7 Best WordPress Membership Plugins Compared (Free and Paid)

On the hunt for the absolute best WordPress membership plugins?

Whether you want to build a community or earn some money (or maybe both!), launching a membership site is a great strategy that’s exploded in popularity. You can create courses, offer restricted content, charge for access to certain features, accept subscriptions like Patreon, and plenty more.

Because membership sites are so popular and versatile, you can find a ton of great plugins and tools to help you add membership functionality to your WordPress site.

So – which membership plugin should you use? That’s the million-dollar question, right?

Well, each membership site is unique so it’s impossible to give a single recommendation that will work for all sites.

Instead, this post will introduce you to the top options and help you understand what each plugin does uniquely well.

The goal is that by the end of the post, you should have the knowledge that you need to pick the best WordPress membership plugin for your unique needs, budget, and technical level.

Here’s the list – in no particular order…

WooCommerce Memberships

WooCommerce Memberships is a membership plugin that’s built on top of the WooCommerce eCommerce plugin. While you can use it to create a membership site built around an actual eCommerce store, you can also use it to create a more traditional membership site.

In that latter situation, you’d essentially just be using WooCommerce to process payments for your membership site. However, you would still have the option to easily add a “real” eCommerce store, such as setting up a merch shop for your membership site as it grows.

Overall, if you want the flexibility of WooCommerce for managing your membership site’s payments, this one is a great option. 

However, it’s worth noting that there are also other membership plugins that support using WooCommerce for payment processing, so you have a few different options if you like that approach.

Key Features

  • Built on top of WooCommerce for payment and order management.
  • Accept one-time payments using any WooCommerce payment method. You can also add the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin for automatic recurring subscriptions, free trials, one-time signup fees, and more.
  • Bulk restrict content based on post type, category, tag, and more. You can also restrict individual pieces of content or even parts of content.
  • Drip content out over time on a custom schedule to keep members engaged.
  • If you have an eCommerce store, you can offer special perks and discounts to members. For example, you could give members free shipping to create your own sort of Amazon Prime setup.
  • Customize the email notifications that your membership site sends to members.

Areas Where WooCommerce Memberships Excels

  • Payment flexibility – because WooCommerce Memberships is built on WooCommerce, you can tap into the incredible flexibility that WooCommerce offers when it comes to payment methods and gateways. In addition to the big names like PayPal and Stripe, you can accept lots of smaller local gateways, cryptocurrency, Apple Pay, and more.
  • Special features for eCommerce stores – while you don’t need to have an eCommerce store to use WooCommerce Memberships, it does have lots of special features for eCommerce stores. For example, you can give members special discounts, offer them special shipping options, and more.

Pricing

WooCommerce Memberships is a premium plugin that costs $199.

You’ll also need to use the WooCommerce plugin with it, but the core WooCommerce plugin is 100% free so you won’t need to pay anything there.

However, you might want to pay for other WooCommerce plugins depending on the specific payment functionality that you want to use. For example, you’ll also want the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin if you want to offer automatic recurring subscriptions (rather than one-time payments or manual subscription renewals).

If so, the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin also costs $199.


MemberPress

MemberPress is a premium membership plugin that offers a strong feature list for serious membership websites.

It includes pretty much everything you need in one package, along with more advanced features such as corporate group memberships, online courses, and more. It also integrates with a lot of other plugins and services that you might be using.

Because of this, it can be a good option for people who are looking for an all-in-one membership solution.

Key Features

  • Create unlimited membership levels, including linking levels together in tiers so that people can upgrade/downgrade.
  • Accept payments via Stripe, PayPal, or Authorize.net. There are also third-party add-ons that let you use WooCommerce to accept payments.
  • Bulk restrict content via post types, categories, and more. Or, restrict individual pieces of content or parts of content.
  • Customize emails and set up automations.
  • Access dedicated add-ons to create online courses or forums. You can also integrate with BuddyPress to add community features.
  • Integrate with popular email marketing tools like MailPoet or Mailchimp.
  • Sell group/corporate memberships. For example, a business could purchase a membership plan that supports 25 users so that the business’s employees could all access your membership site.
  • Create an affiliate program for your membership site via integrations with EasyAffiliate or AffiliateWP.

