If you want to build a paid membership site, then WordPress is a great option for you.
There are many paid membership plugins for WordPress and, in this tutorial, we're going to recommend three.
Any paid membership plugin needs to do two things: create different access levels and collect payment from people who want to access those levels. We've chosen three plugins that do both well.
Before you start, you might also want to brush up on groups and access levels with our tutorial called The Ultimate Guide to User Control in WordPress
Option #1: Paid Memberships Pro
- Link: Paid Memberships Pro
- Free: All features are included in the free version. But there is no documentation and no professional support.
- Paid: $97 gives you access to the documentation. $275 gives you access to the documentation and 5 hours of professional help and setup.
- Notable features:
- Accept one-time and recurring payments.
- Use Stripe, PayPal Website Payments Pro, PayPal Express, or Authorize.net.
- Hide excerpts and ads from members.
- Unlimited membership levels.
- Can charge Set Up fees.
- Can give free trial periods.
- There is some unpaid support on the WordPress public forums. Otherwise you need to purchase the support membership. The public forum is very helpful though, and the developer seems to be responsive to it. But without purchasing the documentation, this would be a bit of work to get running.
- A nice feature of Paid Membership Pro is the ability to hide ads from different access levels. .
Setting up recurring memberships is easy. The administration pages are clear and simple.
Option #2: Membership
- Link: Membership
- Membership Lite: Free. Limited to two different levels of membership and complete customizations. Multiple membership sites on a WordPress MultiSite install - so any user of your site can have their own membership site.
- Membership Pro: $39 per plugin or $79 per month, $159 per quarter, $419 for 12 months. Unlimited membership levels, unlimited subscription levels, BuddyPress rules , Administration area rules - control blog creation (limit number per level), dashboard widgets, menus and sub-menus
- Notable Features:
- Shortcode protected content - easy to write your own shortcodes to protect all or part of any content or feature.
- Multiple membership sites on a WPMU / WordPress MultiSite install – so any user of your site can have their own membership site.
- Drag and Drop rules editing.
- There are only a few payment gateways ready to install. The lite version only has PayPal. If you need other gateways, you'll need to write them yourself. Their website claims "any half decent WordPress developer" should be able to write one. If you don't have some development skills you're probably going to need the support subscription.
- One nice feature is the drag and drop interface which makes it possible to construct complex rules for levels and subscriptions.
Option #3: s2Member
- Link: s2Member
- s2Member® Framework: Free. All features, but limited to 4 membership levels and one payment gateway.
- s2Member® Pro: A single site is $69 and unlimited sites are $129. The Pro upgrade package adds unlimited memberships and more payment gateways.
- Notable Features:
- Integrates with PayPal® Website Payments Standard.
- Supports recurring billing.
- Custom Pages for registration, including custom registration and profile fields.
- Compatible with Multisite Networking , BuddyPress and bbPress.
- Payment Gateways: PayPal Website Payments Pro, Authorize.Net, Google Checkout, ClickBank
- Social Networking features.
- Mass update and import export.
- Affiliate Management.
- This is the most comprehensive package that I have found so far. It has about everything, which may actually be a bit overwhelming, but at least it's there.
- One really good aspect is the integration of the training videos in the administration section. Also the step-by-step setup guide includes detailed examples and instructions on each step. The documentation is almost always at your fingertips.
- Another nice feature is the easy API integration controls. For example API/List Servers walks you through integration with MailChimp, AWeber, and other email list options, making it easy to integrate other services.
- Tutorial Available: s2Member Paid Membership Plugin for WordPress
After an extensive search of all the membership plugins on WordPress.org and lots of testing, I found that these three plugins are unique. All of these plugins are:
- Complete solutions. They require no other plugins.
- Popular. They have large numbers of downloads and have been successfully used by many other sites.
- Supported. They all have support, documentation and forums.
There a lot of other options out there. If none of these meet you needs you could also consider these approaches:
- There are quite a few other membership plugins that allow you to create groups and levels, but would need custom work to be able accept payment.
- There are shopping carts that have membership plugins which add membership to their shopping capabilities.
- It would be possible to combine several plugins to get similar features.