Should I cancel my credit card as a way to get rid of recurring charges?
March 16, 2023 10:06 AM   Subscribe

I have a lot of recurring charges going to my credit card. Some are monthly but some are quarterly or even annual and I don't have the time or desire to comb through and find them to cancel the accounts. If I cancel this card and get a new one issued, those charges will fail, right? Is this a horrible idea?

Let me start by saying that I am not a great manager of my money. I'm no good at budgeting, I have trouble paying bills (just the process, I often have the money for it but just don't do it. Thanks, ADHD!), and my credit already stinks. Last summer, I had a charge of $150 from Norton for some antivirus package that I don't use or need. And I never followed up to get that canceled so I just ate it. Thinking about that, I had the idea that if I change my credit card number, and they try to charge it again this summer, it just won't go through.

Also, the charges on my card are only things like streaming services or other month-to-month subscriptions. Nothing like my utilities or mortgage or anything like that.

I'm fine with having to update all the accounts that I do want to keep, in fact I think this will be a good thing because it means I'll only update the ones I really want. But I'm worried that there might be a good reason not to do this. Will it ding my credit? Will the Hulu police come to my door demanding payment?
posted by dawkins_7 to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sometimes those can be reported to credit agencies as unpaid bills and/or sent to collections so I wouldn't rely just on a card cancellation.
posted by zepheria at 10:11 AM on March 16 [14 favorites]

Collections exists.
posted by kingdead at 10:12 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]

Most credit card companies will just transfer the charge to your new card as a "courtesy." Your strategy might work if you don't open a new card. There are services that promise to cancel your subscriptions for a fee. I can't recommend any specific ones but it's a common enough problem that these services do exist.
posted by entropyiswinning at 10:14 AM on March 16 [19 favorites]

Downloading a year's worth of statements to identify and cancel the recurring charges you don't want will be far less hassle than canceling your credit card account and then identifying and switching payment for the recurring charges you do want to keep. Especially since canceling the existing card might not get you entirely off the hook for the recurring charges you don't want.
posted by slkinsey at 10:25 AM on March 16 [14 favorites]

Seconding all that has been said already. I've definitely had some subscriptions transferred to a new card after getting one reissued due to fraud. I'm less sure about being sent to collections, I think it's far more likely that they'll just suspend your service, but that would depend on the subscription agreement. (The issue I see is if you had to replace the card for fraud, like I did, and just forgot to update accounts, getting sent to collections is a wholly disproportionate response to that.)

In the future, if you want to stay on top of subscriptions you might consider a virtual card service like which allows you to use separate cards for each subscription and to define stricter limits on what the card can be used for and how long.
posted by Aleyn at 10:26 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]

I’ve done this, not on purpose but when my card was lost. Subscriptions like Netflix or Patreons or donations to Metafilter just stop happening. If there’s a service involved, it gets cut off. You get messages about your payment not going through and ignore them if you don’t care to maintain that subscription or donation. Update the ones you want to keep with the new card number. It’s easy-peasy, in my experience.

If there are loan payments that drop, those will go to collections. But not subscriptions.
posted by Well I never at 10:45 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]

My experience was the opposite of Well I never's. A few years ago I lost my wallet and cancelled my cards. I never did anything and was surprised when my subscriptions showed up on my newly-issued replacement card with a new number. There was zero interruption.

I have a recurring charge from Microsoft (for an XBox live account that my kids long since lost access to) that's shown up on my credit card for three months for years. I haven't been able to cancel it through Microsoft because we don't even know the account name. Last summer, I challenged the charge through my credit card company and told them I had been unable to cancel it through Microsoft. They removed the charge. Three months later, it showed up again. I again challenged the charge and they removed it. I was also clear with the credit card company that I never wanted this charge on my card again. Guess what? It keeps showing up. It's pretty bonkers.

Honestly, I have thought about cancelling this card to get rid of this one Microsoft charge. (Does anyone know how to cancel it through Microsoft if I know the card number but not the account?)

Anyway, here's another idea, from an ADHD person: ask an organized friend to help. Make a plan to spend one afternoon or evening looking up all the subscriptions and cancelling them. Having someone else come to your place there to help you muck through this will likely make it easier to do it, I bet. Not because you can't, but more like because it's a kind of coworking and accountability. I would totally do this with a friend.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:52 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]

There are subscription management services that will identify all your subscriptions for you. Here’s an article describing a few. They’re fairly cheap.
posted by Comet Bug at 11:16 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]

My experience was the opposite of Well I never's.

