Six of the Best WordPress Membership Plugins for You

The number of available membership plugins has increased dramatically over recent years. If you are launching a membership website, this is great news since you have more options available. But making the right choice can be an overwhelming process. To make things a little easier for you, I’ve put together a list of some of the best WordPress membership plugins currently available

With so many membership plugins on the market, it becomes challenging to figure out which one is most capable of meeting your needs. To help with this process, we are going to take a look at some of the more important features and line each plugin up against a standard set of criteria.

No two businesses and no two plugins are alike. People ask “what’s the best theme for my website?” or “what’s the best plugin to accomplish XYZ?”

There’s no correct answer, unfortunately. It’s like asking which car is the best one to buy. The answer will vary depending on your needs and the situation with membership plugins is no different. The best thing you can do is start by writing out a list of your criteria. List the must-have and the nice-to-have items and then, get comparing.

We’re going to include the cost in our review simply as a point of reference. But don’t let cost be a determining factor. The least expensive plugin is useless if it doesn’t work with your desired payment processor or offer the functionality you require. For that matter so is the most expensive one.

Below is a list of the most common features that are included across a broad sample of WordPress membership plugins. These are also the features you’re most likely to require. Not every one of these features is included with each plugin so make sure you understand which ones are important to your business before you get started. Picking the right plugin is always a question of balance.

When you first launch your membership site you might only have 2-3 membership levels in mind. There’s a good chance that a few years down the road you’ll want to expand the types and number of memberships you’re offering. Make sure you think long term.

Protecting content is at the core of membership plugins. A subcategory of this is the ability to offer content on a pay-per-view basis which allows you to sell a specific piece of content. Some membership plugins allow for protecting pages and posts while other will also protect video, either natively or through the use of a secondary plugin.

If you’re providing downloadable content to your members, you want to make sure it stays out of the hands of non-members. Most, but not all plugins allow you to restrict downloadable content, buts it’s a feature that is worth checking for if this is something you plan to provide.

Much like how an email autoresponder works, content drip allows you to deliver your content slowly over time. If you have a lot of content on your site or are providing material in a course format, dripping content to your members will make it easier to digest. Members might also have a higher lifetime value if they can’t access everything you have to offer from day one, which is always nice.

Offering an affiliate program makes new member acquisition easier. Instead of relying on just yourself to attract new members, you can get help from a network of affiliates. This is a popular feature that is not available with all plugins. However, there are third-party plugins out there which will take care of this functionality for you.

If you plan on charging for access to your membership site or to download specific content, this is a very important consideration. Not just access to “any” payment gateway, but access to the payment gateways you need to run your business. While some options like PayPal are almost standard, other payment gateways can be country specific. Make sure you perform adequate research before making a decision.

There are times when premium support comes in handy – especially during the set-up phase. As you’re learning to use your new membership software, having access to premium support will make your life easier.

Beyond selling memberships, if you plan to offer courses, eBooks or physical products for sale, pay close attention to which eCommerce features are important to you. Some membership plugins are restricted to digital products only while others allow for physical products.

Now that we’ve covered the most important features you should be looking for in a membership plugin, it’s time to investigate the different options available for adding this type of functionality to your WordPress website.

Restrict Content Pro

Restrict Content Pro by Pippins Plugins was initially released in early 2013. Keeping things simple, this plugin provides everything you need and nothing you don’t. With the ability to create unlimited membership packages as well as restrict access to posts and pages, or just a portion of them. By making use of post excerpts, you are able to keep a portion of the content visible for everyone, including search engines.

Additional features include discount and promotional codes, member management, full reporting and more. RCP allows you to create a custom membership pricing page including feature tables.  In case you have a specific payment gateway that you’d like to use, there is also significant developer documentation available.

Price: $42
Unlimited Membership Levels: YES
Content Protection: YES
Restrict Downloads: NO
Content Drip: NO
Affiliate Program: NO
# of Payment Gateways: 3
Premium Support: YES
eCommerce Features: NO – but integrates with WooCommerce

MemberPress

MemberPress is a straightforward membership plugin that focuses on ease of use. Almost air-tight integration with WordPress means that the MemberPress experience is pretty seamless when it comes to administrating your website. You’ll be able to manage both memberships and digital products with this plugin. Restricted content can include pages, posts, categories, tags, files and videos (using the MemberPress AWS add-on).

Creating attractive membership pricing pages is a snap and several pricing page templates are included right out of the box. Once someone becomes a member they’ll have the ability to update, upgrade or cancel their subscription. Member payments and their appropriate access levels are all fully managed by the plugin, with no input required you.

A fairly new feature of MemberPress is the ability to send out reminders on various triggers. These automated reminder triggers can include payment card expiry, approaching membership renewal dates, and other events that might cause a member to involuntary leave your program.

