Is Magazine Auto-Renewal a Good Deal?


Many magazines and third party sales sites such as now offer an auto-renewal option on your subscription. When your subscription expires, the retailer will automatically renew it for you at the going rate. Sometimes, the incentive for signing up for auto-renewal is a deeply discounted first year. For example, you may get your first year for $5 and then it will renew at $20. The question is, should you go for it?

Auto-renewal is certainly convenient. You never have to be bothered with bills. Your credit card is simply charged at renewal time. But it’s probably not the best deal. When the magazine renews, it often renews at the highest subscription price going. Publishers and retailers know that you’re paying regardless so there’s little incentive to offer you the best deal.

If, however, they have to convince you to renew, you’re likely to see better deals when they start mailing your renewal notices. You can probably even find a better deal on the subscription cards that are tucked into your issues. (I always find it a bit insulting that a publisher will mail me an offer to renew my magazine for, say, $20, but yet the offer on the card inside the magazine is for $15. I always just send in the card rather than using the renewal bill.) You may also be able to find coupons for sites like or other online subscription houses.

If the magazine isn’t that dear to you, you can often get the best deal by letting it expire. Once your subscription has expired, the publisher knows they have to do something great to reel you back in. I’ve often found that about two months after the subscription expires that, lo and behold, a really low offer shows up in my mailbox. If you’re on auto-renewal, you’ll never see these offers.

I have made auto-renewal work for me at Amazon by taking advantage of it when they run their $5 subscription deals. To get that price, you have to choose the auto-renewal option, but they allow you to opt out of auto-renewal at any time. I simply let a couple of months go by then go into my account and turn off the auto-renewal option. I’ve gotten a cheap year of the magazine and I simply wait for them to run the special again and get another year at $5. Amazon is betting that most people will forget or not bother to opt out of the auto-renew and they’ll get you for the higher priced second year. If you’re smart about it and well-organized, you can make it work for you. If the publisher or retailer allows you to opt-out at any time, you can use this tactic and maybe turn auto-renewal into a good deal.

Auto-renewal for magazines is rarely a good deal, otherwise, though. You can do much better by searching for the lowest price or coupons, waiting for a super-cheap deal, or even letting your subscription expire and hoping the publisher gets desperate. There are also plenty of sources of free magazines, so you could quit subscribing altogether.

If you do take advantage of a cheap auto-renewal deal, you have to be organized enough to remember to opt-out before the more expensive renewal takes place. Perhaps if you just can’t bear to be without the magazine or you just can’t be bothered with deal hunting you can appreciate the convenience of auto-renewal, but other than that, you’re better off doing the legwork to hunt down the best deal yourself.

(Photo courtesy of FontShop)

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9 Responses to Is Magazine Auto-Renewal a Good Deal?

  1. Jenny says:

    I definitely do not think auto-renewal is worth it. I am always looking for ways to save money and there are definitely better deals to take advantage of once the subscription runs out. It is important to keep track of these subscriptions, too.

  2. timeout says:

    Do people even buy magazines anymore? I figured the same thing would happen to them that is happening to newspapers. With all the information that is on the Internet, is it really necessary to even buy magazines anymore?

  3. greenday says:

    You really have to be organized to make the auto renew pay off and not accidentally pay a lot more than you thought you were going to. I think for most people auto renew magazines would be a much more expensive way to go. It’s another one of those things where you pay for the convenience.

  4. sjlrc says:

    I may be old-fashioned, but there’s something about flipping through the pages of magazines that I enjoy much more than simply reading on an IPad.

  5. Robin says:

    If you use a credit card that will expire before the first year is up, they cannot automatically renew it (I hope…we’ll see how well this worked :-) ).

  6. Minny says:

    I take the view with myself that if I can’t be bothered to renew at a good price I can’t want the magazine that much!

    I’m suspicious of anything ‘auto’ it means they’ve got you. Here in the UK we have found there is no value in being a loyal customer. If it’s magazines or car or any annual insurance the best deals are for new customers!

  7. Monkey Mama says:

    My experience is if you let a subscription lapse, they offer you a better deal anyway. I usually delay renewal a few months until I get a grovely “80% off” type offer. (& they just keep sending the magazine anyway, in the hopes you cave). I would not auto renew anything, though when forced to (I think I did this with the newspaper because it was a significant savings), the expired credit card trick works pretty well. It’s not that I wouldn’t renew, but I wanted the *choice* when the time came. & to be fair – the newspaper had done some dirty tactics so I didn’t trust them – I wanted to be able to approve the amount before it was paid. I’d prepay for the YEAR and then they would recharge me after 10 months “because prices went up, so my annual subscription was only good for 10 months.” :rolleyes:

  8. Gail says:

    I never auto renew, but when I get a good deal on my favorite sewing magazines and to be sure I don’t miss an issue, when the deal is good I extend it to the longest period possible. For a magazine that I don’t keep to reference articles, etc. I don’t mind if it lapses while I’m looking for a good deal. I was at the doctor’s office with my son one day. He is in his 20’s and taking a real notice in finances and so was flipping through a Money magazine that had a subcription card for something like $10 for three years! I agreed to pay for it and we share the magazine. I just got a renewal form in the mail yesterday for $10 per year which would be $30 for the deal we had back a couple years ago. That is too rich for my blood and since it doesn’t expire until sometime next year, why spend the money now when I could use it for something else. If needed I could always read the issues at the library, but it is easier for me to read at home so I can do it with my feet up.

    I’ve seen those auto renew things and like some of the others have mentioned, I get nervous when you don’t know when someone is going to sccop some money out of your account or credit card. I’ve never seen a really good deal either on them.

  9. michael says:

    Although not quite as convenient, I library has an excellent variety of magazine subscriptions. I usually take an afternoon off and catch up on all my reading there. The downside is you can’t just pick up the magazine when you have a few extra minutes at home to leaf through it, but I get a much wider variety of magazines to choose from and have found new favorites because of the library. The best thing of all is that there’s no cost at all.

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