Mine also. I had to get a new card and pretty much everything magically moved over. (In my case, that was a good thing since there weren't any I was hoping would self-cancel.) Doing this might cut off some things, but I wouldn't count on it to function as a full restart.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:18 AM on March 16

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I knew it couldn't be that easy. I'm going to set up some Focusmate sessions to get this taken care of.

I think you each had the best answer so I'm not going to mark any unless I have to!
posted by dawkins_7 at 11:45 AM on March 16

I think the charge often gets transferred when you get a new card from the same issuer. You would have to completely close the account and then get a new card from a different bank to avoid them doing you the "courtesy" of just rolling things over. Still I think using some Focusmate sessions to get this taken care of will be cleaner and avoid any complications later.
posted by metahawk at 12:31 PM on March 16

previous similar question. I think the answer I gave then is still what I want to say here, does still apply, even if it's more likely these days that with a credit card the payment will auto-transfer:
So, a worst case scenario for a recurring payment when a debit card number changes is that they won’t contact you, and close your account + send it to collections, and you won’t hear about it until much, much later. Most likely not all of this will happen, but it can (and account closure is entirely possible). Really, really don’t rely on companies doing anything that will help you out when (from their perspective) an owed payment is simply declined.
(The only thing that has changed since then is that the stupid collections/chargeoff scenario that causes me to always reply in these threads is, thankfully, past the 7 year window and no longer on my credit report. Seriously, don't do what I did...)
posted by advil at 2:33 PM on March 16

Will it ding my credit?

Closing a card, for whatever reason, will definitely ding your credit. The hit from reducing your overall credit limit will be temporary, several months or so, but the timing of this is something to consider if you are going to apply to borrow money for a large purchase, such as a car loan or mortgage on a home.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:50 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

My read was that OP didn’t want to close the account but just get a new card with a different number, as if the card were lost. That doesn’t affect their credit score.
posted by Comet Bug at 4:52 PM on March 16

I called my credit card company a couple months ago and said, "Can you tell me what recurring charges are on this card?" I spent about 5-10 mins with them and they named every recurring charge. I wrote them down, went to those companies' websites and cancelled the services. Total time was about 30 mins.

When you're on the phone with them, you want to go back about 13 or 14 months to make sure you cover anything annual.

Cancelling your card will definitely not help you.
posted by dobbs at 5:56 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Also, a very good practice to get into with a new card is this:

Sign up for a new service with a recurring charge.

a. If it's a trial subscription that lasts X days/months, cancel immediately after signing up. Then, a few days before it was going to recur, they'll send you a message saying you need to resign up or you will lose your introductory price (or whatever) and you can then decide if you want to stay with it.

b. If it's not a trial, you can still follow the above by choosing a date that works for you, essentially creating your own trial, by setting a reminder in your phone X days/months ahead to cancel it. Then, when you get the reminder, you can assess if you want to stay with it and either cancel or let it ride and perhaps set another reminder.

One of the best advantages to cancelling services often is that you end up getting the best price possible. For instance, I subscribe to the NYT Full Access Digital, which is about $25 a month and includes News, Cooking, Games, Wirecutter, The Athletic and everything else except a print copy of the paper. My cost after cancelling a few times with the above steps? $2.40 a month, less than 10 percent of the full price.

Once you cancel, it'll take a month or 3 of silence (being not a member), before they start making you crazy offers. Make sure that whenever you cancel anything, choose "too expensive" or "cannot afford" or "financial reasons" or the equivalent.

This is also how I get Prime for 99 cents every few months. I do the 99 cent trial, immediately cancel, use the service for a week/month or whatever they offer, and decline when they remind me to renew. A month or two later they offer me the 99 cent promo again.
posted by dobbs at 6:06 PM on March 16

My read was that OP didn’t want to close the account but just get a new card with a different number, as if the card were lost. That doesn’t affect their credit score.

My read was the opposite, but that the answers that followed assumed your interpretation.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 6:15 PM on March 16

If you like getting collections phone calls for $2.99 from trainees working their first week at the collections agency
posted by Jacqueline at 11:19 PM on March 16

When I semi on purpose did this, Adobe and Hulu certainly didn't send me to collections, but they did send me a LOT of desperate emails. It ultimately would have been easier to just close the accounts. The inverse happened too, payments I wanted to keep didn't get in touch with me.
posted by umwelt at 9:50 AM on March 17

« Older Yellow ballpoint pens   |   Is Being No Contact Reasonable? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments