Security System Subscriptions FAQ

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It seems like there's a subscription or monthly fee for everything these days, and home security is no exception. Because it can be difficult to get through all the fine print out there, we've put together some of the most common questions about security systems, security cameras, and those pesky subscriptions. 

Whether you're looking to secure your home with the latest technology or seeking cost-effective ways to protect your property, we've got you covered—including the options available for safeguarding your home without breaking the bank.

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Frequently asked questions about home security system subscriptions

Do all home security systems require a subscription?

No, not all home security systems require a subscription. Many home security systems offer both subscription-based and self-monitoring options. Subscription-based plans typically offer additional features like professional monitoring, cloud storage for video footage, and smartphone app access. However, you can find DIY security systems that allow you to monitor your home without a subscription by relying on local alarms, notifications, and self-storage solutions.

Can I use home security without service?

Yes, you can use home security without professional monitoring services. Many home security systems offer self-monitoring options. With self-monitoring, you’re responsible for receiving and responding to alerts from your security system, such as notifications on your smartphone. While professional monitoring can provide an extra layer of security, self-monitoring allows you to use home security without a monthly service fee.

Is it worth paying for a home security system subscription?

Yes, if you want the most proactive home security available, it’s worth paying for a home security system subscription. The average loss from a burglary is around $2,600, and it would take you a few years of paying for monitored home security to spend that much—and no amount of money can quantify the other costs of a break-in, like your sense of security. The odds that a burglar might skip your home or get spooked by an alarm system is worth the cost to a lot of people.

But whether a home security system subscription is worth it ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences. Subscriptions often provide benefits like professional monitoring, extended cloud storage, and access to advanced features. A subscription may be worth it if you want the extra reassurance that comes with 24/7 professional monitoring or require more extended cloud storage for video footage. However, if you prefer self-monitoring and have minimal storage needs, you can often use home security systems effectively without a subscription.

Is there a security system that doesn’t require a subscription?

Yes, there are security systems that don't require a subscription. DIY home security systems like Abode, Arlo, Scout, and ADT Self Setup offer self-monitoring options where you can receive alerts and control your system without a monthly fee. You can also consider building your own system with standalone devices like smart doorbell cameras, motion sensors, and smart locks that don't necessarily require ongoing fees. It’s worth noting, however, that video doorbells and other security cameras may require a subscription for cloud storage and other features.

What security system does not require a contract?

Several security systems do not require a contract. These DIY systems allow you to purchase and set up the equipment without signing a long-term contract. No contract also means you’ll be paying for your security equipment upfront instead of over time. Some popular contract-free options include SimpliSafe, Ring Alarm, Abode, and ADT Self Setup. These systems offer flexibility and usually have optional monitoring plans if you want the 24/7 protection of professional monitoring services.

What’s the difference between a home security contract and a subscription?

Home security systems traditionally had mandatory contracts that lasted around three years on average. Home security contracts include the cost of leasing or financing equipment and 24/7 professional monitoring. Contracts are still available and used mostly by professionally installed security systems. Contracts typically come with early termination fees and other penalties if you cancel.

DIY home security systems, like SimpliSafe, did away with contracts by offering security equipment you can buy outright and an optional subscription for professional monitoring. Home security subscriptions typically offer additional features along with pro monitoring. They are often available month-to-month, letting you start or stop whenever you want without penalty.

Do you have to pay a monthly fee for SimpliSafe?

SimpliSafe offers both subscription and no-contract options. While they do offer monthly monitoring plans with features like professional monitoring, cloud storage, and smartphone access, it's not mandatory to subscribe. However, SimpliSafe does “offer” its professional monitoring services for free for the first 30 days when you activate your system. We haven’t found a way to opt out of the free trial, so be sure to set a reminder to cancel it before it renews if you don’t want to keep it. SimpliSafe also provides a basic, free option that allows you to self-monitor your system and avoid monthly fees if you prefer.

Can I use ADT without a subscription?

ADT primarily offers professionally monitored security services, and ADT typically requires a subscription for its monitoring plans. However, ADT Self Setup (which is geared toward renters) allows you to purchase equipment and use it without professional monitoring. You can self-monitor an ADT Self Setup security system, or you can add on contract-free professional monitoring. If you opt out of monitoring, you won’t have ADT's professional monitoring services and emergency response.

Can you use Ring Alarm without a subscription?

No, due to recent changes in Ring’s plans, you can’t remotely arm and disarm or get push notifications without a subscription. Ring’s website says, “Ring Alarm and all Ring Alarm accessories require a subscription for digital notifications, in-app features, digital arming/disarming, and integration with other Ring, Echo, and third party products. Subscription sold separately.” On its own, the Ring Alarm system works much like a car alarm—sounding a siren and alerting those in the area to potential trouble. But if you’re not at home, it doesn’t do you much good.

