Credit cards: How to make accepting recurring payments a breeze

You’ve created a content strategy for your membership site, decided how you’re going to price your memberships, and you’re ready to launch – but first, you need a way to accept payments! This is where credit cards are a no-brainer.

Gone are the days of snail mail; The truth is, if a customer is savvy enough to sign up for your membership site in the first place, they’re probably also accustomed to making online payments.

In fact, regardless of whether your membership is entirely digital or physical in nature, the overwhelming preference of consumers is still electronic payment. The bottom line is: Credit cards are the industry standard for memberships, and they make accepting recurring membership payments easy.

But what exactly do you need to set up credit card payments on your site? And what factors should you consider when deciding on a payment system? In this post, we aim to offer some insights to help you handle membership payments with ease.

First, a few thoughts on security

When consumers pay cash for goods and services, they assume virtually zero risk to themselves and their bank accounts. However, with online payments, there is always some degree of risk that the consumer’s sensitive data could end up in the wrong hands.

This is why it’s extra important to assure your customers that your purchase process is safe and their data is secure when they submit a payment through your website.

Using trusted payment processors like Stripe or PayPal means less hesitation on the part of the customer. Plus, there are additional measures you can take to show customers you’re actually legitimate, such as:

  • Having an SSL certificate on your site
  • Displaying visual trust cues like payment gateway / processor logos and site security badges
  • Having some form of social proof in place, including things like:
    • Testimonials by recognizable names
    • Ratings and reviews by verified customers
    • Cross-promotions with other trusted brands
    • A significant social media presence across all major platforms

Choosing a payment processor

When deciding on a payment processor, there are some important factors to consider – your budget, your revenue potential, and the tools you’re using to create your membership site, for example. In fact, the payment processor you choose has a big impact on your whole operation, from the fees you pay per transaction to the checkout experience you provide for your customers.

When evaluating a payment processor, ask these questions:

  • Does it integrate with your membership plugin? Stripe and PayPal are pretty universal here, whereas other payment solutions may or may not integrate seamlessly with the membership plugin you use.
  • Does it allow for recurring payments? Are there additional fees for a recurring payments feature? For example, WooCommerce requires a specific add-on in order to accept recurring payments.
  • Can customers pay directly on your membership site? Or will they be redirected to a third-party site to complete payment? This can affect sales conversions.
  • What security measures are built-in or required in order to use the service? With Stripe, all you need is an SSL certificate. However, some payment processors may require full PCI compliance.
  • How much money do you expect to bring in each month? With some processors, the more transactions you make, the lower the transaction fees become. However, if you expect to make revenue into the 6 figures, you could benefit from a more advanced payment processing solution that comes with additional tools and support.
  • Does it have a streamlined checkout experience? For example, many people prefer Stripe for its slick interface that makes for an extremely user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing experience.
  • Can it grow along with your membership business? Are there any limitations or potential roadblocks to be aware of if you significantly increase your revenue or number of transactions?
  • What transaction fees are involved? Will you have to pay a percentage, a flat fee, or a monthly fee?

Commonly used options

Although there are a variety of payment processors and merchant account providers available, Stripe has become one of the simplest, most modern, versatile, and widely recognized options out there – especially when it comes to recurring payments.

Integrating with the vast majority of membership plugins, Stripe has been around for a while now, which means that consumers have become familiar with it and are comfortable using it.

Plus, Stripe is particularly notable for the great emphasis placed on the user experience that people have on merchant sites. In short, it’s designed to be a beautiful, efficient, and seamless checkout process.

While there are a variety of different options to choose from, many payment processors simply pale in comparison.

4 Popular payment processors at a glance


ProsConsFee Structure
Stripe✔️ Simplicity
✔️ Slick user experience
✔️ Recurring payments included
✔️ Customers never leave your site for payment
✔️ Flexible API
✔️ Quality developer documentation
✔️ Many integrations
✔️ 135+ currencies supported
✔️ Apple Pay and Android Pay supported
✔️ Cutting-edge and innovative
✖️ Not available in every country2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (varies by country)
PayPal✔️ Trusted by consumers
✔️ Available in 200+ countries
✔️ Integrates with virtually every platform
✖️ Checkout redirects to another page
✖️ PayPal Pro required for subscriptions
✖️ Not always easy or possible to change subscription prices
✖️ Only 25 currencies supported
✖️ No Apple Pay or Android Pay
2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (US) and 4.4% + fixed fee per transaction (non-US)
Authorize.net✔️ User-friendly interface
✔️ Security customization
✖️ More expensive than other payment processors2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, plus $49 setup fee and $25 monthly gateway fee
Braintree✔️ Mobile-first design
✔️ Mobile app-ready
✔️ Apple Pay, Android Pay, Venmo, and PayPal supported
✖️ Limited integrations2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (after $50,000 in transactions)

