Wondering how you can tie together memberships and WordPress? How to choose the best WordPress membership plugin for your business? There are a lot of solid options out there. We’ll give you a brief overview of general plugins that work with most sites / platforms and how each relates to the checklist that we gave you in our introduction to membership sites. One thing worth noting is that our checklist asks if customers can suspend their subscriptions, and none of the general plugins we researched allow this, so you won’t see it listed below (though check out this comment, which brings up great points about whether this is necessary). A later article will tackle WooCommerce Subscriptions, which does have this functionality if it’s required for you. We’ve also got a spreadsheet that summarizes our comparison for you tl;dr readers at the end.

UPDATE 12/9/13: MemberPress just announced that members can now pause and resume their own memberships, making this the only general solution that provides this functionality.

Worth noting before we discuss each WordPress membership plugin is that you can protect sharing of login credentials with a separate plugin called WP Bouncer, which only allows one user per set of credentials at a given time. While this could still allow non-simultaneous sharing of login information, it takes a step in the right direction that deters sharing membership credentials (read more here) and probably takes care of most issues anyway. For most plugins, you can also change what’s restricted (posts, categories, tags, etc) with some custom code, but we’ll include what comes with the basic plugin.

General WordPress Membership Plugins

Sell with WordPress | WordPress Membership Plugins Paid Memberships ProIf you’ve started your research already, I hope you’ve come across Paid Memberships Pro, as it has become one of the more popular membership plugins (with good reason). First, it’s completely free to use on as many sites as you want (support, documentation, and installation are paid-for services instead).

For those of you that are budget-conscious, PMPro will probably be a very attractive option, and even if you’re not on a budget, the ease in downloading it and trying it out should make it a contender for you. Even if you need to purchase support, pricing is comparable to other options, but it’s very easy to set-up and use. For a plugin that will be integral to your site structure, this is important. Want to see some screenshots instead? Head over to the PMPro website to check them out. There are also some add-ons for services like MailChimp and AWeber you may be interested in. Support, documentation, forum access, and premium content costs $97 for 1 year, or you can get a “do it for me” membership that includes set-up and consultation for $497 (also includes a 1 year membership).

So how does PMPro measure up to our membership checklist?

  1. Content Restriction: Restrict pages, posts, and post categories to support tiered or topic-based membership structures.
  2. Membership Levels: Create an unlimited number of membership levels, each with unique pricing and content restriction rules.
  3. Billing: PMPro schedules recurring billing itself, and includes free trials, sign up fees, multiple billing cycles, and discount codes. It also includes Stripe support.
  4. Upgrade/Downgrade Membership: Not possible at the moment.
  5. Content Dripping: Content dripping is not included. However, you can drip content by downloading the PMP Series add-on via GitHub (get details here). This allows you to create post “series” and set the delay in days between each.
  6. Restrict Logins: You can only achieve this with WP Bouncer (from the same developer).
  7. Ease of Use: PMPro scores high here as it’s one of the easier platforms to use, and is possible to build-on or customize in the future if your needs change. The backend looks like native WordPress and is easy to figure out.

MemberMouse #

Sell with WordPress | WordPress Membership Plugins MemberMouse One of the best all-around platforms for WordPress memberships is MemberMouse. MemberMouse tokenizes customer’s card information to provide for the ability to upgrade/downgrade memberships seamlessly, and allows customers to store payment information in their accounts. One of the really cool features is that it automatically provides for upsells or downsells for customers who want to cancel their memberships in order to maximize revenue.

MemberMouse also provides unique URLs to force add products to the cart for your email / PPC marketing. However, you’re paying more than other plugins to get these features, so you’ll have to evaluate what you need and what your budget allows for. Detailed reporting and analytics are included for their enterprise level plans as well. Pricing starts at $20 per month for up to 1,000 members and increases in tiers up to $60 per month for 10,000 members (enterprise plans are also available). MemberMouse can also be integrated with MailChimp, AWeber, and other services, and is developer-friendly for tweaks or customization.

We have a full review of MemberMouse available, and recommend it for larger membership sites.

How does MemberMouse stack up to the membership checklist?

  1. Content Restriction: Restrict pages, posts, and post categories to support tiered or topic-based membership structures.
  2. Membership Levels: Create an unlimited number of membership levels, each with unique pricing and content restriction rules.
  3. Billing: Billing is flexible, done within the plugin, and allows you to use free trials, sign up fees, different billing cycles, and discount codes. It also includes Stripe support.
  4. Upgrade/Downgrade Membership: Upgrading and downgrading is in the customer’s hands, and upsells/downsells are automatic.
  5. Content Dripping: Content dripping is included and customizable based on membership level.
  6. Restrict Logins: You can limit the number of IP addresses used for a login to prevent sharing of credentials.
  7. Ease of Use: MemberMouse has a lot of support videos and documentation, and is fairly easy to figure out for the average WordPress user.

