A WordPress subscription plugin might be just the ticket if you are looking for a neat way of generating income from your website.
Subscription plugins allow you to limit access to certain sections of your content, or perhaps all of it, to subscribers only. You can give access in return for one-off or recurring subscription fees, the latter being an excellent method for generating a consistent income stream. Furthermore, subscriptions are a great way of expanding your email list for marketing purposes, thereby improving your revenues further.
Subscription Site Types
WordPress subscription sites (also known as membership sites) come in a variety of shapes and sizes:
Full access sites
These permit access to all content to subscribers who pay a fixed upfront amount or monthly recurring fees. Alternatively, downloads may be made a monthly privilege by restricting them.
These are limited to a preset duration, such as online courses or quit smoking programs.
Here, content is released to subscribers incrementally, such as daily, weekly, or monthly. Drip-fed content keeps subscribers yearning for the next installment, and is a common approach with newsletters.
Members pay a regular subscription for on-demand services such as coaching, legal or tax advice, streaming content, etc. Alternatively, you can offer a tiered structure where the basic plan only provides group sessions, while the premium plan is one-on-one.
This is a popular business model used for food boxes, book or wine clubs, monthly fragrances, gadgets, product of the month, etc.
Here, you can grant access to the entire course or just elements of it, such as individual lessons or modules. Alternatively, the elements can be drip-fed subject to successful completion of the previous one or on payment for the next.
Things To Look For in a WordPress Subscription Plugin
Here is a list of features typically available with WordPress subscription plugins. Of course, each plugin’s feature-set will vary, and you will need to look for the ones that cater to your specific needs:
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- Digital product download support
- Support for one-off, recurring, or multilevel subscriptions
- Integral templates
- Customization tools
- Content drips
- Social media logins
- Email marketing tools
- Payment collection tools, such as PayPal, Stripe, etc.
- Front- and backend subscriber management tools
- Discount code and coupon capability
- API access for developers
- Forum and chat support
- Course-building tools
- Shortcodes (or other ways of marking the content to be restricted)
My Picks of the Best WordPress Subscription Plugins for 2023
I will show you my picks of some of the best WordPress subscription plugins available for 2023.
Each of these plugins will enable you to convert your website into a membership site by restricting content to either paid subscribers or free to registered users. And don’t worry if you don’t have money to burn on expensive plugins, as there are some free options in the list.
I’ll begin my list of subscription plugins with MemberPress, a premium-only WordPress subscription plugin that allows you to quickly and easily build single or multilevel subscription sites, including courses.
Being a premium plugin, MemberPress offers tons of configurations, affording you complete control over who can access your content. Furthermore, you can securely collect subscription fees via credit card, manage subscriptions, and sell digital products.
MemberPress places no limits on the number of access levels, rules, restrictions, number of members, or memberships your site can have, making it highly flexible. Furthermore, you can grant subscribers access to a self-service dashboard so they can manage their own subscriptions and profiles.
With respect to payments, MemberPress integrates several gateways, plus it can handle taxes and offer discount codes.
MemberPress plans currently start at $15/month for the ‘Basic’ plan rising to $35 for ‘Pro.’ Features and the number of websites covered depend on the plan purchased.
Furthermore, all MemberPress purchases come with a 14-day money back guarantee.
LearnDash – as the name implies – is a learning management system (LMS) plugin capable of building membership-type websites perfectly suited to online courses.
This premium-only plugin allows you to use any pricing model, affording complete flexibility and control over how you bill your students, the content they can access, and when.
Other key features of LearnDash include an easy-to-use drag and drop course builder, unlimited courses and users, lesson drip feeds, advanced quizzing with leader boards, badges, and certificates, group and assignment management, plus tons more.
Furthermore, LearnDash has integrated tools that allow you to monitor and report on enrolment, progress, and performance.
Overall, if you want to sell courses online, LearnDash is definitely a WordPress subscription plugin worth considering.
Three LearnDash subscriptions are available:
- ‘Basic’ costs $159 per year and covers one domain
- ‘Plus’ is $189 per year for up to ten domains
- ‘Pro’ costs $329 and is suitable for up to 25 sites
Additionally, all LearnDash subscriptions come with a 15-day money back guarantee.
Paid Member Subscriptions
Paid Member Subscriptions is a freemium plugin for creating membership websites with tailored subscription plans and facilities for capturing online payments.
The free version of Paid Member Subscriptions is ideal for trying out the plugin before investing in a premium version. It offers configurable content restrictions and permissions, hierarchical subscriptions, and free or paid memberships.
Paypal integration allows you to easily capture subscription fees, while WooCommerce integration can extend the functionality of your eCommerce store to offer subscriptions.
The paid versions of Paid Member Subscriptions add several useful extras over the free version. For example, depending on the purchased plan, you can get global content restrictions, discount codes, email subscription reminders, additional payment options, tax calculation, content drips, invoice generation, etc.
More than 10k active downloads of the free version of Paid Member Subscriptions alone are in operation. If you wish to download it, head over to the WordPress plugin directory, where it has a user rating of 4.7/5.0 stars.
The core version of Paid Member Subscriptions is free, while two paid versions are also available:
- ‘Hobbyist’ costs $69 per year for one website
- ‘Pro’ covers unlimited domains and costs $149 per year.
Simple Membership Plugin
Simple Membership Plugin is an excellent free solution for providing free or paid subscriber content on your WordPress website. This plugin allows you to place restrictions on posts and pages so that only members can access them. Additionally, it is possible to create different tiers of membership where content is only accessible either in whole or part, depending on which tier the subscriber purchases.
