Streaming has become a force of nature in the entertainment industry. What Netflix started in 2007 has exploded into one of the most popular mediums for consuming TV, movies, live events, and even gaming. It seems like every production company and network is trying to cultivate their own streaming platform, making the streaming landscape complex and increasingly expensive for the user.
Our guide will help you determine how to choose streaming services, showcase alternatives, and how to save money on streaming services in the process. We’ll even show you how you can earn free gift cards for some of your favorite streaming platforms, with the help of Fetch.
A recent J.D. Power survey found that the average American family has between four and five different streaming services within the same household. The Wall Street Journal reports that the biggest growth segment for streaming media recently is among users 50 years and older.
Let’s jump in and learn how to save money on some of your favorite streaming platforms.
Consolidate or Pause Your Streaming Services
Subscribing to multiple streaming services can add up quickly. Evaluating your current roster of streaming platforms, and cutting the fat, can help to significantly reduce your streaming costs.
Analyze the number of shows you are watching per month and the number of hours you spend logged into the account. Perhaps it is time to search for another family to share the account with or cancel it altogether if you are not using it to the maximum. You may save money simply by paying individually for the programs you want instead of buying a monthly subscription.
For example, are you only subscribing to Peacock just to watch The Office? Consider purchasing the series and canceling your Peacock subscription. You can save money in the long run.
Cycle Through Streaming Services
If you only subscribe to watch a few programs and have binged every possible episode and are waiting a year for the next season to drop, consider putting your subscription on pause. Many services allow this, and it can save quite a bit of cash that you can use for alternative entertainment (like going to the movies instead).
For example, are you only subscribing to Disney+ for The Mandalorian? Cancel your Disney+ subscription in between seasons, and get it back when a new season drops.
Are you really getting value from every streaming service you belong to these days? It probably depends on what shows you are binging or who is using the account. Did you send a kid off to college who is no longer logging in to watch the programs they used to? Consider ditching the service if you are not using it.
An annual (or semi-annual) review of your accounts and the time you spend on each can save quite a bit in the long run.
Cycling through your streaming services will ensure that you can watch all of your favorite shows, but aren’t playing for unused streaming subscriptions.
Score a Discount on Streaming
If you are considering canceling a streaming service, some of them may offer a retention bonus to keep you onboard. This could include a discount for the service altogether or a few extra months for free. You’ll generally want to call the service directly rather than cancel it online to see if there are any eligible offers if you stay connected.
Students can also take advantage of occasional discounts, which can be beneficial for families that share an account with a student.
Student Discounts for Popular Streaming Services:
Fetch Pro-Tip: You can get free gift cards for streaming services like Hulu with your Fetch points
Cell Service Providers Can Offer Free Streaming Services
Some cellular providers offer free access to streaming services. For example, T-Mobile offers free Netflix access with certain phone plans. Verizon includes Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu in many of its cell phone packages.
Review how much you are spending on your cell phone bill and streaming services. Perhaps, you can save cash by switching to a cell phone provider that offers more bang for your buck. Of course, you don’t want to pay a higher cell phone bill just to get free streaming, but it might make sense if it reduces the overall cost.
With these types of deals, you can reevaluate both your streaming and mobile phone services, to really capitalize on savings and discounts.
Credit Cards Offer Free Streaming Services
Credit Card Perks for Streaming and More
Many credit cards tack on streaming content perks and discounts that are worth exploring. The Platinum Card from American Express includes a monthly “digital entertainment” credit that can be applied toward streaming services like Disney+, Peacock, Audible, Hulu+, and ESPN, or online periodical subscriptions like The New York Times. While this card has a high annual fee ($695), it includes other perks like airport lounge access, food delivery service or ridesharing discounts, and hotel loyalty program elite status. You may just come out ahead and actually be saving quite a bit by relying on the perks that come with what you have in your wallet.
Get Cashback on Streaming Costs
Even if you decide to pay for streaming services outright, be sure to charge them to the right credit card. Certain credit cards provide bonus points for using the card to pay for entertainment and streaming services. This includes the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, which awards 6% cash back on streaming services, or the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card, which lets you select two categories where you want to receive 5% cash back, including streaming services.
