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42% of U.S. adults have shared subscription services

And Gen Zers and millennials are doing it more than anyone


Bankrate’s new survey shows many consumers are sharing their subscription services, and Gen Zers and millennials are doing it the most.

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These days, people are sharing subscriptions – to everything from video and music streaming to online journalism, according to a new survey from Bankrate.

Forty-two percent of U.S. adults have used someone else’s subscription service. And the biggest account borrowers are Gen Zers and millennials – 66% and 64% of them, respectively, have used someone else’s account to access subscriber-only content, the survey revealed.

Sharing equals savings

Of course, people are doing this to save money, and they reported that the savings are significant.

Millennials (ages 24 to 39) said it saves them $666 annually, with older millennials (ages 31 to 39) saying it saves them $763 per year.

All subscription services borrowers report savings of $513 per year on average, with Gen Xers saving $379 and baby boomers pocketing an extra $220.

Many borrowers are using significant others’ accounts

Twenty-nine percent of people who use someone else’s account use their significant others’ passwords.

Survey takers also reported that they borrow from a friend (29%), parent (28%) or sibling (26%).

Nineteen percent said they’ve borrowed from their children, while 9% revealed they have borrowed from someone they had been in a relationship with – after the relationship ended.

Millennials, however, were the most inclined to use a parent’s account (41%) and baby boomers were the most likely to use a child’s account (41%).

See related: Rewards cards target sharing services, and their millennial fans

Gen Zers and millennials are more willing to share their services

Bankrate’s survey showed that Gen Zers and millennials who have their own subscriptions are more likely to share them (77% and 74%, respectively). Gen Xers came in second in the generosity department at 52% and baby boomers third at 35%.

And overall, 56% of U.S. adults with a subscriber-only account said they’ve shared access to their subscriptions with someone else.

Video streaming is the most borrowed account

Out of the 42% of respondents who have used someone else’s subscription account, the largest percentage said it was for streaming video (35%), then for music streaming (14%) and last for online journalism (6%).

“Streaming services are a growing credit card rewards category. Issuers view this as a way to combat card churning and the sign-up bonus arms race,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at and Bankrate.

Rossman also noted that recurring charges, such as monthly subscriptions, are sticky, especially since many are paid via autopay.

And he said that in exchange for getting people into the habit of using their cards, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express dangles 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card offers 5% (if chosen category, applies to first $2,000 in purchases quarterly) and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card* gives 3x points on select streaming services.

“The figures represent solid savings on money many households would have spent anyway,” Rossman added.

See related: New Mastercard helps users build credit with online subscription

Many companies expect people to share

While sharing subscriptions sounds like a bad thing for the companies that provide these services, many directly allow it, and others don’t do much to stop it, Rossman said.

And he has heard from many consumers that they wouldn’t subscribe unless they could split the cost with family or friends.

“The way these services work, I’m sure it costs a lot of money to set up the product, but little to nothing to support an additional user – that probably contributes to why subscription services are generally okay with shared logins,” Rossman said.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, many Americans are idled at home and looking for ways to stay busy, and streaming movies, TV shows and music are popular.

This will likely boost usage of existing services such as Netflix and Hulu, newer offerings such as Disney+ and soon-to-launch products like Peacock and HBO Max, according to Rossman.

“These brand-new products could especially stand to benefit,” he said.

See related: How can I cancel an auto-renewal billing if I can’t contact the seller?

*All information about Wells Fargo Propel American Express card has been collected independently by and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

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