Can Truebill help you pay less for subscriptions?

by Jill Jaracz
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Can Truebill help you pay less for subscriptions?

Set-it-and-forget-it subscription services are convenient, but their fees add up. A Netflix subscription here, a gym membership there. You need to see “Game of Thrones,” so you get HBO Go and never use it after the series finale. Plus there’s monthly utility bills, which seem to get more expensive every month. Truebill wants help.

The Good

  • Accounts are in one place
  • Balance alerts help you control spending
  • Highlights your subscriptions

The Bad

  • The subscription-tracking service requires a subscription
  • Smart Savings actually costs you
  • You may have to share too much information

What is Truebill & how does it work?

Truebill is a money management app and website that helps you organize and manage your finances. It offers bill negotiation and subscription cancellation, as well as a savings plan and services to find deals on recurring payments to help users save money.

After linking your accounts via encrypted connections, Truebill compiles them to show your spending and cash on hand. You can categorize spending in a budget and create a bill payment calendar. Truebill also identifies subscriptions and recurring payments.

The website’s functionality is limited, so the app is really the best platform for using Truebill.

Truebill’s Premium Service (starting at $3 a month) includes a subscription cancellation service, a Smart Savings program, an overdraft and late fee request service, bill negotiation, internet outage refunds, and fully customizable budgeting options.

Read our roundup of free budgeting apps.

I’ll be honest. After reading Truebill’s privacy statement and terms and conditions, I was hesitant about giving it my account information. To be fair, I trust the encryption services it uses (bank-level 256-bit encryption), but many of its services require you to pay, either in dollars or personal information. I didn’t want to accidentally initiate a fee-based service, and I definitely didn’t want to hand over sensitive personal information like my mother’s maiden name just to save a couple of bucks.

I linked some credit cards to test the budgeting features, but unlike other apps, it didn’t immediately pull historical data. Truebill founder and CEO Haroon Mokhtarzada says the amount of historical data the app gets is on a bank-by-bank basis, so it may take time for the data to populate. In my case, it took over a week for one credit card to add over two years of historical data.

My other credit card hasn’t been as forthcoming with information. That means I’ll have to teach Truebill over time about my spending habits. Mokhtarzada says two to three months of data gives the algorithms enough data to work with.

What’s good about Truebill?

Accounts are in one place
If you have multiple bank accounts and a wallet full of credit cards, you can have all of those balances in one place.

Balance alerts help you control spending
One of the better free features is a balance alert service that notifies you when your account balances go below or above a certain amount.

Highlights your subscriptions
If you subscribe to a lot of services over many different accounts, Truebill consolidates them in one place to show you where you’re spending.

What’s bad about Truebill?

The subscription-canceling service requires a subscription
Sure, canceling subscriptions and negotiating bills takes time — Mokhtarzada says it can take up to two hours for them to negotiate a bill. It’s fair for Truebill to make money from those services. However, it’s ironic that you have to subscribe to use its subscription cancellation service.

But saving money could cost you more than a subscription. If Truebill successfully negotiates your bills, it takes part of your savings. Say it cuts your phone bill by $10 a month. Great! You save $120 a year.

But Truebill takes a 40% cut off the first-year savings, so you’ll pay them $48 right away. That means it’ll take nearly five months before you see real savings.

You may have to share too much information
For Truebill to cancel subscriptions or renegotiate bills, it needs a lot of information from you, including account numbers, PINs and answers to security questions.

“We don’t store any sensitive information on our own servers,” says Mokhtarzada.

Truebill uses a hyper-secure storage vault to store your information and Truebill agents access it with a digital token.

The privacy statement, dated May 22, 2018 also says it may pull information from your LinkedIn profile. When asked, Mokhtarzada said the company didn’t use LinkedIn information and didn’t know why that phrase was in the policy.

Smart Savings actually costs you
Truebill’s Smart Savings plan pulls money from your bank account and stashes it in a separate account to meet your savings goals.

It sounds good on paper, especially if you think you can’t possibly save money, but this feature is part of the premium service, so it costs you money. The account is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., but you don’t earn interest on it, nor does Truebill give you any financial bonus. Bottom line, you’re paying a company for basically putting money into a digital envelope, which is something you can do for free.

Mokhtarzada says a bonus feature is in the works for Smart Savings, to be launched early next year.

Is Truebill worth it?

I found Truebill to be a lesson in the importance of thoroughly reading product terms and conditions. On the surface, it sounds like it could help you wrangle your finances into order, but when I saw that many features require extra money or sensitive personal information, my intuition said no way. Talking with Mokhtarzada assuaged my fears, but Truebill could be more transparent with how it manages your information.

Many of Truebill’s features duplicate online bank accounts, many of which have online bill pay reminders and electronic billing. Negotiating your bills takes time, but it might be faster than the time you spend giving Truebill your account and personal information. And you’d pocket all of the savings.

Before installing Truebill, weigh the pros and cons. If your finances are disorganized, you’re desperate for help and have the means to pay for it, Truebill could get you back on track. However, it might be wiser to look into the resources you already have to see if there’s a better solution.

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Image: H. Armstrong Roberts (Getty)