General FAQ

What is Chargify and how can it help my business grow?

Chargify is a recurring billing system designed for Web 2.0 and SaaS companies. Chargify allows you to concentrate on building innovative web applications and not worry about how to bill your customers.

Chargify does things like this for your business:

  • Support for trial periods.
  • Automatic proration if your customers upgrade/downgrade during a billing cycle.
  • Reaching out to your customers to resolve problems if their credit card payments fail.
  • Hosted pages for your customers to sign up and later to update credit card info.
  • Coupon codes so your customers can get a discount when they sign up.
  • Track units consumed by your customers and then bill them accordingly (think of text messages sent or sales leads purchased).
  • Track “seats” used by customers over long periods of time, such as billing your customer based on the number of software licenses (“seats”) they have or the number of hotel rooms they manage with your system, for instance.

Does Chargify work with my existing website?

Yes. You have two options for integrating Chargify into your existing website:

  1. The quickest and easiest way is to simply link your website to your Public Signup Pages on Chargify. On it, your customers will be able to select from pre-defined subscription plans and have the ability to enter billing and contact information to sign up for your product or service.

  2. For the more technically inclined, integrating our API gives you the ability to seamlessly integrate Chargify into your applications.

Does Chargify support my pricing model?

More and more, the answer to that question is “Yes!”. For a full description of common billing scenarios, please see our overview page here.

But the details are getting more complex as our merchants try more business models and we add more functions, so we’ve come up with some example scenarios here to help you if you’re wondering about your pricing model.

  1. Simple, Flat-Rate Billing

    Let’s say you have a business that charges for access to data in a database you’ve compiled from many sources. Your customers are professionals who save a lot of time by accessing the data you’ve compiled. You want to charge them $25/mo, $50/mo, or $100/mo, depending on what level of access they want.

    To do this, you will set up 3 Products in Chargify:

    • Plan A: $25 per billing period. Period = 1 month.
    • Plan B: $50 per billing period. Period = 1 month.
    • Plan C: $100 per billing period. Period = 1 month.
  2. Flat-Rate Billing, Monthly & Yearly, 15-day Free Trial on Monthly Plans

    Starting with example #1, let’s add a yearly plan that gives the buyer a better deal if they pay for the whole year, and let’s add a 15-day free trial to all the monthly plans.

    To do this, you will set up 4 Products in Chargify:

    • Product A: $25 per billing period. Period = 1 month. Trial period = 15 days, trial cost = $0.
    • Product B: $50 per billing period. Period = 1 month. Trial period = 15 days, trial cost = $0.
    • Product C: $100 per billing period. Period = 1 month. Trial period = 15 days, trial cost = $0. Product D: $899 per billing period. Period = 12 months.
  3. Billing for Number of Items Consumed

    Let’s say you have a business that allows your customers to buy sales leads for their business. You only charge them when they buy leads from you. You have 2 types of leads: “Just Shopping” and “Ready to Buy”. The ready-to-buy leads are worth more.

    In Chargify, your customer must have at least 1 recurring subscription with you, but that subscription can be free. You will use “Metered Components” that are added to that subscription to bill your customer for any leads he got. If he didn’t get any in a given month, then his bill will be $0.

    You will set up 1 Product and 2 “Metered Components” in Chargify:

    • “Sales Lead Central Membership” (product): $0 per billing period. Period = 1 month.
    • “Just Shopping Lead” (metered-usage component): $10
    • “Ready to Buy Lead” (metered-usage component): $25

    Chargify “Components” are set up using our admin web interface, but to use them (to apply them to your customers’ subscriptions), you have to use our API. Your system will make an API call whenever your customer buys leads.

    Chargify will assess the charges to your customer each month because of the free membership subscription he’s got with you. When we do that assessment, we will also count up the sales leads he bought and add the appropriate charges (‘a’ x $10, plus ‘b’ x $25). The number of leads is automatically reset to zero for each new billing period.

  4. Metered-Usage Components are perfect for items that are consumed by your customer anytime, but billed by you on a regular schedule.

    Think of text messages, cell phone minutes, gigabytes, sales leads, bottles of wine, gallons of fuel, etc.

    Billing for Number of Items in Use

    Let’s say you have an online accounting system. Your customers are other businesses. You charge each of them $100/month, plus $25/month for each of their staff members who have access to your accounting system. It does not matter if those staff members actually use your system… merely having access in a given month is what your customer is paying for.

    You will set up 1 Product to collect the base fee of $100/month, plus 1 “Quantity Component” to capture the fees for your customer’s staff members:

    • “Acme Online Accounting” (Product): $100 per billing period. Period = 1 month.
    • “Gold User” (Quantity Component): $25

As in the previous example, Chargify “Components” are set up using our admin web interface, but to use them (to apply them to your customers’ subscriptions), you have to use our API. Your system will make an API call to set the number of “Gold Users” (quantity component) for your customer.

