For the better part of a year, Canadians have been staying at home and avoiding traditional entertainment like concerts, in-person events, and theatre. Instead, many people jump online to use apps like Zoom and Google Hangouts to remotely connect with family and friends — making the internet more vital than ever before.

Online shopping is surging, virtual get-togethers and games are rising in popularity, food delivery is trending (#TakeOutTuesdays), and, for many, working from home is routine.

Canadians use apps to socialize, run errands, amusement and almost any conceivable task. Many are free; however, several have subscription costs or fees — especially entertainment or delivery services.

A national survey conducted by Abacus Data in 2019 found that almost seven in ten Canadians (67%) enrolled in at least one subscription service, with only 12% stating they subscribe to only one streaming service.

However, the market for streaming services and subscriptions has skyrocketed since the pandemic began.

Netflix gained 16 million global subscribers in the first three months of 2020, the meal kit service HelloFresh SE more than doubled its revenues, and Amazon’s profits continue to climb.

Canadians are jumping on board and saying yes to convenience. But it may be taking a significant toll on budgets everywhere.

How much are your subscriptions costing you?

Your subscriptions may be infiltrating more spending categories than you care to admit. These days, there are subscriptions for movies and shows, clothing, pet supplies and toys, magazines, news, makeup and beauty, hygiene, alcohol, shipping and delivery, meal kits, activities, music, books, virtual meetings, and more — it’s endless and costly.

According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), communications should account for 5% or less of your net income. This category includes your telephone, cellphone, cable or satellite, internet, and entertainment subscriptions (streaming services).

Many Netflix subscribers saw an increase in prices this past October, and Disney+ is raising its fees in February of 2021. Households with more than one service may soon have to choose which is getting more use.

As for food purchases, including grocery, restaurant and takeout, guidelines suggest this should make up 20% or less of your income.

Recreation, including alcohol, tickets for events, activities, sports equipment, and vacations, should account for 15% or less of your income.

Personal care like haircuts, cosmetics and beauty care should be 2% or less of your income.

Depending on how many services you subscribe to, your income, and your debts, you may be blowing the budget. Luckily, the FCAC has a useful budget tool to help you see if you are spending within the guidelines.

How do you decide which services to keep?

The best way to decide if a subscription is worth it is to take a good, hard look at the numbers.

Compare how much you would be spending on each service without the subscription and if you are using the products or features.

Do you order takeout often? For example, are you saving money with your Uber Eats Pass? Paying the delivery fees for occasional orders may cost less than $9.99 per month.

Do you use a package of razors monthly? Or do you find that you are getting them delivered more often than you need? You may save money if you hit the unsubscribe button and pick up your necessities at the grocery store instead.

How do you save money on subscriptions?

Here are six things you can do to save money on subscriptions:

1. Pay annually or upfront

If you are a loyal customer and get plenty of use out of your subscription, you may save by committing to a year of services or paying upfront.

2. Don’t commit to one provider

If you get bored quickly or like to try different providers, consider purchasing services monthly. This way, you can cancel at any time and rotate between subscriptions instead of paying for a handful of accounts.

3. Quit trials as soon as you sign up

Many free trials allow you to cancel right away but continue to use the services for the trial period. Doing this can ensure you won’t get charged if you forget to remove your payment details or cancel in time. You can always log back in and subscribe later.

4. Cancel underused services

If you don’t use it, lose it. Remember to cancel your underused subscriptions and save.

5. Find free resources

You may be surprised to find free online resources from your local library. The Toronto Public Library, for example, has a vast selection of digital magazines, eBooks, eAudiobooks, and subscriptions to movie, TV, music, and concert streaming services.

6. Discover loyalty programs

Check your loyalty programs for promotions and offers. You may be able to use your rewards toward subscription purchases.

Pro tip: Top travel reward programs like AIR MILES or Aeroplan usually reward members with extra points for shopping at partnered brands with an affiliated credit card.

