Survey: The Average Canadian Has 8 Recurring Subscriptions… But Doesn’t Know It!

Popular subscription services are represented as monsters fishing for Canadian consumers' hard earn dollars.
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    Imagine a world where every aspect of your daily life, from your meals (DashPass) to your family photos (iCloud+) to your entertainment (Netflix), is governed by a recurring subscription. This world is a reality for a growing number of Canadians. In fact, a survey we conducted on the subject revealed that Canadians have an average of 8 recurring subscriptions, and that most of them have stopped counting.

    The Subscription Trap

    When we asked respondents directly how many recurring subscriptions they had, they replied that they had 4 on average. However, when we asked respondents to select the subscriptions they had in different categories, the average number of recurring subscriptions rose to 8.

    This significant difference between perception and reality shows just how pernicious recurring subscriptions can be in terms of budget management: they seem negligible when you first sign up, given the low monthly cost, but they accumulate over time and can end up costing you thousands of dollars a year.

    Our survey found that 73% of respondents subscribed to services for a free trial or promotion, planning to cancel before the period ended, but ultimately forgot. What’s more, a significant proportion of respondents (66%) acknowledged that they had been billed for a subscription they had completely forgotten about.

    Unsubscribing Is Complex

    Even when Canadian consumers take their finances into their own hands and clean up their recurring subscriptions, unsubscribing is rarely fun. In fact, 55% of Canadians have already put off this task because of the complexity of the process.

    Companies with subscription-based business models have an economic incentive to discourage consumers from unsubscribing. When Canadians are asked why they put off unsubscribing, the most common reason is that they simply couldn’t find how to unsubscribe on the website or app (32%).

    Other reasons cited for postponing the task of unsubscribing included an excessive number of steps (28%), too long a waiting time on the phone (19%), a reminder of the benefits lost by unsubscribing immediately (18%), the need to make a phone call to unsubscribe (17%), and the need to send an e-mail to unsubscribe (10%). It should be noted that respondents could provide more than one reason.

    In the open comments related to this question, a handful of respondents confide that they have gone so far as to close their credit card or bank account to stop pre-authorized payments.

    Moreover, the difficulty of unsubscribing is reflected in the payment methods preferred by Canadians to pay for their subscriptions. Indeed, a significant proportion of respondents prefer to use a prepaid credit card (5%) or PayPal (11%) to pay for their subscriptions.

    No less than 55% of respondents who opt for prepaid cards do so because they can simply stop recharging their prepaid card if they no longer wish to subscribe. As for PayPal, 15% of those who opt for this service do so because they prefer not to entrust their payment details to the merchant, or because they can unsubscribe directly on PayPal. However, PayPal is chosen above all for its simplicity (59%).

    The most common means of paying for recurring subscriptions, however, remains the standard credit card (47%). When asked why they chose this method, 44% said it was the easiest, while 41% explained that it allowed them to earn cash back or reward points.

    Credit Card Companies Are Accomplices

    Our survey also revealed that barely 12% of Canadians are aware of a mechanism that is key to the recurring subscription economy: credit card updater services, offered by Visa, Mastercard and American Express.

    In practical terms, these services enable recurring subscription providers to continue charging their customers’ credit accounts even if they have a change of address or even credit card, as long as the new credit card is linked to the same credit account. The vast majority of companies offering recurring subscriptions pay for this service.

    Canadians can call their bank to opt out of this service, to which they unknowingly adhere by accepting the terms and conditions of their credit card. Yet 88% of Canadians are unaware of its existence, a convenient reality for credit card companies and merchants, who have every interest in ensuring that as many Canadians as possible benefit from this service. In fact, when Canadians were asked if they wanted their card to be charged even if they changed credit cards, 74% were against it.

    Although this was not the main focus of the survey, it did enable us to learn which subscriptions Canadians prefer. Unsurprisingly, shopping and streaming subscriptions dominate the ranking. What surprised us, however, was the diversity of Canadians’ recurring subscriptions, which touched on every aspect of life, from video games (Xbox Game Pass) to meals (HelloFresh), cinema outings (Cineclub), artificial intelligence (GPT Plus Chat) and even printer cartridges (HP Instant Ink). In all, survey respondents subscribed to no fewer than 184 separate subscription services.

    It should be noted that we have excluded traditional telecoms services such as mobile telephones and cable from our ranking, in order to highlight other types of recurring subscriptions. Without further ado, here are the 50 most popular subscriptions in Canada:

    1Amazon PrimeShopping
    2NetflixVideo content
    4Disney+Video content
    5Spotify PremiumAudio content
    6CAARoadside assistance
    7CraveVideo content
    8YouTube PremiumVideo content
    9Apple TV+Video content
    10Nintendo Switch OnlineVideo games
    11Google OneCloud computing
    12Xbox Game PassVideo games
    13Paramount+Video content
    14Apple MusicAudio content
    15Gem Premium / ExtraVideo content
    16Amazon MusicAudio content
    17iCloud+Cloud computing
    18PlayStation PlusVideo games
    19PC InsidersShopping
    20SiriusXMAudio content
    21DashPassFood delivery
    23Uber OneFood delivery
    24PatreonContent creator
    25AudibleAudio content
    26BritBoxVideo content
    27ChatGPT PlusIA
    28CrunchyrollVideo content
    29New York TimesMedia
    30Private Internet Access VPNVPN
    31OnlyFansContent creator
    32YouTube MusicAudio content
    33HelloFreshFood delivery
    34Instacart+Food delivery
    35SurfShark VPNVPN
    361PasswordPassword manager
    37Discovery+Video content
    38Triangle SelectShopping
    39STARZVideo content
    40LastPassPassword manager
    41Duolingo PlusEducation
    42Club IllicoVideo content
    43Sportsnet NowVideo content
    44Chefs PlateFood delivery
    46Twitch ChannelContent creator
    47Curiosity StreamVideo content
    48Stack TVVideo content
    49DropoutVideo content
    50Linkedin PremiumSocial media

    Infographic: Canadian Recurring Subscription Survey 2024

    In this infographic about recurring subscriptions in Canada, we display the result of the survey we conducted in 2024.
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    Julien started Hardbacon to help Canadians make better investment decisions. He’s raised more than three million dollars and signed strategic partnerships with financial institutions across the country. Before starting Hardbacon, Julien shared his passion for personal finance and the stock market while working as a business journalist for Les Affaires. He passed the Canadian Securities Course (CSC), and, over the years, collaborated with various media including CBC, LCN and Urbania.