So, if your customer has 3 employees who will access your system, then your system will make an API call to tell Chargify that the quantity of employees for that customer is 3.

Chargify will assess the charges to your customer each month because of the base $100/mo membership subscription he’s got with you. When we do that assessment, we will also check the current count of “Gold Users” and add the appropriate charges (‘a’ x $25). Note that Quantity Components are NOT reset to zero; they are never changed unless you call our API and change the quantity. This makes sense for the kinds of things where businesses charge for a continuing quantity of something.

Quantity Components are perfect for items that are continuously used by your customer and billed by you on a regular schedule.

Think of software licenses sold to a single company (the example above), students in a class (paid by one household), employees in a benefits management service (paid by one employer), etc.

What makes Chargify qualified to handle my billing?

We built the recurring billing system that we needed when we started our own subscription-based businesses over the past 6 years.

Chargify was developed by the team behind Grasshopper.com and EngineYard.com - both of which are companies that serve entrepreneurs and small businesses with recurring billing business models.

We learned from our experiences and used that knowledge in Chargify. For instance, we know that about 50% of our churn rate is due to failed or expired credit cards. That’s why we equipped Chargify with the most robust set of dunning management tools available to help you deal with the “unhappy path” (when credit cards fail).

How does Chargify bill my customers?

Chargify bills your customer’s credit card on whatever schedule you have defined. In addition to processing one-time and recurring transactions, Chargify can handle free trial periods, one-time fees, promotions, refunds, email receipts and even dunning (reminders for failed credit card payments).

In order to actually bill your customers, Chargify acts as an intermediary between your website and payment gateway. You can create subscription plans, integrate them into the signup process on your website, and then Chargify initiates transactions for the correct amount with your payment gateway.

How does your pricing work?

To learn more about Chargify’s pricing, visit our sign-up page here.

How long does it take before I can use the service after signing up?

If you already have a Merchant Account and one of our supported Payment Gateways, then you can begin using Chargify immediately. Just input your payment gateway credentials into the Chargify setup tab and you’re ready to start billing.

If you don’t have either of these items, then contact one of the brokers on our Merchant Accounts page. They can usually get you fully set up within a week.

If you interested in testing Chargify, you can sign up for our developer plan. This will allow you to make sure Chargify works for you before investing in a real merchant account and payment gateway. Test with our “fake gateway” while you build your software.

What is Chargify’s uptime?

Chargify’s Pingdom Page

We aim to have the absolute best uptime possible. We don’t have regularly scheduled interruptions or customer-affecting maintenance. And planned interruptions are kept to an absolute minimum (we have not had any planned downtime in the last year).

We publish our public uptime via the third-party service Pingdom. It’s available here at Pingdom.com.

We also have a status site, independent from our primary systems, that helps to keep you up-to-date on any issues we may be experiencing. You can even subscribe to get notifications on changes in our application status.

Does Chargify require a contract?

No. Chargify is a month-to-month service that doesn’t require any long term commitment.

How do I export my customer’s credit card information if I decide to leave Chargify?

Chargify does not store any actual credit card data. Currently, we only support gateways that offer vault storage options. The cards are stored in these secure vaults, and we store a token that can be used to charge that card on your gateway. If you leave Chargify, your credit card vault data remains with your gateway provider. You would need to work with your gateway directly if you need to export that data.

If you need access to your Subscription, Customer, or Transaction data, you can use the Chargify API or our CSV Export feature. For more information, please see our documentation on Exporting Data.

Can I use my existing Payment Gateway or do I need to get a new one?

As long as your existing payment gateway is supported by Chargify already, then you can use it. Check our Payment Gateway List.

We support a number of payment gateways that work with banks/merchant accounts in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Some European merchants have been able to get a merchant account at Barclays Bank in the UK, and then use Payment Express in the UK.

If you’d like to learn all about merchant accounts & payment gateways, here is a complete description by one of our founders.

Can I track billing data for multiple companies?

Yes, you can. If you have more than one company, you may use Chargify to bill customers for all of them – and keep the accounting separate.

Chargify gives you two options - to build out the accounts separately as multiple sites or to build out the accounts as one site with multiple product families. To read more about this visit our docs section “How to structure Product Families and Products”.

Can I bill my customers more than once a month?

Yes! You can bill your customers as many times per month as you’d like.

Can I use Chargify for one-time transactions?

Yes. Once you have an active subscription for a customer, you can attach one-time charges to their account.

You can work around the requirement for having to have a subscription by setting up a Subscription for a $0 recurring charge, although you will want to have email receipts turned off for your Site if you go this route - periodic emails showing your $0 renewal can be confusing to Customers.

Another way to achieve a one-time purchase is by setting up a specially configured “One-Time-Purchase Product

We plan to offer formal support for One-Time purchases in the future.