Accepting recurring payments on your WordPress website will make life easier for customers while building a stable and predictable income for you.
In this article we’ll show you some of the tools you can use and walk you step-by-step through setting up a billing system for free.
Whether you’re launching a subscription-based business or you’re a nonprofit organization looking for sustainable funding, mastering the art of recurring payments can be a game-changer!
- What Kind of Businesses Use Recurring Payments?
- How Recurring Payments Work
- What You Need To Accept Recurring Payments on a Website
- How to Set up Recurring Payments in WordPress Using SureCart
Recurring payments are about much more than streaming or software as a service.
Those are the two most common cases, but there are many more situations where you could use subscriptions:
- Nonprofit organizations: Some people may want to donate regularly to their favorite charity or good cause.
- Consulting and services: Instead of charging customers on an ad hoc basis, you could use a recurring payment plan.
- Online communities: Recurring payments can provide access to an online community or offer more privileges to paying members.
- Associations and clubs: Do you manage a community around your hobby? Let members pay online in a way they are comfortable with.
- eCommerce: If customers buy repeatedly from your store, automate the process!
Almost anything you can imagine could support a recurring payment for your benefit and that of your customers.
- Pet wellness subscription: Offer a monthly subscription for pet owners that includes services like dog grooming, flea treatment, and more.
- Coffee subscription: Deliver a diverse selection of fresh coffee beans each month. Include some guides and personal notes so it’s about more than just a product.
Think about what you sell or offer, and come up with ideas about how to “bundle” that product or service so that it can be enjoyed on a recurring basis.
Recurring payments work in a simple way:
- The customer agrees to pay a recurring amount in return for a product or service.
- The customer makes the first payment either as a deposit or initial setup payment.
- You offer value in return.
A fixed amount each month is simple to set up and to manage, but you may come across certain requirements that require a more flexible approach.
- Can you make the first payment cheaper or more expensive than the ones that follow?
- Can you offer a free trial?
- Can you give a discount if customers pay annually instead of monthly?
- What if the payment fails?
- How do you deliver your value after the payment?
All of this would be complex to set up and manage if you had to set up your recurring payment system from scratch.
Luckily technology has you covered!
There are 3 key components you’ll need to accept recurring payments on a website:
- An SSL certificate to keep transactions secure. Learn how to move from http to https.
- A payment gateway to process online payments. Usually PayPal and Stripe are enough.
- A plugin to manage memberships, the payment gateway and value delivery.
Those are the technical barebones of recurring payments.
Many hosting companies will provide an SSL certificate as part of your hosting plan.
Stripe and PayPal will let you cover the vast majority of your potential audience, so let’s take a closer look at some of the plugins you could use to complete the system.
This is the part that will change the most depending on what type of business you want to implement recurring payments in.
There are plenty of solutions on the market so we have reduced the list to a minimum while still keeping it useful for every situation.
SureCart is our solution to make recurring payments accessible to every WordPress user.
It’s a free plugin that will allow you to create visually appealing checkouts using a drag and drop interface.
You can easily connect Stripe, PayPal, Mollie or Paystack (Razorpay coming soon) and make one-time or recurring payments.
All transactions can use automatic sales tax and EU VAT calculations, which will save you a lot of time and effort.
Plans allow you to set up free and paid trials, add setup fees, enable cart abandonment recovery emails, and many other features that will help you set up your business in detail.
SureCart Has a Lot of Integrations
In addition to easing payments it works hand in hand with SureMembers to help control access to content and manage membership websites.
Woo Subscriptions an addon for WooCommerce developed by WooCommerce to manage recurring payments in WordPress.
It integrates with +20 payment gateways including PayPal and Stripe, and supports rebilling on failed payments, upgrading and downgrading plans or renewal notifications.
Woo Subscriptions is ideal if you already have your online store running with WooCommerce and are simply looking to add recurring payment functionality to it.
You may also find it useful if you already use a tool like LearnDash to sell online courses and are looking to set up an online academy with a monthly fee.
WooCommerce is well-known and integrates with a lot of third-party apps and plugins so it will probably work for what you have in mind.
This is a wildcard recommendation.
The two previous solutions will be useful for a lot of situations.
They can help manage memberships, add recurring payments, receive donations on an ongoing basis, or track installment payments for expensive products.
For this guide we are going to use SureCart as you can start using it for free and it adapts to a multitude of situations.
Let’s assume that you already have a functional website. If not, follow the steps in this guide to create your WordPress website in less than 60 minutes.
You can download SureCart from the WordPress plugin repository or directly from the website.
Search for it and install it from the WordPress admin panel > Plugins > Add new.
Once you install and activate it, it will appear in the sidebar of the WordPress administration panel.
From there you can launch the built-in wizard to create your account and configure your first store.