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Compare the best credit cards on RATESDOTCA

Find the best credit card for your lifestyle today!

AIR MILES members can use their Cash Miles for eVouchers from Uber Eats, DoorDash, and the Cineplex Store.

BMO AIR MILES World Elite* Mastercard*

card image
Welcome bonus
$344
AIRMILES Rewards
Annual rewards
$412
AIRMILES Rewards
Annual fee
$120
First Year Waived

Great for Air Miles loyalists
Comprehensive travel insurance and access
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$344
Annual rewards
$412
Great for Air Miles loyalists
Comprehensive travel insurance and access
Details at a glance Collapse details

Apply for the BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®* and get 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles when you spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of opening the account. Plus, BMO will waive the annual fee for the first year.

Offer expiry date: October 31, 2021

Aeroplan members can earn points when they shop with partners like Amazon.ca, Hello Fresh, and Disney+ through the eStore.

TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card

card image
Welcome bonus
$250
Aeroplan Points
Annual rewards
$600
Aeroplan Points
Annual fee
$139
First Year Rebate

Best Aeroplan Credit Card in Canada
VIP benefits when travelling on Aeroplan flights, plus great travel insurance
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$250
Annual rewards
$600
Best Aeroplan Credit Card in Canada
VIP benefits when travelling on Aeroplan flights, plus great travel insurance
Details at a glance Collapse details

For a limited time, new cardholders of the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card can earn up to 10,000 Aeroplan points and a Bonus Buddy Pass. Plus, pay no annual fee for the primary and first additional cardholder for the first year. Conditions apply.

This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

Offer expiry date: January 17, 2021

How do you earn or redeem rewards for subscriptions?

Many rewards credit cards offer flexible redemption options that allow users to redeem their points or cash back to pay for purchases on their statement.

Although redeeming travel rewards for travel generally offers the best value, cash equivalents can be a terrific way to save money on other everyday luxuries.

Some credit cards also reward members for their subscription purchases. Here are four excellent credit cards for subscription fans.

American Express CobaltTM Card

American Express CobaltTM Credit Card

card image
Welcome bonus
$787
AMEX Rewards points
Annual rewards
$1455
AMEX Rewards points
Annual fee
$120

Winner – Best Overall Rewards Card and Best Card for Young Professionals
Particularly great for individuals who live in the city, eat out often or order in.
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$787
Annual rewards
$1455
Winner – Best Overall Rewards Card and Best Card for Young Professionals
Particularly great for individuals who live in the city, eat out often or order in.
Details at a glance Collapse details

*Best of Finance Winner: Best Rewards Credit Card in Canada for 2020

Apply for the American Express CobaltTM Card and earn up to 30,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points in the first year. Get 2,500 Membership Rewards® points each month you make at least $500 in purchases on the card.

Regular features and benefits of this card include:

  • Monthly fee: $10 ($120 per year)
  • Annual fee for additional cards: $0
  • Earn five points per dollar you spend at eligible restaurants, bars, cafés, food delivery services and grocery stores.
  • Get two points per dollar you spend on eligible transit, gas, and travel purchases, including buses, taxis, and rideshare services.
  • Receive one point per dollar you spend on all other everyday purchases.
  • Redeem the flexible Membership Rewards® for travel or statement credits.

Members can redeem rewards for almost anything. That means users can pay for subscription services and other purchases with points. Cardholders can also use Membership Rewards® to purchase eligible items through Amazon.ca’s Shop with Points program.

Offer expiry date: N/A subject to change without notice

Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card

Scotiabank®* Gold American Express® Card

card image
Welcome bonus
$250
Scotia Rewards points
Annual rewards
$744
Scotia Rewards points
Annual fee
$120

Winner – Best Travel Card and Best Card for Snowbirds/Cross Boarder Shopping
Strong benefits and insurance compliment great reward value
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$250
Annual rewards
$744
Winner – Best Travel Card and Best Card for Snowbirds/Cross Boarder Shopping
Strong benefits and insurance compliment great reward value
Details at a glance Collapse details

*Best of Finance Winner: Best Travel Credit Card in Canada for 2020

New cardholders of the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card can earn 25,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when they make at least $1,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months of opening the account.

