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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Asking for credit card details at the start of a free trial


We offer a 15 days free trial for new subscribers to our new A/B testing service for WP sites (http://wp-abtesting.com if anybody is curious).

New subscribers are not charged until the end of the free trial period but we do ask them for their payment details when subscribing. We really believe that this filters out mostly people that would never really convert to paying users at the end of the free trial  (which helps us to focus in "genuinely" interested potential customers and simplifies the automation of our client processing workflow)  but of course not everybody is happy to give their credit card number at the very beginning.

The obvious question to you is whether based on your experience (or that of people you know) asking for the credit card makes us lose potential clients or not? Or just having less "noise"?
Jordi Cabot Send private email
Sunday, December 01, 2013
I'm pretty sure that will dramatically reduce the number of people willing to start the trial.

Sidenote: I find it supremely funny that you sell A/B testing services.
Krzysztof Kowalczyk Send private email
Sunday, December 01, 2013

Maybe my question was not clear but it's obvious that you have less subscribers if you ask for credit card (same as you would have more if you announce you'll pay 100 USD to anybody that subscribes).

That's not the point, the questions is whether you would have less or the same number of paying users. My feeling is that you will have more or less the same.

And regarding why I´m not A/B testing my own questions, well, you know I could also have two wifes to see which one makes me happier and this does not mean I should do it. Or I could build two products and then use one single landing page to see which one sells better, or... A/B Testing does not replace advice from your colleagues.

If you really think that you can automatically A/B test how many newsubscribers end up converting in paying users after a two weeks free trial (and even more, to get a significant result) you must be a geniuos. Start an A/B testing product now!
Jordi Cabot Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
Don't do that.
Edwin Yip Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
By asking for a credit card up-front, you are preventing sales to most companies.
This sort of tool will be desired by the type of people who do not own a company credit card. They therefore have the choice of using their own credit card or getting approval before the trial in which case there is little point in offering a trial.
Adrian Lock Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
I think its a bad idea - I mean, even if it filters out the more serious from the less serious, if even some of the "less serious" would have ended up subscribing, then you've lost out, unless there are significant costs associated with hosting the free trial. Why wouldn't you want as many people as possible to try your product? It's tough enough getting them interested in the first place, and credit-card-up-front is a massive red flag for many (myself included), as well as a possible practical impediment, as noted above.

There are too many services that offer "free trials" and want cc details up front - relying for the most part on making it either awkward to cancel, or on the fact that you forget to do it in time - and then what, are you tied in for a minimum term?

I would also have thought this was easy enough to A/B test. You can monitor how many people sign up for the trial on each page (cc or no cc), and you know which is which during the trial (you have cc details for one set, after all). It's then just a case of seeing how many convert at the end.
Anon123 Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
Yes, I know we can do A/B testing on this. You can A/B test anything even in the physical world but I like a lot this sentence:

"Don't experiment when you should think; don't think when you should experiment (Jon Bentley)"

I was hoping I could tap into your experience to have a more complete picture so thanks for all the arguments you've been providing so far.
Jordi Cabot Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
Serious question Jordi - how many "non serious" people do you think there are trawling the internet looking to sign up for 2 week trials to an A/B website testing product?
Anon123 Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
Good point. The thing is that we had several that even took the time to fake a credit card number (that FastSpring validated) and you don't even want to know how many download the plugin and try random registration combinations (the "123456" registration key attempt is becoming a classic with us).

I wonder whether any of them would have end up paying for the service. True, the costs of having them playing around are low so we could indeed open the doors. Still, before we make the decision to change (or A/B test this decision) I was interestd in knowing if other people in this forum had already gone through the same process (in this or the opposite direction) and could share their experience.
Jordi Cabot Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
If I am about to try a free trial and I get a request for credit card details, I immediately drop the product from consideration.  It does not matter how good the product looked before.

My first thought is that this could be an attempt to scam me for credit card details.  You have just added the potential for a huge hassle.  If this happens, it will be a trial, but it will not be free.


Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
@Gene: As a follow-up, a little bit more of background and a related question.

We have another WordPress-related business which is more consulting-like so we deal with each individual client, we prepare the budget and then we do the work.

Here as well, we could pose the question of whether we should ask an initial payment (we do, and it's, in the cheapest possible scenario, 150 USD).  I know it's not exactly the same situation but

Would you also avoid working with people that ask for a partial payment up-front? (I mean, you could also think we could be a scam and even fake the testimonials we have in our webpage).

And if not, why would you act differently in this situation?
Jordi Cabot Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
Gene said
"If I am about to try a free trial and I get a request for credit card details, I immediately drop the product from consideration.  It does not matter how good the product looked before."

I agree 100%.

If one single potential customer decides not to take your trial because of the credit card request then your strategy is a failure.

