Please note that some information contained in this article has changed since it was published. Please read the update at the end of the article for details. – jzotto
Do I need to pay for Aol? and related questions are on many Aol users’ minds since service changes were implemented in April, 2017. Normally, you would expect massive media and web-based information regarding such changes. After all, America Online (Aol) is a well known brand that is used by millions of people. We imagine teams of marketing experts toiling for months designing the roll out and support materials to explain the new services and fees.
Well, our imagination could not be further from the truth. We don’t know if it was poor planning or deliberate omission but there is little official information to clarify these changes. People are confused. Users tell me they remember seeing a communication from Aol before the change but didn’t pay attention to it. Many dismissed this email as just another irrelevant and unimportant message in a deluge of SPAM and perfunctory announcements.
Several callers indicated the Aol Desktop software stopped connecting. Some called Aol for assistance and discovered they will need to pay for service going forward. Others received confusing information from Aol Customer Support. With a view toward clarifying this situation, we did some research and are happy to share this information with you.
Do I need to pay for Aol?
The answer to the question “Do I need to pay for Aol?” is – it depends.
Most Aol users are bring your own access (BYOA) customers. BYOA means you have an internet connection separate from Aol (such as FIOS, cable internet, DSL etc.). Until the recent changes basic Aol services such as email, access to the aol.com website and use of the Aol Desktop software were all free of charge to BYOA users.
If you want to continue to use the familiar Aol Desktop software you will need to pay a recurring monthly subscription charge.
What is the minimum monthly charge to use the Aol Desktop software?
We tried to find a list of all free and paid Aol services and prices but as of this writing the information is spread out over numerous pages on their website. We did not feel confident that we could correctly present a comprehensive list. So, we limited our focus to finding the least expensive way to continue using the Aol Desktop software. It took three calls to Aol Customer Support over a period of an hour and a half to get the answer.
If you want to use (or continue to use) the Aol Desktop application to access email and other services at the lowest price you will need to buy a subscription to Aol Desktop Gold. The price is $3.99 per month but don’t expect Aol Customer Support to tell you that.
You can only obtain this pricing if you take advantage of a special web-based offer by downloading and installing the Aol Desktop Gold software at the address linked in this article.
If you call Aol to request the lowest priced subscription that includes the use of the Aol Desktop software you will be offered a number of options. The “packages” include various support plans and other services. Aol’s answer to the question “What do I need to pay for Aol?” is – a minimum of $4.99 per month. While it may not break your bank account, the minimum price Aol representatives offer is 25% more than the do-it-yourself Aol Desktop Gold subscription. Over the course of a year the difference is equivalent to the cost of several cups of Starbucks coffee. We like Starbucks coffee and would rather buy a few more lattes than give the money to Aol. We believe you will too.
In order to change one of our customers from a package Aol sold them ($5.99 per month) to the minimum priced one they needed using the special offer, Aol customer support grudgingly told us to:
- Call Aol Customer Support (1-800-827-6364) and cancel the current subscription.
- Download Aol Desktop Gold from one of the links in this article and install.
You will not receive credit for the current month’s subscription charge, but going forward you will receive the special offer pricing. We don’t know how long the offer will last so act fast.
If you install Aol Desktop Gold, please note that Aol will reset all of your marketing preferences to the default. This allows pop-ups and other types of advertising to be displayed that you may have previously blocked. Aol advises you can change these preferences by going to the Marketing Preferences center. Follow this link – how to access Aol Marketing Preferences – for step by step instructions.
Is there still a free service option?
Yes. Aol continues to offer free access to email via the Aol website and via POP and IMAP protocol using a smartphone or a traditional email client such as Microsoft Outlook. If you have been using the Aol Desktop software to access your Aol email, the only downside to using any or all of these alternate methods is the need to adjust to a different (but similar) environment. It is never as hard as you think. Give it a try!
Update 6/8/17 : The AOL Desktop Gold page linked in this article indicates the $3.99 offer is no longer available. The lowest price for AOL Desktop Gold going forward is $4.99 per month, even if you order using the self-serve method. – jzotto