In recent years, many business owners have started to switch from one-time payments to a model of recurring payments in the form of subscriptions. This option has become popular for both businesses and customers. For businesses, it helps to ensure that income is consistent and predictable while also reducing customer turnover. For customers, it eliminates the need to make repeated payments and simplifies the billing process in a convenient manner.
Whether you’re searching for the best free invoice and billing software to manage your subscription business or in need of a more comprehensive platform to manage your subscription billing, there are plenty of great recurring payment services available that will ensure your customers experience a seamless and smooth payment experience. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll review the five best recurring payment services of 2023 and provide you with the insight you need to make the right choice for your business.
Our Top Picks for Best Recurring Payment Services
- Maxio: Best for B2B
- Zoho: Best free option
- Chargebee: Best for startups
- Recurly: Best for high sales volume
- Freshbooks: Most affordable
- Intuitive interface
- Integration with popular third-party solutions like Xero, QuickBooks, HubSpot, NetSuite and Salesforce
- Robust API for custom integrations and workflows
- Realtime analytics
- No free trial
- Extensive features can be overwhelming
Why we chose it: Self-described as a financial operations business for companies selling software to other businesses, Maxio's smooth integrations with popular third-party solutions, intuitive user interface, advanced customizability and robust analytics make it an excellent choice for B2B businesses.
When Chargify merged with subscription billing company SaaSOptics, the new operation was named Maxio. Together, these two platforms have created one of the most comprehensive and powerful recurring payment services on the market for B2B businesses. From Salesforce and Xero to QuickBooks and HubSpot, Maxio features native integrations with several popular applications and business tools. It also features third-party integrations with other well-known tools, including Gmail, AWS, Mailchimp, Slack and Zendesk.
Users can easily set up payment plans and subscription models, customize invoices with their own branding, automate payments and get real-time insights into their financial data. If you're in need of a more complex and customized recurring payment solution, Maxio offers a robust and intuitive application programming interface (API) that allows you to integrate the software with other apps and services. If you'd rather skip the code writing and utilize a third-party platform that helps with integration like Zapier, Maxio's webhooks (a type of notification with linked information sent whenever a certain event occurs in the software) allow you to connect with thousands of third-party services.
Maxio offers three pricing tiers:
- Essentials: Provides service up to $1 million in annual billings
- Growth: Adds in advanced billing and collections modules
- Scale: Provides advanced expenses and revenue features
The Essentials plan costs $599 per month, while no online pricing is provided for the Growth and Scale plans. Customers interested in these two plans should contact the sales team for a demo and quote.
Maxio unsurprisingly lacks a free trial. This service and software are likely best suited for medium to large businesses that need a robust and customizable solution. On the plus side, interested users do have the option to book a demo and get more information about all the features Maxio has to offer.
|Salesforce, Xero, QuickBooks, HubSpot
|Stripe, credit cards, PayPal, Square, ACH
- Offers a "free forever" option for up to 20 subscriptions
- Integrates with a variety of third-party applications
- Flexible pricing for growing organizations
- Integrations are not always smooth
- User interface can be confusing
Why we chose it: If you're part of a small business just getting started and aren't ready to invest in a subscription management solution, Zoho's free plan could be a great fit.
Zoho Subscriptions is a comprehensive subscription management platform that makes it easy to create and manage recurring payment plans. The cloud-based solution integrates with several payment gateways such as Stripe, PayPal, and Zoho’s own payment gateway as well as several third-party applications like WordPress, Wix, Slack, Zendesk and Google Workspace. All of these integrations allow you to quickly set up a relatively robust and automated subscription billing system that's connected to your existing applications and services.
Zoho's generous free plan provides one user and up to 20 customer subscriptions. The free plan also offers access to a decent selection of basic features, including hosted payment pages, multi-currency support, Stripe integration, offline payments, subscription metrics and email support five days a week. In addition to its free plan, Zoho Subscriptions offers three other pricing tiers:
- Basic: $59/month ($49 if billed annually)
Includes up to 500 customers and additional features such as dunning (payment retry and reminders for failed payments), API access and multiple payment gateways.
- Standard: $119/month ($99 if billed annually)
Includes up to 2,000 customers as well as domain branding, custom buttons and the ability to embed custom applications in your ZohoSubscription dashboard.
