We love streaming — but no one loves balancing streaming fees, especially when prices unexpectedly go up. If you’re tired of seeing those monthly fees show up on your account over and over, there are strategies you can use to reduce streaming costs. Here are the most effective options we’ve found for lowering those bills while still getting that sweet streaming content.
1. Cut down on resolution
Many streaming services offer a variety of tiers set at different prices, so you can often save money by sacrificing a bit of quality and dropping down a tier or two. Netflix is an excellent example: The Standard tier ($13.99) adds HD resolution, and the Premium tier ($17.99) offers Ultra HD — but if you primarily watch on mobile devices or don’t care about resolution (which can also eat into internet data caps), then you can save several dollars a month by dropping down to the Basic tier ($8.99).
Other services may work in similar ways, offering higher tiers with better resolution, more content, or family plans. If that’s not necessary in your streaming life, drop down to a lower-cost plan to save!
2. Choose the ad-based tiers of service
Also look for streaming plans that will cut your plan price if you choose an ad version. Hulu, for example, offers to get rid of ads for a higher price, but it’s not necessary to enjoy any of Hulu’s content, so this is an effective way to save when choosing plans. Apps like NBC’s Peacock TV even offer streaming for free if you are willing to accept periodic ad breaks.
3. Skip live TV
Avoid paying for extras like live TV, or look for services that allow you to pay on demand for live events that you are specifically interested in. Live TV is rarely a necessity on streaming services unless you absolutely have to catch live games in your favorite sports leagues — and if that’s the case, we suggest investing in a digital TV antenna to pick up local channel signals for free.
4. Consolidate into bundles
Most streaming services offer bundles that allow you to combine streaming services and save money by paying for them together, an ideal choice if you juggle multiple streaming options to get what you what.
For example, Disney owns Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+, so it offers an excellent deal for getting all three at $14 per month. Apple TV+ offers a major discount if you are also picking up CBS All Access and Showtime. Amazon Prime allows you to pay a discounted rate if you want to add Cinemax or HBO Max. Just want HBO Max and Hulu? There’s a bundle for that, too! Chances are good you can find a bundle to fit your multi-streaming habits.
5. Look for student discounts
Did you know that a wide variety of streaming services have student discounts? It’s not something you may think to look for, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you can save: Hulu, for example, offers college students streaming services for just $2 per month. HBO has had student discounts in the past and is worth keeping an eye on if you are in college. YouTube Premium and similar services also have student discounts to take advantage of.
6. Find a carrier deal
Don’t forget to check AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and other major carriers to see if they have any current deals for getting streaming services. For example, sign up for the right AT&T Unlimited plan, and you can get HBO Max for free. If you find a deal that interests you, do some calculations and see if you can save money by dropping a service and upgrading your phone plan or buying a new device to get it for free.
7. Leapfrog between free trials
Streaming services have free trials that typically last a week or two. In our binge-heavy world, that’s more than enough time to catch up on your favorite show or check out original content that you have been meaning to get to. Since canceling your streaming subscription rarely comes with any penalty, this allows users to sign up, binge what they want, and cancel. That strategy lets you hop from streaming service to service, picking up what you want to see for free, then canceling and waiting for a new season or more content to build up before repeating.
The downside is that this doesn’t work if you can’t binge, isn’t a very friendly strategy for watching with loved ones, and doesn’t work if new episodes are released on a weekly basis. But if you don’t mind the time management, you may be able to watch everything you want without paying at all!
8. Use a bill tracker app like Truebill
Payment monitoring apps like Truebill (available on iOS and on Android) help you manage spending and track all your subscriptions. They can also watch for any subscriptions that you may be unknowingly paying from your account or unexpected increases in subscription fees. If you’ve managed a lot of streaming apps over the years, it may be worthwhile to get a bill tracker app and make sure you aren’t paying any surprise fees unnecessarily.
9. Find the right credit card
Credit cards offer a number of different savings options for spending on specific things, like gas, groceries, or Apple devices. There are also a number of cards that will give you cash back for streaming service fees, like American Express’s Blue Cash Preferred Card or the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card.
Plenty of conditions apply to these cards, so it’s important to do your research and compare the savings of any current credit cards you are using to what you could get with a new card (plus associated cancellation fees, etc.). But in the right situation, this could be an effective way to save on your subscriptions over time.