MemberPress #

Sell with WordPress | WordPress Membership Plugins MemberPress One of the most robust options you can choose as a WordPress membership plugin is MemberPress. Content dripping with MemberPress is well thought-out and executed, and you can add content to “groups” to make upsells easier. MemberPress can also integrate with MailChimp and AWeber, and includes the ability to create custom pricing pages for your membership levels. Fees for upgrades/downgrades can also be prorated, which is really difficult functionality to find (I think WooCommerce Subscriptions is the only other plugin that can do this).

MemberPress also allows for the purchase of multiple memberships if you’re using a topic-oriented approach. Reporting is built-in to the plugin, and customization/tweaks are very possible. Their site has a full tour of features and possibilities. The plugin is $99, which includes a year of support and updates. Renewals for updates and support are $99 each subsequent year if you need them.

  1. Content Restriction: Restrict pages, posts, files, post categories, and tags to support any membership structure.
  2. Membership Levels: Create an unlimited number of membership levels, each with unique pricing and content restriction rules.
  3. Billing: Billing is flexible and done within the plugin, and also supports prorating fees. You can use free trials, sign up fees, different billing cycles, and discount codes. It also includes Stripe support.
  4. Upgrade/Downgrade Membership: Members can upgrade or downgrade themselves, and you can group “products” to provide upgrade paths for members.
  5. Content Dripping: Robust content dripping options are included and customizable based on membership level.
  6. Restrict Logins: You can only achieve this with WP Bouncer.
  7. Ease of Use: MemberPress is well designed, and is possible to build-on or customize in the future if your needs change.

Restrict Content Pro #

Restrict Content Pro is another very extensible and developer-friendly membership solution available. We’ll have some more info on Restrict Content Pro in our article on setting up a membership site with Easy Digital Downloads, but will cover some basic points here. The plugin itself is $42 (includes support), but there are a lot of add-ons available, including one for Stripe at $20 (PayPal is the included gateway). This would be an option for those of you that don’t require content dripping, but want to very easily restrict your pages, posts, and custom post types. Reporting is also useful and built-in to the basic plugin. You can set expiration dates for memberships rather than time periods (non-automatic renewals) to offer more flexibility for members as well.

  1. Content Restriction: Easily restrict pages, posts, and custom post types. UPDATE 4/15/14: Category restriction is now supported.
  2. Membership Levels: Create an unlimited number of membership levels, each with unique pricing and content restriction rules.
  3. Billing: Recurring billing is done within the plugin, and supports free trials, sign up fees, custom billing cycles, and discount codes. It also supports Stripe with an add-on.
  4. Upgrade/Downgrade Membership: Not possible.
  5. Content Dripping: Not possible.
  6. Restrict Logins: You can only achieve this with WP Bouncer.
  7. Ease of Use: Restrict Content Pro is very extensible and easy to use for any WordPress user.

Wishlist Member #

Sell with WordPress | WordPress Membership Plugins Wishlist MemberOne of the oldest more well-known WordPress membership plugins is Wishlist Member. A single site license is $97, which includes a year of updates and support. You can renew your support and upgrades for $47 for each subsequent year if you need them. Wishlist Member integrates with several auto-responders (including MailChimp and AWeber) and payment processors, but doesn’t include full support or add-ons for Stripe, which is a big downside for us. Set up is quick and pretty easy, and Wishlist Member is among the easier platforms to use. However, it loses some points with us since it isn’t particularly extensible or customizable (you can’t view/edit the code), so you won’t be able to do anything outside of what the basic plugin allows. It also has some issues scaling, which are detailed here (which is why it’s banned by Pressable).

  1. Content Restriction: Restrict pages, posts, post categories, and custom post types.
  2. Membership Levels: You can create an unlimited number of membership levels, each with unique pricing and content restriction rules.
  3. Billing: Billing is handled by the plugin, and includes free trials, sign up fees, and different billing cycles.
  4. Upgrade/Downgrade Membership: You can do this for members, but it’s not possible for members to do. Upgrades can be set as a “path” for content dripping.
  5. Content Dripping: Handled a bit awkwardly. You can move members among a membership path (upgrade them for more access), but this won’t stop people from purchasing your highest membership level, downloading all content, and leaving.
  6. Restrict Logins: Can be restricted based on IP address to prevent sharing credentials.
  7. Ease of Use: Wishlist Member is fairly easy to install and pick up, but is not possible to customize or scale up for larger sites.

s2Member Pro #

Sell with WordPress | WordPress Membership Plugins s2MemberAnother WordPress membership plugin that’s been around for some time is s2Member. There’s a free version of s2Member on WordPress.org (s2Member framework), but we’ll take a look at s2Member Pro in order to provide a better comparison (you can check out some comparison of free vs pro on s2Member’s site). S2Member is a one-off purchase at $69, which includes support and upgrades. Support for MailChimp and AWeber is also included, as well as support for PayPal, Authorize.net, and other processors. However, s2Member doesn’t support Stripe, which is our most favoritest payment gateway in the world. It includes some cool features, like limiting logins to a certain number of IP addresses, but isn’t quite as easy as some other plugins to use. However, you can build on top of the base plugin to customize it if needed.

