The best WordPress membership plugins can help you create new income streams and build a thriving, like-minded community from your WordPress website. Finding a WordPress membership plugin can be a daunting task, depending on your needs.
WordPress membership plugins exist today in varying degrees of complexity. Some WordPress membership plugins allow you to add a phone number, address, or maybe some security info, and that is it. While other plugins offer member tiers and the means to build a complex profile with unmatched security protocols.
In this post, we’ll cover the best WordPress membership plugins for 2021.
WordPress membership plugins are a dime a dozen, but decent WordPress membership plugins are few and far between. That’s why in this post we’ll be taking a look at the best WordPress membership plugins and what makes a useful WordPress membership plugin. Let’s get started on finding out what the best WordPress membership plugins are!
What is a WordPress Membership Plugin?
A WordPress membership plugin allows you to sell memberships (sometimes called subscriptions) and offer “members-only” content from your WordPress website.
Memberships or subscriptions are a special type of digital e-commerce good that gives members or subscribers access to “members-only” content that is gated behind a paywall and account login.
Examples of membership websites include:
- Training and education (specifically, online courses) – Think Lynda.com or MasterClass
- Exercise & fitness (like workout videos, personal trainers, exercise planners) – Think Aaptiv or WalkatHome.com
- Self-help, coaching, and personal improvement (like The Happiness Project Experience)
- Cooking (recipes, cooking classes, meal planners) – Think America’s Text Kitchen Online Cooking School
- Software downloads and support (like us, iThemes!)
WordPress membership plugins, at the most basic level, provide you with the ability to restrict exclusive content to members or subscribers, offer subscription packages, accept payments, along with a variety of other useful features depending on which plugin you choose.
Most WordPress membership plugins offer:
- Ability to sell memberships or subscriptions directly from your WordPress website using a payment gateway
- Multiple membership levels (with the ability for members to upgrade/downgrade)
- A member “dashboard” or account management area
- The ability to restrict website content to specific member or subscription levels
What to Look for in a WordPress Membership Plugin
WordPress membership plugins can be used to run any type of website from online e-learning websites through to tutorial-based websites, coaches, product/discount websites and so many more.
But because of the number of different types of websites that a WordPress membership plugin can be used for, it can be difficult for the developers of the plugin to satisfy everyone.
When it comes to WordPress membership plugins, don’t pay as much attention to negative reviews. In the WordPress membership plugin space, take them with a pinch of salt as sometimes people are looking to achieve the impossible and won’t take no for an answer.
Ease of use
WordPress membership plugins are complex and as such setting them up can require you to read the whole documentation more than once to figure out exactly how to do what you want.
And that’s without even mentioning the plugin interfaces which can often be a confusing mess of options, toggles, and switches.
Finding a WordPress membership plugin with an easy to use interface is critical to ensure that you aren’t tearing your hair out trying to set it up.
Multiple Membership Levels
Any good WordPress membership plugin will allow you to set up an unlimited number of Membership levels with support for all types you can think of including, free, paid, and trial memberships which are essential for providing flexibility in what you can offer.
Chances are you’ll want to charge your members and for that, you’ll need a payment gateway, before you select a WordPress membership plugin make sure that it supports your chosen payment gateway such as PayPal or Stripe.
Some membership plugins also integrate with WooCommerce allowing you to use any payment gateway that is supported by WooCommerce.
Membership Upgrades and Downgrades
Make sure whichever WordPress membership plugin you decide to go with supports upgrades and downgrades ideally with pro-rate payments. After all, you want to give your members the best membership experience so they stick around, and one way to do that is by making sure that members can move freely between plans.
Reporting and Analytics
Knowing exactly how many members churn and at which point is vital data for any membership site, along with spotting trends in new signups and slumps.
Ensure that the WordPress membership plugin you’re looking at supports these along with data exports.
It goes without saying (even though we already have), but membership plugins are complex and the chances are you may need to contact support.
That’s why it’s often best to go with a membership plugin that offers at minimum ticketed support so you can get the help you need to launch your WordPress membership website.
