“Free” Trial Offers: Merchants Beware

Trial offers are common in modern-day commerce, and they’re often to the customer’s benefit.

If you’re a trader in need of reliable credit card processing services, for example, you’ll want to partner with a firm that allows a bit of time for you to evaluate important system parameters, such as efficiency, user friendliness, and versatility, before signing up for a full subscription.

For many merchants, therefore, the chance to try a credit card processor for free is a no-brainer. However, skimming through the T&Cs of a trial run could land your business in a pile of bills at the end of the test period.

Not so free after all

Subscribing to a payment processing system typically involves creating an account with the provider and filling in an application form, after which, if approved, your free trial starts.

But sometimes, hidden within the lengthy terms and conditions will be a statement facilitating the continued subscription to the services even after the test run, unless the trial is canceled before its expiration date. Consequently, merchants who are used to a warning when a trial period is almost due often end up shocked to find out they’ve been automatically billed for the following month.

Dealing with “free trial” scams

Some payment services providers use enticing free trial offers to hook merchants to an unwanted service.

Below are a few tips to avoiding a free trial scam:


  • Choose a well-known firm – Established firms are more likely to have straightforward free trial offers than low-level companies. eMerchantBroker, for example, is known for its transparent application process, and a customer support team that’s always ready to address issues relating to free trials.
  • Research – Before creating an account with a credit card processing company, gather as much information as possible about its policies. Complaints from other clients can tip you off to costs that might be hidden in the trial offers.
  • Read the terms and conditions carefully – Look for points in the T&C documents that involve agreeing to recurring subscriptions after the trial period. If you find it hard to understand them, don’t sign up.
  • Watch out for any pre-checked boxes – Some firms will take advantage of a merchant’s rush to acquire payment processing services by using pre-checked sign-up boxes as the default setting on the website. Proceeding with the checkmark in place may indicate your consent to be billed past the free trial.
  • Mark your calendar – Don’t wait for your provider to tell you when your trial period ends. Instead, make a reminder yourself. Allowing the trial’s time limit to pass without telling the company to cancel your subscription may make your contract permanent.

While the importance of trial periods cannot be understated, you should be cautious when signing up for credit card processing services. If your payment processor wrongly charges you for a free trial offer, contact the company directly to sort out the issue, or ask your bank to reverse the charge because you didn’t actively agree to extend the subscription.

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