With Simple Membership Plugin, you can also offer a free limited trial of memberships, thereby allowing users to try before buying. Furthermore, payment capture is possible using PayPal, Stripe, or Braintree, with all payments logged and accessible at any time.
One particularly handy feature of Simple Membership plugin is the option to display ‘teaser’ content to encourage visitors to subscribe. Furthermore, non-members attempting to visit restricted content areas can be shown a (customizable) message asking them to subscribe.
Overall, Simple Membership Plugin is ideal for owners of smaller sites wishing to offer subscription-only content but do not have any available budget to purchase a premium plugin. It currently has over 50k active downloads in operation and a star rating of 4.5/5.0 in the WordPress plugin directory.
Simple Membership Plugin is free. However, some free and paid add-ons are available to extend the plugin’s functionality further.
Restrict User Access
Restrict User Access is an entirely free WordPress subscription plugin that offers a simple but effective way of restricting content to subscribers only.
Multiple access restriction possibilities are available, including by post, page, taxonomy, category, posts in a category, pages by author, etc. Furthermore, it is also possible to set access levels for different subscription tiers.
Other key features of Restrict User Access include unlimited access levels and restrictions (including multilevel), ‘triggers’ and ‘traits’ to automatically add levels to subscribers based on something they do or are, plus the ability to hide navigation menu items and widget areas based on subscription tier.
Restrict User Access has been downloaded more than 20k times from the WordPress plugin directory, where it scores an impressive 4.3/5.0 star user rating.
Restrict User Access is free, although a range of paid add-ons is available to further extend the plugin’s functionality.
Paid Memberships Pro
Next on my list of best WordPress subscription plugins is Paid Memberships Pro, a freemium plugin that offers fast, simple setup coupled with extensive customization options, particularly with the paid plans.
Paid Memberships Pro is suitable for subscription sites of all kinds, including online courses, subscription boxes, clubs and associations, etc. In fact, even the free version has excellent features, including unlimited membership levels, one-time or recurring subscriptions, free memberships, trials, variable pricing, drip content, etc.
The free version of Paid Memberships Pro also permits payment collection through Stripe, PayPal Express, and several other gateways. Furthermore, AvaTax Integration helps manage taxation matters.
Upgrading to a paid plan adds numerous extras to an already impressive feature set. Depending on which plan you opt for, expect to find up to fifty extra add-ons offering advanced features like membership approval workflows, affiliate program tracking, more customizations, variable pricing, group discounts, etc.
Over 100k active downloads of the free version of Paid Memberships Pro are in operation, and it has a user rating of 4.3/5.0 stars in the WordPress plugin directory.
The core version of Paid Memberships Pro is free, plus there are two paid plans available:
- ‘Standard’ costs $247 per year. That can be used on one website and includes twenty add-ons.
- ‘Plus’ costs $397 per year and covers up to two domains. This plan comes with all fifty add-ons.
The paid plans come with updates and support for one year, plus a 30-day money back guarantee.
WooCommerce Subscriptions is an interesting premium plugin that lets you create and manage physical or virtual products and services with recurring payments, thereby helping ensure consistent income from your eCommerce store.
For example, with WooCommerce Subscriptions, you can create product-of-the-month clubs, sell subscription boxes or annual software licenses, etc. Furthermore, offering free trials, setting expiration periods, or levying sign-up fees is possible.
Being a premium-only plugin, WooCommerce Subscriptions comes with many other great features. These include integration with over 25 payment gateways for automatic collection of recurring payments (although manual ones are also possible,) automatic re-billing if a subscription payment fails, self-service tools for subscribers, and detailed reporting.
You can pair WooCommerce Subscriptions with WooCommerce Memberships for even more functionality and versatility.
Users have rated this plugin 4.4/5.0 in the WooCommerce extensions store.
Please remember that WooCommerce Subscriptions is not a standalone plugin and requires WooCommerce to be running on your WordPress site.
WooCommerce Subscriptions cost $119 per year, including one year of updates and support. Furthermore, a 30-day money back guarantee is provided.
WP-Members is basically a free subscription plugin that provides everything you need to build a membership site using WordPress. I say “basically free” as the only paid extras are support and some optional extensions.
The standard plugin is super-easy to configure and use. It permits you to either hide content or selectively restrict access to it (using shortcodes,) plus the registration and profile fields are customizable. In addition, automatic teaser content helps entice visitors to subscribe, while email notifications inform your administrator of new registrations.
WP-Members also includes two free extensions. The first helps prevent spam registrations, while the other allows you to send test emails. Furthermore, unusually for a free plugin, extensive documentation is provided.
Given the excellent free functionality provided with WP-Members, it is unsurprising that users have rated it 4.7/5.0 stars. Furthermore, the massive 80k active downloads currently in operation show how popular it is.
As already mentioned, WP-Members is free. However, a ‘Support’ plan that adds email support and forum access is available for $59 per year.
Additionally, a range of premium extensions (currently 14) is available to add functionality like Mailchimp or Salesforce integration, download protection, PayPal Subscriptions, etc. Pricing is dependent on the number of domains you have and ranges from $1 to $149.
Alternatively, for $125 per year, you can purchase the ‘Pro Bundle.’ That gives you everything in Support plus ten premium extensions.
What’s Your Favorite WordPress Subscription Plugin?
So, I have shown you the most common features good WordPress subscription plugins usually have, plus I have given you an overview of eight that will help you add subscription functionality to your site. Hopefully, all of that will help you decide on the best plugin for your site.
Do you already offer subscriptions on your website or eCommerce store? If you do, which plugin are you using, and what do you like and dislike most about it? If not, are you planning to create a subscription site in the future?
As always, WPLift values your opinions, comments, and suggestions.