Confirm billing cycles for monthly and annual members on Membership plugin

Hello - just a little confused here and want to confirm I've set up membership correctly. On our site we have two subscription plans, an annual and a monthly. They each, upon payment, provide access to the single access level we have (ie. "0bserver members").

The subscription plans are setup as such:

Annual - No starting point, 0bserver access level (set to Finite mode, 365 days, $19.99)

Monthly - No starting point, 0bserver access level (set to Finite Mode, 30 days, $2.99)

I then noticed in the Membership Options screen there is a Membership Renewal (set to 365 day renewal period) and Membership Upgrades (set to 1 days). Are all these settings correct to accomplish what we want? I was a little confused by the Membership Renewal and Membership Upgrade options. Thanks very much! Also, will it just automatically bill them? If so, what happens if the payment fails (ie. card number doesn't work)? Thanks again!


  • Patrick

    Hi @Adrian

    First thing: if there is only one access level in your subscription plan, and it is set to Finite, it will not renew automatically. For automatic renewal, set it to Serial.

    Membership Renewal is the number of days before the subscription expires that the renewal form is displayed on the Account page. If it is set to 365 days, the renewal form should show up immediately for everyone.

    Membership Upgrades is the amount of time that must pass before a user can upgrade their subscription. If it is set for 1 day, the yearly subscription should show to your monthly members the day after they subscribe.

  • Adrian

    Hey there thanks for the info still a little confused tho. We actually have three access levels and threesubscription plans:

    Access Levels:
    0bserver (paying customers)

    Susbcription Plans:
    Free (linked to Free Access Level)
    Monthly (linked to 0bserver)
    Annually (linked to 0bserver)

    If I just set the monthly and annually subscription plans to serial it will bill them on a recurring basis? Will this affect already signed up members in a negative way or will they not even notice until their card is billed? Oh I see with the Membership Renewal, will setting it to Serial just get rid of the Renewal option since it will bill recurringly?

    Thanks very much for your help


  • Patrick


    Modifying the mode of a subscription (Finite, Serial, Indefinite) may or may not modify the payment frequency for members who are already subscribed to those plans. I think that would depend an awful lot on the API of the payment gateway you are using.

    Likely the safest route to take would be to notify your members that you have modified their subscription to auto-renew. But should they ever experience any difficulty renewing when their subscription expires, that you can do so manually.

  • Adrian

    Thank you for your continued support. So I:

    - left the Free subscription plan to "Indefinite"
    - Changed the premium monthly to "Serial" and left "30 days"
    - Changed the premium annual to "Serial" and left "365 days"

    Currently we use the:

    PayPal Single Payments Gateway for the premium plans


    Free subscriptions gateway for the free plans

    Please just confirm that I've set this up correctly. And also please let me know if they will be billed recurringly each month/year as we hope they do (if you happen to know how the PayPal gateway will work) - it would be disastrous if members had to resign up when they thought they were getting a recurring subscription plan (i wish I had known better to set this to Serial ahhh).

    Thanks very much for the continued help.



  • Patrick

    Hi again @Adrian

    Whoops, for recurring payments, you must use the PayPal Express gateway. The Single Payments gateway is for, well, single payments only.

    As I mentioned previously, it is difficult to say for sure if members who are already signed up to plans that were previously set to Finite will need to renew manually or not.

    Again, I would recommend notifying them of changes, and to be aware of the possibility.

    Also, if you are using the Free Subscription gateway for a plan set to Indefinite, your free subscribers may not be able to upgrade their current plan to a paid one.

    If you are offering both free and paid plans, it is preferable to to use only a paid payment gateway (PayPal Express). Simply set your free subscription to $0.00. Users will click the same "Subscribe" button, but will not be directed to PayPal because there is no payment involved.

  • Adrian

    Ah geez, OK ill get PayPal Express gateway setup ASAP. Just so I understand correctly, the Single Payments gateway will require them to pay each time, sort of like they will have to actively RENEW their membership at the end of each month/year? Whereas, the Express Gateway will enable auto recurring billing and the member will have to actively CANCEL their membership to avoid being charged?

    OMG your point on the free subscription gateway set to indefinite may be what is happening with another problem we are having! So when Free Members then signup for a Premium Membership, they become members of BOTH and for some reason they are blocked from the Premium content because it thinks they are Free members. I then manually go in and drop the Free subscription plan and everything works fine. So if I set to $0 and have only one gateway, the wont become members of BOTH plans? It iwll like drop the Free in exchange for the Premium? =D

  • Adrian

    Hi there - just an update to my previous response. I spoke to PayPal and said that the WPMU support people said that PayPal Express was the way to get recurring, automated billing for our membership plugin.

    They responded by saying that PayPal Single Payments is capable of doing recurring, automated billing like we want, for an additional upgrade fee. They then said that PayPal Express is used for processing payments ON our website (which I took to mean people would NOT be redirected to PayPal for payment). Is this really what we want? There is a 3-5 day application period they said we need to do to get PayPal Express. Apologies for the confusion, but as far as I know we definitely do not want to be processing cards on our site? We want (like it is now) to have people click "Subscribe" and be sent TO PayPal's site for processing? Anyways, thanks for the continued help and please let me know how best to proceed.