Best WordPress Membership Plugins
Based on the criteria above, here are the best WordPress membership plugins available today. For each plugin, we give a little more information on the plugin, pros and cons, pricing and our opinion.
Restrict Content Pro
About Restrict Content Pro
Restrict Content Pro was originally developed by Pippin Williamson and his team at Sandhills Development and grew to be one of the most popular membership plugins for WordPress. The big news came in 2020 that Restrict Content Pro joined the iThemes family.
We may be biased, but it’s a plugin that is chocked full of value and offers best-in-class support and development.
The feature set is extensive with Restrict Content Pro. Discount codes, built-in integrations, data export, and a robust reporting system are a small part of Restrict Content Pro. Create an unlimited number of subscription tiers such as a free trial, beginner, and paid. View all your members and their status on the well thought out dashboard.
The plugin is easy to set up and start delivering a high level of premium content. Use the email system to build your membership roles with new member emails and emails offering discounts and specials. Restrict Content Pro lets you integrate with all the popular payment gateways such as Stripe, PayPal, and Authorize.Net.
Without a doubt, Restrict Content Pro is a membership plugin for WordPress that is the most developer-friendly with a huge range of hooks and filters allowing developers to build whatever they need making it perfect for custom jobs.
Restrict Content Pro Pros
We’ve already mentioned the developer friendliness of Restrict Content Pro, and yet there’s so much more.
It supports multiple membership levels, upgrades, and downgrades, all the popular payment gateways (like Stripe) along with functionality such as WooCommerce integration.
Like all good WordPress membership plugins, it supports drip content (releasing content over time on a schedule).
And one of its coolest features if you want to spin up a cheap SaaS-based service is that it supports site creation on multisite.
How this works is that if you run a WordPress multisite you can allow customers to sign up for their own subsite using Restrict Content Pro.
Restrict Content Pro Cons
There aren’t any cons in the functionality or support of Restrict Content Pro, for some people they would like a more “designed” membership panel on the front-end of their website.
However, that’s kept purposefully simple to allow site admins to customize it as they see fit with CSS and so it works across all themes.
Restrict Content Pro Pricing
The premium version can be purchased on the Restrict Content Pro website and on the iThemes.com website with plugin bundle packages (more on that later).
Restrict Content Pro is available with the following plans:
- Personal ($99/yr) — A single site license with updates, and support for a year along with 13 official free add-ons.
- Plus ($149/year) — A 5-site license with updates, and support for a year along with 13 official add-ons.
- Professional ($249/year) — An unlimited site license, update, and supports for a year along with 13 free add-ons and 18 professional add-ons.
- Ultimate ($499/lifetime) — An unlimited site license with updates and support for life along with 13 free add-ons, and 18 professional add-ons.
Alternatively, you can buy the iThemes Agency bundle which includes Restrict Content Pro and all the other iThemes plugins for an unlimited number of sites for just $749/year.
Our Opinion on Restrict Content Pro
While we may be biased in our opinion, Restrict Content Pro is one of the best WordPress membership plugins available with everything you need to build your membership site. If you pick up the iThemes Agency bundle, the value is incredible.
Paid Memberships Pro
About Paid Memberships Pro
Paid Memberships Pro was founded by husband and wife team Jason and Kim Coleman and has gone on to be one of the most popular free WordPress membership plugins available.
With more than 100,000+ active installs and over 300 five-star ratings, you can be sure that you’re in good hands. And it’s feature-rich to with 19 free add-ons and 65 Plus add-ons available in the Pro version.
If you are looking for a plugin that offers unlimited everything, try Paid Memberships Pro. It is a little expensive to start; however, you may not have to purchase another member plugin. Complete integration with all the popular solutions for WordPress, such as bbPress, MailChimp, Stripe, and BuddyPress.
The plugin can support any type of site, professional organizations, e-Learning, or any kind of online content. Create entire communities with forums, member tiers, and member-only content and product sampling. Use your membership as a new revenue source with a very robust email system.
The plugin offers three tiers of memberships with a no questions asked money-back guarantee.