Share Your Streaming Account
Many streaming services allow multiple users on the same account, while others have the option to tack on more users for a discounted fee. After all, not every show will appeal to every person in your house. Multiple accounts allow people to customize the viewing or listening experience to their own wishes. There is no need to pay for more than one account when you can add another user.
If you aren’t using all of your allowed users, consider sharing an account with someone else you know. While this can involve sharing your password and they will see what programs you are watching (and vice versa), you can save money by splitting the cost. Perhaps one family member (or friend) subscribes to Hulu while another joins Netflix. Between the two, you can split the cost or share passwords to cut down on both paying for membership.
Some services are cracking down on shared subscriptions if they determine you are splitting the cost beyond what is written in their terms and conditions. Generally, it is supposed to be for people in the same household, but today, many families are split between households or live, study or work elsewhere.
Decide which services have the most value for your dollar and which ones you can cut entirely or fairly share with someone.
Adjust Your Streaming Subscription Tier
Many streaming services have different tiers, offering a different viewing experience. Often, you can save some cash by choosing the version that features advertisements. While it is nice to pay for a seamless, ad-free experience, no one says you have to watch the ads when they come on. Just use that as a chance to take a bathroom break or get a snack.
Some also allow you to pay extra for higher resolution. If you’re watching something on your mobile device or laptop, no one expects cinematic excellence anyway. Cutting down on the resolution can help you also shave some dollars off the monthly cost, which over time can amount to a lot.
Snap Receipts For Free Streaming Gift Cards
Fetch is a great way to score free money in the form of gift cards. By downloading the app and snapping receipts from all purchases. Receipts from dining, groceries, or regular shopping will translate into free gift cards to streaming services like Hulu, Paramount+, and Sling TV among others. You can also earn gift cards to other retailers including your favorite restaurants and stores. For only a few minutes of your time, you could easily save money on streaming services with Fetch.
If you choose to cut the streaming service cord entirely, you could also earn free gift cards to Redbox for your favorite movies and TV programs delivered to your door instead.
Is Live TV Necessary?
Some people have switched entirely to online streaming instead of paying for regular cable. Others pay for both. Which do you value more? Can you completely cut back on traditional cable and rely on live TV streaming services? Or do you only use live TV for news, which you can get online anyway? Why pay for both? And if you are not the type to watch TV 24/7, do you really need to pay extra for the online live TV service anyway?
News junkies and sports fans are the most likely to benefit from live TV, and if you are not either, why bother? And, even more sports and live news can be found on streaming services these days.
Cutting the cord and cycling streaming services is a sure-fire way to make your budget happier, especially with the help of apps like Fetch.
Blu-Ray As Streaming Alternative
Blu-Ray is another good option over streaming because it allows you to actually own the media you’re accessing rather than downloading something that can be modified or retracted later. Technically, streamed media is not something you own, and it can be taken away (even if saved on your own device). For example, episodes of shows like “South Park” or “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” have been pulled and taken from streaming libraries.
Blu-Ray is the only way to ensure that you will always own the original (or close to it) media, though it’s not necessarily the most cost-effective, at least in the short term. In the long-term, it could help you cut back on streaming costs, especially if you purchase a streaming service for just one show.
Maximize Streaming Free Trials
Many services offer a free trial period, which if you have the time, can save you a bundle. Know the shows you want to watch in advance, and binge-watch everything you want during the trial period. While this is certainly not the intention of a free trial, it is one way to save money. Still, you may discover other programs and get hooked. If so, be sure to take advantage of all the money-saving tips shared earlier. Time to pop some popcorn and enjoy the show!
Start Earning Free Streaming Gift Cards
Fetch can help you earn free gift cards from everyday shopping. Get the app now to start earning points for free gift cards that you can redeem for streaming services.
Click the buttons below or scan the QR code to get Fetch today.
Happy snapping and enjoy the show!
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe. He's a contributor to NerdWallet, Forbes, Fortune and more.