Handling Recurring Payments
Set up a recurring payment to handle subscription and other payments that occur on a fixed schedule.
How Recurring Payments Work
To view a video that demonstrates how to set up Recurring Payments, navigate to: Recurring Payments Demo
When you support recurring payments for a buyer, you create a recurring payments profile. The profile contains information about the recurring payments, including details for an optional trial period and a regular payment period. Both periods contain information about the payment frequency and payment amounts, including shipping and tax, if applicable.
After creating a profile, PayPal automatically queues payments based on the billing start date, billing frequency, and billing amount. Payments reoccur until the profile expires, there are too many failed payments to continue, or you cancel the profile.Note: When using Express Checkout, the buyer can also cancel a recurring payments profile.
PayPal funds queued payments using the normal payment method hierarchy within the buyer's PayPal account.
After creating a recurring payments profile, you can view profile details or cancel the profile from your PayPal account. You can also access recurring payments reports from the PayPal Business Overview page.
Also, after creating a recurring payments profile, you can use the Recurring Payments API to do the following:
- Get information details about a recurring payments profile.
- Change the status of a recurring payments profile.
- Update the details of the recurring payments profile.
- Bill the outstanding amount of the recurring payments profile.
The current release of the Recurring Payments API has the following limitations:
- A profile can have at most one optional trial period and a single regular payment period.
- The profile start date may not be earlier than the profile creation date.
Recurring Payments with Express Checkout also has the following limitations:
- To be able to create a recurring payments profile for the buyer, you must ensure that the buyer's PayPal account includes an active credit card.
- You can create a maximum of 10 recurring payments profiles during checkout.
- You can increase the profile amount by only 20% in each 180-day interval after you create the profile.
Recurring Payments Terms
The following table lists and describes terms that are commonly used in the context of PayPal recurring payments.Table 1. Recurring Payments Terms
|Recurring payments profile||Your record of a recurring transaction for a single buyer. The profile includes all information required to automatically bill the buyer a fixed amount of money at a fixed interval.|
|Billing cycle||Make one payment per billing cycle. Each
billing cycle has 2 components:
|Regular payment period||The main subscription period for this profile, which defines a payment amount for each billing cycle. The regular payment period begins after the trial period, if you specify a trial period for the profile.|
|Trial period||An optional subscription period before the regular payment period begins. A trial period may not have the same billing cycles and payment amounts as the regular payment period.|
|Payment amount||The amount the buyer pays for each billing cycle.|
|Outstanding balance||If a payment fails for any reason, PayPal adds that amount to the profile's outstanding balance.|
|Profile ID||An alphanumeric string (generated by PayPal)
that uniquely identifies a recurring profile. You can specify the
Profile ID in the
Options for Creating a Recurring Payments Profile
You can create a recurring payments profile that allows a regular payment period, an optional trial period, an initial payment, and other options.
Specifying the Regular Payment Period
Each recurring payments profile has a regular payment period that defines the amount and frequency of the payment. The following table lists the required fields for specifying the regular payment period.Table 2. Required fields for specifying a regular payment period
||The date when billing for this profile begins. Note: The profile may take up to 24 hours for activation.|
||The unit of measure for the billing cycle. Must
be one of the following:
||The number of billing periods that make up
one billing cycle. The combination of billing frequency and billing
period must be less than or equal to one year.
Note: If the
billing period is
||Amount to bill for each billing cycle.|
You can optionally include a value for
which specifies the total number of billing cycles in the regular
payment period. If you either do not specify a value or specify
0, the payments continue until PayPal
(or the buyer) cancels or suspends the profile. If the value is
0, the regular payment period continues
for the specified number of billing cycles.
You can also specify
an optional shipping amount or tax amount for the regular payment period.
Including an Optional Trial Period
You can optionally include a trial period in the
profile by specifying the following fields in the
The following table lists the required fields for creating an optional
Specifying an Initial Payment
can optionally specify an initial non-recurring payment when the
recurring payments profile is created by including the following
fields in the
By default, PayPal does not activate the profile
if the initial payment amount fails. To override this default behavior,
FAILEDINITAMTACTION field to
If the initial payment amount fails,
PayPal to add the failed payment amount to the outstanding balance
due on this recurring payment profile.
If you do not set
set it to
CancelOnFailure, PayPal creates the recurring
payment profile. However, PayPal places the profile into a pending
status until the initial payment completes. If the initial payment
clears, PayPal notifies you by Instant Payment Notification (IPN)
that it has activated the pending profile. If the payment fails, PayPal
notifies you by IPN that it has canceled the pending profile.
you created the profile using Express Checkout, the buyer receives
an email stating that PayPal cleared the initial payment or canceled
the pending profile.
Maximum Number of Failed Payments
MAXFAILEDPAYMENTS field in the
you set the number of failed payments allowed before PayPal automatically
suspends the profile. PayPal sends you an IPN message when the number
of failed payments reaches the maximum number specified.
