How much do you spend on subscription services every month?
Streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, your cell phone plan, internet, fitness apps, dating sites… the list goes on.
In 2018, the research firm Waterstone Management Group asked people to estimate the total cost of their recurring subscriptions. On average, respondents thought they were spending an average of $79.74 per month. They were actually spending nearly three times that figure — an astonishing $237.33 per month.
These expenses often go unnoticed. Individually, the amounts are relatively small and most of them are paid automatically, either via auto-draft from your checking account or via a recurring credit card/debit card charge. The same is often true when it comes to cell phone, cable, and internet service.
The problem is that since you’re not manually making these payments each month, you’re not forced to constantly re-evaluate whether the service is worth the cost.
And — as shown by the research study noted above — you can easily lose sight of just how much you’re actually shelling out. Plus, in the case of things like cable and internet service, the lack of an actual bill means you might not even notice rate hikes or incorrectly-assessed fees.
In this Truebill review, we’ll show you how this new app can save you money by eliminating those “small” expenses, as well as how it can help you avoid paying full price on some of the services you want or need to keep paying for.
Truebill has saved its customers more than $14 million to date by identifying and canceling subscription services that customers no longer want, negotiating better rates on telecom bills, and getting refunds for service outages and bank fees.
To get started, you’ll need to create your account and connect your bank account, credit card accounts, and investment accounts to Truebill. The app will then search your transactions for recurring monthly expenses that you might wish to cancel or have negotiated down in price.
You can also track your spending and create a budget.
TrueBill Budget Review
What I found unique about Truebill, compared to many of its competitors, is that the app has a very useful budgeting feature. In my opinion, it’s actually one of the better budget trackers available.
What I liked most was the simplicity. On the home screen, I instantly see my spending and cash flow for the month (whether I’ve spent more than I earned). When I was using Mint (the most popular budget app on the market), you’d have to scroll through about six different screens to see this information.
Here’s what it looks like:
Under the “Spending” tab, you can see monthly reports showing where your money is being spent, as well as changes to your spending habits over time. In this tab, you’ll see all of your transactions and can search for specific ones made on your linked accounts.
Tracking your spending isn’t the same thing as budgeting, of course. But Truebill also offers a budgeting feature, which can be found on your dashboard at “Start Budget.” Based on your linked accounts, Truebill will estimate your monthly income and expenses. (You can edit these amounts if the estimates are off.)
You’ll designate both an “Available to Spend” amount and a “Spending Goals” amount, and you’ll categorize your expenses under the latter. Using the dollar amount slider, you can choose how much you plan to spend on each category. Truebill will keep track of your spending in each category over the month.
One of my favorite features in Truebill is the ability to designate non-typical purchases — a new washing machine, for example — as an “Outlier Purchase.” That way, it doesn’t factor into your regular monthly expenses and skew your overall budget.
A large expense like the washing machine might otherwise be mistakenly categorized as part of a quarterly budget category like “Shopping” or “Clothing” and throw off not only the current month’s budget but also your budget for the next few months.
If your budget includes specific savings goals — such as building an emergency fund — you can factor that in with the Smart Savings feature.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the free budgeting features offered by Truebill. And if you haven’t found an app to track spending with, it’s worth signing up for Truebill for this feature alone.
Truebill Premium Review
Truebill will point out all of your monthly subscription services, but it’s up to you to cancel the ones you don’t want or aren’t using. You can see a list of those services under the “Recurring” tab. There, you’ll see the due date of each expense.
In contrast to the free version, Truebill Premium will cancel subscriptions you no longer want to pay for on your behalf. Premium members can also use the Fee Refunds feature to have the concierges at Truebill request a refund of overdraft and late fees charged by your bank or credit cards.
(By the way… if your bank still charges you these kinds of fees, you should switch to a no-fee bank like Chime.)
How Does Truebill Negotiate Bills?
There’s a lot of competition between cable, internet, and cell phone coverage providers. In order to woo new customers (and keep existing ones), these companies will almost always give you a better rate than you’re currently paying.
