How to Set Up Recurring Payments on a WooCommerce Website: The Complete Guide

If you’re in the process of starting an online subscription business, one of the first things you need to do is to set up an automated recurring payment system. This is one of the most effective ways to minimize your churn rate, i.e. losing subscribers due to cancelations or failure to renew their subscriptions.

Getting customers to go through the payment process manually every time their subscription ends requires additional effort on their part and gives them a chance to reconsider the renewal decision. An automated system, on the other hand, takes care of the billing process for your customers and ensures uninterrupted service while effectively increasing your customer retention rates.

This article provides a complete guide on setting up recurring payments for your WooCommerce website using the Stripe payment gateway.

WooCommerce Recurring Payments with Stripe

While WooCommerce Subscriptions offers over 25 payment gateways for automatic recurring payments, we find Stripe to be one of the most user-friendly payment gateways for online transactions. Unlike PayPal, for example, Stripe enables secure processing of transactions without having to leave your site.

Stripe also allows you to accept recurring payments for subscriptions on multiple sites while PayPal doesn’t have that option. There’s also a rather complicated process involved in setting up PayPal for subscription renewals, which requires a separate application to PayPal for approval.

If, like us, you prefer a simple solution you can set up easily on your own and get your business up and running in no time, keep reading!

How to Set Up Stripe Recurring Payments for Your WooCommerce Subscription Business

1. Install & Activate Stripe

  • Download the Stripe payment gateway plugin from WooCommerce.
    • Go to Plugins > Add New on your WordPress dashboard.
    • Type “WooCommerce Stripe Payment Gateway” in the search box.
    • Look for the Stripe plugin that’s developed by WooCommerce—there will be others that are not by WooCommerce, so make sure you choose the right one.
  • Install the Stripe payment gateway plugin.
    • Click the “Install Now” button next to the WooCommerce Stripe plugin.
  • Activate the plugin.
    • Once the plugin is installed, the Install Now button will change to “Activate”. Click the “Activate” button when it appears.

2. Set Up Your Stripe Payment Gateway

  1. Go to WooCommerce > Settings > Payments.
  2. Click on “Set up” for Stripe.
Image 1. Stripe payment method
  1. Click on “Enter account keys (advanced)” [image 2].

Account keys enable Stripe users to conduct live and test transactions on their site using “live keys” and “test keys”.

Image 2. Stripe Advanced settings

You will come to the following screen [image 3] where you will need to enter the following keys from Stripe:

Live tab – for live transactions

  • Live Publishable Key
  • Live Secret Key
  • Webhook Secret

Test tab – for test transactions

  • Test Publishable Key
  • Test Secret Key
  • Test Webhook Secret
Image 3. Live keys
  1. For Live Transactions
  • Log into your Stripe account.
  • Go to Developers > API Keys [image 4].
  • Copy Publishable Key and Secret Key & paste them into the WooCommerce Stripe settings [image 3].
Image 4. Stripe account API keys
  • Go to Webhooks > Add an endpoint [image 5]. Webhooks allow Stripe to communicate with your WooCommerce store.
Image 5. Stripe account – webhooks
  • Go to WooCommerce Stripe settings > Live > endpoint URL [image 3], copy the endpoint URL, and paste it into the Stripe Endpoint URL [image 6]. Click “Add endpoint”.
Image 6. Stripe account – Add endpoint
  • Once the webhooks have been created in Stripe, you can copy the Webhook Secret and paste it into your WooCommerce Stripe settings [image 3]. Click Save live keys.
  1. For Test Transactions
  • Log into your Stripe account.
  • Toggle on Test mode [image 7].
Image 7. Stripe Account – Test mode toggle
  • Go to Developers > API Keys.
  • Copy Test Publishable Key and Test Secret Key & paste them into the WooCommerce Stripe settings [image 8].
  • Go to Webhooks > Add an endpoint.
    • Go to WooCommerce Stripe settings > Test > endpoint URL [image 8], copy the endpoint URL, and paste it into the Stripe Endpoint URL. Click “Add endpoint”.
    • Once the test webhooks have been created in Stripe, you can copy the Test Webhook Secret and paste it into your WooCommerce Stripe settings [image 8].
  • Click Save test keys.
Image 8. Test Keys

Do a few test transactions to make sure there aren’t any conflicts with other plugins or set-up issues lurking in the background. Once you are happy that Stripe is working properly, remember to turn off Test mode in your Stripe account so you can start to accept live payments.