Areas Where MemberPress Excels

  • Strong feature list – in addition to all the basic features, MemberPress offers a good number of advanced features including corporate accounts and a built-in course builder tool.
  • Design features – MemberPress excels at letting you customize the frontend design of your membership site. For example, you can create stylish pricing tables to show off your membership plans and customize their designs without CSS. You can also customize your checkout page.
  • Integrations – MemberPress integrates with a lot of other WordPress plugins, along with email marketing services and helpdesk tools. For example, you can integrate with BuddyPress (for a social community), PowerPress (for members-only podcasts), affiliate plugins (to create an affiliate program), and so on.

Pricing

MemberPress only comes in a premium version. There are three different pricing plans, each allowing access to different features and site limits.

The cheapest license costs $279 at full price, but you can get a discount for your first year which brings the price down to $179 (but the plan will renew at $279).

The most expensive license costs $599 per year at full price.


Restrict Content / Restrict Content Pro

Restrict Content, more commonly known as Restrict Content Pro (the name of the premium version), is a popular membership plugin that comes in both a free and paid version.

It offers a lengthy feature list, even in the free version. It’s also extensible and well-documented, which makes it a popular option for developers who want a plugin that they can easily customize to their needs.

You certainly don’t need to be a developer to use the plugin, though – the extensibility is just there if you want it. 

With that being said, you might need to add some custom CSS to style Restrict Content’s core pages, as they’re pretty barebones right out of the box. The default styling of key membership pages is one area where a plugin like MemberPress excels over Restrict Content.

Key Features

  • Create unlimited membership levels, including linking levels together in tiers so that people can upgrade/downgrade.
  • Bulk restrict content by post type, category, and other details. Or, restrict individual pieces of content or parts of content. There’s also a unique “Access Level” restriction method that gives you more flexibility for restricting content.
  • Drip content out over time to keep members engaged.
  • Accept payments via built-in support for Stripe, PayPal, Braintree, and 2Checkout. You can charge one-time fees or automatic recurring subscriptions.
  • Adjust pricing with coupons, free trials, signup fees, prorated memberships, and more.
  • Use custom code to extend your membership site as needed.
  • Integrate with other WordPress plugins including BuddyPress, bbPress, and WP Job Manager.
  • Integrate with email marketing services including MailPoet, Mailchimp, and more.
  • Offer group/corporate accounts.

Areas Where Restrict Content Pro Excels

  • Strong feature list – especially with the Pro version, Restrict Content Pro offers one of the strongest feature lists that you’ll find.
  • Extensible code – if you’re a developer (or willing to hire one), one of the strong points of Restrict Content Pro has always been its clean, extensible, and well-documented code.
  • Affordable – with its new pricing, Restrict Content Pro is one of the most affordable WordPress membership plugins, especially when you consider the features that it offers.
  • Functional free version – as of Restrict Content 3.0, the free version is now functional and lets you sell paid memberships (though it does apply an extra 2% processing fee on top of Stripe’s payment processing fees).

Pricing

There’s a free version of the plugin named Restrict Content that gives you access to core features. The free version used to be quite limited. However, after the plugin was acquired, the new owners completely redid things in Restrict Content 3.0 to make the free version a lot more functional.

Now, you’re able to sell memberships via Stripe, even in the free version, along with other essential features. However, in the free version, the plugin adds an additional 2% processing fee to Stripe on top of the fee that Stripe itself charges.

If you want even more functionality (and to remove that added processing fee), you can purchase Restrict Content Pro. The premium version starts at $99 for access to all premium features and use on a single site, which now makes it one of the more affordable WordPress membership plugins.

You can visit this page to see the feature differences between free vs Pro.


WordPress.com Premium Content Block

If you’re a WordPress.com user on plugin-enabled plan, you might not need a dedicated membership plugin because you already get access to subscription functionality via the Premium Content block.

