How to Save Money on Subscriptions to Netflix, Pandora, and Other Services

Squeezing Netflix

On Monday I penned a piece explaining some of the ways to get discounted iTunes Gift Cards. That saves you money on your iTunes Stores and App Store purchases (and TV show and movie rentals), but you can also use it to save money on many subscriptions, including Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, HBO, Hulu, and even Apple Music, not to mention subscriptions to newspapers and magazines.

I'll use Netflix as an example. You can subscribe to Netflix through the company's website and give them your credit card info. I would hazard that most people do it that way. But, you can also subscribe to Netflix as an in-app purchase on the company's iOS app. Many people do it that way, too, because it's convenient and keeps all your payments in one place (with Apple).

Here's the thing: When you have subscriptions as an in-app purchase, Apple pays those subscriptions against any balance you have first. If there's anything left over, then and only then does Apple tap your credit card.

If you've loaded up your iTunes account with a $100 gift certificate you bought for $80 through Ebay/PayPal (or the other places I talked about in my guide to discounted iTunes Gift Cards), you're now paying for Netflix with that same 20 percent discount.

In this case, that would mean you are paying an effective rate of $7.99 for Netflix instead of $9.99. The same is true for any other service you can pay for as an in-app purchase.

A note about Spotify: Spotify charges $12.99 for in-app purchases on iTunes to cover Apple's 30 percent cut—if you pay through Spotify's website, it's $9.99. Using a 20 percent discounted iTunes Gift Card would bring the effective price down to $10.39, which is still more than the $9.99 price through Spotify. Shop accordingly.

One more tip: with more and more companies utilizing subscription-based business models, it can be easy to lose sight of how much money we going out each and every month. By using in-app purchases for subscriptions when possible, you keep them in one place where it's a lot easier to see their cumulative price.

That's sort of the icing on the cake to saving money on them, too.

With a hat tip to Dave Hamilton for having realized all this. I've delved deeply into the minutia of discounted iTunes Gift Cards, but it was Dave who realized the benefit they have for subscriptions. Thanks, Dave!