Automatic renewals are how my generation (X? MTV?) pays for things – magazine subscriptions, Netflix, cellphones, etc. We don't like paper. Paper gets hidden under junkmail, forgotten about, and thrown away. Call us irresponsible, but banks and credit cards (and Wired magazine) are with us, some going completely paperless. This is how every subscription-based model will work in the future. It's only a matter of time.
This is a big reason why we're building automatic renewals into our association management software. It just makes sense for membership. Want to decrease attrition? Make it more convenient to become and stay a member. "But our members aren't comfortable using credit cards over the net." Then they don't have to sign up for it. Let them "keep it real" and send in their checks like they always have. But I think many will be surprised at the number of people who will use and appreciate this convenience. A recent ASAE listserv email from someone at an association who's already implemented automatic renewals proves me right:
In the weeks since, over 20% of our new members, and approximately 12% of
those renewing have taken this option.