Paid Memberships Pro Pros
What we love most about Paid Memberships Pro is that you don’t need to buy the paid version. The free version offers everything you need to get started with your WordPress membership website including:
- Payment gateways (Stripe and PayPal).
- Unlimited membership levels with free trial support, recurring payments, and one-time payments.
- Reporting, analytics, and the ability to export data is included in the free version.
And it even includes 19 free add-ons like this one which allows you to add custom fields to the checkout and member registration.
Out of the box, it supports protecting custom post types, and even integrates with both BuddyPress, and bbPress.
One thing we especially like is that if you view an add-on they offer a scale of 1-4 of how complicated that add-on is to install allowing you to gauge exactly how long it’ll take you to setup.
Paid Memberships Pro Cons
There aren’t many cons to the software itself. While you could say it has a lot of settings to configure that’s a given with a WordPress membership plugin and you can’t particularly get around that.
Instead, the main con in our opinion is that the documentation requires an account to view. While it’s a clever marketing trick so later they can up-sell you it is annoying if you’re trying to just evaluate and get a sense of what the plugin is about before you install it.
Paid Memberships Pro Pricing
As we’ve already mentioned there’s a free version that does plenty, and is available on WordPress.org.
Then the paid version takes a simple pricing approach with the plus add-ons available as part of a bundle only.
And what’s nice is that the add-ons are included in every paid bundle the only difference being the number of websites.
- Plus ($297/year) — A 5 site license that includes support and updates for a year.
- Unlimited ($597/year) — An unlimited site license that includes support and updates for a year.
Our Opinion on Paid Memberships Pro
Paid Memberships Pro is the best free WordPress membership plugin with a wide array of functionality and 19 free add-ons making it the perfect starting point for those on a budget.
MemberPress is the only premium-only WordPress membership in our list and it was one of the first plugins to be invested in when Syed of AwesomeMotive and WPBeginner fame opened up his investment fund. Since then, MemberPress has seen a raft of improvements and has gone on to be a dominant force in the WordPress membership scene.
MemberPress is a rules-based WordPress membership plugin with tons of features to build a comprehensive tier-based site. Quality membership plugins allow its users to control the content subscribers can access, and MemberPress is no different. Use child pages, custom post types, and categories to provide only the content you want subscribers to see.
Start a forum inside your site to build a like-minded community. Use built-in password protection and give subscribers a sense anything they post is secure. Integrate your MemberPress forum with other popular WordPress forum plugins like BBBPress and build a robust community.
MemberPress makes it easy to start monetizing your site with full coupon integration. Run any number of promotions and giveaways to generate new business.
Like most WordPress membership plugins MemberPress has a range of what they call “Extensions” which are separate plugins you can upload that integrate a raft of third-party plugins and SaaS tools with your membership site.
There’s no denying that MemberPress has the widest range of extensions and integrations on the WordPress membership plugin market.
Just some of the extensions include:
- Constant Contact
- Corporate Accounts
And many more. And more extensions seem to get released regularly.
MemberPress also has comprehensive data analytics and reporting functionality along with everything that you’d expect from a membership plugin like membership levels, upgrades, downgrades, and payment integrations like Stripe and PayPal.
Overall there aren’t many cons to MemberPress once again it has a lot of settings which can be expected of any membership plugin and it isn’t exactly the most beautiful plugin on the front-end but just like Restrict Content Pro, you can easily change that with some CSS.
MemberPress offers a three-tiered membership package that includes different add-ons/extensions depending on which tier you buy which means that sometimes you have to buy the most expensive plan to get what you want.
The plans are:
- Basic ($249/year) — includes a single site license, support, and updates for a year along with the MemberPress courses add-on.
- Plus ($399/year) — includes a 2 site license, support, and updates for a year along with the Authorize.net payment gateway, and the corporate accounts add-on.
- Pro ($549/year) — includes a 5-site license, support, and updates for a year along with all Pro add-ons.
All MemberPress plans include a 3 month free trial of OptinMonster which in our previous article we rated as the best WordPress popup plugin.
MemberPress is, however far more expensive than both Restrict Content Pro and Paid Memberships Pro if you develop a lot of sites for clients and want an unlimited license that MemberPress doesn’t offer.
