Subscription Tracking

My brother in law Jerry is working on a project to collect all of his family’s digital subscriptions; subscriptions to streaming video services, music services, subscriptions to online news and other publications, subscriptions to software services, subscriptions to education services, etc, etc. He is planning a dinner in which he will review all of them with his family and understand which ones they are using and which ones they are not using. Then he can prune the list.

I am sure this isn’t something only Jerry wants. With the explosion of online subscription services, we all have been collecting a plethora of subscriptions and many of us are wondering how much we are spending on them and if we are using all of them.

I asked a few of my partners if they have seen companies working on this problem. What I got back is there are a few financial management packages like Truebill and Trim that offer this feature. And there is a service called Bobby that focused on managing subscriptions.

I am curious about a few things about this category of services:

  • Do we want this subscription tracking functionality bundled in our financial management software or do we want it broken out as an independent app that can integrate into our financial management software? I suspect the answer is the latter.
  • Do we want to use different subscription trackers for the various categories or do we want to use one for all of them? I can imagine a video subscription tracker being an app on our AppleTV that allows us to measure usage. It could be that you can improve utility by making trackers by application sector.
  • How do the developers of these subscription trackers make sure they get all of the subscriptions? Some of our family’s subscriptions are direct debit, some are on one or more credit cards, some are via Apple, some are via Amazon, etc, etc.

As digital services have evolved from free and advertising supported to subscription-supported over the last decade, we are collectively spending billions on digital subscriptions and we need tools to properly manage that spend.

The tools that find their way into this space between us and our subscriptions can become quite strategic over time.

I am curious to hear if the AVC community has experience with products and services in this category and thoughts about the questions I posed about it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Jon Smirl

    Capital One is already tracking this on their credit cards and sends you emails about recurring charges to remind you.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      I LOVE my capitol one account for this. They auto-categorize my transactions for me. Makes lots of things really easy.

    2. Matt Zagaja

      Capital One is making big bets on software. Having recruited every software developer in the DC area they are now in Boston with plans to grow. I am excited to see how they continue to innovate in this space.

  2. Jelmer de Jong

    This is becoming more and more a feature for banks (or credit card companies) to stay relevant: display all the recurring payments/subscriptions as part of their budgeting or PFM module. And even better, they do this with an option to cancel the service. In the Nordics Subaio delivers this service to a few local banks. And I believe a few dedicated budgeting tools are also moving in this space (the new Mint.coms), but then you have to trust them to access your banking data.

  3. kidmercury

    I’m really bearish on this idea. For one, financial integration/aggregation is a really hard problem, even with investing I have to resort to scripts and spreadsheets because nothing intregrates it all properly. I think the same will be the case for subscription billing. And I also wonder how pressing the problem is, like is just reviewing you credit card statements simple enough. Maybe if the app can remove the need for the family dinner Convo there is some value, but a mere tracking app probably still needs the family review convo. And then how much are you willing to pay for it… might already be going to have dinner with your family and this is something to talk about during that time anyway

    1. kenberger

      I’m bullish. did something like this to integrate financial accounts, had a robust and FREE option, and got a huge exit during a much poorer time.Open to any counter-point.

      1. kidmercury

        Does mint have any satisfied users? I tried it, and because it can never fully integrate stuff, i don’t use it. Personal capital is a lot better, but i still don’t think it is good enough. And will customers pay, or is the real opportunity in selling user data, which is increasingly seen as shady behavior?

        1. kenberger

          i watched mint grow from scratch, knew the founder. Can’t say i was, or currently am, a huge user, I’m just verifying that they did get a huge outcome (for that epoch).

  4. William Mougayar

    Yes, managing all these is a mess from a user point of view. Gmail now tells you that you haven’t used such and such subscription for a while and asks if you want to unsubscribe. That’s mostly for email-based subscriptions, but they could expand it into bills in the same way that Google Calendar adds events to your Calendar based on scanning your emails. Google Now already reminds you that such and such bills are due. What’s missing is to put that into some cohesive reporting and analysis framework with actionable features.The trick with stand alone software is that the manual maintenance requirements will be a barrier of entry for most users.You also want to add to this the non-digital native services such as Hydro, Cable, Telephone, etc that are also being paid online these days and with auto-pay schedules.So, I’m voting for whoever can decipher my Inbox and automatically extract this report for me, and allow me to edit it. It could be Google or it could be a GMail plugin.I’m not going to manually connect these bills.