But it’s kind of a hassle. It can take several rounds of everyone’s favorite game: “Press 1 for… Press 2 for…” before you get a customer service agent. And when you do, they’ll try to sell you extra stuff — even when you’re calling to lower your bill.
Truebill will get that better rate for you. Just enter your account information or upload a picture of your bill, and Truebill will take over. They may be able to get you the “new customer” rate (even though you aren’t one), save you money by bundling services, or point out a competitor’s better rates and see if those rates can be matched.
Does Price Negotiation Work?
To find out, I signed up for the premium service to test it out.
In my case, TrueBill was able to negotiate a $20 discount on my Comcast cable bill. But in order to get that discount, I had to switch plans (and would have lost HBO). Interestingly enough, I wasn’t aware of that other package — it may have been an unadvertised plan used for customer retention, or a legacy plan that’s just no longer promoted on the company’s website.
Here’s the email I received from TrueBill:
I decided not to move forward because I’m in the process of switching to gig-speed internet with another company, and I didn’t want to lock myself into a contract. However, for someone who doesn’t mind giving up HBO (especially AT&T wireless users, who can get it for free with certain plans), this would have been an easy win.
How Much Does Truebill Charge?
There is no fee to download the app and use it to track your spending or budget. The Premium features are $4.99 per month and can be canceled at any time. If Truebill successfully negotiates a lower rate with one of the eligible providers (or gets you a credit for a service outage) you’ll pay 40% of the annual savings.
Note that you do have to pay the full 40% up-front when Truebill successfully negotiates on your behalf. That means if you score an annual savings of $120 ($12 per month), you’ll be charged a one-time fee of $48.
What Services Does True Bill Work With?
As of this writing, Truebill can currently negotiate your bills with the following companies (we’ll circle back and update this list whenever new companies are added or removed):
- Charter Spectrum
- Dish Network
- Optimum Cable Vision
- Verizon Residental/FIOS
The company no longer negotiates with T-Mobile, nor do they negotiate with Amazon, Google, Hulu or YouTube.
Truebill vs. Trim vs. Billshark
Truebill and Trim both offer free budgeting tools. They will each cancel unwanted subscriptions for you. But Trim offers this service for free, while it’s only available if you join Truebill’s paid premium service. Billshark does not offer budgeting tools or subscription cancelation.
All three services will negotiate with certain providers. Trim has the lowest cost at 33% of your annual savings compared to 40% for both Truebill and Billshark.
How Does TrueBill Make Money?
Truebill doesn’t charge to download and use the app, but it does charge a monthly fee for its Premium services and takes a cut of the amount it saves you when successfully negotiating better rates on your monthly bills.
Summary: Can You Trust TrueBill?
Most people who use personal finance apps like Mint, Turbo Tax or You Need A Budget (a.k.a. “budget ynab”) aren’t put off by giving these apps access to their financial information. Similarly to those apps, Truebill is read-only. If a hacker were to access your account, they could see how much money you have (and where), but they couldn’t transfer it out of your linked accounts.
That said, Truebill uses bank-level security (256-bit encryption), which is the gold-standard in the financial world. It accesses your financial accounts via a third-party provider called Plaid, which is widely used and trusted in the industry. Note that Plaid does support two-factor authentication for some banks, but not all.
Is Truebill worth it? That depends. Are you willing to spend the time it takes to cancel unused subscriptions, call up various service providers to negotiate lower bills, and call and convince your bank and credit card companies to refund a punitive fee?
For some people, the answer is “no.” If you know you should do those things but won’t, then Truebill is one of the best money hacks you can use.
But Truebill or similar apps don’t do anything that you can’t do yourself for free. Of course, since you can cancel the service at any time, you can game the system: sign up for Premium, let Truebill cancel your unwanted subscriptions and negotiate your eligible monthly expenses, and then cancel. You can continue to use the budgeting app for free.
You can download TrueBill for iOS and Android in the App Store and Google Play, and learn more about the service here.