- Professional: $299/month ($249 if billed annually)
Includes up to 5,000 customers along with Twilio integration, custom task scheduling and live chat support.
This pricing structure makes Zoho Subscriptions a great fit for small businesses that want the ability to scale up as needed. The free plan is also a great way for users to test out the service and see if it meets their needs before investing. As for the drawbacks, users have found that some of the software's integrations do not always work smoothly and that the user interface can be a bit confusing.
|Ranges from free to $299
|WordPress, Slack, Zendesk, Twilio, Microsoft 365, Wix, Google Workspace
|Stripe, credit cards, WePay, Forte, PayPal, Square, ACH
- Free option up to the first $250,000 in cumulative billing
- Supports 100+ currencies
- Intuitive user interface
- Paid plans start at $599/month
- Customer reports of some integrations not working properly
Why we chose it: Chargebee is a great choice for fresh startups that want a free option for the first few hundred thousand dollars in cumulative billing, but also want the ability to get established on a robust subscription management platform without having to make a messy switch down the road.
Established in 2011, Chargebee is a cloud-based subscription management platform designed to help startups and B2B SaaS companies manage their recurring billing and customer payments. It supports over 100 different currencies and a wealth of payment methods, including Stripe, PayPal, Braintree and more. It also has an intuitive user interface that makes it easy to set up and manage plans, subscriptions, invoices, customers and more.
One of Chargebee's key features is its free plan. Unlike Zoho's free plan, which provides a set number of forever free subscriptions, Chargebee's free plan allows for a cumulative billing of up to $250,000 before the user must begin paying. Once the cumulative billing limit is reached, an overage charge of 0.75% per invoice applies. The free plan offers basic features such as a custom domain, multi-language support, support for multiple tax regions, dunning for both offline and online payments and tax reports.
Chargebee's paid options start at $599 per month for the Performance plan. This plan allows for up to $100,000 per month in cumulative billing (which also features the 0.75% overage charge for amounts over the limit) as well as additional features such as support for multiple payment methods per customer, chargeback automation, priority phone support and user role management. If you need a solution with a significantly higher monthly billing limit or customized features, Chargebee also offers the Enterprise plan with pricing available upon request.
The starting price for the paid plans may be prohibitive for some types of businesses that don't expect to be able to scale beyond a certain point. There have also been a few customer reports of some integrations not working properly.
|Free plan available; paid plans start at $599
|Quickbooks, Salesforce, NetSuite, HubSpot, Mailchimp, Zoho CRM, Slack, Zero, Freshdesk, Zendesk
|Stripe, credit cards, Braintree, BlueSnap, Amazon Pay, Checkout.com, GoCardless, ACH
- Advanced machine learning-powered tools meant to maximize profit and reduce customer turnover
- Offers 12-month version of Core plan for self-service users without a monthly fee
- Used by huge brands such as Paramount, Starz and Twitch
- Pricing for plans is not clear
- Complex platform takes time to learn
Why we chose it: Recurly is our top pick for companies that need a robust solution with advanced features and the ability to cater to huge monthly revenues. Recurly’s website says it is trusted by well-known companies such as Sling, Twitch, Alexa, Starz and Paramount.
Recurly allows users to set up a variety of plans and subscriptions, which can be tailored to fit the needs of their customers. This includes usage-based pricing, quantity-based pricing, one-time charges, subscription upgrades and downgrades and more. The platform accepts payments from all of the major onramps and gateways, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, ACH and credit cards.
The company has three plans: Core, Professional and Elite. The Core plan offers a promotional 12-month introductory period with no platform fee and no charge for the first $40,000 in cumulative revenue. After that, revenue is subject to a platform fee of 0.90% along with a $249/month platform fee. The Professional plan supports revenues of up to $25 million and the Elite plan is for companies above that. Customers interested in the Professional or Elite plans will need to contact the company for pricing details.