Now that your Stripe payment gateway is good to go, let’s take a look at creating a simple subscription product in your WooCommerce store so you can get your subscription business up and running!

Creating a Simple Subscription Product

1. Define Product Details & Subscription Terms

If you’re familiar with creating regular products on WooCommerce, the process is similar for creating simple subscription products.

Here’s a quick video demonstration by WooCommerce on creating a simple subscription product:

For those who prefer text instructions, the following is a step-by-step guide for creating a simple subscription product on WooCommerce:

  1. Go to WooCommerce > Products > Add Product.
  2. Select Simple Subscription as the product type.
  3. Fill in the relevant subscription terms such as price, billing frequency and period, sign-up fee, and trial period (if applicable).
  4. Enter the product details and attributes.
Image 9. Simple Subscription

2. Choose Your Renewals Payment Frequency

With WooCommerce Subscriptions, you have the option to charge renewals daily, weekly, monthly or annually, as well as the flexibility to set the subscription frequency at every 1 to 6 months.

Example:

  • Fortnightly subscriptions: set the subscription price to every 2nd week.
  • Quarterly subscriptions: set the subscription price to every 3rd month.
Image 10. Subscription frequency

3. Determine Your Subscription Period

For fixed period subscriptions, e.g. a one-year subscription for a digital magazine, you would set the end date for the subscription as “12 months” in the “Expire after” field. You can also choose to have the subscription auto-renew for the foreseeable future, in which case you would choose “Never expire” in the “Expire after” field.

Image 11. Subscription period

4. Free Trial Periods & Sign-Up Fees

Free Trial Periods

This is a great way to offer an added incentive for new subscribers to sign up. Say you decide to add a free 1-month trial to your 12-month digital magazine subscription. This means that the subscription will expire after 13 months instead of the usual 12.

Sign-Up Fees

Some subscription products might incur a one-time setup or administration cost, which you can charge as a sign-up fee. It will only be billed once in addition to the first month’s subscription payment. However, it’s important to note that the payment process differs slightly if there’s also a free trial period included.

Payments for Subscriptions with/without Free Trial Periods and/or Sign-Up Fees

Scenario 1: Subscriptions with a Sign-Up Fee But No Free Trial Period.
In this scenario, the customer will be charged the total amount of the sign-up fee and subscription price for the first payment.

Scenario 2: Subscriptions with a Sign-Up Fee and Free Trial Period.
For example, by including both a sign-up fee and a 1-month free trial, the customer will only have to pay the sign-up fee when they activate the subscription. They will only be billed the first month’s subscription at the end of the 1-month free trial period.

Scenario 3: Subscriptions with No Sign-Up Fee But with a Free Trial Period.
Finally, for subscriptions that include a free trial period without a sign-up fee, the customer will only be billed their first month’s subscription at the end of the free trial period.

For information on creating variable subscription products, check out our Complete Guide on Creating WooCommerce Subscription Products.

Offer Great Subscription Experiences that Wow and Delight!

The key to growing your customer base, and more importantly, keeping your subscribers happy and loyal, lies in providing personalized subscription experiences. In the past, that would have involved a lot of manual research, planning, and implementation, which isn’t always feasible for small business owners.

But thanks to the brilliant innovations of modern tech, we now have an automated solution in the form of feature-rich subscription plugins. With the right WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin, you can now offer your customers far greater flexibility, convenience, and control of their subscription experience.

Subscription Force is currently the only full-featured extension to the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin that increases your recurring revenue exponentially and efficiently by keeping your customers happy and active.

With an ever-growing collection of features in a single extension, Subscription Force optimizes your Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) with thoughtfully designed self-service personalization features. This ensures that your subscribers remain active longer, maximizing your recurring revenue.

Our most popular features include the following:

  • Add new products to active subscriptions
  • Switch product variations
  • Change product quantities
  • Pause subscription until specific dates​
  • Subscribe and save on your first order​
  • Change subscription frequency
  • Delay next shipping
  • Buy once or subscribe​
  • Add products to your next shipping​
  • Create your own mix & match subscription boxes
  • Predefined bundle subscriptions​
  • Subscription cancelation reason​

There are a number of subscription plugins in the market, but Subscription Force is currently the only full-featured WooCommerce Subscriptions extension that provides all the features you need (and more!).

Ready to take your WooCommerce subscription business to the next level? Start by exploring our plans today!

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