Think twice before you decide to use PayPal Standard as your gateway option with Paid Memberships Pro. There is one good reason to use PayPal Standard over PayPal Express:

  1. Users making one-time purchases on your site will be able to checkout at PayPal without creating a PayPal account.

There are several reasons why you wouldn’t want to use PayPal Standard. I’ll list them here and then go into more detail. If you have gone through this information and still want to use PayPal Standard with PMPro (many people do successfully), be sure to skip below for tips on troubleshooting and avoiding issues that might interfere with your use of PayPal Standard with PMPro.

Why not to use PayPal Standard.

  1. PayPal Standard is not integrated as tightly (more below) as PayPal Express.
  2. If your subscriptions are recurring, your users will have to sign up for a PayPal account anyway.
  3. There are more opportunities for things to go wrong with PayPal Standard.
  4. Many of our Add Ons and code recipes don’t work with PayPal Standard.
  5. PayPal Standard takes more effort for us to support, and we might not choose to support it in the future.

RE #1: the main issue is that with PayPal Standard, the final approval for checkout is done over at Because of this, we need to wait for the PayPal IPN to send confirmation that the payment was received before we can give a user access to a membership level. We create a WordPress user for them, but we don’t change their membership level until the IPN notification goes through. This is very different from every other gateway we integrate with.

There are many things which can delay or prevent that IPN notification from going through:

  • There can sometimes be a natural delay of a few seconds, to a few minutes, to a few hours. During this time, your members will be in a pending state and have to wait to gain full access to your site.
  • On shared hosting, the script processing the IPN notification might time out and never finish.
  • Some caching plugins and schemes might keep the IPN handling script from running properly.
  • Problems with your PayPal settings (make sure the business email in the payment settings matches the email on your PayPal account) may keep the IPN handling script from verifying the notifications.

If you want to use PayPal Standard, go through this checklist if you are having issues:

  • Make sure you are on VPS hosting or higher. PayPal Standard straight doesn’t work with 90% of shared hosts out there. Many hosts are changing things (caching more aggressively) at the low end which is sometimes causing issues to spring up where they weren’t before. If you are serious about your business, you need to upgrade your hosting and spend $30-$99/month.
  • Make sure your caching plugins and schemes are ignoring the “/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=ipnhandler” URL on your site. If you visit that URL directly, you should see some debugging information. The timestamp at the beginning should update on every page load.
  • Make sure that the “Gateway Account Email” in the PMPro payment settings matches your business email address at PayPal, more preferably it should match your main PayPal email address.

If you are still having issues, we can often work them out for you (assuming you are on a good host) if you sign up for a PMPro support package and share your WP admin account and FTP account with us. Whenever possible, we try to fix issues in the plugin directly so people don’t need one off support like this, but we can’t account for every combination of hosting setups and plugin combinations. PayPal Standard is particularly sensitive, and we often need to tweak things for individual sites.

RE #2: PayPal Express, while still allowing users to checkout offsite at PayPal works better than PayPal Standard because the final transaction is initiated on your own site and confirmation of the payment is received immediately. This way we can upgrade a user immediately and most add-ons related to customizing the checkout process will work as intended.

Because the IPN handler is still used to process recurring payments to create invoices for recurring payments inside of PMPro and send notifications of missed payments, it is still important to make sure that PayPal is successfully connecting to your site. You should go through the same checklist above.

RE #3: As I said, the workflow for a PayPal Standard checkout is different from other gateways. More steps means more chances for something to go wrong.

RE #4: Add Ons and code recipes that rely on hooking into checkout and altering prices or adding fields, etc, may not work as intended with PayPal Standard. This is for a few reasons:

  • It’s hard to keep track of information when users go off to PayPal.
  • At checkout, a user may not have a membership level yet while we wait for confirmation. Some scripts may assume that the user is given a level immediately.
  • The confirmation is eventually processed by the server and doesn’t have access to the user’s current browsing session or cookies.
  • Generally we have to code things once for every other gateway and then once for PayPal Standard, and we sometimes won’t do the later if someone hasn’t hired us to do so.

RE #5: We initially launched PMPro without support for PayPal Standard. However, many people are more comfortable with PayPal Standard since it’s the default in most other membership plugins. So after over a year of people requesting it, we decided to add support. How hard could it be?

It was real hard. And still is. With every update, we spend more time maintain PayPal Standard than we do every other gateway we offer. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have added PayPal Standard support. In the future, if the burden of support PayPal Standard becomes too much, we may decide to give up on it unless there is someone to donate development time or money to support it. If we do decide to drop support for PayPal Standard, we will be sure to give you lots of early warning and will make a clean break (i.e. at version 2.0) so people who need to have time to migrate or work out support.

So what do we recommend in place of PayPal Standard?

  • If you only have recurring subscriptions, PayPal Express also has no monthly fees and will work exactly as you need to.
  • You might be grandfathered into the PayPal Website Payments Pro API or be able to convince PayPal to let you use it. A phone call could work.
  • You can use Stripe or Braintree or Payflow Pro and setup PayPal Express as an alternative gateway. Stripe and Braintree also have no monthly fees. We hope to make it easier in the future to offer PayPal (or any other gateway) as a secondary checkout option with PMPro.

