Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

9 ways to save money on streaming

We love streaming — but no one loves balancing streaming fees, especially when prices unexpectedly go up. If you’re tired of seeing those monthly fees show up on your account over and over, there are strategies you can use to reduce streaming costs. Here are the most effective options we’ve found for lowering those bills while still getting that sweet streaming content.

Netflix offers three streaming plans: Basic, Standard, and Premium.

1. Cut down on resolution

Many streaming services offer a variety of tiers set at different prices, so you can often save money by sacrificing a bit of quality and dropping down a tier or two. Netflix is an excellent example: The Standard tier ($13.99) adds HD resolution, and the Premium tier ($17.99) offers Ultra HD — but if you primarily watch on mobile devices or don’t care about resolution (which can also eat into internet data caps), then you can save several dollars a month by dropping down to the Basic tier ($8.99).

Other services may work in similar ways, offering higher tiers with better resolution, more content, or family plans. If that’s not necessary in your streaming life, drop down to a lower-cost plan to save!

2. Choose the ad-based tiers of service

Also look for streaming plans that will cut your plan price if you choose an ad version. Hulu, for example, offers to get rid of ads for a higher price, but it’s not necessary to enjoy any of Hulu’s content, so this is an effective way to save when choosing plans. Apps like NBC’s Peacock TV even offer streaming for free if you are willing to accept periodic ad breaks.

Download streaming video

3. Skip live TV

Avoid paying for extras like live TV, or look for services that allow you to pay on demand for live events that you are specifically interested in. Live TV is rarely a necessity on streaming services unless you absolutely have to catch live games in your favorite sports leagues — and if that’s the case, we suggest investing in a digital TV antenna to pick up local channel signals for free.

4. Consolidate into bundles

Most streaming services offer bundles that allow you to combine streaming services and save money by paying for them together, an ideal choice if you juggle multiple streaming options to get what you what.

For example, Disney owns Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+, so it offers an excellent deal for getting all three at $14 per month. Apple TV+ offers a major discount if you are also picking up CBS All Access and Showtime. Amazon Prime allows you to pay a discounted rate if you want to add Cinemax or HBO Max. Just want HBO Max and Hulu? There’s a bundle for that, too! Chances are good you can find a bundle to fit your multi-streaming habits.

The Hulu interface offers a wide selection of television series and movies.

5. Look for student discounts

Did you know that a wide variety of streaming services have student discounts? It’s not something you may think to look for, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you can save: Hulu, for example, offers college students streaming services for just $2 per month. HBO has had student discounts in the past and is worth keeping an eye on if you are in college. YouTube Premium and similar services also have student discounts to take advantage of.

6. Find a carrier deal

Don’t forget to check AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and other major carriers to see if they have any current deals for getting streaming services. For example, sign up for the right AT&T Unlimited plan, and you can get HBO Max for free. If you find a deal that interests you, do some calculations and see if you can save money by dropping a service and upgrading your phone plan or buying a new device to get it for free.

7. Leapfrog between free trials

Streaming services have free trials that typically last a week or two. In our binge-heavy world, that’s more than enough time to catch up on your favorite show or check out original content that you have been meaning to get to. Since canceling your streaming subscription rarely comes with any penalty, this allows users to sign up, binge what they want, and cancel. That strategy lets you hop from streaming service to service, picking up what you want to see for free, then canceling and waiting for a new season or more content to build up before repeating.

The downside is that this doesn’t work if you can’t binge, isn’t a very friendly strategy for watching with loved ones, and doesn’t work if new episodes are released on a weekly basis. But if you don’t mind the time management, you may be able to watch everything you want without paying at all!

8. Use a bill tracker app like Truebill

Payment monitoring apps like Truebill (available on iOS and on Android) help you manage spending and track all your subscriptions. They can also watch for any subscriptions that you may be unknowingly paying from your account or unexpected increases in subscription fees. If you’ve managed a lot of streaming apps over the years, it may be worthwhile to get a bill tracker app and make sure you aren’t paying any surprise fees unnecessarily.

9. Find the right credit card

Credit cards offer a number of different savings options for spending on specific things, like gas, groceries, or Apple devices. There are also a number of cards that will give you cash back for streaming service fees, like American Express’s Blue Cash Preferred Card or the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card.

