My generally positive experience with several of these paid membership programs that have a notorious reputation and are usually rated badly by the BBB. Pros: Surprisingly good on their word and honor rebate requests promptly. It's possible to get money through their free trial subscriptions. Cons: Laborious, meticulous reading of Terms & Conditions, to know exactly what is being signed up for. Needs careful tracking of membership cancellation dates to avoid automatic subscription renewal and accompanying charges.
Trilegiant's Autovantage, Buyers Advantage, Freeshipping.com, Great Fun (greatfunsite.com), Just for Me, Shoppers Advantage, Completehome, Privacy Guard, and Travelers Advantage. Also, Easysaver, Business Max, Nicole Saving Advantage (Nicolesavingadvantage.com) and Passport 2 Fun.
The length of my experience
I subscribed to all the above, on and off, since 2005. When I say 'on and off', I mean that I've mainly done the trial memberships, which are free (or cost $1), and mostly cancelled before the trial period ended. A pop-up window offering $20 for a free trial of their site is usually how I signed up. The offer comes after I've bought something else online. If I agree to the free trial (after reading the terms and conditions, which you should absolutely do, and make sure there's a phone number you can call to cancel), my credit card details that I used for my online purchase will be automatically given to the site, and it will automatically renew (be charged) at the end of the free trial.
Do they actually offer anything useful?
Actually yes. I used their services and explored their websites during my subscription period and most of them
have decent offerings. The ones that were most relevant to me were Greatfunsite, Just for me, Travelers Advantage, Autovantage (a good replacement for AAA) and Shoppers Advantage. I didn't find much use for Buyers advantage. In addition to their services that I used, I've collected slightly over $550 over the years, together with one Coby DVD player, two Mustek video cameras and two Ipod Nanos. The Trilegiant sites usually offer rebate forms that you fill out and send in with a receipt to claim for gas, groceries, hotel stays, and such (depending on the site). I sold the goods on Ebay for about $100 total.
Any misleading offers that were not honored?
Yes. Nicole Savings Advantage promised gift cards of my choice worth $50, and a one month free trial. "These gift cards are yours to keep even if you cancel" sort of deal. I read the Terms and Conditions, signed up, then realized two weeks later that I had wasted my time. Their welcome package did not contain gift cards, but instead contained a form I had to fill out to apply for the gift cards. And a statement that my membership had to be active when the gift card application form was received. Not the first time I've been misled like that. I never got anything from this company. I also did not get the promised $10 from Privacyguard, which I signed up for through Staples.
Their customer service has been consistently courteous to me whenever I called to cancel. They read out the customary blurb trying to get you continue your subscription in return for sending you rebate forms or other perks, which you should politely refuse. For example, Shoppers advantage will offer to send out $100 in rebate forms that you can claim for gas, if you would continue your subscription (at $12/month), but you can only claim a $25 rebate every quarter. No need to get annoyed at the customer service personnel when they go through their routine spiel because they are just doing their job - politely refuse each time (2 or three times needed) and you'll be able to cancel and jot down your cancellation number.
For each site, I kept detailed and careful records of sign up date, membership number, what credit card I used when signing up, what rebate or product was promised, date to cancel (end of free trial), date rebate claim was sent out, date rebate check or product was received, phone number to call to cancel, and date of cancellation. I also set up reminders on my MS Outlook to cancel a few days before the free trial ends. Sometimes lines get busy, especially weekends, so it may take multiple attempts over a few days to cancel.
Forgot to cancel?
That's happened two or three times, and it can be a real shocker when you realize that you signed off on an annual renewal of say $129 after the free trial period. However, it is possible to get a full refund if you are polite and persistent with the customer service folk, offering up some good excuse such as 'I was in the hospital' :). I let the $12 monthly renewal go for when I forgot to cancel Greatfunsite, because I got quite a bit from that site (printable coupons, BOGO admission fees to attractions, etc), but made sure to set a reminder to cancel before the next monthly charge.
I guess my view might be contrary to what a lot of people may have to say about these sites. I read a lot of negative things on ripoffreport and other scam reporting sites from disgruntled folks who unknowingly signed up for one of these and starting being billed for them. I feel for them. It used to be that Trilegiant especially was very bad at divulging the Terms and Conditions and hid the fact that you were signing up for a trial subscription, but I think for most part that information is now up front, although sometimes in very small print, or you might have to really look for the Terms and Conditions. It's too easy to miss unless you know what you're looking for.
Well, that's my two cents!
I've also compiled in one handy location (for myself anyways!), links with discounts and coupons to all the places where I shop online. Check out Where Gracie Shops!
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