Why don't you A/B test it with your own software and post the results back here after a couple of weeks? Maybe we're all wrong - but I doubt it. I'd love to see the results.
Anon123 Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
I see your point ... but IMO, offering a free trial that requires a credit card number is a completely unfriendly act. Unless your product is so unique that I can't get it anywhere else, I would just go back to Google and find someone else who actually seemed to want me to try their product.
GregT Send private email
Monday, December 02, 2013
Asking for credit card before hand works for big popular brands. Not for small companies.
Gautam Jain Send private email
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Maybe - up to a point.
The only "free trial" that I ever took out where I had to give payment details beforehand was Amazon Prime, at that's because I had a pretty good idea what "free next day postage" was going to be like, and I knew I was going to keep going after the free month was up.

Anything else - including "no obligation" free pay TV for a month offers, magazine subscriptions or anything else I have never done, as I still fundamentally don't believe that I will remember to cancel/it will be easy to cancel it in time to stop some small-print lock in for a long time after. Too many companies - big and small - have used these kind of tactics in questionable ways and like it or not you are tarred with the consequences.

I still have not seen a single reason from the OP as to what benefit is derived from this strategy. What is the cost of hundreds (or even thousands) of semi-interested non-customers trialling your product? Some of them might like it and even buy it, or find issues for you or whatever.
Anon123 Send private email
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Taking a credit card at the start of a trial period tells the user one thing:

We will charge you if you don't cancel correctly before the end of the trial.

Period. That's what they think. Providing a trial and only having a small portion of the people convert to sales is just the nature of software. By taking the credit card info up front you ARE scaring away some people who might otherwise convert to a sale. You are losing sales.

Think about it, your trial IS your method of weeding out people who purchase and then want a refund. By offering a trial you can realistically have a no-refund policy.

Does it work for some companies? Yes. Is there anyone on the planet that likes to give their credit card details for just a trial? No.
Mike Dixon Send private email
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Jordi Cabot: "And if not, why would you act differently in this situation?"

It is very simple.

1) I think that a free trial should be free.  "free" includes free from hassle.

2) It being on trial means that I do not know yet if it will work.

At that point, I am not convinced yet that I should buy.

It is one thing for me to reach for my credit card if I have agreed to pay.  It is quite another to expect me to when I have not agreed.


Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
When you pull out a credit card and put the numbers in, you're saying "I am ready to buy".

The decision to buy has been made at that point, on condition that the product is what you expect it to be.

THAT is not a trial. It's a purchase.

After all, even if you said "buy", if the product doesn't work out, the customer can ask a refund or a chargeback so what's the difference?

A genuine trial means the potential customer doesn't have to make a purchase decision. He doesn't have to decide if he trusts you with his credit card or even if he ready to buy. He might not even need what you are selling but that's OK because he is just trying.

He could be "just looking" the same way you have a look at the TV screens at the shopping mall even though you don't need one. Ostensibly, you're not buying anything, but if a few months down the line you (or a friend) needs a TV, you will remember that you have seen TVs over there, and you will definitely remember if the salesmen were nice to you.

There is a world of difference between "Oh, you can seat in the sofa while you are waiting, we don't mind. Would you like a glass of water?" and "You've been watching that film for five minutes already. If you aren't going to buy, just get out of the way, we are selling these things you know?"

Maybe you were just waiting and never meant to buy a TV, but it costs next to nothing for them if you sit on their sofa and if the subject of TVs ever comes up, guess who you are going to recommend? Not to mention that when you need a sound system, you will probably go back to that same shop to see what they have first.

That's a free trial and it's even more valid for software where it really costs nothing to let people try and where you don't have to worry about scalability issues (whereas you might run out of sofa space pretty quick at the mall).

If you are going to have a "free trial" don't ask for a credit card. Don't even ask for a sale yet. This is the time to demonstrate the customer with how nice it is to do business with you
Sylvain Galibert Send private email
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Thanks for all your replies. There is a clear consensus on this so it would be stupid for us not to listen to you.

We will A/B test this and report back if you get some meaningful data to share.
Jordi Cabot Send private email
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Great post by Sylvain Galibert above!
PSB136 Send private email
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Isn't free trial's function to give a no-risk evaluation period for the customer to figure out the value of the product in the first place?

If they are willing to submit credit card details before the trial, this means that they have figured out the value of the product already and are ready to pay. What about those who haven't matured to understand the value?

I think asking for payment details for a free trial is a very bad idea, I think you can monetize the free loaders one way or another. Boost virality through them by giving incentives and discounts. As Evernote's CEO says: "to get 1 billion people paying, is to get one billion people using"
Valeriu Braghis Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Here are some statistics (from totango @ http://www.totango.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/2012-SaaS-Conversions-Benchmark2.pdf) :

Conversions with credit card up front 0.6%
Conversions without credit card up front 1.2%

No brainer - dump the credit card paywall.
Dominic Messenger Send private email
Thursday, December 12, 2013

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