I hope this helps people who are thinking about using PayPal Standard with PMPro or experiencing issues. If you are still having problems, please sign up for support. If you have comments or concerns about the content of this post, feel free to post a comment, but we will not support the plugin through the comments here.

This entry was posted by Jason Coleman in FAQ, PayPal and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Last updated: September 16, 2013. Titled Read This Before Using PayPal Standard with Paid Memberships Pro

Honestly Jason, I think you have your business model completely backwards. You have created a free plugin, which appeals and draws mass users such as myself who want a simple, easy to use plugin. But you have not built your product to be simple or easy to use. Remember the first rule of business 101: The customer is always right. The whole value of putting out a free product is to generate mass market share, but then you actively turn your nose up at a large section of your mass market base, once you have them. It’s very arrogant and ignorant of you to say “If you are serious about your business, you need to upgrade your hosting and spend $30-$99/month.” Sorry Jason, I have no intention of spending that much money per month, and a great many people are going to be in the same boat. Stop telling us what we need/want, and start listening to your customers.

Frankly, this whole page is whinny, and makes you look unprofessional and incompetent, when someone like Pippin is able to provide Easy Digital Downloads for free with seamless and effortless Paypal integration. Honestly buddy, get your stuff together.

I grabbed your plugin because it was free, but now I regret that decision. I’ve invested a lot of time into learning it so for the moment I will continue to keep using it, but I do so grudgingly, and am actively seeking an alternative. The whole tone of your approach is arrogant and screams PISS-POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE. I really don’t want to have a business relationship with you, if I can help it.

In frustration,

Thanks for posting your thoughts. I would just say that there are many membership solutions for WordPress now. Another one might fit your needs better. Pippins stuff is a good place to start.

well, jason …

here is the thing: i think you are way off with your recommendations. and i tell you why: i gave paid membership pro a test run and it failed miserably before i could even finish the test run. why? because the payments are not confirmed. how does it happen? well here is something for you to think about: on paypal i have a list of ipn confirmation that says 11 confirmations went out. and yet every single test user in paid membership pro is pending. how come? what does that tell you? actually i tried BOTH recommendations: yours without a url on paypal and the one with the url on paypal, ACCORDING TO THE SETTINGS PAGES!!! you realize that’s a contradiction, don’t you?

to be fair i should also tell you this: this is not the first time i use ipn. neither is it the first time i experience trouble like this. i used it before with a shop. same difference. i got the shop. tried it, didn’t work. guess what. NO PAYMENT CONFIRMATIONS! i contacted the seller. had no solution. contacted the vendor. had no solution. until i went through the ipn script (back then an original script provided by paypal, modified with the shops specific options) for 5 straight days and found something that said “uncomment this” … you won’t believe what happened then. suddenly everything worked JUST PERFECTLY!!! and by perfect i mean, every single payment confirmation arrived IMMEDIATELY!!! the funny thing is, i’m no programmer. i just READ the script! yet, once again i experience the same thing … with your paid membership pro!!!

so, if with my shop ipn worked PERFECTLY even years ago and paypal says 11 confirmations went out, you have to excuse me, but going by experience i actually do believe paypal! i think i can guess where the problem is, huh jason? because to me it seems, paid membership pro has the same problem the seller and the vendor of my shop had … they are not able to get the ipn working correctly. and just to have said it, i’m not suprised you say it doesn’t work with 90% of shared hosters. because back then it was pretty much the same. it worked for SOME people. know why? because also back then LIKE TODAY the script was conflicting with the CONFIGURATIONS OF THE MASS HOSTERS. think about that? you create a plugin, for a content management system, for people who don’t want to code their own websites or are not even able to do so. for people who want SIMPLE SOLUTIONS! you try to make it SIMPLE, yet you fail to get it running for 90% OF YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE? SERIOUSLY??? so, who are you creating this plugin for? 3 programmers with dedicated servers? why would they need you? here is a hint for newbies: if you want to create a mass product, test it under mass circumstances. don’t develop your plugin on a dedicated server. find a shared server it’s not running on and go from there 😉

obviously you seem to not understand, that “we recommend something else, because it doesn’t work with 90%” is an obvious fault ON YOUR END! number 1 question: if it doesn’t work, why would you offer the option? also i could understand if it was working with 95% and not working with 5%. nothing’s perfect, right? but the one thing everybody wants to use and needs to get this one going doesn’t work? the other way around? 90% NOT working? doesn’t that tell you something? because to me it would scream “back to the ol’ drawing board”!!! seriously: if a marketing campain fails 90%, it’s crap. if a business meets only 10% of the plan, it’s crap. if only 10% of 100% produced products are sold, the vendor goes in the red and bancrupt! you have found the most interesting option. you even offer it. yet 90% of your target audience can’t use it. think about it FOR JUST A SECOND! what would you think? because i think you are saying something like “yes, the option is out there. it’s great but we can’t get it running. so use a more complicated option that’s coming with a lot of additional trouble”. excuse me? are you serious? by the way: nice to tell people (very low-key by the way) to enter the ipn handler url on paypal but NOT TELLING THEM HOW AND WHERE!!!