All of these plans come with advanced machine learning-driven dunning tools that maximize retention and minimize churn, as well as analytics, reporting capabilities and access to Recurly’s support team. As you would expect with a platform of this scale and sophistication, there are a huge number of features and settings that can be customized, which could be overwhelming for some users.
|Free to $249 and up
|Salesforce, HubSpot, QuickBooks, Mailchimp, Xero, Zendesk
|Stripe, Braintree, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Authorize.net, Check Commerce, GoCardless, PayPal, ACH
- Cheapest plan with recurring billing starts at just $30/month ($15 for the first six months)
- Free 30-day trial
- Unlimited invoicing included with all plans
- Allows convenient electronic signatures for estimates and proposals
- Recurring payments not available with cheapest plan
- Extra fees for additional users
Why we chose it: If you're looking for one of the most affordable subscription management platforms on the market, Freshbooks takes the top spot.
Freshbooks is a cloud-based accounting software that includes recurring billing features for subscription management. It is designed to help freelancers and small company owners manage their business finances with ease. It's one of the most popular platforms on the market and allows users to create invoices, manage projects, track time and more.
There are three plans available: Lite, Plus and Premium. The Lite plan doesn't offer the ability to set up recurring payments, so users looking to manage a subscription business should opt for the Plus or Premium plans. The Lite option does allow users to manage up to five billable clients, track unlimited expenses, send unlimited estimates, get paid with credit cards and bank transfers and track sales tax.
The Plus plan costs $30 per month ($15 per month for the first six months) and allows users to manage up to 50 billable clients, run business health reports, generate double-entry accounting reports, utilize mobile mileage tracking and invite your accountant to view your books.
The Premium plan costs $55 per month ($27.50 for the first six months) and allows users to manage an unlimited number of billable clients as well as the ability to track various accounts payable, track project profitability and customize email templates.
Freshbooks also offers Premium and Plus users the ability to send estimates and project proposals that can be electronically signed. This feature can be especially helpful for businesses that are dealing with a lot of back-and-forth approvals from clients. Note that each plan is charged $11 per additional user (beyond the first).
|$30 to $55
|Zapier, FreshCurrencies, Mailform, HubSpot
|Credit cards, Apple Pay, FreshBooks Payments, Stripe, PayPal, ACH
Other Companies We Considered
- Offers free trial
- Trusted by high-revenue companies such as Ford, Cannon and General Motors
- Highly customizable solutions
- Pricing is not transparent
- Complex interface and setup
Zuora is a cloud-based platform designed to help businesses manage subscription billing. It has been used by large companies such as Microsoft, Caterpillar, Ford, Cannon and General Motors to manage their subscription billing needs, and it offers an impressive array of features.
Why it didn't make the cut: When compared with our other high-revenue option, Recurly, Zuora has a lack of transparency in pricing. The setup and interface are also complex, making it a difficult choice for non-technical users.
- Smooth integration with popular software such as QuickBooks, Google Workspace, Slack and Salesforce
- API and webhooks help create automations and custom third-party integrations
- No annual contracts or commitments required
- Paid plans only include up to 200 customers before custom pricing is required
- Offers limited dunning options
ChargeOver is a subscription billing and invoicing platform that is meant to seamlessly integrate with QuickBooks and make it easy to manage subscription payments for small- to medium-sized businesses. It has a clean interface and offers invoices, payment tracking, basic customer management and several third-party integrations with popular software such as Google Workspace, Slack and Salesforce.
Why it didn't make the cut: The main downside is that ChargOver’s two main plans, Starter for $115 per month and Growth for $229 per month, only allow for 100 and 200 active customers, respectively. It also only offers three dunning (payment reminder and payment retry) options, which are limited in comparison to other subscription billing solutions on the market.
- Affordable and transparent pricing
- Integrates with popular third-party apps
- No monthly fees
- Doesn't offer more advanced features for customer management
- Requires technical skills to set up and maintain recurring billing
Stripe is one of the world's largest payment processors and is the go-to choice for many businesses looking to process payments. It allows businesses to accept payments from major credit cards and bank accounts, with a transparent 2.9% + $0.30 fee per transaction.
Why it didn't make the cut: Unlike other subscription billing solutions on our list, Stripe is not tailored for advanced customer management and requires some technical know-how to set up recurring billing. This makes it best suited for businesses looking for a straightforward payment processing solution with little hand-holding.