Plenty of conditions apply to these cards, so it’s important to do your research and compare the savings of any current credit cards you are using to what you could get with a new card (plus associated cancellation fees, etc.). But in the right situation, this could be an effective way to save on your subscriptions over time.

Editors' Recommendations

Tyler Lacoma
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
Cut the cord: Quit cable for the best streaming services
The LG G1 Gallery Series OLED TV.

So you want to cut the cord and join the streaming revolution? There are so many on-demand streaming services available now such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and Disney+ to name a few. Add to that that the growing selection of live TV streaming services, such as Hulu Plus Live TV, Sling TV, ESPN+, and YouTube TV, as well as live HD broadcasts with an antenna. The whole thing can be rather confusing, especially when you're trying to pick the best streaming services for you. We'll walk you through everything you need to know to finally cut the cord and kick cable to the curb.

Not everyone is cut out to be a cord-cutter, though. Ditching your satellite or cable subscription and the bill it carries sounds great in theory, but it's not something you want to rush into without a bit of research. Let's go through the best methods for dropping traditional cable in favor of some of the best streaming services.
First things first: How's your internet?
The thing about internet-delivered TV is that you need a broadband connection that can keep up with the streaming lifestyle. This may seem like a foregone conclusion, but we want to make it clear that if you're going to bet your precious entertainment future on your home network, you had better have a solid internet connection. Netflix and other similar streaming video services suggest a minimum downstream speed of 5Mbps for HD streaming, but if you have inadequate home internet connection (like 5Mbps) that is not going to allow for a smooth streaming service experience, especially when you consider other devices also using the connection. You will likely experience buffering and possible crashing of the show you are streaming, especially for those with families or households streaming more than one show or movie at a time.
High-quality streaming needs higher-speed internet
Of course, if you're looking to get into the streaming big leagues to access the growing array of 4K Ultra HD streaming content available from Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, YouTube, and others, you'll want to kick up your broadband speed to at least 25Mbps. If you're only going to be downloading 4K content from sites like FandangoNow or Ultraflix -- which offer 4K content at speeds as low as 4Mbps to 10Mbps -- 25Mbps will probably suffice, but regardless of which streaming service you select, fast and reliable internet is key to a positive streaming experience.
Peak internet usage time can affect your streaming
We also recommend testing your internet speed at peak streaming hours (between 6 and 10 p.m. on weekdays) to determine if your neighborhood struggles under the strain of heavy traffic. For example, if you routinely get around 10Mbps downloads during the day, but that speed takes a dive to about 3Mbps around dinner time, you'll want to call your internet provider to see if anything can be done. Fortunately, this is an increasingly rare problem outside of rural areas, but better to check ahead.
Check your home network equipment
Don't forget to check your home network equipment. Most modern routers and modems should offer up all the speed you need, but non-gigabit equipment may not suffice for simultaneous 4K streams. Any hiccups in your experience also may be caused by weird technical issues such as improper port forwarding, wireless interference, or other random things that are tricky to track down, some of which we'll attempt to help you troubleshoot. If you're unsure about any of it, be sure to give your internet service provider a call.

Read more
Spotify wants you to stream socially with the new custom Friends Mix playlist
Spotify app icon on iPhone.

July 30 is International Friendship Day, and Spotify is using the excuse to drop a brand new algorithmic playlist based on your friends’ listening. Available for most users (presumably if Spotify has enough data to confidently curate it), the Friends Mix uses popular listening amongst your friends on Spotify to spin up a regularly updated playlist that recommends new music similar to what you and your friends like.

This new playlist will follow a similar formula as other algorithmic offerings like the Release Radar, Discover Weekly, and Daily Mix playlists that listeners have loved for years. Now, instead of just curated music based on your listening habits, Spotify is aiming to factor in music and genres your friends love to further widen the net.

Read more
Save money with the best free movie apps for iPhone and Android
iPhone 11

Watching movies on your computer or smart TV is great -- but what about when you want to watch on your smartphone? While it might seem unbelievable that you can simply download an app onto your phone or tablet and start watching films for free, there are a number of apps that let you do just that. It's easy to find free movie apps for your Android phone or iPhone, but not all are reliable.

But worry not -- we've handpicked some of the best free movie apps for Android and iOS. We'll take a look at their main features and what you can do with them to help you decide which ones to download. The only question now is, which movie are you going to watch next?

Read more