Do you remember the last time you paid a bill manually? Is everything in your financial life automated? Do you even know what a checkbook looks like?
Most of the time financial automation is viewed as a great thing. You don’t have to waste your limited brain power and time on trivial tasks like paying bills or setting aside money for retirement.
With the power of automation, you do those things automatically. Which is great, but also a double-edged sword. Companies like Amazon, Spotify, Audible, Netflix, Hulu, Time Warner Cable, your gym, insurance companies, and Sling TV know that when you sign up for the service, you’ll likely continue to pay for the service long after you’ve stopped using it if you’re set up with automated billing.
That’s why new financial apps like Truebill are so important. The best way to prevent against the downsides of financial automation is to use personalized data to get your finances back on track. That’s what Truebill promises to do. Does it work? We’ll explore how Truebill works to save its customers money, and whether you should take the plunge and download the app.
- App that helps you find and eliminate subscriptions
- Will also help you negotiate bills and save you money
- Can monitor your cable utility and save you for outages
How Does Truebill Work?
Unlike most apps, Truebill offers users a few different paths to save money using the platform.
- Lowering Bills
- Monitoring Subscriptions
- Monitoring For Outages
- Electric Saver
Lower My Bills
The first path is called “Lower My Bills.” In this path, Truebill negotiates directly with around two dozen service providers (mostly telecom services including cable, Internet, or cell service providers) to lower your bill.
For Truebill to lower your bill, you’ll upload a copy of your most recent bill with one of the service providers or connect directly to your online account. Then, you’ll provide information about the service you’re already receiving.
After that, Truebill will negotiate a lower rate for you. Often, they’ll help you get onto a promotional plan, cut back on bogus fees, or simply lower the rate. On average, Truebill saves its customers around 20% on their existing telecom plans through its negotiation techniques.
When Truebill negotiates for you, it will charge 40% of the annual savings. That means, if you save $100 per year, Truebill will charge you $40 for negotiating for you. That payment will be required right away (so you’ll actually lose money that first month).
For example, Truebill negotiated and lowered my SirusXM bill. They lowered the annual bill from $117 to $85. This was a savings of $32, which I then paid Truebill $12.80.
The more conventional path for connecting to Truebill is by connecting your checking and credit accounts to the app. Using the financial encryption service called Plaid, users simply enter their account information into the Truebill app. Once you add your account information, Truebill quickly (two minutes or less) reviews all your transaction information and flags recurring bills, changes to bills, and determines whether it can lower the bill.
It also “maps” your bills to a calendar, so you can figure out when your automatic bills will hit your account. You can look into each bill to see whether the amount you’ve paid has changed over time.
You can use the information provided to change your behavior, cancel subscriptions, and more. Or, if you really need some help, you might be inclined to upgrade to Truebill Premium ($4.99 per month or $35.99 for a year of service).
With Truebill Premium, you can simply click on a recurring subscription, choose “Cancel Service,” and Truebill will cancel the service for you. It will also automatically request refunds for overdraft fees or late fees. Although you might not get the refunds, people who infrequently overdraft or infrequently pay late may find that they can get a fee waived with a simple request.
Lest you wonder whether Truebill is worth $4.99 per month, it might be worth telling one story. I ended spending 30 minutes researching how to cancel an unused gym membership and another 10 minutes making it happen (thankfully, I had stamps to mail the letter). With Truebill, I could have saved about 38 minutes by tapping a few buttons. For me, that’s a worthwhile cost.
Monitoring For Outages
A really cool feature of Truebill is their monitoring for outages feature. This is where they will monitor your cable and internet providers in your areas, and there is an outage, they'll request a credit to your account.
For some cable providers (**wink wink*), this could be a huge savings. Truebill has found that they can save their users about $96 per year on average. That's a huge savings for doing NO work.
This feature is only available in some areas, but in locations where your electricity is deregulated, Truebill and their partner Arcadia Power will shop around and find the lowest price per Kw of electricity to save you on your power bill.
For some users, that adds up to a 30% savings on your electricity bill! That's huge!
What Fees Does Truebill Charge?
Truebill is a free app to download, but it’s not free forever. If you want to upgrade to Premium, you’ll have to pay $35.99 or $4.99 per month. If you opt to pay monthly, you can cancel a few services right away, and then downgrade to the free service.
If you use the part of the app that helps you lower your bills, Truebill charges 40% of your annual savings the first year you use it. It will charge this fee as soon as the negotiation is complete.
Does Truebill Sell My Information?
Truebill won’t sell your information to third parties, but it does advertise insurance and credit cards through the site. If you choose to connect to the insurance or credit card comparison sites, your information will be passed through to these companies.
Other than that, your information is kept private and secure.
What Alternative Apps Can I Use?
Truebill is the only app that is specifically targeting late fees and overdraft fees, but there are other free and low-cost services that you can use to cancel or negotiate lower bills. Also, Truebill is the only service I've seen with the Electric Saver program.
Billshark is an app that charges you 40% of your savings to lower most cable, Internet, cell service, and home security services. Since this matches Truebill’s offer, it’s no better to use one service vs. the other.
Trim is another free app that works to cancel subscriptions and lower bills. Right now, Trim charges 33% of savings to lower bills and it does not charge for its cancellation services. However, Trim isn’t able to cancel as many bills as Truebill, and it doesn’t request bank fee refunds.
Final Take on Truebill
With so much money going towards subscriptions rather than one-time purchases, I think most people (even careful spenders) should use apps like Truebill or Trim. Truebill offers unique insights (especially regarding changes to your monthly subscription fees) that can help you stay on top of your spending instead of assuming you’re getting the best deal.
It’s tough to say if the premium service is necessarily going to be worth the cost. Trim offers bill cancellation services for free, but its services are more limited in scope than Truebill’s. It may be worth upgrading to the paid premium service for a limited time to take advantage of the cancellation option even if you revert to the free service after just a few months. Likewise, Truebill charges more for its bill negotiation service than Trim does, but Truebill has a more in-depth process that may be worth the fee.
To start, I think it’s worthwhile to download the free Truebill app and see whether it prompts any behavior change. If it doesn’t, it probably makes sense to pay for the negotiations, and upgrade to cancel subscriptions. In relatively short order, Truebill could save you hundreds of dollars per year.