With the Premium Content block, you can easily restrict some or all of your content right from the editor. You can then charge for access on a one-time or recurring basis.

While it doesn’t provide the more advanced features of a dedicated membership plugin, it can be a great option if you’re just looking for a simple way to charge users for access to some or all of your site’s content.

Key Features

  • Accept one-time, monthly, or annual payments from members.
  • Offer preset payment amounts or let customers pick their own amounts. You can also mark subscriptions as donations.
  • Easily restrict content from the editor using the block.
  • Restrict entire pieces of content or only restrict part of the content. For example, you could make it so that everyone can see the text of a post but only subscribers can see the accompanying video.

Areas Where the Premium Content Block Excels

  • No need to install a plugin – because the Premium Content block is a built-in feature on a WordPress.com plugin-enabled plan, you don’t need to mess around with installing or configuring plugins.
  • Work from the editor – you can set up everything right from the WordPress editor, which is a lot simpler than a full-service membership plugin that will have a ton of different settings areas.

Pricing

The Premium Content block is available at no extra charge if you’re using a WordPress.com paid plan.

It’s also available if you’re using one of the legacy paid plans, including the Personal, Premium, Business, and eCommerce plans.

Note – if you have a plugin-enabled site but you don’t see the Premium Content block in the editor, make sure that the WordPress.com Editing Toolkit plugin is still active. If you disable this plugin, you won’t see the Premium Content block in the editor.


Paid Memberships Pro

Paid Memberships Pro is one of the most popular free WordPress membership plugins at the WordPress.org directory.

The core plugin is 100% free forever and then you can add more features by installing some of the 80+ free or paid add-ons. 

This makes it highly customizable because you can pick and choose exactly which features you want to add to your site.

If those add-ons aren’t enough, the developer also maintains a library of code snippets that you can use to further customize things.

Key Features

  • Create unlimited membership levels, including linking levels together in tiers so that people can upgrade/downgrade.
  • Charge for access using one-time or recurring payments via built-in support for Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.net, Braintree, 2Checkout, or offline payments. You can also link a WooCommerce product’s purchase to a membership level to use WooCommerce for payments.
  • Give free trials, charge one-time signup fees, and offer coupons. Users can also enter their own prices, which is great for accepting donations.
  • Restrict content in bulk (post types, categories, etc), at the individual level, or even just parts of otherwise public content.
  • Use a leaky paywall so that lower-tier members can view a certain number of premium articles before being prompted to upgrade.
  • Drip content out over time to keep users engaged.
  • Integrate with a number of other plugins including BuddyPress, bbPress, WooCommerce, and more. You can also integrate with other services such as Zapier or Mailchimp.

Areas Where Paid Memberships Pro Excels

  • Huge extension library – with 80+ official free and paid add-ons, you get a ton of flexibility for configuring your membership site according to your needs.
  • Huge code snippet library – in addition to dedicated add-ons, Paid Memberships Pro also has a huge library of premade code snippets – called “recipes”. These give more advanced users even more options for customization.
  • Functional free version – the free version of Paid Memberships Pro is already pretty functional and you also get access to 31+ free add-ons, which makes it great if you’re on a budget.

Pricing

The core Paid Memberships Pro plugin is available for free at the WordPress.org plugin directory. You can also find 31+ free add-ons to extend the core plugin.

After that, there are two different bundles that give you access to different add-ons:

  • Standard – $247 for access to 20+ Standard add-ons and use on a single site.
  • Plus – $397 for additional access to 30+ Plus add-ons and use on up to two sites.

Both plans also give you access to the code recipe library.


Paid Member Subscriptions

Paid Member Subscriptions is another popular membership plugin that comes in both a free version and affordable premium versions.

The free version is functional for simple membership sites and the premium version is one of the cheapest options that you’ll find when factoring in the features that it offers.

This can make it a good option for people who are on a tight budget but don’t want to sacrifice much functionality.

