Cancel Recurring Charges, Even When They Won’t Let You

Recurring auto-biller won’t let you cancel your account online?

Update the billing with a non-working credit card.

The next time the auto-bill comes around, the card will come back declined and the merchant will cancel the account.

Reader Timmus uses this trick all the time. To monkeywrench the system, he uses a credit card number of his that doesn’t work anymore. If you don’t have one, VISA test card number 4111 1111 1111 1111 could work, or even the magic of Google.

Timmus says, “Talking on the phone derails me from other things I need to be doing. And I don’t like caving in to their games.”

His letter, which explains a bit more on why he’s forced to use this method, inside.

Timmus writes:

    “As a home business owner, I find that I’m occasionally unable to properly close accounts online. In some cases it’s because the company has intentionally omitted a “Cancel” button from their control panel, forcing me to call and deal with retention (I saw that a few months ago with our RingCentral account). In other cases, you get buffoonery like what I encountered this weekend with Verio, a web hosting service that we dumped a few months ago due to poor performance. Their entire control panel works flawlessly until you try to cancel. Their panel will repeatedly complain that your choice was invalid and to try again. No matter what option I picked or what browser I used, I couldn’t go further than this screen. This is not the first time I’ve seen such shenanigans.

    To some of you it’s no big deal to pick up the phone and start making calls, but not me. Talking on the phone derails me from other things I need to be doing. And I don’t like caving in to their games. So this is when I pull out my standby trick.

    Remember that billing control panel that has no “cancel” option but allows you to update your credit card information? You simply replace your real card with a nonworking card number. You can use a long-cancelled card, use the Visa test number 4111 1111 1111 1111, or even Google one up (and I can assure you that most card numbers sitting on Google are dead as doornails, otherwise phishing wouldn’t be so lucrative). The next time an auto-rebill rolls around, it will simply come back declined.

    That’s no biggie; I’ve been a merchant for 15 years and I see declines all the time.

    Nobody cares. Unless you update your billing information, your account gets closed.

    I’d imagine the first reaction of anyone skimming this article might be “Oh noes! Fraud!” However these are all pay-as-you-go accounts where nothing is being provided on credit. By dropping a lemon in the system it simply shuts off the faucet. They close the account, the balance stays at $0.00, and we’re all done. The trick has almost always worked for me (except on sites that do Verisign verifications) and in 10 seconds I can rest assured that the account will get closed before the next billing cycle and that I won’t have to deal with accidental charges. I don’t have to remember to call on Monday and go through the whole cancellation rigmarole — boom, it’s done.”