Price: $99/$199 developer
Unlimited Membership Levels: YES
Content Protection: YES
Restrict Downloads: YES
Content Drip: YES
Affiliate Program: YES
# of Payment Gateways: 3
Premium Support: 12 Months
eCommerce Features: NO

WooCommerce Memberships

People were waiting a long time for this WooCommerce extension to arrive. When it was finally shipped last June, the general consensus was that it was well worth the wait.

WooCommerce Memberships allows you to create multiple membership tiers, either paid or free. Members are also given the control they deserve over their memberships with this extension – providing the ability to upgrade, downgrade, pause or cancel their memberships.

But wait, it gets even better. You can also offer trial, complimentary and discounted memberships. Or, if you’re using WooCommerce to sell products, you can include a membership as part of a physical product purchase. On the flip-side, you can offer discounted products for people who are members, similar to a buying club.

With the ability to tie into WooCommerce Subscriptions, you can also have complete control of customizing membership subscriptions. Of course, all the other features you’d expect are there as well including multiple memberships, drip content, restricted content, and products, as well as plenty of payment gateways to choose from.

Price: $149 / single site license
Unlimited Membership Levels: YES
Content Protection: YES
Restrict Downloads: YES
Content Drip: YES
Affiliate Program: YES (Affiliates Pro extension)
# of Payment Gateways: MANY
Premium Support: YES
eCommerce Features: YES

MemberWing

MemberWing-X offers plenty of features and a free evaluation version of their software. MemberWing-X features what they call a “3 minutes to fast-start membership site” which translates to being able to get your membership site up and running pretty darn quick. This is a big positive if you’re not technically inclined.

Selling access to specific content or using a combination of fixed and subscription access are both possible. SEO is another area where this particular plugin performs well including the ability to provide teasers which can be indexed by search engines.

MemberWing-X also has lots of great features like content drip, unlimited membership levels and the ability to sell digital products. However, it’s missing a few features that you might consider important, such as Stripe integration and the ability to email members prior to expiration (a feature requested in their forums). Although MemberWing-X offers decent payment gateway support, several of the gateways require that you use e-junkie.com.

Price: $89 / $129 / $199
Unlimited Membership Levels: YES
Content Protection: YES
Restrict Downloads: YES
Content Drip: YES
Affiliate Program: YES
# of Payment Gateways: 6
Premium Support: 12 months
eCommerce Features: YES

MemberMouse

MemberMouse is a little different than the other plugins discussed today in that it’s not a plugin requiring a one-time purchase. Instead, MemberMouse operates as a SaaS model with a recurring monthly payment. The starter plan begins at $19.95 and has 3 price tiers. Alternatively, you can go straight to the Advanced plan at $99/month.

Using the SaaS model means MemberMouse is more expensive than some of the other Membership plugins. But it also comes with a ton of features that make it very appealing as well as support and documentation that consists of 200+ articles and over 60 videos.

Features like drip content, the ability to upsell and down sell memberships, trial memberships, and coupons are all included. International currencies are available and international tax support is on the way soon.

Price: $19.95/month / $99/month / $299/month
Unlimited Membership Levels: YES
Content Protection: YES
Restrict Downloads: YES
Content Drip: YES
Affiliate Program: YES
# of Payment Gateways: 8
Premium Support: YES
eCommerce Features: YES

iThemes Exchange Membership Add-on

iThemes Exchange by itself is a simple eCommerce plugin that’s extensible. While the base plugin is free, the membership add-on costs $97. What represents an even better value though is the ProPack which includes the following additional features

iThemes Exchange is a lightweight plugin as well, only requiring you to use the add-ons that are important to your business. Outside of the ProPack, add-ons are priced between $9-$97 which makes adding the required features affordable. You’ll also find some add-ons listed on CodeCanyon and in the WordPress plugin repository as well.

IThemes offers a super easy to use interface for drip content. A far as currently available payment gateways, iThemes Exchange include PayPal, Stripe, CyberSource, 2Checkout and Authorize.net which means you have a decent selection of options.

Price: $97
Unlimited Membership Levels: YES
Content Protection: YES
Restrict Downloads: YES
Content Drip: YES
Affiliate Program: NO
# of Payment Gateways: 5
Premium Support: 1 Month
eCommerce Features: YES

The competition for WordPress membership plugins has become pretty intense. Even though we covered 6 of the best WordPress plugins in this post, there are quite a few more available. In fact, there are over 25 membership plugins available – some of which are also great options.

The vast number of plugins currently available is probably a sign that the market is due for some consolidation. To me, this makes picking a membership plugin with an active user-base important as well. You want them to be around for as long as possible.

In the meantime, the competitive market is great for customers because it keeps developers on their toes. Unable to rest on their laurels, new features are constantly being pushed out and as a result, membership plugins, in general, are becoming better.

If you’re looking for an ideal membership plugin for your website, there is truly no perfect answer. It will depend on which features you need and the complexity of your requirements. The criteria we looked at for this post covered many of the most important features – payment gateways are worth noting in particular as they are a vital piece of the puzzle.

What features are important to you for your membership website? If you’re currently running a membership site, please share which plugin you’re using and why in the comments below.
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