Recurring Payment Services Guide
Just as when you're researching the best business checking accounts or the best online store builders, there's a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the right recurring payment service for your business. The next sections outline some of the most important considerations to keep in mind when comparing services and searching for the perfect solution.
Main things to know before choosing recurring payment services
From understanding pricing models to getting a clear picture of the features offered by your top contenders, here are some of the main things to consider when choosing a recurring payment service:
- Features: Every recurring payment service has different features and capabilities, from basic invoicing to advanced analytics and reporting. Consider what you need before choosing a service. For example, some businesses will need to send out automated payment reminders, while others need more advanced billing features such as the ability to accept online payments in multiple currencies.
- Security: Data security and user safety are of paramount importance. Make sure to research the security measures in place and verify that any potential service meets your company's security and privacy requirements.
- Pricing: It's key to understand the pricing model before signing up for a service. Some services simply charge a flat fee per month, while others charge a percentage of cumulative billing. In services where a certain amount of monthly revenue is included as part of the platform cost, overage charges and fees may be applied for transaction totals above the specified limit.
- Integration: If you already have existing systems that are crucial for your business operations, make sure that the recurring payment service you choose is able to integrate with them. This will help save time and eliminate the need for manual data entry and customized programming.
- Support: Most services offer customer support, but the quality can vary significantly from one provider to another. Research how quickly the support staff responds to inquiries and if they provide assistance via email, phone or online chat.
- Scalability: Lastly, investigate the scalability of the system. Will it be able to accommodate your company's growth? Can you upgrade or downgrade plans easily as needed?
What is the average cost of recurring payment services?
The average cost of recurring payment services can vary greatly depending on the features offered, the provider you choose and the volume of revenue or transactions you'll be processing. Most services offer a variety of plans at different price points, so it's important to look into the details before deciding which to go with. Generally speaking, small businesses can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $100 per month for a plan that includes basic invoicing, payment processing and reporting. Plans with more advanced features such as customer segmentation and analytics will usually cost a bit more, while larger companies will need to pay more due to the higher volume of transactions.
How do recurring payment services work?
Recurring payment services work by automatically processing customer payments at a frequency you specify, usually monthly or annually. The service may also offer more advanced billing types such as quantity-based subscription plans or usage-based billing. Customers typically sign up for the services using a credit card or other payment method, and the recurring payment service handles the rest.
Depending on the service, you may also be able to set up automatic payment reminders and receive notifications when payments are received or when there is an issue with a customer's payment. Additionally, most services offer some level of reporting and analytics to help track payments over time.
What are the types of recurring payments?
The types of recurring payments available will vary depending on the service you use, but common options include:
- Monthly subscription fees: Customers pay a fixed amount on a regular basis for ongoing access to services or products.
- Usage-based billing: Customers are charged based on usage (e.g., data or minutes used) over a specified time period.
- Quantity-based subscription plans: Customers pay for access to products or services for a specific period of time, usually based on volume.
- Installment plans: Customers can pay for a product or service in multiple installments over time.
- Milestone payments: Customers can pay for a product or service in intervals based on defined milestones. For example, a customer may pay one-third of a project's cost upfront, another third halfway through and the final third when the project is completed.
Recurring Payment Services FAQs
How can I cancel a recurring payment?
How can I set up a recurring payment?
Is it worth having a recurring payment service?
How to use recurring payments for automated billing
How We Found the Best Recurring Payment Services
When evaluating the best recurring payment services on the market, we looked at a wide range of criteria, such as ease of use, features and pricing. The following are the primary criteria we used to evaluate each service:
- Ease of use: We looked for services that are intuitive and easy to understand. This includes services that have a simple setup process, clear navigation and helpful customer support.
- Features: We looked for services that offer comprehensive features that can help make billing and collecting payments easier. Examples include automatic payment reminders and advanced analytics.
- Pricing: As with any other service, pricing is an important factor to consider. We looked for services that offer competitive pricing but also provide a good value for the features offered.
- Integrations: We looked for services that have the ability to integrate with other systems, such as accounting software, CRM tools, e-commerce platforms and various payment gateways. This helps ensure that all of your data is in one place for easy access and reporting.
- Security: We looked for services that provide the highest levels of security to protect customers’ data and payment information.