Six of the Best WordPress Membership Plugins for 2015

Posted on September 25, 2015 by in Tips & Tricks | 39 comments

Six of the Best WordPress Membership Plugins for 2015

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.

Deciding Which Features Matter

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.

Membership Plugin Selection Criteria

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.

Unlimited Membership Levels

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.

Content Protection

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.

Restrict Downloadable Content

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.

Content Drip

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.

Affiliate Program

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.

Total Payment Gateways

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.

Premium Support

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.

eCommerce Features

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.

The Best WordPress Membership Plugins

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

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

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

WooCommerce

WooCommerce

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-X

MemberWing

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

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

iThemes Exchange Membership Add-on

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

  • Membership Add-On
  • Recurring Payments
  • MailChimp Add-On
  • Access to any new Add-Ons released for 12 months
  • Updates for 12 months

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

Wrap Up

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.

Article thumbnail image by Kahlua Milk / shutterstock.com

39 Comments

  1. Hello, nice review to be aware about big very known players in a intense competition in that crucial tool and service.

    However I am surprised that you did not mention Zaxaa.

    They did a very smart and evolutive reflexion around membership, marketing, sales strategies and affiliate program, thru their plugin.

    Interested about your feedback.

    Have a nice week-end.

  2. I’m wondering what the author and others think of Membership 2 pro from WPMU Dev since it didn’t make the list. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

    • Don’t buy it. It is very complicated and some features simply don’t work. It is not just waste of money, but waste of time.

    • I was about to ask the same. I find that particular plugin very good.
      And I will sure try some of these.

  3. Well written and timely article, Joe. AND your sentiment is well taken – the “best” member plugin for someone is, well, “it depends”. What do you need?

    I have been using s2Member Pro for membership on a number of sites, and I really like it. It has TONS of PHP or [shortcodes] that allow extreme granularity of protecting content down to the DIV or paragraph level on a given page. And you never need a bit of any of that.

    It offers download protection and page/post protection both from (unlimited) levels which can be mapped onto names (gold, bronze, etc.) as well as through categories and custom capabilities.

    It’s got PayPal and other commerce compatibility natively, and does all the handshaking required to complete a transaction over there or without leaving your site (if you can host https pages).

    It has been rock solid for me with great support for going on 4 years – and it’s even got some down-and-dirty API hooks that I have used.

    It’s worth a look – go to s2Member.com and poke around.

    • Hi Randy,

      I also use s2member on one site and I must say that if you’re not a programmer, this plugin is really not friendly-user. That’s maybe why it isn’t listed here. For the common user, going through all the necessary configuration and writing functions is probably not the first objective. I choose to go with that plugin after trying to see what would suite me the best, but I regret it now.

      It may be a good plugin, but again, it my opinion, it’s not meant for everyone.

  4. I think Paid Membership Pro is also one of the best membership plugin with tons of add-ons and support. The free version does everything… unlimited levels, recurring payments, protected member content and member management. Just my opinion, however all the plugins mentioned in the article are all awesome. Great post.

    • I agree with you Denver. I use PMP for almost all mine as well most the above I heard of one new one I’ll definitely look at got to be willing to keep up to date and keep an open mind to whats new in the market. But so far PMP has been great for me as well. I am totally shocked it wasn’t on this list.

    • I totally agree. PMP is really great membership plugin. And if you know what you are doing, it’s free of charge.

    • There are about six different Paid Member Pro’s. Which one are you referring to?

  5. This is a very timely article, as I am currently doing research on which membership plugin to use.

    I’d love to know which plugin works best with Divi. I wonder if Woocommerce Memberships is a good candidate, since Woocommerce is already integrated with Divi. Anybody have experience with this one?

    • I agree, given that this is an Elegant Themes blog it would be good to know how well each of the plug-ins integrate the ET’s most prominent theme.

      Indeed I’d like to see Bloom extend its functionality to include a membership capability.

    • Mike, I mentioned s2Member above, and I have been using that exclusively with Divi and it works splendidly. Ease of use, functionality, and support are all top-notch.

  6. Another one that doesn’t seem to make it on many lists is WP eMember. I’ve been using their plugins for years now. Not just the membership plugin but also their carts (free and paid), affiliate plugin, etc… They have one time payment, unlimited sites, excellent support, always adding features and improvements.

    • I have also been using the WP eMember with affiliate and store and found them very useful and affordable. At the time of installation a few years ago, their tech support was really good. It had a weird way of upgrading at the beginning, but I think that was taken care of.

  7. Nice article… Membership reviews seem to imply that you are selling things or selling memberships which is the most common function. But there are many other CMS needs for a membership that don’t get mentioned as requirements which is too bad.

    – S2member pro as mentioned is a good example
    – Paid membership Pro is amazing plugin and very extensible is another
    example…

    Nice review if your looking for a selling type membership etc.

  8. Tried a ton of Membership software… eventually had a battle between DAP and amember instead of a plugin.

    Amember won.. it controls 4 membership sites from one location… does everything required out of the box… has all the features mentioned in the post and more… most of which are not mentioned on their sales page.

    Well worth taking a look at

  9. Nice and concise, but as Mel Fisher stated not all sites sell membership or products. I have trialled some of the mentioned ones but found them too rich in what they offer. I wanted a small membership login for a club which took them to different content depending upon whether they were in an management position or not. Simple Membership plugin is ideal and what’s more it is free, and works with Divi 😉

  10. Wow I just looked at the member wing because I never heard of it its a JVZoo product which means most likely from the Warrior Forum. And the support shows 3.x instead of the 4.3 not sure how that got in there but I’d say they aren’t maintaining it anymore. Paid Memberhip Pro should have definitely made this list hands down.

