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Person using premium services of Netflix

Should you spend the money on a long-term subscription or stick to those free trials?

Thirty-day free trial? Sign up, and on day 29, cancel the account before you get charged. Repeat that cycle with a different email or on a different streaming service. Does that sound familiar? It’s okay to admit it. You’re not the only one who does that little bit to save money for other things, though the idea of premium does sound appealing.

Either way, subscriptions aren’t new. Subscription services follow the business model that is based on selling a product or service by a monthly or yearly subscription revenue — some may offer a discount if purchasing the subscription in advance, such as a six month or one year subscription instead of month to month. But not all subscriptions are the same. Many are set up in tiers, which go from freemium to premium.

Premium or Freemium?

Freemium is when a product or service is free of charge. All that is required is an account — this gets you access to the service’s most basic things. Though you get access to the basics, there are often ads that interrupt the service or limit the usage per day.

On the other hand, there’s the option to upgrade or pay a fee to receive uninterrupted use or more accessibility to different features, which can enhance the service you are receiving. This is known as premium. Often with subscriptions, premium comes with some added benefits depending on what level of premium you choose.

So which option is better? Well, that certainly depends on the service, and it depends on what you are willing to spend and what is most useful for your situation. Some people are a fan of live TV, therefore cable is the better route than a streaming service such as HBO or Hulu.

Some may need to use a service for business purposes, such as to save documents, which may mean subscribing to Dropbox for more storage — the better option than the 2 GB of storage the freemium account has to offer.

Premium Video Services

Two popular online viewing services are Netflix and Hulu — both offer a variety of TV shows, movies, documentaries and even their own originals. Some programs are only specific to that streaming service though. For example, “Rick and Morty” isn’t available on Netflix, but it is on Hulu.

What are the differences between them?

Netflix offers a one-month free trial with no commitments and the ability to cancel anytime. There are three payment plans offered: basic, standard and premium. The biggest difference between the tiers are how many screens can be playing a program at the same time.

With Hulu, you can try a one-month free trial, add on programs such as HBO and Showtime or opt for no ads — at a higher cost; you can even bundle in live TV.

Premium Music Services

Besides TV shows, there’s also music streaming services. Two popular options are Spotify and Pandora. Both offer a variety of music and podcasts, although each one has different features.

Spotify offers free and premium accounts. For a one-month trial, premium allows ad-free listening and listening without Wi-Fi. Pandora offers free listening with or without an account but often has ads. Pandora Plus unlocks more features, such as listening ad-free, having unlimited skips and more.

Premium Shopping Services

Besides TV shows and music, there are also shopping sites that offer premium features. A popular one is Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime includes all that the basic Amazon account offers, but there’s free one day shipping, access to e-books, Prime Music and Prime Video.

Before committing to Amazon Prime, you can try their 30-day free trial. Though Amazon is known for shopping, their combination of TV shows and music may be worth it — instead of paying for only a music streaming service like those mentioned before.

Premium Services in the Real World

Besides the internet, freemium and premium models apply to the outside world as well. A lot of stores often have rewards accounts for those who frequently shop there, or they have email subscriptions, and customers who sign up get emails about coupons and other deals. This brings competition, and Sam’s Club and Costco are not excluded from this. Recently, buying groceries and other home items in bulk has actually become popular with crowds.

The idea of buying in bulk via membership is more appealing than going to the grocery store and buying item per item. Costco and Sam’s Club offers low prices on staple foods due to the amount in the package. They even feature food items that aren’t offered at regular grocery stores, which encourages people to return to their store if they like that specific item.

What Is the Better Option?

There are a lot of pros and cons to both freemium and premium subscriptions. Some may say that freemium is better to save money and that you still get the basic idea of the product. Others may say that premium will give you the best experience and is more convenient than listening to commercials. Just because premium may offer more doesn’t mean it’s better; it all depends on the purpose of the service being used.

A lot of people may choose to start out with a freemium account, which can entice them to go for the premium and upgrade tiers due to their usage on the certain service or product. There are countless products and services that use this tactic: YouTube, FabFitFun, Disney+, HelloFresh and even dating apps like Tinder.

It’s hard to resist the idea of free services, but ads and storage concerns may be enough to drive someone to upgrade to premium. There’s also family and student discounts that may be enough to encourage you to choose premium. As mentioned before, you can always try before you buy to decide which is the best option for you.

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