Why You Might Consider Not Using PayPal Standard With Your Membership Website

September 16, 2018


If you’re running a membership site that requires members to renew their subscriptions frequently, a solid payment gateway is a must-have. While PayPal Standard may seem like an attractive option at first, it’s not ideal for users who have to make recurring payments.

Generally, site owners that want to make it easy for users to make infrequent, one time purchases opt for PayPal Standard. It allows users to complete their purchase without having to create a PayPal account – they can choose to pay through their bank account or a credit card.

That said, PayPal Standard isn’t the best choice for a membership website that requires users to make recurring payments. Here’s why:

  • You have to wait for the PayPal Instant Payment Notification.
  • Your users will have to complete their purchase at PayPal.com

For this reason, we recommend using a different PayPal service – such as PayPal Express – instead of PayPal Standard with your membership website. In this article, we’ll start off by comparing two popular PayPal services – PayPal Standard and PayPal Express. Next, we’ll explain why you shouldn’t use PayPal Standard with your MemberPress website and recommend some alternative payment gateways.

Let’s begin.

PayPal Standard vs. PayPal Express

Both PayPal Standard and PayPal Express are popular PayPal services. In this section, we’ll describe the key benefits each service offers, what the process looks like for your site’s users, and the associated fees you’ll be charged per transaction.

PayPal Standard

PayPal Standard is a popular choice for merchants because it’s incredibly easy to set up. You won’t be charged setup or cancellation fees and you can get started by linking it to a PayPal Business account. As of this writing, the PayPal Standard service is supported in 200 countries.

When one of your site’s members selects the subscription plan they’d like to sign up for, they’ll automatically be taken to PayPal.com for making the payment. They won’t be required to sign up for a PayPal account. Instead, they’ll have the option to pay using a credit or debit card.

You will be paying PayPal 2.9% of the total transaction amount and an additional 30 cents on every transaction. However, if you generate sales over $3,000 a month, you’ll get a discount on this processing fee.

PayPal Express

PayPal Express is basically the same service as PayPal Standard except that your site’s members won’t be completing their transactions at PayPal.com.

Instead, they’ll be directed to PayPal.com to approve the purchase. Once that’s done, they will automatically be redirected back to your membership website to make the payment. This is the Express service which we’ll talk more about later in the article.

Other than this, PayPal Express is supported in the same 200 countries as PayPal Standard, there are no setup or cancellation charges, and you’ll be charged the same 2.9% of the total transaction amount plus 30 cents on every transaction.

Why You Shouldn’t Use PayPal Standard With MemberPress

While PayPal Standard might be an easy workaround right now, it is a good idea to switch over to PayPal Express. In the long-run, it’ll be much less of a hassle for both you and your site’s members.

You Have to Wait for the PayPal Instant Payment Notification

We mentioned that when a member makes a payment using PayPal Standard, their payment and transaction is completed over at PayPal.com.

What this means is that you will need to wait till you receive some sort of payment confirmation. This is called a PayPal IPN (Instant Payment Notification). You’ll have to wait till you receive the PayPal IPN before you can successfully sign a user up for their selected membership plan.

And until the PayPal IPN goes through, your site’s users will essentially be in a Pending Confirmation state. What this means is that they’ve already made the payment but still aren’t members on your site i.e. they don’t have membership access yet, because you haven’t yet received the PayPal IPN.

Waiting for the PayPal IPN will naturally cause a time delay that can range from a few seconds to a few hours. In some cases, you can even miss out on receiving a notification due to a number of issues:

  • The script processing the notification might time out if your site is hosted on a shared hosting plan.
  • The plugins you’ve installed on your MemberPress-based site might conflict with the IPN notification.
  • Your PayPal account’s settings might give you trouble if they’re not configured properly.

However, PayPal Express works a little differently.

Once a user selects a membership subscription plan, they’re automatically directed to PayPal.com to approve the purchase. Next, they’re redirected back to your website to the complete the transaction. At the same time, a token is generated at PayPal.com and passed to your membership site’s payment gateway. When the user clicks the Pay Now button on your site, their order is placed and the same token is sent back to PayPal with the user’s purchase details.

The key benefit here is that your users will complete their payments on your site but their payment will be processed on PayPal’s servers. This eliminates the need to wait for a PayPal IPN and you can automatically give the users membership access as soon as they’ve made the payment.

Your Users Will Have to Complete Their Purchase at PayPal.com

If your membership website is integrated with PayPal Standard, your site’s users will be required to complete their purchases at PayPal.com instead of on your site. This negatively affects your site’s user experience and can result in lost sales.

However, if you’re using PayPal Express, the user’s transaction will be initiated and completed on your own site. They will only have to be redirected to PayPal.com to approve their purchase. This way, making regular recurring payments is much easier (and faster!) for your members since the transaction happens directly on your website. That’s the Express part of PayPal Express.

What’s more is that there’s always a chance that PayPal Standard will cause delays every time a user makes a payment. This isn’t ideal for membership sites that require members to renew their subscriptions regularly since there will be a delay each time. The confirmation notice could be delayed for a few minutes or a few hours. And, in the worst case, you might never receive it due to shared web hosting scripts, poor configuration settings, or conflicting plugins.

On the other hand, if you’re using PayPal Express, you’ll receive the token right away which serves as a confirmation notice. This is incredibly important because it means you’ll be able to give the user membership access as soon as they’ve made the payment instead of putting them in the Pending Confirmation state.

PayPal Standard Alternatives

So, what options do you really have if you decide to not use PayPal Standard with your MemberPress-based membership website?

If your membership website is based on a recurring subscriptions or regular membership renewal model, we’d recommend opting for PayPal Express as your main payment gateway. It’s incredibly easy to use (for both you and your members) and the fees are the same as PayPal Standard i.e. 2.9% of the total transaction amount plus 30 cents on every transaction.

MemberPress supports the Stripe payment gateway on all of their plans. If you sign up for the Plus or Pro plan, you’ll also be able to use the Authorize.net payment gateway, as well.


As the owner of a membership website, you don’t want your existing members (or prospective new members) to experience downtime when they’re signing up for a membership for the first time or renewing their subscription.

If you’re using PayPal Standard, you’ll likely experience a delay in receiving payment confirmation. On top of this, your users will also have to wait to get access to your site after they’ve made the payment.

The good news is that PayPal Express takes all of the unanticipated waiting out of the equation. It’s a much better option for membership websites that are based on a subscription (or renewal) model that requires members to make regular, recurring payments. The final transaction is completed at your website giving you instant confirmation of payment. This, in turn, allows you to open up (or upgrade) membership for the user, instantly.

Which payment gateway do you use on your membership website and why? Let us know by commenting below!

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