  5. Gregg Freishtat

    I agree that the starting point should be the credit card or payment provider. This space is super interesting for the corporate world as its not just “how many” subscriptions do I have but also “how useful” are the ones we have. How many seats have logged in over the past few weeks, average session time etc. Understanding which subscriptions you have and then which ones you are using is a very valuable tool in the enterprise software stack. Clearly there are benefits for personal use as well and things like usage on Hulu verses Netflix etc would be a useful feature of any offereing.

  6. Barak Kaufman

    Business have to deal with this problem at an insane scale as there is the “bottoms up” adoption of software applications combined with department and organization level purchases. Each of these software purchases are now mostly subscription based often on a per licenses basis.Industry reports say that on average, ~35% of software spend is wasted on unused software. Combine that with the security and compliance challenges each one of these new vendors pose.Take a look at Intello for business focused subscription management, “SaaS to manage SaaS”

  7. Lee Blaylock

    After someone purchased $700 worth of guitars In Uruguay on my Citibank card, and the time it took me to fix all the subscriptions, I decide to open up a separate card and only have subscriptions on that card and I don’t carry it around. It doesn’t fix everything but has a lot of benefits.

    1. kenberger

      Good idea: this company can offer the equivalent of a “burner card” that offers exactly that functionality.

    2. Anne Libby

      This is my solution as well.I also saw also an email aggregator called “stoop,” which let you sign up for email newsletters to be delivered to what is effectively a burner address. I don’t believe that it solves the financial analysis side of thing, but more mediates the reader experience, putting all of the emails in one place.As a newsletter writer I haven’t seen big uptake in the service, but with more “creators” creating paid newsletters/member situations, there’s a space for a finer tool.(My personal preference would be to attach this to financial management tooling, but not sure I represent an average user.)

  8. kenberger

    Probably not– see for an analogous possible business model that had a huge outcome.But playing along, this reminds me of Fred’s recent post about the solution to having 14 standards is to create a 15th one 😉

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      We’re on the edge of disruption here. I have a bunch of apps/debit/bank services that I’ve been trying out just to play with the landscape. My bank is waaaaayyyyyy behind in some of the functionality, ease of use, and — best of all — speed of transactions. Banks are still slowing our transactions down so they can earn off of the hold on the funds, but when does the tipping point come? I have a couple of apps I’m using now that I pay less for and can deposit and get access to funds within seconds. For me, the question is: when do the disruptors end up costing more than the incumbents? Or do they ride it until they’ve defeated most of the incumbents?

  9. William Mougayar

    SRM ? Subscription Relationships Management New category? Like CRM Or BRM – Bills RM

  10. William Mougayar

    I just tried the 3 options mentioned above, and uninstalled / unsubscribed as soon as I could. Too much friction. And I’m not connecting my banking sign on to an unknown, centralized, small company.

    1. jason wright

      Where’s your spirit of adventure? 🙂 Merry Christmas William.

      1. William Mougayar

        Thanks Jason. Very same to you 😉

  11. jason wright

    “we are collectively spending billions on digital subscriptions and we need tools to properly manage that spend.”No individual subscriber experiences it as a “spending billions” problem. It may aggregate as a billions opportunity, but is the grassroots demand for a solution strong enough? Bitcoin ‘dust’ is a big number, but no individual feels that loss. It’s not the same dynamic, but there it is.

  12. ThePenGuy

    While developing this app, include an easy way to update your credit card info whenever a new card is issued.

