Are you looking to build a membership site in WordPress? Want to know which is the best WordPress membership plugin?
Choosing the right membership plugin is crucial for your business because a better platform means more opportunities for growth.
In this article, we will compare the 5 best WordPress membership plugins to easily create paid membership websites.
What to Look for in a WordPress Membership Plugin?
There are plenty of WordPress membership plugins, but not all of them have specific features that you may need for creating your membership site.
Some of them are good for selling subscriptions on a single level, while others offer more diverse membership levels and subscription management features.
Some plugins offer a drip content feature that allows you to slowly release new content to a user. While others are restricted to only offering hidden content.
You will also need to figure out which payment gateways you will use. Do you want to accept credit cards only, PayPal, or both? Your membership plugin should have support for your preferred payment gateways, either built-in or through an addon.
Having said that, let’s see what you will need to start a WordPress membership site.
If you’d prefer written instructions, just keep reading.
What Do You Need to Run a WordPress Membership Site?
Membership websites are resource intensive, and choosing the wrong host can be detrimental to your overall performance. That’s why the first thing you need to do is choose the best WordPress hosting that you can afford.
If you’re on a budget, then you can start with Bluehost. Their Business Pro plan comes with an SSL Certificate which you need to securely collect payments, dedicated IP, and a dedicated support line.
If you don’t already have one, then you will need to choose a domain name for your website. Here is our guide on how to pick the right domain name for your membership site.
Now that we have covered what you need to start a membership site in WordPress, let’s take a look at our top WordPress membership plugins.
MemberPress is one of the most popular WordPress membership plugins. It is also the easiest to use and the most robust when it comes to features.
Pros of MemberPress WordPress Membership Plugin
Easy to Set Up – MemberPress makes it simple to set up a membership website with WordPress. It can automatically set up pricing, login, account, and thank you pages for your users. Adding membership plans is also very straightforward.
No Limitations – MemberPress allows you to create unlimited membership levels. You can set the price and decide what premium content is included for each level.
Content Access Control – MemberPress comes with powerful access control, which allows you to restrict access to any content, including posts, pages, custom post types, categories, tags, files, and more.
Content Dripping – Content dripping allows you to show restricted content to members after a certain time. This is a very useful feature for selling online courses or learning materials.
Sell Courses – MemberPress lets you easily create and sell online courses. It offers an interactive learning experience for users that focuses on course completion rates.
Integrations – MemberPress integrates with AWeber, MailChimp, GetResponse, and MadMimi email services. It also integrates with Amazon Web Services, Blubrry for podcast hosting, and BuddyPress for building an online community.
Payment Gateways – MemberPress comes with built-in support for PayPal and Stripe payment gateways. The developer plan also adds Authorize.net support.
Other powerful features include a built-in membership management dashboard, customizable coupon codes, email notifications, frontend pricing and user registration pages, custom widgets and shortcodes, Rest API for developers, and more.
Cons of Using MemberPress Pro
Limited Payment Options – MemberPress only supports the three most popular payment gateways. This would be a deal breaker for site owners who live in countries not supported by these payment gateways.
Limited Integrations – While the plugin has enough support for popular services to run a membership site efficiently, it still lacks integrations with some other popular services. The plugin is easily extensible, and you can pay someone to integrate a third-party service you would like to use.
Pricing: The Basic plan starts from $179.50/year, and the Pro plan starts at $299.50/year.
We think MemberPress is the easiest WordPress membership plugin for beginners. It is quick to set up with tons of powerful options.
Thrive Apprentice is a popular all-in-one membership and online course builder plugin for WordPress. It comes with advanced features and easy access control settings.
Pros of Using Thrive Apprentice
Easy to Use – Thrive Apprentice has a School Setup Wizard that will guide you through the process of setting up the plugin. This makes creating an online course membership website quick and easy.
Member Management Dashboard – In the built-in Member Management Dashboard, you can easily grant or revoke access to courses, content, or membership products for specific subscribers.
Sell Online Courses – Thrive Apprentice allows you to easily create, sell, and manage online courses. It comes with 55+ course templates, a drag and drop course builder, customizable certificates, and more.
Content Dripping – It has powerful content dripping features that let you unlock content at consistent intervals for students. You can also create multiple drip schedules for the same content.
Conditional Display – You can show personalized content for different users to boost engagement and sales. For example, you can display a different course overview for visitors and students.
Detailed Reporting – You can learn valuable insights, like where students are dropping off in your course, with Thrive Apprentice’s advanced reporting engine.
Cons of Using Thrive Apprentice
No Built-in Payment Support – To accept payments online with Thrive Apprentice, you need to connect it with a checkout plugin like WooCommerce.
Limited Integrations – While the plugin integrates with many popular apps, it still lacks some integrations with other popular tools and WordPress plugins.
Thrive Apprentice is a powerful and easy-to-use membership plugin. It comes with all of the features you need to protect and sell access to any type of digital content, including online courses.
Pros of Using Easy Digital Downloads
Sell Digital Products – You can use Easy Digital Downloads to sell any type of digital product in WordPress, including eBooks, PDFs, audio files, videos, and more.
Built-in Shopping Cart – It comes with a built-in shopping cart system that allows your customers to purchase multiple downloads at once.