Key Features

  • Create unlimited membership levels, including linking levels together in tiers so that people can upgrade/downgrade.
  • Accept payments via built-in support for PayPal and Stripe. Or, you can also link a membership plan to the purchase of a WooCommerce product.
  • Charge one-time or automatic recurring payments. You can also offer free trials and charge one-time signup fees. Or, you can let people enter their own prices (great for donations).
  • Offer coupon codes to encourage people to become members.
  • Use bulk content restriction or restrict individual pieces of content (or even portions of content using shortcodes).
  • Drip content out over time to keep people engaged.
  • Integrate with WooCommerce to restrict product purchasing, offer special discounts, and more. 
  • Offer group/corporate memberships.

Areas Where Paid Member Subscriptions Excels

  • Functional free version – the free version of the plugin is already pretty functional and might be all you need for simple membership communities.
  • Affordable premium version – for the features that it offers, the premium version of Paid Member Subscriptions is one of the most affordable WordPress membership plugins that you’ll find.

Both of these points can make it a great option if you’re on a budget but still want access to more advanced features such as content dripping or group memberships.

Pricing

Paid Member Subscriptions has a free version that’s fairly functional. The two main limitations are:

  1. You can only accept one-time payments (you need the premium version for automatic recurring payments).
  2. You need to manually restrict each individual piece of content (the premium version adds support for bulk content restriction based on post types, categories, tags, and other details).

If you need the premium version, there are two payment plans, each with different features:

  • Basic – €69 for use on a single site and core premium features.
  • Pro – €149 for use on unlimited sites and all features.

Ultimate Member

Ultimate Member is a WordPress membership plugin that’s more focused on the community part of creating a membership site, rather than charging for access to content (though it does support payments).

For example, members can become friends with one another and send private messages (like Facebook) and you can create public member profiles that showcase their details and activity.

Depending on your goals, this social community focus could be either an advantage or a disadvantage.

If you do want to accept payments, there is a premium WooCommerce extension that lets you link a WooCommerce product to a user role. This gives you a way to charge for access using WooCommerce. However, there’s no built-in payment system like most other membership plugins offer.

Key Features

  • Create membership levels using the default WordPress user role system.
  • Add social networking features such as friend requests and private messages.
  • Users can create their own user groups.
  • Create frontend user profiles and member directories.
  • Restrict access to your entire site or only specific posts or pages.
  • Charge for access using WooCommerce by linking a WooCommerce product to a WordPress user role.

Areas Where Ultimate Member Excels

  • Social community functionality – Ultimate Member includes social features such as friend requests, private messages, user profiles/activity, user photos, and more. These features are great if you want to build a social community and create engagement between members (and you won’t find these features in most other membership plugins, though some membership plugins do integrate with BuddyPress).

However, it’s worth noting that, while you can accept payments, monetization is not the core focus of Ultimate Member as it is with most other membership plugins.

Pricing

The core Ultimate Member plugin is available for free.

If you want access to the premium extensions, you can get a bundle of all 23 premium extensions for $249, which allows use on unlimited sites. Or, you can also purchase individual extensions for ~$35-$50 each.


Create Your WordPress Membership Site Today

The tricky thing about choosing the best WordPress membership plugin for your site is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

All of the plugins on this list are quality options and each has slightly different strengths and weaknesses.

Choosing the right plugin for your site will really come down to your budget, knowledge level, and the exact features that you need.

For example, if you’re specifically creating a membership site to sell group/corporate accounts, then you might want to look at plugins like MemberPress or Restrict Content Pro.

On the other hand, if you just want an easy way to charge users for access to your content, you might want to go with one of the simpler (and usually more affordable) plugins. Or, you could even just use the WordPress.com Premium Content block if you’re creating your membership site with WordPress.com.

By focusing on the notable strengths of each plugin, you should have a good idea of which plugin(s) might be the best fit for your membership site.

If you’re on a WordPress.com plugin-enabled plan, you can get started with memberships today by adding the Premium Content block to your content or installing any one of these plugins.
If you’re still on the WordPress.com Free plan (or if you haven’t launched your site yet), upgrade today to access the Premium Content block, along with the ability to install any of these membership plugins on your site.


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