Accuracy and transparency

With digital transactions, accuracy and transparency are more important than ever. This is because customers cannot physically touch or see what they are buying, per se; they aren’t handing you cash in exchange for a tangible item – at least not in the moment that the transaction occurs.

So, in order to give them the extra confidence they need to sign up for your membership in this way, you want to be accurate in the way you present your product, from the advertisement to the description, product demos, and any promises you make.

Terms and conditions

Be sure that you have clear terms and conditions that are written in plain English and can be easily understood by average people. Legalistic jargon can get in the way of the purchase process, and even turn potential members off completely, if they aren’t sure how to comprehend exactly what they are signing up for.

Refund policy

Along with your terms and conditions, having a very clear and upfront refund policy is essential, especially when it comes to recurring payments. At the very least, this ensures that there are no unanswered questions when members make their purchases. It also gives you the peace of mind that you’ve been as forthcoming as possible about your policies, should you need to refuse a refund request at some point.

However, it’s worth considering the positive impact that offering hassle-free refunds can have on your brand reputation, and ultimately – your sales! 

Payment reminders

Lastly, because electronic payments are easier for people to forget about, consider sending out reminders that alert your members that their recurring membership payments are about to be processed. This fosters good rapport and lets your members know that you aren’t just out to take their money, even if they aren’t fully engaged and using their memberships.

Final thoughts

While there’s no one-size-fits-all payment processor choice for every membership business out there, we think that Stripe takes the cake for its comprehensive quality and flexibility. Nevertheless, it’s important to choose the option that best fits your specific business needs – because at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you can accept credit card payments using the tools that work best for you and your members.

Do you have experience with credit card payments on your own membership site? Is there something we should add to this post? Chime in and let us know in the comments below!

Illustration by Jessica Johnston.

Mandy Jones

About the author: Mandy Jones is a content writer at Sandhills Development and founder of Looplicious. Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, she's a world traveler and animal lover with a passion for creativity and maker culture. When she’s not writing blog posts for Easy Digital Downloads, Restrict Content Pro, and AffiliateWP, she can be found hanging out with other people’s dogs, or writing, recording, and performing music.

6 comments

  1. After failed PayPal payments our members were always successful using the Stripe payment.

    We shut off PayPal, and only offer Stripe payments now.

    The Stripe onboarding process when installing and implementing RCP is just like pressing the Easy Button – very nice! Thank you for making the set up of Stripe so easy.

  2. We initially set up recurring payments using PayPal directly and it seemed to work alright, however getting it integrated with RCP was a little more painful so we decided to go with Stripe.

    The stripe configuration was super simple, I wish we had of started with that instead. The next issue is migrating all the payments from the PayPal version across the RCP membership… but that’s for another day.

    1. Hey, Justin! We are definitely fans of Stripe, too. It’s great to hear that you’ve found the right solution for your business and best of luck with the migration!

      If you have any questions about it, feel free to reach out to our support team!

      https://restrictcontentpro.com/support/

  3. Hello Mandy,

    I bought RCC Pro a while back, and have not used it yet, I still hope to someday have the option to turn my EDD store into a membership, or at least give customers a chance to become membership using RCP. Unfortunately, none of the payment gateways support South Africa. PayPal does but they suck, and have given me issue after issue. I truly hope someday an option like 2checkout, which is what I use on my EDD store, gets supported. I’d definitely be using RCP. The lack of Payment Gateway for South Africa is the only reason I’m not. The other solutions is someday stripe supports South Africa, but that’s a pipe dream now.

    Great job with the plugin though, love what it can do and hope to use it someday. I’m a big EDD fanboy, so pretty much buy everything you guys release 🙂

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