Our Opinion on MemberPress
MemberPress is a comprehensive WordPress membership plugin that offers everything you need but it comes at a cost.
If you’re on a budget or build a lot of sites and need an unlimited site license, then we’d recommend looking at Restrict Content Pro and Paid Memberships Pro instead.
Other WordPress Membership Plugins and Tools
Here are a few other WordPress membership plugins worth noting.
Paid Member Subscription
Paid Member Subscription is a lightweight solution and easy to set up. Get started with a free membership for your subscribers and offer a paid solution down the road. Members have an exceptional area to edit their content and membership details.
Restrict content to logged-in users or employ other criteria. Offer varying degrees of content to your users, such as posts and pages, WooCommerce products, and forum subjects. Place shortcodes throughout your site so a user can log in easily.
Subscription management is easy, allowing your members to upgrade whenever they feel the need for more content and from any member level. Even though this is a lightweight membership management plugin, there is still plenty of options to make your subscribers feel they are getting their money’s worth.
Configure the plugin for free memberships, free trial period, one time fees, or recurring payments. Paid Membership Subscription also features a robust email management system. Send an email template when a subscriber signs up or on a pre-determined schedule. Another useful feature of the plugin is the reporting function. It lets you know how your site is responding to the changes you are making.
The plugin allows for two types of pricing, which are billed annually.
- The Hobbyist can be used on one site
- A pro Version can be used on an unlimited number of domains
WooCommerce Memberships is the plugin you need for any e-commerce site. The plugin offers complete integration into the popular e-commerce system.
Take your e-commerce site to a whole other level with this plugin. Build on repeat sales by letting customers create an account then follow-up with an email designed to promote your product. The WooCommerce Membership plugin enables you to create exclusive content and then drip that content on any schedule you prefer. Integrate your store with memberships for sale, or after product purchases.
Once you have the plugin setup, the possibilities are endless. Create a selling club with the features of integrated WooCommerce. Restrict viewing of strategic products to specific members or tiers. Once you have your shipping in place, offer improved rates to members and products.
Discounts and coupons are a great way to sell more product. With WooCommerce Membership, you have everything in place to offer the best discounts for your products. Let members view their perks in the dashboard along with other drip content. Give them a reason to shop and keep shopping with incentives throughout your store.
WooCommerce Memberships is offered as an annual payment with a 30-day moneyback guarantee. You also get a full year of updates when you subscribe.
WP-Members is a free plugin with a ton of features. If you are just starting with a new site and need a member plugin, this is the solution to check out. The plugin becomes part of your theme with no restrictions.
Once you have the plugin downloaded and installed, the WP-Member plugin is wholly integrated with the base code of WordPress. This function allows you to focus on your business and not setting up a member site. The plugin is easy to use and extremely flexible. WP-Members offers all the features you would see in a paid membership plugin.
WP-Members is scalable to any depth and restricts content to any member or tier of members. Restrict any page, post, or content on your site and use a login for your subscribers to access. Create custom fields for registration and profile pages.
Use shortcodes throughout your site to enhance the customer experience. Use a shortcode to login to different restricted areas or a different tier of content.
The WP-Member plugin is free of charge and integrates seamlessly with any other WordPress content. If you need a free solution for membership, this is the plugin to have.
Member Mouse is an outstanding plugin for anybody stating a membership site if you can forget about the name. Member Mouse is a comprehensive plugin for managing e-commerce solutions.
Deliver any type of content to your subscribers, including specials and promotions on any number of products. Member Mouse provides a complete customer management system, smart tags, and one-click upsells. Customers feel a part of the action with their self-service page to update passwords and preferences.
One of the best features is the ability to drip content to your subscribers. Use individual schedules or a tier system for any number of subscribers. Member Mouse offers plenty of automatic features, such as the ability to downsell an account if your customer attempts to cancel. Set up different price-points for any number of subscribers in different tiers or the same level.
Three pricing levels for every need.