    Thanks and regards,


  • Louise

    HI Adrian

    In order to have recurring billing using card payments via paypal you need a paypal pro account and an SSL certificate installed. I think that's what Paypal are referring to and it takes longer than 3-5 days!.

    However the paypal single payments doesn't process recurring payments as far as Im aware even with a pro account. However if you are happy to redirect people away from the site and have recurring billing options, you totally need to use express not pro anyway - which works perfectly in membership. You don't even need to set an IPN because membership handles that too via express.

    BUT regarding the auto upgrades, did you add the members to your website yourself or have they signed up via membership on this site? What we found was migrating users, didn't activate the subscription renewal at all and we lost £1500 last month in uncollected subscriptions which is very annoying.

    I was told on another thread that if you don't allocate migrated members a gateway before the renewal reminder is sent, they just roll on for free! The gateway was set at at the default "admin" gateway at that time.

  • Adrian

    Oh OK - so I think I understand now. Since we DO NOT want to process CARD PAYMENTS, and we are happy just having people redirected to PayPal's site itself for payment, we do not need an SSL certficate installed. But since we DO WANT to have automatic recurring billing, we need to change our Single Payments PayPal gateway to a PayPal Express Gateway.

    Regarding auto upgrades - our members all signed up on the website themselves. When they signed up they signed up for a "Finite" subscription plan that expired in 365 days. Just yesterday, after learning about all of this, I set the subscription plan to "Serial" and "365 days" and now just trying to figure out which PayPal we need.

    Thanks very much for your help! In regards to your last paragraph, does this mean we are OK to just set the new gateway for our annual membership and everything will auto update all the members since are not migrated users? Or do we need to go in and manually change all previously existing annual members to the new Express gateway?

    Thank you thank you thank you so much


  • Louise

    We are quite new to membership ourselves, but I kind of like its simplicity.

    To answer your last question, not tried this but this thread implies that it will affect future sign ups only not existing ones. I guess they'd need to agree to a serial payment.

    If you set up a communication email 5 days before expiry asking them to renew at the same level,they will sign up as recurring from then?

  • Adrian

    Hi there and thank you for the continued support. Here is what I've done:

    Set Free to FINITE, 1 year, $0
    Set premium annual to serial, 1 year, $12
    Set premium monthly to serial, 1 month, $3

    NOTE: You must select 1 year and/or 1 month, not days, it conflicts with paypal

    Setup PayPal Express, deleted all other gateways

    During my testing phase I noticed that if I am first a member of the Free plan and then subscribe to the premium annual plan, I still become a member of both plans. This blocks the premium members only bbpress forum even though I am a premium member. I checked my membership account and it says I am member of both Free and Premium Annual and both are set to the PayPal Express Gateway. Any thoughts on how to fix this??

    Thanks veyr much


  • Patrick

    Hi again @Adrian

    Yep, if a user signs up to 2 different subscriptions with different access rules, there will likely be access conflicts.

    It is always preferable to unsubscribe from one before subscribing to the other. You can include a nice message on your Subscriptions page to remind users to unsubscribe. Be sure to add the renewform shortcode on the page too so both your custom content and the subscription plans/buttons show. See the details under Membership Pages > Subscriptions page.

    However, even if a user does cancel their subscription, they may be confronted by PayPal's hugely annoying 20% rule (screenshot). This means that if they do want to upgrade, they would need to wait until their current subscription expires. I know, it's a bloody PITA, but that's how PayPal works.


    Great job jumping in here! Cookies are on their way. :slight_smile:

  • Adrian

    Hmm - OK so it seems like I should just get rid of the Free account... that will probably simplify everything. The problem is - is that a User is required to have an account (be a registered User with the site, but not necessarily have a "Membership" level) in order to complete a purchase in our WooCommerce store and view their purchases.

    Is there a way you could suggest to have a "create a user account" page (or even area on our "Register for a Memberships Access Level" page where they could sign up for a User account but NOT be put into a subscription plan membership level? This might actually solve all our problems =D

  • Patrick


    Unfortunately, no. But that is precisely what a subscription set to $0 does; it simply creates a user account with the bonus of having any restrictions you see fit.

    I didn't think to point out earlier that if a user is subscribed to a free subscription, they won't be faced with that silly 20% rule from PayPal as no payment had been made when they subscribed. So upgrading to a paid subscription would be painless.


  • Adrian

    Hi Patrick,

    I just deactivated and deleted both the Free access level and the Free subscription plan. It seems to have fixed the issue we were having of a premium member having both premium and Free subscriptions. I guess I was just confused about how all this was working. I believe now people will be able to create a USER registration in order to buy stuff from the WooCommerce store, and then if they go to buy a premium membership, it will be through WPMU memberships so there won't be any conflicting access levels/subscriptions. Fingers crossed! Thank you for all your help. I did try setting the Free to $0, and it did use the proper gateway (PayPal Express) however, it still just ADDED the premium and free subscriptions together (so members of both) rather than deleting the free subscription and replacing it with the premium upon payment and order.

    Best regards,


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