Ah, subscriptions. Whether you love or hate them, they are now a fundamental part of our increasingly digital lives. If you have some essential subs on your iPad, iPhone, or Mac, like Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple News+, Bumble, Pandora, Tinder, or YouTube Premium, there are three key issues you need to know about that could unexpectedly stop your membership from renewing.
Apple doesn't advertise the situations that could stop your App Store subscriptions from continuing. Instead, we discovered these potential problems from documents Apple wrote for developers. These documents are to ensure developers are aware of issues that could stop their subscribers from accessing their services, or as Apple likes to call it, "involuntary subscriber churn."
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The App Store for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS checks for red flags 10 days before your subscription renewal. If any of the issues below occur during those 10 days, Apple will reach out to you via email to remedy the problem. Twenty-four hours before the renewal, the App Store automatically attempts the renewal, but other billing issues may pop up. If it's not successful the first time, the App Store will keep trying until it either works or has encountered too many failed attempts.
1. Your Payment Method Is Inactive
In the 10 days leading up to a subscription renewal, the App Store checks if your payment method on file is still active. If not, there's an issue, such as an expired credit card or an account you no longer have.
If everything was good, there still might be an issue when the App Store tries renewing the subscription slightly before it expires. That can include the account issues above, as well as an insufficient balance.
Apple won't just give you the subscription service for free, then inform you your payment is inactive. It will attempt to renew the subscription for up to 60 days after the first attempt, and your membership will be in a lapsed state during that time. If the billing issue is fixed, Apple will renew the subscription automatically if it's within the 60-day period.
Developers are encouraged to be proactive when it comes to involuntary churn, i.e., subscribers who lapse due to billing issues. App creators can prompt you in-app that your billing information needs updating, and they can even deep link you right to Apple's "Manage Payments" page. They can also offer grace periods where you can continue to use the app's paid content for up to six days for a weekly subscription or 16 days for longer ones while you straighten out payment issues.
Updating Your Subscription Payment Method
You can check your payment methods at apps.apple.com/account/billing.
On an iPad or iPhone, you can also get there manually via the profile image in the App Store; tap your name up top, then "Manage Payments." Alternatively, you can tap your name at the top of Settings, then go to Media & Purchases –> View Account –> Manage Payments.
On a Mac, click your profile image in the App Store; click "View information," then "Manage Payments." On a Windows PC or Microsoft Surface, you can get there from iTunes; select "Account" in the menu bar, then "View My Account," and choose "Manage Payments."
2. The Subscription Increased in Price
Let's say you subscribed to a service at $10 per month, but the company recently raised the price to $13. The App Store won't just let you unknowingly pay an extra $3 a month — it requires you to accept the new price or decline and cancel your subscription instead.
So you'll get an email, push notification, and in-app price consent sheet to respond to. If you agree, the service will continue uninterrupted, and you'll be billed at the new rate. However, if you don't respond or decide to cancel, your subscription will end after the current billing cycle you already paid for. The number and timing of the notifications you get depend on how long the subscription is for.
- Weekly subscriptions: the first email notification goes out seven days before your next billing date, and the new price will take effect after one more billing cycle at the current cost.
- Monthly subscriptions: the first email goes out 29 days before the next billing date. If it instead goes later at 27 days or less, your next billing cycle will be at the same rate you currently pay, and the new rate will apply to the following cycle.
- Two-, three-, six-, or 12-month subscriptions: the first email needs to go out 60 days before the next billing date. If it doesn't go out until 30 days or less, then you'll have one more billing cycle at your current price, and the following one will be the raised price.
So what about free trials? If you sign up for a free trial, Apple will automatically enroll you in the paid subscription when the time comes at the first agreed-upon price, assuming there are no issues with any of the three problems in this guide. That said, you will receive an email warning you about the renewal, so you should have plenty of time to decide what to do.
If a price change happens while you're on a free trial or paying an introductory price, you should still get an email about when your first payment will happen, but you will also get an email about the price change and will need to agree to it. If you agree, you'll have one billing cycle at the agreed-upon price at signup; then, the new price will take effect afterward.
3. The Product Is No Longer Available
In the roughly 13 years of the App Store's existence, countless apps and services have come and gone. For one reason or another, these products no longer appear on the App Store, thus can't be used anymore.
If one of your subscriptions pulls this stunt on you, you won't be continuously charged anyway. The App Store checks to make sure that your subscription is for a product that still exists. If not, no more subscription for you.
Take Weather Line, for example. An unnamed buyer mysteriously acquired the popular weather app, then promptly removed it from the App Store. The app will remain usable until April 1, 2022, for free and paid users, and the latter group will have their subscriptions extended for free until then. In this case, the developer disabled future billings so the App Store won't even attempt to renew anyone's subscription.
However, other services may not be so upfront and generous. Developers whose app has been removed from the App Store, either intentionally or by failing to conform to App Store policies, may not give you any notice. When it comes time for your next billing cycle, the App Store would simply cancel your subscription because the app no longer exists. No harm, no foul (unless you really liked that app, of course).
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