Let me start by repeating what we said in the monthly beemail yesterday:
The Official Announcement
Beeminder now (as of yesterday!) requires a credit card (or, ok, PayPal) in order to create a goal. To be clear, not a paywall, just a commitwall. And you’ll never be charged at all if you keep all your datapoints on track! (And assuming you don’t want any fancy premium perks like unlimited goals.)
After years of feedback and mulling it over and going back and forth (and back again), we’re convinced this is the way to go. We always liked letting people try us out with nothing at stake, but a sting-free Beeminder just isn’t Beeminder. Also, just between us akratics, having your goal freeze up on you after your first derailment, until you do something that requires more activation energy, right at a point you’re feeling frustrated with yourself for first going off track… that’s as terrible for users as it is for Beeminder. If it seems scary, know that we’re very serious about not letting you be charged for any kind of technicality or confusion about the rules. If you derail, you’ll get an email asking if the derailment was legit and if you say no, we believe you (unless you weaselproof yourself!).
So that’s what we decided and if you don’t like it you can go poke a hornet’s nest JUST KIDDING you can reply to this
very email forum thread and not only will we read it, we’ll respond to everyone, and explain in detail how wrong you are to want to beemind with no credible threat (though that is in fact one of the premium perks).
Background and Rationale
(Some of this isn’t relevant to how we’ve implemented this so far where you can sign up without a credit card but need one as part of goal creation. We’re still debating whether to make the commitwall be part of signup itself.)
Patrick McKenzie of Stripe points out that “free trials [have] astonishingly low conversion rates; you need a sophisticated marketing engine harvesting a lot of attention at scale to make these work.” (He also argues that your really good customers actually feel reassured when you charge real money.)
The big downside of the commitwall is losing people who are stingy/scared at first but would’ve eventually warmed up and paid us. (Corresponding upside: losing all the people who would never enter a credit card anyway, currently 90% of signups.) But I think the most important argument for commitwall is that the moment of the person wanting to sign up is an extremely good time to convert them. Even with hypothetical perfect lifecycle emails, it’s hard to top that. The one thing we gain by waiting is that later they’ll have had the chance to try Beeminder. That’s worth it only if we can exceed their expectations. But with our years of history and passionate community and nothing but love for us all over the internet, the expectations are hard to top.
Not to mention that beeminding without a credit card is toothless and dumb and is a horrible introduction to what beeminding is supposed to feel like. So I predict the probability that we get a credit card only goes down after signing up. There are plenty of exceptions but that’s my prediction in aggregate.
It’s especially true since, if you only create 1 or 2 goals, the point where we require the credit card is after you derail. That’s bad. People stick their head in the sand at that point. Also it’s preposterously common for users to not have paid attention and not understand that they don’t owe money and aren’t getting charged when they put in the credit card at that point. We make that perfectly clear in the webcopy but users absolutely do not read webcopy.
The commitwall is currently hit after either 1 or 2 goals, bucket tested. If you think that having more time to try Beeminder helps turn users into customers then you’d predict that being commitwalled after 2 goals is better than after 1. This is not the case. The probability you’ll create a 2nd goal naturally goes down (but only slightly, from 34% to 31%) if we commitwall you after 1 goal. But revenue doesn’t go down detectably at all. Of course, commitwall before creating any goals is very different from commitwall after 1 or 2 goals, and it could be worse. But I predict it will be better.
The fear and friction of adding a credit card is surprisingly low. In fact, we keep seeing users who are surprised that they hadn’t already added a credit card, seeming to have presumed that it wouldn’t have made sense for Beeminder to have let them start beeminding without doing so.
Another advantage of commitwall is that by eliminating the 90% of users who won’t enter a credit card, we can put real human attention on the remaining 10%. We can also still capture email addresses of some of the 90%. 
One more advantage: If you find Beeminder frustrating and confusing and haven’t entered a credit card yet, you’ll tend to walk away. If you find Beeminder frustrating and confusing and you have entered a credit card, you’ll tend to talk to us and become a convert for life.
More Reassuring Copy Ideas
If you’re (rightly) nervous about handing over your credit card number, this is the part where we solemnly promise you won’t ever be charged due to any kind of technicality, including confusion about the rules. (You won’t be charged at all if you stick to what you’re committing to!) We’re pretty sure that 5 minutes of googling around to see all the gushing about us on the internet over the last 7+ years, plus our blog and the Beeminder forum, will convince you that that promise is credible.
And here’s how it actually looks at the moment:
Clicking that “why?” pops this up:
 We can capture an email address for everyone who doesn’t make it over the commitwall if we get the email address before mentioning the credit card. Would that be insufficiently transparent and the user needs to know everything they’ll be asked for up front? I actually like how Slack requires you to confirm your email address before showing you anything else whatsoever. They’re saying everything else is a waste of time until we verify that we can communicate with you. Which is very much true for Beeminder.