Love & Money: The sneaky way some daters save money on Netflix
Love & Money is a MarketWatch series looking at how our relationship with money impacts our relationships with significant others, friends and family.
Over the past nine years, New York City-based massage therapist Lorraine has binged on a number of shows on Netflix NFLX, +3.48% from the platform’s original series “Orange is the New Black” and “Atypical,” to the Lifetime series “You.” But it hasn’t cost her a dime.
“I use a log-in from a date I met in 2009,” she told MarketWatch. “Thanks, ‘Frank.’” Well, she says they “met” online and spoke on the phone, but never actually met in person.
‘I use a log-in from a date I met in 2009. Thanks, Frank.’
Lorraine, who asked that her last name be omitted to shield her identity as a Netflix grifter, said she met the account holder on dating site OKCupid IAC, +3.10%
After chatting all day about a show he had been watching, he gave her his log-in information, joking it was all she wanted him for — and they never actually ended up going on a date.
She actually was interested in him at the time, but their busy lives got in the way. “It wasn’t true, but sometimes you just end up not meeting up with someone,” she said.
Lately, she’s taken a break from Netflix, although she has still hung onto his password. She might, for instance, decide to watch the new season of “The Crown” or new documentary on the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas (dubbed “the greatest party that never happened.”).
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“I barely use it. I think that’s why he hasn’t noticed any activity,” Lorraine said. (Some people say they actually find it difficult to choose what to watch, given the vast array of options.)
The average person who uses a Netflix account without paying for it will do so for 26 months, according to a study released this month from streaming news site CordCutting.com. The majority of people — three out of four Americans — share at least one online subscription for platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Uber, and Spotify SPOT, +1.48%
At a base subscription price of $ 7.99 per month for Netflix, this means the average mooching user saves $ 207.74 before they finally start paying for their own content, according to CordCutting.com. By these measures, Lorraine has saved nearly $ 1,000 over the last 10 years, thanks to her would-be date. (Netflix recently announced that its basic plan would not cost $ 8.99 per month.)
Sometimes, passwords last longer than a relationship. As MarketWatch previously reported, publicist Jenna Satariano, 31, of Long Beach, Calif., logged back into her ex’s HBO Go T, +0.20% after their breakup to watch “Game of Thrones.”
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But here’s the kicker: When she mentioned that to him a few months later, he admitted he’d been using her Netflix and Hulu until his Apple TV AAPL, +3.31% logged him out. So she texted him her login information. “It didn’t upset either one of us,” she said.
She shares her Hulu and HBO accounts with her current boyfriend and decided to continue to share her Netflix account with her ex-boyfriend as if it were a beloved pet rather than a streaming service.
She’s not alone. Some commentators have even said that sharing your Netflix password constitutes taking your relationship to the next level.
The latest study, which surveyed more than 1,000 people, comes after Netflix’s announcement that it will raise subscription prices in the U.S. for its most popular plan — which supports high-definition streaming for up to two devices simultaneously — $ 13 per month from $ 11 per month.
(Netflix rival Hulu announced on Wednesday that it would lower the cost of its ad-supported subscription plan from $ 7.99 per month to $ 5.99 per month.)
As prices go up, however, many users are prioritizing which streaming platforms they are actually willing to pay for, experts say, and more couples and friends may take the initiative to share their passwords (rather than steal them).
As prices go up, more couples may share their passwords, while other people may simply cut down on their subscriptions.
“A lot of people are questioning what they want to spend money on,” said Kimberly Palmer, personal-finance editor at Nerdwallet. “It is tempting to share accounts because it is so easy, but it’s not ethical and is not something we would encourage as a way to save money.”
(Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has long professed to not care that people share Netflix accounts. We love people sharing Netflix,” he said in 2016. “That’s a positive thing, not a negative thing.”)
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Instead of using your ex’s password, she suggested making a monthly budget for your entertainment expenses. There are apps to help you sort through all of your subscriptions.
Services like Trim plug into a user’s bank account to detect recurring fees and unsubscribe from unwanted ones. The service is free but takes 33% of yearly savings it makes on the user’s behalf. Empower, a similar app, analyzes a user’s account to show them how money is spent, including highlighting recurring fees.
See also: This may be an even bigger issue for Netflix than the $ 2-a-month price hike
Who shares accounts rather than paying for their own varies widely by platform and by age group, the latest study showed. Millennials are the most likely to freeload, with 18% using another subscriber’s account compared to just 9% of Generation X streamers and 11% of baby boomers.
‘Parents would be doing their adult children a favor … by forcing them to pay for their own streaming media accounts.’
For Amazon Prime Video AMZN, +0.95% 18% of millennials use the accounts of others compared to 13% of Generation X and 20% of baby boomers. On Hulu, 20% of millennials share accounts compared to 17% of Generation X and 18% of baby boomers. (Netflix, Amazon and Hulu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
You should change all your passwords after a break-up, not only for Netflix and Hulu and Amazon, but social-media accounts and financial accounts, experts recommend. Parents whose adult children are still using their accounts would also do well to kick them off, said Mark Hamrick, chief economic analyst at finance site Bankrate.com.
“It is a little like taking a stranger’s car for a drive because the windows were open, and the keys were left inside,” he said. “Just because it is easy to take, doesn’t mean that it should be taken. Parents would be doing their adult children a favor by helping them to take full responsibility of their financial lives by urging or forcing them to pay for their own streaming media accounts.”
Thus far, Netflix has done little to crack down on shared accounts, but new technologies have emerged to stop people from sharing passwords. Netflix’s official policy is that users should not share passwords.
Change all your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, social-media and financial accounts after a breakup, experts recommend.
Most freeloading Netflix users — 59% — would buy their own subscription if they lost access to the one they were using for free, the CordCutting.com study found. The number is smaller for other platforms: only 28% of users would buy their own Amazon Prime Video and 38% said they would buy their own Hulu account.
Lorraine, the woman who uses the password belonging to the man she never met, said if she got booted from her ex-date’s Netflix account, she probably would not buy her own subscription.
“I don’t watch a lot of TV so I personally wouldn’t miss it,” she said.
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