  13. Virginia Juliano

    I am the Founder of CobbleCord, a patented streaming recommendation product that helps people cobble together personalized streaming bundles. We are currently building out phase 2, a subscription management hub which addresses some of the issues described, and are in the process of seeking funding. I find many of the solutions listed are overly-engineered and too complicated for the average person. We are developing a more simplified approach for the mainstream consumer. Would love to talk to interested parties: [email protected]

  14. Semil Shah

    On the b2b side, there is Coupa, Zylo, and newly announced Pepper. You got the main consumer facing ones — but I think ultimately it will be a feature of banks/credit cards that we use for the subscription itself.

    1. William Mougayar

      Don’t you think that your inbox is a more common denominator than the banks/credit cards?

  15. Emily Steed

    I would love a single app that handles them all organized by category. It would be great if the app could tell me how much I used the service and show me a visual to explain what I will not longer get (that I used/watched) if I cancel.

  16. awaldstein

    Could be a useful utility though not sure I want to see it outside of my CC as a separate app.Just did this, honestly don’t know if I’ve found them all.All iTunes are easy to find not all easy to cancel.

  17. Venturebuilder

    Interesting topic. As companies increasing subscribe to SAAS software, managing changing number company of users (hires, departures, cross departmental users etc..) is a difficult task to do for accounting and department heads. IMO this can survive as a stand along business but can also a great feature inside a banking app or accounting software, etc… depending on target market. I found a good rundown here of options (some of which you pointed out. Vendor Hawk (funded by iNovia Capital and acquired by Service now) had an interesting solution.

  18. ChimpWithCans

    I have just “Gifted” a couple of subscriptions as presents this Christmas for the first time….it was a really easy and convenient gift for people who are far away from me. Makes me think the need for this solution/these solutions will grow over time.

  19. Chris Phenner

    I exhaled in relief as I saw this post, and its questions. The NY Times published a Special Section on streaming services a few weeks back, saying there were 271 different OTT services in the U.S. (not inclusive of cable, telco/wireless, etc.).I think these billing relationships are best if ‘Actively Managed’ (not added into or Personal Capital). I think it should be a different model. At the risk of sounding silly, I think the best providers in this category will behave as ‘Subscription Fiduciaries,’ and should charge fees based on the level of attention/service they provide (at a fixed rate).In these earlier days of Subscription Fiduciaryland, we need to share an uncomfortable amount of data with an early-stage firm. We need to manually update and stay atop services as we add/leave them. And we need to actively manage family/kids, as these services can be ‘personal’ (ie, someone may love a show on Hulu).This reminds me of robo-advisors. There’s a tricky blend of tech (automatic) service, and when things get confusing and/or higher-touch, phone calls and other synchronous means of communication will be important, as will the ability to securely provide identity, signatures and other ‘consent’ communications.What’s a great onboard flow? A secure, email-based alias to which I send my bills, and parse those bills quickly and put them in a clean-looking place that makes sense immediately. And start making simple recommendations to save money.I don’t know if what I wrote above describes the early days of, Personal Capital or whatever number of intermediary services that have followed, but I think there’s a playbook to get started and ‘be the best’ early/fast, and go from there.As has often been the case, on The Internet. ** capitalization is conscious, with respect :)Let’s find the best tools, and attack this!Thank you, Chris

  20. JLM

    .Use a password manager.In the password use a distinctive set of characters such as “***” to identify subscriptions.I used to use “sub” on the end of the password.I can thereby immediately see my subscriptionsVery simple, sleek.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Richard

      Code breaker !

  21. Joe Lazarus

    I spoke to a startup a few years ago based here in NY that was doing this for companies. I can’t remember their name. They integrated with G Suite and tracked subscriptions via email receipts, then summarized the data, highlighted if two departments were paying separately for the same service, and whatnot. I remember thinking it would be useful for the company and also an interesting dataset in aggregate (ex. what’s the most popular marketing email service based on actual usage).

    1. Blake Koriath

      Joe- there are several companies working on this in the enterprise world, another one is called Zylo– which is focused on large enterprises. Lots of interesting innovation happening here!

  22. Richard

    Looks line a crowded space as there is legislation coming in 2020+ requiring notification of renewals by the seller to the buyer prior to renewal charges, both at the state and federal level.