Accept Recurring Payments – You can accept one-time payments or easily set up automatic recurring payments on any product, including daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually.
Unlimited File Downloads – You can allow customers to download their purchased files endlessly, or you can restrict file downloads by time and/or attempt.
Payment Methods – With Easy Digital Downloads, you can accept credit card payments from Stripe, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other popular payment gateways like Braintree, with no additional monthly fees.
Addons – A variety of addons are available to extend your site’s functionality. There are extensions like Purchase Rewards, Wish Lists, Multi Currency, Conditional Emails, and more.
Cons of Using Easy Digital Downloads
Fewer Membership Features – You can sell ‘members-only’ digital products with this plugin, but you can’t hide your WordPress posts and pages from non-members.
Limited Integrations – While Easy Digital Downloads connects with some popular tools like AffiliateWP to create an affiliate program for your products, it lacks integrations with other popular services.
Pricing: The Personal plan starts at $99.50/year for a single site license and 1 year of support and updates.
Easy Digital Downloads is the best plugin for creating a membership site that sells digital products. It comes with a built-in shopping cart system, recurring payments, and a library of addons to grow your business.
Related: Here’s how to sell digital downloads on WordPress with Easy Digital Downloads.
Pros of Using LearnDash
Easy to Setup – LearnDash is quite easy to set up and adding content to it is much simpler. It also comes with advanced tools to easily organize your membership content into levels, groups, and more.
Easy Content Restrictions – LearnDash allows you to easily hide any content and restrict it to different membership groups.
Sell Courses – It allows you to easily create and sell online courses. It has advanced modules that allow you to better manage learning material than other WordPress membership plugins.
Drip Content – It comes with a powerful drip content feature allowing you to roll out content to users at regular intervals or upon completion of levels.
Built-in Community Features – It comes with tools to create highly engaging membership sites with quizzes, user badges, course-specific forums, certificates, user profiles, and more.
Integrations & Payments – LearnDash offers an amazing set of integrations and payment gateways. You can even connect it to MemberPress, WooCommerce, bbPress, Slack, and more.
Cons of Using LearnDash
Lacks Some Membership Features – If you are trying to build a membership website without selling courses, then some of LearnDash’s features may not be useful to you.
Pricing: Starting from $199 for a single site license with 1 year of support and updates.
LearnDash is the perfect solution if you want to sell online courses on a paid membership website. Its extensive set of addons and integrations allows you to build a highly-engaging platform.
Teachable is an all-inclusive online course builder. It packs a membership website, LMS, discussion forum, email marketing, and analytics, all under one dashboard.
Pros of Using Teachable
Ease of Use – Teachable is easy to set up and does not require any technical skills at all. Creating membership content is a breeze and includes built-in tools to quickly create and upload videos, text, PDFs, and more.
Drip Content – It includes a flexible drip content feature, which allows you to roll out content based on a user’s progress or subscription level.
Built-in Engagement Features – It offers discussion forums, quizzes, contact forms, certificates, and other features to boost user engagement and build powerful online communities.
Cons of Using Teachable
Not a WordPress Plugin – Teachable is not available as a WordPress plugin. Instead, you can integrate it into your WordPress site by adding links or a sub-domain.
More Expensive – Teachable includes everything, which makes it more expensive than other WordPress membership plugins.
Pricing: Basic plan starts at $39/month, and the Pro plan starts at $119/month.
We believe that MemberPress is the best option for a WordPress membership plugin. It has all the features that you would need to create a membership site and sell online courses, along with great documentation and support.
If you want a MemberPress alternative, then Thrive Apprentice is a great option. It’s a powerful and easy-to-use membership and online course builder plugin.
If you want to sell digital products on your membership website, then we recommend using Easy Digital Downloads. It comes with powerful features to create and sell digital downloads.
WordPress Membership Plugin FAQs
Having helped over 400,000+ users start their website, we’ve answered a ton of questions over the years. Below are some of the answers to the most frequently asked questions about membership plugins.
What is the best membership plugin?
Our top 3 choices for the best membership plugin are:
- MemberPress – Best membership plugin (overall).
- Thrive Apprentice – Best membership plugin for selling online courses.
- Easy Digital Downloads – Best membership plugin for selling digital products.
No, this question is not a joke. We seriously get this question even after referring people to this guide.
What is the best free membership plugin for WordPress?
While there are free membership plugins available, such as Paid Memberships Pro and WP-Members, they often come with limited features and additional transaction fees.
But, with a premium membership plugin like MemberPress, you get all of the features you need to build a successful membership site. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
MemberPress also offers a 14-day free trial period so that you can test it out first.
How do I create a successful membership site?
Simply follow this tutorial on how to create a membership site with MemberPress for step by step instructions.
We hope this article helped you find the best WordPress membership plugin for your site. You may also want to learn how to track visitors to your WordPress website, or see our step-by-step WordPress SEO guide for beginners.
Disclaimer: We could have included many other membership plugins in this list, like Restrict Content Pro, SureMembers, S2Member, aMember PRO, MemberMouse, WooCommerce Memberships, and so on. But, we decided only to include the very best membership plugins to help you avoid choice paralysis.