How to Unsubscribe from Unwanted Magazine Subscriptions

What to Do When a Sweepstakes Entry Subscribes You to an Unwanted Magazine

Stack of magazines
Getting Unwanted Magazines? Here's What to Do. MorePixels / Getty Images

Many magazine companies use sweepstakes and other promotions to advertise their publications. They'll give away attractive prizes to get people to visit their sites. Once a potential reader is signing up for a giveaway, they will receive an offer to receive a free issue of a magazine or to buy a subscription, often for deeply-discounted rates.

These offers are great if you want to buy the magazine.

However, if you're not paying close attention, you could end up subscribing to a magazine that you don't want to receive. 

Hearst Magazines, in particular, have been known for having sweepstakes forms that made it difficult to enter without ending up with a free trial or a subscription that the entrant never intended to agree to receive. They also made it difficult to unsubscribe from those magazine subscriptions.

If you have had this problem, don't worry. You don't need to be stuck with a subscription you don't want if you act quickly.

Magazine sweepstakes must offer a non-purchase method of entry to conform to U.S. sweepstakes law. Companies cannot legally require you to buy a magazine (or anything else) to enter a randomly-drawn giveaway.

And Hearst Magazine giveaways do offer a non-purchase method of entry. But if you are intent on entering a giveaway and don't double-check your entry form, you could easily make a mistake and subscribe unintentionally.

For example, some magazine sweepstakes pages have a separate link you need to click to go to the non-purchase entry method. Others have a check box if you want to subscribe that is pre-checked. You need to deselect it if you do not want to receive the magazine.

While you should pay careful attention any time you enter a giveaway to make sure you're not agreeing to anything you don't want to, you should take extra care when entering Hearst Magazine sweepstakes.

There have been complaints from sweepstakes fans who believe they have used the non-purchase entry method and have still been subscribed to Hearst magazines.

One reader reported being unwillingly subscribed when he entered a Good Housekeeping Magazine sweepstakes. I myself was unwillingly subscribed to Harper's Bazaar after signing up for a giveaway, and I am 100% sure that I used the link to enter without a subscription. Other sweepstakes fans have reported similar experiences.

How to Find Out if You've Been Subscribed to a Magazine:

While you don't need to avoid magazine sweepstakes altogether, it's a good idea to take steps to make sure you aren't going to receive a subscription you don't want. Check your sweepstakes email shortly after entering and in the next days to see if you receive a subscription confirmation.

You can also check Hearst's customer service pages to see if you are subscribed to any magazines, unwanted or not.

What to Do If You Receive an Unwanted Magazine Subscription:

If you receive a notice that you have signed up for a magazine subscription you don't want, visit the website for that magazine and look for the Customer Service link. In the Customer Service section of the website, you should be able to unsubscribe, although you may receive a message that you need to wait for a while before your request can be processed.

To find the customer service pages you need, check the full list of Hearst Magazine websites, which offers links to the customer service page for each magazine. You can use those links to unsubscribe.

If you receive a magazine you don't want in the mail, there should be contact information in the magazine itself that you can use to unsubscribe. You can also cross out your address, write "Cancel" and "Return to Sender", and drop the magazine in the mail box.

It's important that you don't simply ignore these magazines. Although the FTC website explains you do not have to pay for materials that you did not order, if the magazine believes you agreed to receive the magazines, they can try to collect the subscription from you.

Even if the magazine company doesn't have your credit card information to charge you, you should still react to an unwanted magazine.

Magazine companies can send unpaid bills to a collection agency, which could harm your credit rating.

Note that I've seen most complaints about Hearst Magazine sweepstakes, but you should be very careful that you are opting out of subscriptions when you enter any sweepstakes. Although entering sweepstakes faster can help you win more often, you don't want to be so quick that you don't take time to check over your entry form.