  23. sigmaalgebra

    Possibly an interesting issue of a problem to be solved in an overall, industry-wide architecture:So, we have a world of (i) lots of data sources and (ii) lots of apps with each of the apps already using some of the data sources.Then the proposal in this thread it to have some new or modified apps to use and, thus, integrate results from, more of the data sources.In this work, each of the apps needs (a) the data (b) in a format (schema, etc.) they can use and (c) code essentially to parse the data in the format of (b).Here there is the threat of (a) to (c) resulting in lots of different and mostly incompatible but essentially redundent efforts. A problem, one that needs to be solved in an overall, industry-wide architecture.Gee, for (a) for my bank checking account records, there is a simple way to download the data in a simple format as just simple text that can be used by some of the accounting software! So, I won’t have to parse PDF files, scrape data from screens, or parse it from HTML code.This problem looks like a special case of an old problem with also various varieties of old solutions:Or, the early FedEx wanted to serve 90 US cities. One approach was to fly an airplane from each of the 90 cities to the 89 other cities,90 * (90 – 1) = 8,010flights.Another solution was to have 90 airplanes and fly each to a central hub sort and then fly the 90 planes back,2 * 90 = 180flights instead of90 * (90 – 1) = 8,010flights.Or more generally for positive integers m and n, suppose we have some m collections of data, e.g., subscriptions, and some n pieces of software, e.g., apps.So which of the n apps will use which of the m collections of data?So, each of the apps has to do the essentially redundant work of (a) to (c) for the data.So, roughly, potentially we have (m)(n) cases of the work, the data flows in the work of (a) to (c).In such cases we try to get the number of flows down to m + n by having all the flows go through some central data request broker or whatever want to call it.For such things, and for some of the low level but still important parts of the work, we can try to put the data in the form or format of ASN.1, CMIS/P, XML, key-value pairs, name, type, data triplets, etc. and those can ease the (m)(n) work.My personal solution is to focus on having the data in just simple text; the advantage here is relatively high generality for (a) and relatively easy work for (b) and (c).E.g., daily I record in a file time sleep in hours and food eaten in calories and more. I have that data going back several years and wanted an easy way to extract the data for entering into Excel for some graph drawing. So, I had to do the work of (a) to (c). I did, I just wrote a macro in the macro programming language KEXX with my favorite text editor and favorite computing tool KEdit. What I wrote was just over 300 lines of typing. KEXX was pretty good, has an easy way to add input data on times slept such as4 1/2 + 3 3/4Try that in your favorite programming language, that is, read in and add such data during execution and after the code is written and compiled, interpreted, etc.!So, I got a case of (a) to (c) done by tying in 300+ lines of code, and the work was made MUCH easier by the use of essentially just plain text. Or, plain text got rid of a tower of Babel of data formats. So, plain text for the data file, the output of my code, and the input to Excel.Point: When thinking about using data such as subscriptions in apps that also use other data, e.g., bank accounts, budgets, projects, etc. tend to run into the (m)(n) problem. A first-cut solution, at the kindergarten level, is use of just plain text.For a solution in grade school, draw from ASN.1, CMIS/P, XML, key-value pairs, name, type, data triplets, SQL table definitions, a query engine, etc.

  24. Gal Ringel

    Hi All,This is a wonderful topic that is right in our alley. Over the past year, we’ve quietly built a powerful product called Mine, that will help you own your personal data online. You are all welcome to test the product at https://www.saymine.comHere is our full story:We believe that the subscription problem is actually part of a bigger and more crucial problem – the fact that we all lost control over our personal data online. During our day-to-day, we use a lot of online services, but through these experiences, we leave behind hundreds of digital traces that are collected by companies.We developed a simple-to-use app, that solved the problem. In less than 30 seconds, we will show you a list of all the companies that have collected your data and what data do they hold. We then, let you exercise your right-to-be-forgotten with a click of a button, to ask the companies to delete your data, and we will make it happen. Keep your data, only where you need it.We do not deal directly with subscription management, but you will be able to see all the companies that have your financial information, which in most cases, means you have a subscription in it 🙂

    1. DJL

      I am going to try this now. If it actually works (1) I will be amazed, and (2) want to know how you did it. The only possible way is via cookie tracking/harvesting. Happy to provide feedback if you are interested.

