Xbox Marketplace, for example, asks for payment methods to download free content (free as in never having to pay, such as demos). It says it's free, but states that you need to be "charged" to get it.

It's like:

In order to get this free product from our website, please give us a way to take money from you.

Any reason why so many sites are like this? Why can't they just ask for billing information when you actually do buy something, instead of forcing everyone to hand out excessive personal/billing info for stuff they claim is 100% free? It's like asking someone walking into a supermarket and, in order to try a free sample of food, they request a credit card to be on file or such. If it's free, why do you want a way to take money from me? I think this is poor UX in my case and sites shouldn't ask until it's necessary.

I find it to be a reason I would refuse to use services. You don't ask for money until it's time to pay.

  • 2
    Apple also asks for that in some countries,thats because they dont want duplicate accounts-and because they want it to be as easy as possible when your finally hand them your cash. From how all the big companies do that,I presume it works. – downrep_nation Aug 19 '15 at 7:02
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    Because of reasons that have little to nothing to do with user experience. – DA01 Aug 19 '15 at 7:51
  • DA01 i disagree,they try to make the purchase when it DOES happen,"easier" – downrep_nation Aug 19 '15 at 9:05

Why ?

From a UX perspective there is no good reason to do this. So in the context of UX, there is NO good reason if we keep the scope ONLY on this particular point, but for more, see end of my answer.

From a business perspective there are many good reasons why this happens. But I think the following points are most valid:

  • Free does not exist for accountants : Every transaction, even a free demo, is still a transaction that implies invoicing certain parties even if the amount to pay is EUR 0.00.
  • The invoicing life cycle has a step "pay", which could be skipped in theory when a product is "free". But this might be implementation wise an annoying corner case on the fundamental case management that invoicing brings.
  • Make the user familiar with the purchase procedure. To seduce the user into being comfortable actually paying something in the future.
  • Some products and demos are only available in certain regios/countries. So it is important for legal copyright laws and licensing that the person downloading or getting this free demo is linked to a certain location. Since every country has its own type of identification, it is easier to ask for the credit card information of a person since (almost) every country has banks with credit cards that are bound to a certain location. So easier to verify but still not fool proof.
  • Temptation to impulsive buying : Once your credit card details are already stored, the user probably will be more easily tempted to buy something due a AD Hoc decision. Because, hey, my card is already connected, I just have to press BUY NOW and its mine. (Instead of having to take out your wallet, get that credit card an start entering all those numbers).
  • Simple identification : Same as with the availability in different countries, but sometimes it is just for pure identification.

Those are the use cases I could think of why organizations would enforce this rule.

One could argue that the UX is improved by having you identified by credit card to verify if this free item is available in your country and to make further purchases easy (which is also a marketing trick).

So you could say that till a certain level, one UX is thrown out of the window to facilitate another UX improvement.


That is because websites or companies which their only interest in their user base is making money - know that all their users could be a potential customer (and certainly not duplicates).

I agree that it is annoying,or even outright SCARY to give a service that is presumably partially free ,all the possible ways to TAKE YOUR MONEY

Yet remember that companies like apple or microsoft - which presume you already bought their product will make it seem like you are completing your purchase process by "connecting" you to your device.

Also once the user decides to actually buy something will have it very "easy and intuitive" to check out and he will NOT need to open his wallet to get out his credit card. Further building upon the illusion of a lack of real grabable money making a "buy now" button that turns into "bought" feel almost



  • You sound like one of those people that blame alcohol, credit cards and guns and not the lack of discipline on the user's part. If you have a problem saving your money you should get that checked out. For the rest of us we enjoy convenience and don't walk around everywhere holding grudge against entities for no reason. – The Muffin Man Oct 7 '15 at 15:33
  • @TheMuffinMan Microsoft want your $ not your love and affection. Also use my cc for everything and i am a very responsible spender and that one "sober guy" in parties. I just look truth in the eyes and accept it – downrep_nation Oct 7 '15 at 15:56
  • Why are you inferring that a company should be your buddy? If I need a hug there's places for that. When I want to get work done I buy Microsoft Office. – The Muffin Man Oct 7 '15 at 16:05
  • @TheMuffinMan because you are acting as if i have a "grudge" against them. As if i should be "nice" to a company – downrep_nation Oct 7 '15 at 22:12

The reasons for this have little to do with UX, and a lot to do with business strategy.

Businesses care more about Customer Experience than User Experience, and getting your payment information is a way of pre-qualifying you as a potential customer. That way the free plan or service that they are giving you is a marketing tool.

If they didn't do this, the argument is that they would likely have to support many more free plans for people that would never become customers, which is both expensive and distracting. Websites providing products and/or services are rarely out there to perform some social good, and so they make decisions based on what will help them be more profitable.

I'm not advocating this as a great idea, I'm simply explaining the reasoning behind it.

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