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Subscriptions, Memberships and Recurring payments with PayPal

Selling memberships or subscriptions and accepting recurring payments in your website is quite easy with PayPal.

PayPal provides a set of options that helps you accept payments at specific intervals automatically, which is actually referred as recurring payments. This article helps you understand the solution provided by PayPal and use it along with the Subscriptions tool of J2Store.

Recurring Payments with PayPal

The terms - Subscriptions, Memberships and Recurring Billing - actually refer to the system of accepting payments automatically at specified intervals.

PayPal offers Recurring Payments in the form of Subscription buttons, Express Checkout and the Website Payments Pro API’s. This helps you to automatically bill for services without the need to save the user’s credit card information in your own database. So you do not have to worry about the security and PCI compliance anymore.

We will be discussing the Express Checkout and the Website Payments PRO in this article. Since the Subscription buttons are for those having static html websites, we will not be discussing it here.

All these three forms allow you to charge a customer an amount for each period.You can include a one-time set up fee when charging the customer first time. However, the recurring amount will always be the same.

An Example of Subscription / Recurring Payments

Let's say, you are selling web hosting services. Each month you charge $12 USD. To set up the account initially, you charge a one-time fee of $50 USD.So the first charge will be made for $62 USD, and the subsequent months, the charge will be USD $12.

Let's us see how does the PayPal Plugin handles it in J2Store and Subscriptions

Reference Transactions with Express Checkout

The standard PayPal Plugin for J2Store now supports recurring billing / subscriptions payments. It uses the PayPal's Express Checkout API to do this.

You can either purchase the plugin or you can get it free when you purchase J2Store PRO

PayPal offers a feature called Reference Transactions for accepting subscription / recurring payments with automated billing. The plugin uses the Reference Transactions feature.

SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT: Reference Transactions are not enabled by default in your PayPal Account. You will have to call or email PayPal Support in order to be enabled. Only then you can accept recurring payments with PayPal.

When the Reference Transactions feature is enabled for your PayPal account, the plugin creates a billing agreement. This allows the buyer to agree to future billing without the need to go through the Express Checkout procedure again.

This system makes it possible to sell multiple subscriptions, change recurring totals and billing schedule, and allow customers to switch subscriptions — none of which is possible with PayPal Standard.

To request that PayPal turn on Reference Transactions, call your local PayPal Support Help Center. Find the phone number at Contact.

Tell PayPal that you are specifically calling so a PayPal Specialist can enable Reference Transactions on your account. They may try to help you set up recurring payments with a button — that is not want you want. They need to transfer you to a specialist who will ask you for your PayPal account information (email address), and then tell you that they filed a ticket, and you will hear back from PayPal via email on whether Reference Transactions have been enabled or not.

Keep in mind that the reference transactions feature is not enabled by default. In order to utilize it, the merchant will need to apply for it and get approved. Make sure this is done prior to using the Subscriptions app in order to avoid problems when you launch.

PayPal Website Payments PRO

J2Store offers a separate plugin for taking credit card payments with PayPal PRO. At the time of writing this article, we have not yet included the Subscriptions / Recurring Billing support. It is a work-in-progress. We will update you as soon as we have the integration ready.

What other payment methods support Subscriptions ?

The following payment methods support accepting recurring payments / subscriptions with J2Store and Subscriptions app

  • Mollie
  • Stripe (Coming up soon)
  • BrainTree (coming up soon)
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