      1. Gal Ringel

        Actually, the value is locked inside your email inbox and we help you unlock it.The fact is, you leave behind hundreds of digital traces during your daily online interactions with companies. Almost 90% of these interactions can be found in your inbox; emails such as “Welcome to Facebook” or “Your Amazon Receipt”.Mine monitors your inbox (with non-intrusive AI), to find all of these traces and reflects them back to you. We do that by scanning only the subject lines of your emails but we NEVER read, process or collect the content of your emails!We then put you in the driver seat, allowing you to exercise your right-to-be-forgotten with a click of a button, and we will make sure it happens. Easy :)You are more than welcome to reach out on LinkedIn, I’d be happy to share more information.

  25. Mike

    All of my subscriptions run through my credit card or checking account (or they should), which I review monthly. I believe the same for my wife. For me this is enough to flag subscriptions that I no longer use. But perhaps this is a good reminder for me to double check.

  26. Matt Zagaja

    Not a ton I need to do on a personal end for this, the surface area of my subscriptions is fairly small and in general I don’t see many opportunities for substitution and consolidation. Netflix does not yet have The Mandalorian. On the enterprise side we have lots of subscriptions and many cloud and enterprise service providers have substitute goods. To the extent de-centralized purchasing decisions are made I bet lots of value can be found by mining the accounting data for a large organization.

    1. Blake Koriath

      Hi Matt, there’s a company called Zylo ( that is solving this problem for the enterprise. Driven by decentralized purchasing, large organizations can’t keep track of everything their employees have subscribed to and don’t have the ability to take advantage of scale & pick the best software products. Getting lots of traction with large enterprises to help them manage their SaaS subscriptions.

  27. ceonyc

    I have a portfolio company that is doing this for enterprise. The idea is that anyone at USV would be able to benefit from the USV group rate for the premium levels/subscriptions to Business Insider, Techcrunch, The Information, etc., with just a one click passthrough token but at the same time it could scan your records and let you know that no one ever benefits from that random subscription to Triathlons Monthly that your first analyst signed up to almost 15 years ago.

  28. Tania Zapata

    Another solution out there that our company is using is They use virtual credit cards to control and consolidate all subscriptions. You pay each vendor with a separate credit card – all data flows into your dashboard, and you can set spending limits per card/vendor. You can also cut off any vendor if they make it hard for you to cancel. They only launched this year, and have seen very solid traction.

    1. Aakash Prasad

      We use NachoNacho heavily. It has really helped us organize all our subscriptions in one place.

  29. rxdxt

    Ive been using Nacho Nacho at transform for some time – a stand alone product its quite useful..

  30. Mukul Gupta

    The challenges with using independent apps are:1. As you mentioned, I have multiple credit / debit / store cards.2. I am not comfortable sharing my financial data with a third party3. It’s a pull and not a push mechanismI prefer to track my expenses using notifications. Everytime I’m charged over $0.01, I get notified by my cards. It might mean a lot of notifications but I seldom pay more than a month for a subscription I no longer want to use.

  31. Adam Sher

    I use Quickbooks Online and tag relevant expenses as subscription services. I further use a dedicated credit card like @lblaylock:disqus for subscription charges. Because I can link cards & banks and assign them to people, I see expenses in as much detail as needed for my family. What is additionally useful about having my subscriptions all on a card is that my monthly bill is the same unless someone added a subscription or a service increased its price. QBO plus a dedicated CC have been a complete solution for me and I do not look for other ways to manage this.

  32. leeschneider

    I’ve been using for about 6 months. Really love it. Allows you to download all your transactions (bank, credit card, financial, etc.) into Google Sheets. Offers automatic categorization, various templates for tracking finances. It’s great. I have a category called online subscriptions. Allows me to easily see what we’re spending.