  1. Content Restriction: Restrict access to anything: pages, posts, categories or tags, custom post types, and files.
  2. Membership Levels: You can create an unlimited number of membership levels, each with unique pricing and content restriction rules.
  3. Billing: Recurring billing with support for free trials, sign up fees, discounts, and custom billing cycles is handled by the plugin itself.
  4. Upgrade/Downgrade Membership: Members can upgrade and cancel themselves.
  5. Content Dripping: Content dripping is included and customizable based on membership level, but takes some setup.
  6. Restrict Logins: Can be restricted based on IP address to prevent sharing credentials.
  7. Ease of Use: s2Member will probably take a little bit longer to learn and set up, but is extensible / customizable.

Magic Members #

Sell with WordPress | WordPress Membership Plugins Magic MembersAnother easy-to-use WordPress membership plugin is Magic Members. Content dripping is really well done, and integrations with MailChimp and AWeber are included. If you take a look at the article list below, you’ll see that it has some major fans for the ease of use and content dripping. The purchase price is $97 and includes one year of support and updates. Several payment integrations are included, but Magic Members doesn’t support Stripe. It’s got a clean, easy-to-use UI, but the admin is entirely different from the standard WordPress backend (not good/bad, just different). However, extensibility may be an issue if you’re looking to customize the plugin.

  1. Content Restriction: Restrict access to pages, posts, post categories, custom post types, and files.
  2. Membership Levels: Create an unlimited number of membership levels, each with unique pricing and content restriction rules.
  3. Billing: Billing is done within the plugin, and includes free trials, sign up fees, and discounts.
  4. Upgrade/Downgrade Membership: Not included.
  5. Content Dripping: Very easy and can be set based on post, including different delays for different membership levels.
  6. Restrict Logins: You can only achieve this with WP Bouncer.
  7. Ease of Use: The UI is different than the WordPress backend, but easy to figure out. However, extensibility isn’t great at the moment.

# If you want the selection process simplified, I’d check out this article on choosing a membership plugin for WordPress. Keep in mind that these are suggestions from Chris Lema based on his experiences with using each plugin, but I think the recommendations are pretty solid and it’s definitely a great starting point for your search. There’s a full version of the flowchart in the article here. I also have a comparison spreadsheet below that compiles the info from this article for you visual people 😉 (let me know if you spot something in need of update please!).

Disclosure: I haven’t used all of these plugins myself, so in some cases I’m working from talking to other users or other reviews. The most important thing is for you to try out a plugin that seems like it fits your needs and test it before building out the entire site!

Check These Articles Out #

Instead of going through each of these plugins in more detail, I’ll leave you with that summary, and encourage you to check out the articles below instead. I don’t think I need to reinvent the wheel for this one, as many of the posts below cover these solutions better and in more detail than I could. Instead of restating what they’ve said, the former high school teacher in me would rather send you to the original source :). That way I’m not paraphrasing like a book report and these authors get the credit they deserve for writing some quality content.

You’re likely to find information on general membership solutions for WordPress from some people far more knowledgeable than I out there on the interwebs in addition to what I’ve collected here, so if you do, please send it over or post it in a comment so that we can add to this list of resources! Your contributions would be much appreciated!

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Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.

7 Comments

  1. have you checked premise plugin from copyblogger? getpremise.com

    1. Will look into it. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Really great article. It shows the main topics that people look for, on the surface, that will allow them to succeed with a membership site.

    The issue I see here is that it is infact on the surface. Once one gets into may of these other programs, they find that they are stuck in a program they aren’t able to work well with. Code is messy, options are few, and it leads to a lot of frustration on the part of the members, and decreased value in their eyes.

    I originally had Wishlist Member. I warn you- avoid this plugin at all costs. It does NOT do a great job of all these things, and really binds you to some terrible processes that will just mean support headaches for your company.

    I now use MemberMouse. Never been happier.

    1. Thanks Chris! Agreed that being stuck is a big problem, as migrations can be tricky and time-consuming. Good advice – testing if possible is always the best route. Spending some money on a plugin you won’t use is better than being stuck with something that doesn’t work for you.

  3. Hey, take a look at: https://github.com/juanvillegas/s2-stripe
    Its a connector I made that easily integrates Stripe payments into S2 member. I made this for a client, and then port it to a plugin. I cant understand why hasnt anyone do it before!

    Cheers!

    1. Wow very cool, thanks for sharing! That was one of the reasons I usually eliminate S2Member since Stripe is a must for me – great to see this 🙂

  4. Hi Beka Rice
    Thanks for Sharing Nice Articles . It shows the main topics that people look for, on the surface, that will allow them to succeed with a membership site.

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