Watch Out! Your New Stuff Wants Your Money

Personal Money Planning |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

So… I bought a new treadmill. This one is from Nordic Track, and like most treadmills these days it has a slew of bells and whistles if you just sign up for a subscription to their exercise app. You’ve seen these things on TV where some sweaty hunk or hunkess yells at you to run/pedal/row faster. I didn’t want this. I just wanted a treadmill to mindlessly rotate under me while I pretended to be outside.

The next bit of this story will be a little vague—the warning will not be. The vagueness comes from the fact that I cannot go back in time and turn my machine on the first time to see what happened. And while I had a helpful lady from iFit (Nordic Track’s application subcompany) give me information on what I saw, follow-up questions have so far gone unanswered or raised more questions than they answered.

According to my suspect memory, after turning on the machine I got the choice of signing up for an Annual Subscription or a 30-day free trial. Either one requires you to give them your credit card number. This is an obvious red flag. Knowing that, I went online to see how to keep the charges from starting after my free trial was over. That’s when I encountered my first mistake: I either misread or was misinformed that after 30 days the machine would just change back to a manual mode (non-fancy-application) and I would not be billed—which is exactly what I wanted.

You can probably guess that after my free trial was up, the charges started. Here’s where it gets a little vague as I don’t remember seeing any warnings about the charges starting at the end of the free trial. Did I miss it? Were there warnings? Sorry, but I still haven’t heard from iFit with screen shots of what I should have seen at this point.

Here is where mistake #2 happened: I didn’t check my credit card statement. If I had, I would have seen the charges. Now, I tell people to do this, and I almost always do this myself. But I was changing my budget monitoring program through which I normally track all my transactions from the free (but being discontinued) Intuit Mint to the paid (and pretty good) Intuit Simplifi. It took me a couple months to get it switched over. I was busy (end-of-year stuff at a financial firm can get insane), and I was complacent (I haven’t had an unexpected charge on any of my cards in many years).

When the New Year came and I had everything set up, I finally noticed the little surprise. Multiple conversations with iFit and the best they would be willing to do was refund one month’s charges.

So now my shame (and lighter wallet) brings you this warning. If you got nice, fancy gear for a Christmas gift that included some sort of trial program, always assume that it is the gift that will keep on taking until you are absolutely, positively sure it isn’t. And then verify again.

Then, you will officially be smarter than me.