Don’t ask for my credit card number for a free trial

Offering a free, limited time trial for a software product or online service is not a new trend, however a recent development is vendors requesting credit card details before access to the trial is possible.

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Using Audible without a Credit Card

I recently decided to check out Audible, a service that supplies audio books for portable audio devices. They are a regular advertiser on my favourite podcast, Security Now,  so after hearing a recent offer on this podcast for a free Audio Book, I decided to give it a go.

The initial free trial page is friendly and attractive, and simply asks for your name, email address and country:

This is all fair enough, so I entered my details and then I was presented with this page:

 

As you will notice, there is a payment section here requiring my credit card number to continue with the free trial. You may also notice the small link just above the credit card payment form titled “Why do you need my credit card information for a free trial?”. Clicking on this link presents the following pitch:

Our free trial offer is valid to customers new to Audible. Entering your credit card ensures that your AudibleListener® membership service will continue uninterrupted. In addition, it helps prevent abuse of our special offers. Cancel your trial within the trial period and your card will not be charged.

I have a problem with providing my credit card details for the following reasons:

Internet Security

I never give out my credit card online without a very good reason. In this age of internet fraud and identity theft any provision of my credit card to an online provider is made with due dilligence. A provider has to earn my trust first.

I am not willing to provide my credit card to get access to a trial version of a service that I may or may not choose to continue after the trial.

If a vendor has confidence in their offerings, they should not need this reassurance upfront. I also don’t like vendors storing my credit card details at all I would prefer to manually enter them at the time of payment and not have any online systems keeping a record of them in some possibly vulnerable database.

I am forgetful

I may sign up for trial version now and then forget to cancel it, even though I have no intention of using the service. With some vendors, if you do not cancel it before the trial verison is over, you suddenly start getting charged for the service you are not using. I think this is the real reason these vendors want your credit card upfront – because it gives them the ability to start billing you the moment they can. (I don’t know whether Audible is one of these services, as I did not proceed with the trial verison specifically because of this matter).

I think this a fundamentally unethical approach to earning revenue and I would encourage vendors not to ask me for my credit card number at the start of a “free” trial. I would even go further and encourage vendors not to store customer credit card data at all – there are other approaches that do not risk your customers credit card data.

*This is an old blog post, some content may be missing or out of date.