Brits Waste an Average of £39 a Month on Unused Subscriptions


February 2020

Brits Waste an Average of £39 a Month on Unused Subscriptions

Unused gym memberships. Contracts for dusty mobile phones. Never loaded streaming services. Brits are collectively wasting £25 billion a year on subscriptions to services they don’t use, according to NatWest.

The typical British adult commits £496 to regular payments each month, but £39 of that heads to direct debits, standing orders and recurring card payments for unused services.

The most common unused outgoings reported were fees for gym memberships: 12% of Brits quickly gave up resolutions for fitness after signing up for a contract with their local gym.

Meanwhile, 11% pay for a mobile phone they don’t use, and another 10% for a video streaming service such as Netflix or Amazon, they don’t watch, often signing up free 30-day trial they then forget to cancel.

Other unused outgoings include old insurance policies (9%) and premium delivery schemes (6%), for example for next-day delivery from ASOS and Amazon Prime.

Another 7% are paying for premium music streaming services—such as Spotify, for £9.99 a month—and not using them.

Others (6%) are subscribed to food delivery services like Hello Fresh, Gousto and Mindful Chef but never ordering meals.

But how do these direct debits continue to be deducted from our accounts, years after we’ve set them up and long after we rolled up our yoga mats or forswore Amazon? NatWest attributed the persistence of unused direct debits to Brits’ lack of financial engagement and confidence.

The bank’s survey found 38% of Britons review their direct debits and standing orders only every six months, while one in 10 check them less once a year.

And 2.6 million of us—5%—admit to never checking our direct debits at all.

Katie Murray, chief financial officer at NatWest, said: “People across the UK lead busy lives which can mean they're left juggling lots of expenses each month. This can make it daunting to prioritise and begin to make better financial decisions.”

While each charge might seem small, all those payments for unused services add up—to £468 a year, or £30,000 wasted over the lifetime of the average Briton. Cancelling unused subscriptions could fund your next holiday, pay for a years’ worth of takeaways or three months of council tax or be socked away in a savings account.

NatWest is urging all Brits to review their monthly spending and cancel subscriptions to services they don’t use.

“Our research today shows that a simple first step towards taking control of your money could be reviewing and cancelling old payments that you no longer use,” Murray said.

NatWest conducted the research between 13 and 16 December 2019, quizzing 2,004 British adults about their direct debits.