Can you still use SimpliSafe without a subscription?

Yes, you can use SimpliSafe without a subscription. SimpliSafe offers a basic, no-contract option that allows you to self-monitor your security system. With this option, you can receive alerts, arm/disarm your system, and view a timeline of events without any monthly subscription fees. While a subscription provides features like professional monitoring and cloud storage, it's not mandatory to use SimpliSafe effectively. But keep in mind, that you’ll get to try SimpliSafe’s monitoring for 30 days for free when you activate your system—and we haven’t found a way to opt out of the trial. Make sure you remember to cancel it before it auto-renews at the end of those 30 days.

Can I use Blue by ADT without a subscription?

Blue by ADT, now called ADT Self Setup, offers both subscription and no-contract options. You can purchase ADT Self Setup equipment and use it without a subscription, but you won't have access to professional monitoring services without subscribing to one of their monitoring plans. Similar to other systems, self-monitoring is an option without a subscription.

What do you get with SimpliSafe without a subscription?

Without a subscription, SimpliSafe still offers essential features, including:

  • DIY installation and setup.
  • Arm and disarm your system using a keypad or mobile app.
  • Receive instant alerts and notifications on your smartphone.
  • Live monitoring of sensors, motion detectors, and door/window contacts.
  • Local alarm siren to deter intruders.
  • Access to live video feed from SimpliCam (if purchased separately).
  • Ability to customize and expand your system with additional devices.

While a subscription adds features like professional monitoring and cloud storage for video recordings, you can use SimpliSafe effectively for basic security without it.

Frequently asked questions about security camera subscriptions

Is there a security camera without a monthly fee?

Yes, there are security cameras available without a monthly fee. Many standalone security cameras offer free basic features like live streaming, motion detection, and mobile app access without requiring a subscription. Some popular brands to consider include Wyze, Reolink, and Eufy. Keep in mind that while these cameras offer no monthly fees for essential functionality, some additional features like extended cloud storage or advanced motion detection may be available through subscription plans if desired.

What are the best outdoor security cameras with no monthly fee?

Several outdoor security cameras offer no monthly fee options. Some of the best outdoor security camera brands that work great without a monthly fee are Reolink, Eufy, Lorex, and Wyze. We also recommend subscription-free options from Google Nest and Arlo, although you’ll probably miss out on advanced features and cloud storage if you skip the optional subscriptions.

Do security cameras work without a subscription?

Yes, security cameras can work without a subscription. Most security camera systems offer free basic features, including live streaming, motion detection, and mobile app access, without requiring a subscription. However, some cameras offer additional features like cloud storage for video footage, advanced motion detection, or extended recording times through subscription plans. You can typically use security cameras for basic monitoring without an ongoing fee.

Can I use a Ring camera without a subscription?

Yes, you can technically use a Ring camera without a subscription. Ring cameras offer free basic features, including live streaming, motion detection, and two-way audio, without requiring a subscription. While a Ring Protect Plan subscription offers benefits like extended cloud storage for video clips and professional monitoring for Ring Alarm systems, you can still use the camera for basic monitoring without any ongoing fees.

Does Blink require a subscription?

Blink doesn’t require a subscription. Blink offers live video, two-way audio, motion notifications, and Alexa compatibility without a subscription. However, if you want cloud storage, photo capture, and extended live view, you need one of Blink’s subscription plans, which range from $3 to $10 per month.

Do Roku cameras require a subscription?

Roku cameras don’t require a Roku Smart Home subscription. You can access a live feed through the Roku Smart Home app without a monthly fee. You can also get motion and sound alerts without any extra costs.

Is a Ring doorbell useless without a subscription?

No, a Ring doorbell is not useless without a subscription. Ring doorbells offer essential features like two-way communication, live video streaming, and motion detection without requiring a subscription. However, a subscription to Ring Protect Plans provides benefits such as extended video storage, professional monitoring for Ring Alarm systems, and additional features. The doorbell remains functional for basic purposes without a subscription.

What security cameras work without a monthly fee?

Several security cameras work without a monthly fee. Examples of cameras that offer free basic features include Wyze, Eufy, Blink, and many others. These cameras typically allow you to access live video, receive motion alerts, and store limited video clips locally or in the cloud without requiring ongoing monthly fees.

Compare home security systems

Monthly cost Icon Tooltip  Dark
Best for
Starter equipment price
Contract required
Smart home compatibility Icon Tooltip  Dark
Learn more
ProfessionalBest professional home security$599.00No *Amazon,
ProfessionalMost trusted security brand$0.00YesAmazon,
DIY or ProBest customer ratingQuote required
Online quiz
No *Amazon, Google
DIYBest budget-friendly pick$199.99NoAmazon, Google, Z-Wave
DIY or ProBest DIY home security$245.00NoAmazon,

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Read full disclaimer.
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Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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