  11. eMember is also very good.

  12. Great article. I was looking for a membership plugin to offer to my clients.

    Why didn’t WishList Member make it to the list? I’ve seen so many Internet Marketers use it, even I’ve used it and works great, but have not compared it to any of these.

    Any comments about WishList Member (pros and cons, why it’s not in the final 6 list, etc.) would be greatly appreciated 🙂

  13. Almost all the membership plug ins work best. I have a long term goal of having a membership site. I know with some of these plug ins, that is possible. I have a question though.

    Are you paying a one time fee or it is a recurring FEE?

  14. Thanks for the interesting article Joe. You do mention that you’ve just covered 6 out of over 25 plugins. There are some others out there which are really quite good too. I’m using Ultimate Membership on one site, it’s relatively new and i’m really quite please with it. Would have liked to have more than “just” 6 reviewed, i suppose…

  15. This is a good roundup, but I have really found UserPro to be everything I need, and client sites I have used it on have been very pleased too.

    Just another option to think about 🙂

  16. Enjoyed this article, recently I was hunting for a new membership plugin and chose to go with WooCommerce Memberships since it integrates with Woocommerce (since I use it) and so far I really like it – do not have any complaints. Always good to hear about other options. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Hi Joe,

    I’m interested in Woo Commerce Membership Plugin…

    I like Woo and their product, but it’s too expensive for me

    Have you used this membership plugin personally?

    If you have, what’s your experience?

    Thanks

  18. Hi

    Looking to add a membership where users get to use service free 2 times, then they have to pay to get access. Any suggestions?

    Basically the site gets input from user and gives advise, then can get advice free twice (ie. Clicking the advice button twice).

    Thanks in advance!
    Raj

    • Take a look at DAP (Digital Access Pass) Ravi can fix you up there.

  19. Thanks for the list. The two I have been making use of recently didn’t make the list: Simple membership and Simple Members Area.

    I ended up using “Simple Members Area” to create an employee document area and it was, well really simple.

    The other, “Simple Membeship,” I didn’t actually end up using not because I did’nt like the features but actually because it was a little too feature rich for the “Simple” solution I was looking for.

    Thanks again,

    ernie

  20. Hello Team.

    I am currently trying to decide between Paid Membership Pro and Woo Commerce Membership.

    Has anyone had experience with either of these?

    Cheers!

  21. I am using S2Member Pro for few years now. It’s amazing, you can do anything you want. There is a slight learning curve though but their documentation and customer support is awesome. Usually they reply few hours with solutions for my problems. The best thing is that once you buy the license(s), you’re a lifetime member with all the support, updates, etc.

  22. The first membership website I’ve created had s2member free version because of lack of funds and I’ve been loyal to them since then. I’ve worked with Membership 2 Pro but found too many bugs. PMPro is another good one with lots of options.

    But if you want a real expert opinion on the issue (of course it’s him)
    http://chrislema.com/best-wordpress-membership-plugin-2015/
    But beware Chris may have some “financial bias” toward some of the options there.

  23. Hello,

    Great article – certainly helps me in my research – I am torn between WooCommerce and PaidMembershipsPlus but what’s stumping me is the site I want the membership for has individual members, joint members (partners/ husband and wife etc) and family members – and I just don’t see the option for one person to actually ‘hold’ the membership but for us to still retain the information for the joint person (or family) and that all have their own login and only pay once between them – any suggestions/help??

    Many thanks

    Nic

  24. Wow! This is exactly what I was looking for and needed right now. I am in the middle of building an online course and wanted to see what was out there in terms of membership sites/ plug in’s. I was very happy to see this and that it came from Elegant Themes. Thank you for the round up and the details provided. I will be looking closely at the 3 I narrowed it down to (WooCommerce, Zaxaa, Paid Membership Pro) between your article and the comments.

    Thanks again!

    Ed

    Connect. Collaborate. Create.

  25. I really like your Membership Plugin List for 2015. I have had a lot of success with WooCommerce Membership. One obvious plugin that I did not see on the list which a few other commenters have mentioned is S2Member. I like however for a different reason and that is the API notifications. I am currently building a SaaS solution and the free version of S2Member has given me everything I need.

  26. So, my needs are a little different. (I think.) I’m not restricting content, and I’m not selling product. I am building an advocacy organization where the memberships help support the work.

    I need at least three types of memberships:
    Free — signs you up for the newsletter
    Supporting — signs you up for the newsletter, annual dues of some amount (probably $20, but not sure)
    Sustaining — signs you up for the newsletter, annual dues of some higher amount

    The paying memberships might get some sort of perk down the road.

    Obviously, integration with MailChimp would be ideal, so that the data from joining also feeds the MailChimp list.

    Thoughts?

  27. Is any membership plugin support member search?
    I want to add feature to my educational website where student and teachers can register and anyone can search tutor by selecting subjects and postal code. Can any plugin do that?

    • A community plugin like BuddyPress should be able do that for you.

  28. Hi Joe, great article. I have a website that we are developing for a client – They need the ability to load events which are visible to public and members but members get better pricing and can only see this when they are logged in. When people book for the event, they want to capture multiple details and have the person book more than one person at a time and capture these details. We are using Event On, WooCommerce Events, WooCommerce and UserPro for membership. This means that we have to load a product and then an event and then marry the two through the book now button. The problem I have is that the person that administers the website was using Membership Pro. Simple to use from an admin perspective but does not (as far as I am aware) have the ability to do the other functions e.g. multiple people booking that can be captured and send to a newsletter list? Any suggestions please?

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