Regular features and benefits of this card include:

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Annual fee for additional cards: $29
  • Earn five Scotia Rewards points per dollar you spend on eligible grocery, fast food, and restaurant purchases, as well as popular food delivery and food subscription purchases like Skip the Dishes, Hello Fresh, and Chefs Plate.
  • Earn three Scotia Rewards points per dollar you spend on gas and daily transit, including taxis, buses and rideshare services, as well as select streaming services like Netflix and the Cineplex Store.
  • Earn one Scotia Rewards point per dollar you spend on all other purchases.

Earn rewards as you watch, listen, stream, and dine. This card offers an excellent return on your subscription purchases and is an exceptional travel card.

Offer expiry date: February 28, 2021

Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card

Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card

card image
Welcome bonus
$153
Scotia Cash Back Rewards
Annual rewards
$564
Scotia Cash Back Rewards
Annual fee
$120
First Year Waived

Premium cashback card for families looking to save on groceries
Includes comprehensive travel insurance and rare mobile device insurance
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$153
Annual rewards
$564
Premium cashback card for families looking to save on groceries
Includes comprehensive travel insurance and rare mobile device insurance
Details at a glance Collapse details

For a limited time, the Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card offers new cardholders 10% cash back in the first three months of opening the account, up to $2,000 in total purchases. Plus, Scotiabank will waive the annual fee for primary and additional cardholders for the first year.

Regular features and benefits of this card include:

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Annual fee for additional cards: $50
  • Earn 4% cash back per dollar you spend on groceries, recurring bill payments, and subscription purchases, like video or music streaming and meal kit delivery.
  • Earn 2% cash back per dollar you spend on gas and daily transit, including taxis, buses and rideshare services.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other everyday purchases, with no limit to how much you can earn.

Earn cash back as you watch your favourite shows or listen to your tunes — it’s as simple as that.

Offer expiry date: February 28, 2021

TD Cash Back Visa Infinite* Card

TD Cash Back Visa Infinite* Card

card image
Welcome bonus
$79
TD Cash Back Dollars
Annual rewards
$492
TD Cash Back Dollars
Annual fee
$120
First Year Rebate

Winner – Best Cashback Card
Good cash back rewards value with the ability to redeem anytime
Details at a glance Collapse details
Welcome bonus
$79
Annual rewards
$492
Winner – Best Cashback Card
Good cash back rewards value with the ability to redeem anytime
Details at a glance Collapse details

*Best of Finance Winner: Best Cash Back Credit Card in Canada for 2020

Sign up for the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite* Card to earn 6% cash back everywhere you shop for the first three months, up to $2,000 in total purchases. Plus, TD will rebate the annual fee for the primary and additional cardholders for the first year.

Regular features and benefits of this card include:

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Annual fee for additional cards: $50
  • Earn 3% cash back on eligible grocery and gas purchases, as well as recurring bill payments.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Earn Cash Back Dollars on your recurring bill payments set up on the account (like your subscription services) and redeem your rewards to pay down your credit card balance whenever you like. Plus, this card includes a Deluxe TD Auto Club Membership, travel insurance, and complimentary Visa Infinite Concierge services.

This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

Offer expiry date: May 30, 2021

Rates, product information, and reward estimates are subject to change at any time and do not constitute financial advice. This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely those of RATESDOTCA. Information in this article is accurate as of the date of this posting, January 13, 2021. Read our full disclaimer.

Hayley Vesh

Hayley Vesh is a creative, resourceful, and knowledgeable content producer who is passionate about financial literacy, storytelling, and generating ideas. She writes about credit cards, savings, debt management, and personal finance. In her spare time, Hayley can be found wandering in the woods, hunting for second-hand treasures, or curled up with a steeped tea and a good podcast.

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