At one point during the setup you’ll need to connect WordPress and SureCart together, as the latter is a headless platform.
The plugin uses cloud servers so running the store doesn’t impact the performance of your website.
Your store is hosted in WordPress as usual, but the heavy lifting is done by SureCart servers. The two are connected via secure API to keep data secure.
Within the setup wizard you’ll be asked to connect some payment gateways such as Stripe or PayPal.
All you need to do is log in to each of these services and give SureCart permission to use them.
You can connect them later if you want from the plugin Settings menu.
At this point it’s also a good idea to go to the tax tab and configure taxes so that the transactions all comply with your local regulations.
SureCart allows you to modify taxes and EU VAT parameters easily. Depending on your situation, you may need to consult an expert in the field to show you how to do this correctly.
We recommend that you also activate the test accounts so you can make dummy purchases and check everything works properly.
For more information, read:
SureCart is now ready to handle payments. Now we need to add products.
We do that from the WordPress admin panel > SureCart > Products > Add new.
After adding a name you’ll arrive at the product sheet.
Here you can add all the details about what you are selling such as a description and images.
We’ll see how to integrate your product with third-party plugins in the next step.
For now let’s focus on setting the price.
After clicking on + Add a Price, you’ll be able to select the type of payment as a subscription, which will display all the options you can see below.
From this single window you can configure your subscription in detail:
- Add an attractive name to your membership level.
- Set your desired price.
- Repeat Payment Every: You can choose billing intervals ranging from day to year.
- Compare at price: If you’re offering a discount add the original price here. For example, the typical 2-month savings when choosing the annual cycle.
- Pay what they want: Enable this checkbox for your visitors to pay the amount they consider. This is ideal for donations and NGOs as the payment will be on a recurring basis.
- Setup fee: Check this box if you want to add an extra charge on the first payment to compensate for an extra cost. Like the printing of a membership card or a personalized onboarding.
- Free trial: This checkbox enables a free trial for the number of days you specify.
With SureCart you can create as many prices as you want to create as many levels as you see fit.
So you can set up this mini-window for different billing frequencies (monthly/annual), different perks (Silver/Gold levels) and so on.
You name it, you can do it!
If instead of Subscription you choose Installment, you can set up recurring payments with a certain expiration date.
You will define this date by playing with the values of the billing frequency and the number of payments in which you want to finish the payments to stop.
This will be very useful to help you sell expensive products or services, or to give visitors peace of mind.
Now you only need to define what the users will get in exchange for their payment.
This is something that you will define in the integrations section.
Just click on + Add New Integration and choose yours.
As you saw at the beginning of the guide, one of the most typical uses of recurring payments is in content memberships where members can access restricted pages of your website.
This is something you can easily achieve with SureMembers.
SureMembers is the ideal companion for delivering value to members.
It allows you to restrict access to any part of your website by creating basic rules that are organized under access groups.
You can create unlimited access groups, so it’s very easy to create different tiers, which will normally be associated with different recurring payment plans.
This is useful even if we are talking about NGOs and donations, as in those situations you may also want to segment your audience.
For example you could lock the page where you share the discounts or deals offered by partners or where you’ve added the VIP event invitation form, and make it available only to the highest donation tier.
SureMembers allows you to show paywalls for non-members and redirect them to a sign-up page.
This will be really useful for you to get new members with minimal extra effort.
Remember that for recurring payments to work well, members must perceive that they are receiving value on an ongoing basis.
So instead of giving full access to all restricted content as soon as they pay, with SureMembers you can easily set up drip content.
Scheduling access to content at your discretion will make it easier for members to consume content and will make them more willing to stay active for longer.
It also allows you to modify WordPress user roles. So whatever your needs are you can easily meet them with SureMembers.
If you select SureMembers as your integration, you will be able to choose the access group that unlocks your recurring payment.
It’s that simple!
SureCart and SureMembers understand each other perfectly, so in addition to creating content for your membership, all you have to do is promote it.
You can copy the buying links from the pricing section on SureCart.
These links will redirect directly to a checkout where people can buy the selected membership tier.
If you prefer, you can also create your own more elaborate checkout from SureCart > Forms.
You’ll end up with a shortcode that you can embed anywhere on your website. It’s also possible to load this form using a custom WordPress block.
This way you can control the URL where you want this checkout to live.
Setting up recurring payments in WordPress is no longer a complex task.
Thanks to the different payment gateways and plugins that help you connect them to your WordPress website, the process is as simple as creating accounts and logging into them.
From there, the system can be improved as much as you want.
Integrating this payment with third-party plugins like SureMembers to achieve the functionality you need, or including different pricing strategies to help you sell more.
But with the right tools this is not something complex to do. Anyone can do it!
Where are you going to implement recurring payments? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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