coins falling into a small glass jar
Source: Nataliya Vaitkevich

How Do Subscriptions and Cancellations Work?

When you subscribe to a service, you agree to pay for it in regular installments instead of making a one-time purchase. You typically need to sign up and provide your billing information to get started. You’ll then be charged automatically with the start of each payment period, which may happen weekly, monthly, or yearly, depending on the plan you have chosen. If you take advantage of the free trial, you’ll be charged for the chosen paid plan after the trial expires.

In case you decide you no longer need the service, you should cancel it following the company’s official procedure. The guidelines are typically located in the help center or in the Terms and Conditions document, but you can also contact customer support for assistance. Make sure to end the subscription at least a few days before the renewal date to give the company enough time to receive and process your cancellation request.

Once you complete the cancellation process, automatic payments will stop, and you won’t have access to the paid services starting from the next billing cycle. You’ll likely be able to use the benefits until the current cycle ends, whereas canceling a free trial usually means you’ll lose the benefits immediately. 

Do You Get Your Money Back When Canceling a Subscription?

Typically, when you cancel a subscription, you’re not issued a refund automatically. You may receive it if you’re eligible and apply for it first. 

Your eligibility for a refund depends on the company’s policy and several other factors, such as when you’ve canceled and the reason for canceling. Some companies may offer a “grace period” during which you can cancel the subscription and get a refund. This period may range anywhere from a day to a month, counting from the day of the purchase or renewal.

While some companies may offer this type of money-back guarantee, subscription payments are generally non-refundable. There may be exceptions for specific regions or situations, such as when:

  • You’re experiencing significant technical issues
  • The product or service is different than advertised
  • Circumstances are impeding your ability to use the subscription  

Sometimes, you may also be eligible for a prorated refund, which is a partial refund that’s based on your usage of the subscription service. For example, if you’ve paid for a year of services but used them for only six months, you could get a refund of half the sum. 

A close-up photo of a person typing on a laptop keyboard
Source: Thomas Lefebvre

How To Request a Refund

Before sending your request, it’s a good idea to read about the company’s refund policy. You can try requesting a refund by:

  • Completing the designated form on the company’s website, if available
  • Contacting customer support

Keep in mind that the company has the final say in who gets a refund. It has the right to deny a refund for any reason, especially if it finds evidence of fraud or refund abuse. 

If you believe your refund request was denied unjustifiably, and the company refuses to cooperate, you can try requesting a chargeback from your credit card company or reporting the issue to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

How Popular Companies and Subscription Services Handle Refunds—Examples

The following table discusses the refund policies and practices of a few well-known companies and subscription services:

Company Refund Policy
Google Play

You likely won’t be able to get a refund for most Google Play purchases and subscriptions, but an exception may be made if:

  • The product is faulty

  • The subscription’s benefits aren’t as described on the Subscribe with Google interface

  • You have a Right of Withdrawal

Apple App Store Apple may issue a refund in some cases, such as when technical difficulties delay the delivery of the purchased content.
Amazon Prime

You are eligible for a full refund if:

  • You cancel within three days of signing up or upgrading from the free trial to a paid plan

  • You haven’t made purchases or used the membership’s benefits

You may receive a prorated refund if:

  • The first three days of the subscription have passed

  • You’ve used your membership during the first three days

  • For Microsoft services, the company generally doesn’t issue refunds unless the charge happened by mistake and you’ve reported it within 90 days.

  • In-app and third-party subscriptions are not eligible for a refund.

  • Xbox subscriptions may be refundable if you send your request within 30 days of the initial purchase or billing date.

  • You may be able to get a refund for an Xbox digital game if you:

    • Send the request within 14 days

    • Haven’t played the game a significant amount of time

    • Are unsatisfied with the warranty or license agreement (and you send the request within 30 days)

Netflix According to its policy, Netflix doesn’t provide full or partial refunds for subscription payments, but there may be exceptions for specific cases.
NordVPN NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. You’ll be refunded if you end your subscription and send your refund request within 30 days of the initial purchase.

Do You Still Have To Pay if You Cancel a Subscription?

A photo of a person counting banknotes while sitting at a desk
Source: Karolina Grabowska

If you have any outstanding balances or are subject to any extra fees, such as the early termination fee or the equipment return fee, you will have to settle those after cancellation. 

You’ll also be charged if you fail to cancel the subscription in time and it renews. This can happen for a number of reasons. For example, some companies may not state their subscription or trial terms clearly or let you know that the payment is due soon. Other companies may intentionally design the cancellation process to be complicated and exhausting in hopes you’ll give up and remain subscribed. If you don’t pay close attention, you may overlook a step and end up covering the following month’s subscription fee. 

Even if you’ve paid all your dues and completed the cancellation successfully, you may still incur a charge afterward due to a technical glitch or miscommunication.

While there’s no getting around the company’s cancellation procedure and policy, you can avoid excessive charges by using Privacy Virtual Cards to purchase subscriptions. Virtual cards are linked to your bank account or payment card but substitute your real billing information with temporary card numbers at checkout. When you pay with a virtual card, your sensitive data and funds remain safe from fraud and misuse. By opting for a comprehensive virtual card provider such as Privacy, you can get additional card settings to help you manage your spending. 

Protect Yourself From Unwarranted Billing With Privacy Virtual Cards

Privacy offers you a secure and convenient way to make online purchases, giving you more control over your expenses along the way. With Privacy, you can link your debit card or bank account and generate virtual cards in a few clicks. You can select between two card types:

  1. Single-Use—This card type automatically closes minutes after you complete the first transaction. It works best for purchases from unfamiliar vendors and those you don’t plan on shopping from repeatedly.
  2. Merchant-Locked—This card type enables payments from only one vendor and blocks all others. It’s ideal for websites you buy from often and subscription services, such as YouTube Premium, Tinder Gold, and Dropbox.

Privacy Cards come with settings that allow you to manage your subscription payments:

  • Spending limits—After you set a spending limit on a virtual card, Privacy will decline all charges that go over the limit. Thanks to this feature, your funds are protected in case the merchant accidentally double-charges or overcharges you.
  • Pausing/closing—If you’re ready to stop a subscription, you can pause or close the virtual card you used to purchase it. Privacy will block all charges on said card, ensuring no charges can sneak through while you’re going through the company’s cancellation procedure.

Privacy Virtual Cards—Easy To Set Up and Use

A close-up photo of a person typing payment card numbers on a laptop keyboard

To get started with Privacy, you should:

  1. Register
  2. Fill out the info needed to verify your identity
  3. Connect a funding source
  4. Request your virtual cards

Once you become a Privacy user, you also get access to the following features:

Feature How It Benefits You Available on
Browser extension The Privacy Browser Extension autofills your virtual card details at checkout, saving you from having to reach for your wallet when shopping. 
Mobile app The Privacy mobile app allows you to generate and manage virtual cards on the go.

You have three plans at your disposal:

  1. Personal (free for domestic purchases)—The Personal plan includes 12 virtual cards a month, all the card controls, and access to the browser extension and mobile app. 
  2. Pro ($10/month)—With Pro, you’ll get up to 36 virtual cards monthly, all the features from Personal, and additional benefits such as priority support and no foreign transaction fees.
  3. Premium ($25/month)—Premium offers 60 virtual cards a month and all the available Privacy features, including dedicated account management.
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