Billing the Outstanding Amount
a payment fails for any reason, PayPal adds the billing amount (including
shipping and tax, if applicable) to the profile's outstanding balance.
AUTOBILLOUTAMT field in the
to specify whether PayPal should add the outstanding amount to the
payment amount for the next billing cycle.
Whether or not
you choose to include the outstanding amount with the payment for
the next billing cycle, you can also use the
to programmatically collect that amount at any time.
Identifying Items as Digital or Physical Goods
Set all the payment
details item fields in the following table in the
If all items are digital goods, be sure to set the item category
Digital to get the discount rate for digital
digital goods, this field must be set to
||Cost of item.|
Recurring Payments With the Express Checkout API
During the checkout flow, you can create one or more recurring payments and mix recurring payments with other purchases.
The following diagram illustrates the typical processing flow to create recurring payments during checkout.
The circled numbers in the diagram correspond to the numbered steps in the following table:Table 6. Recurring payments processing flow
|2||Returns a token, which identifies the transaction, to the merchant.|
|3||Redirects buyer's browser to:
|Displays login page and allows buyer to select payment options and shipping address.|
|4||Redirects buyer's browser to
|Displays merchant review page for buyer.|
|7||Displays successful transaction page.|
Initiating the Processing Flow With SetExpressCheckout
As in the Express Checkout flow,
SetExpressCheckout request notifies PayPal
that you are:
- Initiating an order that can be either a one-time purchase, up to 10 recurring payments, or a mixture of a one-time purchase and recurring payments
- Initiating the processing flow to create one or more billing agreements for recurring payments with no associated one-time purchase or recurring payment
SetCustomerBillingAgreementfor orders that contain only a single recurring payment.
you set the amount of the payment for an Express Checkout transaction
when you call the
You confirm the amount in the
If, however, you set the amount of the payment to
SetExpressCheckout request, you can create
a billing agreement without initiating a payment.
To set up one or more billing
agreements for recurring payments, modify the
- Add an
L_BILLINGTYPEn field for each billing agreement you want to create; n is a value in the range of
9, inclusive. Set the value of each field to
- Add an
L_BILLINGAGREEMENTDESCRIPTIONn field to correspond to each
L_BILLINGTYPEn field you pass; n is a value in the range of
9, inclusive. Set the value of each field to the description of the goods or services associated with that billing agreement, for example:
L_BILLINGAGREEMENTDESCRIPTION0=Time Magazine subscription
- If there is no associated purchase, set
- (Optional) Set
MAXAMTto the average expected transaction amount. PayPal uses the value you pass to validate the buyer's payment method for recurring payments. If you do not specify a value, the default is 25.00.
provides a token that uniquely identifies the transaction for subsequent
redirects and API calls.
Redirecting the Buyer to PayPal
you receive a successful response from
TOKEN from the
as a name/value pair to the following URL, and redirect your buyer
When redirecting the buyer
to PayPal, PayPal recommends that you use the HTTPS response 302
"Object Moved" with the URL as the value of the
in the HTTPS response. Make sure that you use an SSL/TLS-enabled server
to prevent browser warnings about a mix of secure and insecure graphics.
Getting Buyer Details Using GetExpressCheckoutDetails
returns information about the buyer, including name and email address
stored on PayPal. You can optionally call this API after PayPal redirects
the buyer's browser to the
ReturnURL you specified
has one required parameter,
TOKEN, which is the
value returned in the
PayPal does not return the values you
specified for the following parameter fields in the
unless the transaction includes a purchase. PayPal ignores the fields
if you set up a billing agreement for a recurring payment that is
not immediately charged.
Creating the Profiles With CreateRecurringPaymentsProfile
After your buyer has agreed
to the recurring payments billing agreement on your confirmation page,
you must call
create the profile. If you are creating multiple recurring payments
profiles, you must call
for each profile you plan to create.
If the transaction includes
a mixture of a one-time purchase and recurring payments profiles, call
complete the one-time purchase transaction. Then call
each recurring payment profile you plan to create.
To obtain the best rates for digital goods, set values for the following required payment details item fields:
L_PAYMENTREQUEST_0_ITEMCATEGORYn(you must set the value to
contains a Profile ID, which is an encoded string that uniquely
identifies the recurring payments profile.
following is a
that enables you to obtain the best rates for digital goods items.
[requiredSecurityParameters] &METHOD=CreateRecurringPaymentsProfile TOKEN=EC-13W99099UU817504D &PROFILESTARTDATE:20XX-03-05T03:00:00 &DESC=Movie clips &BILLINGPERIOD=Month &BILLINGFREQUENCY=12 &AMT=1.00 &CURRENCYCODE=USD &EMAILfirstname.lastname@example.org &L_PAYMENTREQUEST_0_ITEMCATEGORY0=Digital &L_PAYMENTREQUEST_0_NAME0=Kitty Antics &L_PAYMENTREQUEST_0_AMT0=1.00 &L_PAYMENTREQUEST_0_QTY0=1
[successResponseFields] &PROFILEID=I-G7ALAX8095JY &PROFILESTATUS=Active
Recurring Payments Profile Status
The recurring payments actions you may take depend on the status of the profile.
