We’ve been busy preparing the MediaCore Cloud for launch, and have been looking into how to handle the recurring billing as we plan on offering monthly plans. Initially we were considering building our own recurring payment solution (or implementing one built by a payment gateway), but after some research we found that there are a number of amazing SAAS recurring billing services. Notably, these include:
In distilling things down further we started by doing a quick search on Quora, and it seemed like most people were either on Chargify or on Recurly. Our good friends over at New Bamboo have used Chargify for Pusher and have never had a problem, and our friends over at MetaLab have been using Recurly for Flow and also have very positive things to say. So both services have passed the social validation check for us.
Digging in a little deeper we found a number of really useful graphs over at Matt Mazur’s blog that essentially showed how the services compared in cost as your subscriber base grows.
The big takeaway here is that Chargify is substantially cheaper early on as they offer lower pricing for your first customers. As the number of customers increases, then the costs of the services roughly equal out.
The next big factor in making a decision on whether to choose Chargify or Recurly boiled down to the feature differences between the two. We’ve drawn up a little feature chart to show off the differences between the two initially.
Let’s go through a couple of the big differences that we see between the two platforms:
There really isn’t much of a comparison here, Recurly wins hands down. Chargify’s interface is considerably less polished, and they really haven’t paid attention to many of the small details that makes Recurly’s interface hyper-useable. As we’re an interface design company, these little things (although not critical to our decision making process) do bear weight on our overall opinion of the service.
Customizeable Emails and Mailing List Integration
Although both systems do dispatch emails, Recurly’s are more user-friendly by default, and are also a lot more customizable. After playing with both platforms, I would prefer to send customer’s emails via Recurly. Another nicety of Recurly is that they also offer mailing list integration, so it’s possible to easily take your subscriber list, and link it up with tools like MailChimp to email blast your subscribers about new features, company news, etc.
Packages / Addons
Using Recurly it is possible to create a Addon (some people might call it a package) that is bundled with a payment in addition to the recurring monthly charge, so if for example you are selling subscriptions to a blogging service, and a customer chooses to add a theme that costs $9, then Recurly will charge the customer their monthly fee, plus the extra $9 for the theme they bought. This is a great feature for anyone who is up-selling subscribers on additional one-time purchases. Note: Chargify does have similar functionality. See the comments by Chargify’s founder.
Chargify really leads the way on this one, providing you with a great iPhone app that gives you all the quick business data you need such as the number of signups you have received that day, the number of customers you have, and your revenue figures. Handy!
Recurly supports charging VAT on items, which will make people who are building SAAS apps in Europe and need recurring billing very happy. Sadly, Chargify does not offer this feature. Note: This feature is coming to Chargify. See the comments by Chargify’s founder.
Intelligent Payment Routing
Recurly has the ability to route payments to the appropriate gateway based on easily configureable rules. This feature can help with avoiding paying unnecessary fees, and can help in unlikely event of a payment failure as it will fallback to the secondary payment gateway if you’ve added one to your account.
Both Recurly and Chargify offer support for major payment gateways, but they don’t both offer the same ones, so depending on which gateway you want to use one may be a better fit over the other.
- First Data
- Litle & Co.
- Paypal Payflow
- Paypal Website Payments Pro
- Sage Card
On Paypal w/ Recurly: we tried Recurly with Paypal Website Payments Pro for a recent project, and had nothing but problems with PayPal as we found it dropping around 10% of transactions. Switching from Paypal to Braintree solved the issue, and since implementing Recurly with Beanstream for a client we haven’t had any issues.
The Card Store
Up until now we’ve been looking at some of the minor differences that separate Recurly from Chargify. Perhaps one of the most major differences between the two services is that Chargify does not keep the card store on it’s server, instead it stores the data with your merchant account of choice. The problem here is that if you decide to switch merchant accounts, you are left in the position of having to persuade your merchant account vendor to release your card store, which they are very reluctant to do in most cases. Recurly keeps the card store on it’s own servers, so if you decide to switch merchant accounts for any reason (ie. to get a better rate) then you don’t need to worry about switching and getting your data since Recurly holds the information. You can read more about this on Chris Compton’s blog here (the article was written before Recurly re-designed their service, but the core point still applies.)
After some careful consideration, we’re close to deciding finally on choosing (drumroll…) Recurly as our subscription billing platform of choice. The main factors affecting this decision include:
- The Card Store: The fact that Chargify does not keep the card store
- Payment Routing Support: Recurly’s intelligent payment routing support (although we don’t need this feature now, it’s definitely something we may need to use in the future)
- Number of payment gateway choices: As our service grows, it’s nice to have a broader range of payment gateway vendors to choose from, especially since switching gateways in Recurly is relatively straight forward.
- Interface design: We really do like the interface that Recurly offers over the interface that comes built into Chargify.
- API ease of implementation: We’ve taken an in depth look into both Recurly and Chargify’s API’s. On the whole, Recurly’s documentation is better, and flexibility of their API is superior.
We’ll be looking forward to providing an update on our findings in a couple of months. If anyone else has further remarks on the differences between the two services we’d love to hear them!