- The Starter Plan allows for up to 1000 members with content protection
- Advanced offers up to 50,000 members and Piracy Anti-Locking
- The Premium Level gives you 100,000 members with smart tags and drip content
S2Member is another feature-packed WordPress membership plugin. The plugin integrates easily into any WordPress theme and other plugins. It is compatible with PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.Net.
Shortcodes are a significant feature of S2Member. You can use WordPress shortcodes throughout your content to grow your readership and subscriber base. Make complex transactions quick and easy by learning the basics of WordPress shortcodes. Place buy and sell buttons wherever you need them.
Integrate any of the major payment gateways in any area you want with merely placing a shortcode. S2Member offers a host of options often reserved for more expensive plugins. Restrict content any way you choose by an individual subscriber, rule-based, or tier—drip content on any number of criteria such as custom schedules.
S2Member is a secure platform with encrypted content and protected audio/video streaming. Create custom fields for login and welcome pages to improve your subscriber community. Everything in S2Member in integrated with some of the largest brands on the internet.
S2Member offers three levels of membership with a money-back guarantee.
- Framework offers the base code for a single site
- Pro Version is offered for a single site plus upgrades
- Pro Version Unlimited is precisely what the name implies, unlimited everything
MagicMembers is a simple yet highly effective plugin for your community. Integrate your existing content into the plugin and start making money.
MagicMembers lets you integrate your site into a full suite of payment gateways, including Stripe and Authorize.net. As a bonus, accept payments from as many portals as you like, giving your customers a broader choice. Build your customer base with multiple membership levels. Let your subscriber view their subscriptions on an individual dashboard.
Decide on different membership billing options. Choose weekly or monthly, whatever is convenient for you and your customer. Let your users manage downloads with the protected download manager and set access levels for your subscribers. A Valuable option is the integration of S3 Amazon and MagicMembers. Protect audio/video files even if they sit on Amazon’s servers.
Use ready-built custom widgets for login, text, and status. Use MagicMembers to build an unlimited number of coupons and build your subscribers base through the robust email system. The Sequential Course Delivery System allows you to time when content is delivered to your members. Drip content and make it available on a weekly or monthly basis.
MagicMembers offers three one-time-only subscription levels.
- The Single version is offered for one domain
- A 3-Domain version is provided with training videos and one year of updates
- The Unlimited Domain Version gives the user unlimited everything
Wishlist Member is an excellent plugin for quickly creating communities and learning sites. WishList is an extremely easy to use piece of software for the beginner to professional.
Wishlist is integrated with all the top payment gateways and email providers, including PayPal and Mailchimp. The plugin is also tightly integrated with Easy Webinar, iDevAffilliate, and Zapier. The best thing about Wishlist is the ease in which you can go through setup. The wizard lets you make a host of choices as you effortlessly move through the options.
WishList is built for WordPress and its base code. Run the wizard once, and the rest of your membership actions are integrated into every other task. No complicated setup, everything is there when you need it. A useful feature for WishList is its tight integration with Zapier. Use the online service to automate a lot of your daily tasks. This integration gives you the ability to focus on what is fun about running an online business.
Pricing options are straight forward with WishList. A Single Site License is for one domain and a year of updates and a multi-site license is for an unlimited number of domains and one year of support and updates.
Wrapping Up: The Best WordPress Membership Plugins
It’s never easy picking a WordPress membership plugin and, while we tested multiple plugins to find you the best WordPress membership plugins, it’s still something that is never set in stone and will vary with the needs of your website.
Depending on what you are looking for in a membership plugin, one we’ve covered here will definitely get you up and running. There are several on this list that give you more than enough features to start with and grow into.
My favorites are Restrict Content Pro, WooCommerce Memberships (if I’m also selling products on my site), MemberPress and Paid Memberships Pro. I think all 4 of these options are great for beginners and as you continue to grow, they aren’t going to require you to change platforms.
Of course, no membership site is complete without making sure that it is secured. iThemes Security is there to protect your site.
Do you currently use a WordPress membership plugin? Or have you ever used WordPress membership plugins before? Let us know your favorites in the comments below.
AJ brings over two decades of experience working on and developing membership sites with a wide range of clients.