A recurring payments profile can have one of the following status values:
If PayPal successfully creates the profile, the profile has an
However, if a non-recurring initial payment fails and you set
CreateRecurringPaymentsProfile request, PayPal
creates the profile with a status of
The profile remains in this status until the initial payment either
completes successfully or fails.
A profile has a status of
PayPal completes the total billing cycles for the optional trial
and the regular payment periods.
You can suspend or cancel a profile by using the
You can also reactivate a suspended profile. If PayPal has already
reached the maximum number of failed payments, however, you must
increase the number of failed payments before reactivating the profile.
For recurring payments profiles created with the Express Checkout API, the buyer receives an email about the change in status of their recurring payment.
Getting Recurring Payments Profile Information
to obtain information about a profile.
Along with the information that you specified in the
returns the following summary information about the profile:
- Profile status
- Next scheduled billing date
- Number of billing cycles completed in the active subscription period
- Number of billing cycles remaining in the active subscription period
- Current outstanding balance
- Total number of failed billing cycles
- Date of the last successful payment received
- Amount of the last successful payment received
Modifying a Recurring Payments Profile
to modify a recurring payments profile.
You can modify only the following specific information about an active or suspended profile:
- Subscriber name or address
- Past due or outstanding amount
- Whether to bill the outstanding amount with the next billing cycle
- Maximum number of failed payments allowed
- Profile description and reference
- Number of additional billing cycles
- Billing amount, tax amount, or shipping amount
You can modify the following profile information during the trial period or regular payment period.
- Billing amount
- Number of billing cycles
The profile changes take effect with the next payment after the
call to update the profile. Say, for example, the buyer has made
1 trial payment out of a total of 3. You call
increase the number of billing cycles to 5. This provides the buyer
with 4 additional trial payments. If you call
the regular payment period, the changes take effect with the buyer's
next scheduled regular payment.
For complete details, see the Name-Value Pair Developer Guide and Reference or the SOAP API Reference.
When you update the subscriber shipping address, you must enter all of address fields, not just those that are changing:
To update the subscriber's street address, for example, specify all the address fields listed in the Name-Value Pair Developer Guide and Reference or SOAP API Reference. Do not specify only the street address field.
Updating the Billing Amount
For profiles created using Express Checkout, you can increase the recurring payment total amount by 20% maximum in a fixed 180-day interval after profile creation. The 20% maximum is based on the total amount of the profile at the beginning of the 180-day interval, including any shipping or tax amount. If, for example, you create a profile on March 10 with a total amount of $100, during the 180-day interval from March 10 to September 6, you can increase the amount to a maximum of $120 (120% of $100). Suppose that during the first 180-day interval, you increased the payment amount to $110. During the next 180-day interval (starting September 7), you can only increase the amount of the payment to a maximum of $132 (120% of $110).
Billing the Outstanding Amount of a Profile
BillOutstandingAmount API to
immediately bill the buyer for the current past due or outstanding
amount for a recurring payments profile.
To bill the outstanding amount:
- The profile status must be active or suspended.
BillOutstandingAmountAPI does not reactivate a suspended profile. You need to call
ManageRecurringProfileStatusto do this.
- The profile must have a non-zero outstanding balance.
- The amount of the payment cannot exceed the outstanding amount for the profile.
BillOutstandingAmountcall cannot be within 24 hours of a regularly scheduled payment for this profile.
PayPal informs you by IPN about the success or failure of the outstanding payment. For profiles created using Express Checkout, the buyer receives an email notification of the payment.
Recurring Payments Notifications
PayPal notifies you of recurring payments events through
IPN and email. Typically, however, you can call
obtain the information you need.
PayPal notifies you of certain events through IPN. For recurring payments profiles created using Express Checkout, PayPal also notifies buyers of specific events by email. The following table indicates when PayPal generates IPN and emails:Table 7. Recurring payments IPN messages and email
|Profile successfully created||Yes||Yes|
|Profile creation failed||Yes||Yes|
|Profile canceled from paypal.com interface||Yes||Yes|
|Profile status changed using API||No||Yes|
|Profile updated using API||No||Yes|
|Initial payment either succeeded or failed||Yes||Yes|
|Payment either succeeded or failed (during either trial period or regular payment period)||Yes||Yes|
|Outstanding payment either succeeded or failed||Yes||Yes|
|Maximum number of failed payments reached||Yes||No|
ManangeRecurringPaymentsProfileStatusdo not trigger IPN notification. The API response immediately provides the success or failure of the call.