here is something else: IF this script would work, i would see some potential in it. BUT … so far i don’t. because up to now it FAILED THE TEST RUN. so, did you know, i can use paypal standard any time, but to use paypal express you have to have a BUSINESS ACCOUNT? now here is a question: why would i upgrade to a business account, risking paypal to bug me and ask me questions and for business documents and what not, just because i believe in your plugin? a plugins that FAILED THE TEST RUN??? i’d do so if it was working and i can be successful with it. but just for the fun of it? i don’t think so! by the way: paypal is the most important of your payment options and for the users the standard option is the easiest and least troublesome to go with. if you are a business person, you might understand this: you are “creating pain” (for your target audience).

and once again, let me make this as clear as possible to you: paypal says 11 confirmations went out from my account, yet NOT A SINGLE ONE was received by pmpro!!! think about that!!! where could the error be? paypal? really? i don’t think so!!!

so, long story short, here is my request: GET PAYPAL STANDARD AND IPN GOING!!! IT WORKS!!! PERFECTLY!!! as long as it is implemented correctly.

Thanks for the feedback.

You were joking, but you are correct that “my” target audience is developers with dedicated servers vs. people who want easy plugins to run on shared hosting. I know this doesn’t vibe with the larger WordPress user base or what other membership plugins are doing.

We do need to update the instructions on the settings page.

I see your perspective of “test PMPro with the free PayPal and then upgrade to the paid PayPal versions if it works”. This is the model plugins like s2member use, and they charge you for the other gateway modules and so make money that way. The reality is that PMPro was created different. We launched and lived for 2 years without PayPal standard support, but so many people asked for it that we implemented it even though it has so many issues and doesn’t really vibe with our target market. So if you want to go through some trouble of getting PayPal standard to work on your host and want to use PMPro… you can do it. I never said it would be easy.

PMPro is open source if someone out there wants to improve the PayPal Standard functionality or fork it or something. Or if you really like PayPal Standard, I hear that s2member integrates with it pretty well. Cheers.

the problem is when you make such ridiculous statements in reply to your non developer users you turn off developers from trying you out. What could be more ridiculous than claiming giving access to content before the reader/viewer finishes paying is consistent with PAID membership pro (echecks get access is just weak). That and a few other answers tells me your thinking is convoluted and as a developer myself that always spells problems in coding so this developer will pass.

Guys I kept getting the same issues over and over and decided enough was enough. I originally tried pmp because it supported stripe payments and I thought that would boost business however it didn’t really make any difference. After continued issues i decided to go back to s2 members and scrap having the ability to take card payments and just use PayPal only. Guess what happened? Yes sign ups went through the roof. Any coincidence? Maybe it was so I told my mate to do exactly the same thing and scrap pmp pro and switch back to s2 members and guess what happened? Yep sign ups went through the roof for him as well.

I appreciate this is a free plug in but if your running a business on line trust me when I say this you should invest even a tiny amount of money in a good plug. Pmp pro is an awful plug in. I always blamed PayPal for the problems but now finally I know it isn’t. By the way s2 member is free as well.


Not sure if its just me but the fact that Paypal Express creates a user before the payment is complete is the actual problem for me. I want a user created when the payment is cleared. I am getting way too many instances where people sign up to my site for Paypal to then reject the user and cancel their payment before it goes through. This means people who dont have funds on their card etc go through the initial stage without being declined which is a real pain for me.

You say the user gets put into a pending stage after registration but for me this definitely is not the case. A user sometimes will sign up to the site then get a chance to view all the content before payment goes through and there is nothing stopping them cancelling their payment once they have done that.

I only installed this plug in so I could have the ability to use stripe but now I no longer use stripe so I am wondering if there is any point using pmp with this many problems?

At checkout, the user pays via PayPal and basically has made the intention to pay. If they are paying using an echeck or some other methods, that actual payment might not clear for a few hours or even a couple days. We could have programmed things to wait for the payment to clear (PayPal sends a message via IPN) but the user experience for most honest folks would be pretty annoying where they’d have to wait for a bit before the payment clears completely. Plus, PayPal makes it very easy to do charge backs, so many people will pay, have it clear, and then run a charge back where they get their full payment back automatically.

So the short answer is that we programmed it this way so honest users wouldn’t have to wait for payment to completely clear before getting access, and because dishonest folks would still be able to force a charge back after they stole your stuff. It’s kind of a problem with PayPal that has so many ways to pay and is generally more generous toward customers in payment disputes.

If you are having a lot of fraud, there are a number of things you can do to try to weed out the bad guys. If you use Stripe with credit card payments, you at least would be able to dispute the charge backs. If you use something like Braintree with bitcoin payments (or another system with Bitcoin integrated) customers wouldn’t be able to get the money back from you.

Depending on the size of your memberships and the number of people scamming you like this, you might also just have to live with it. (Not trying to be mean, it’s just the nature of selling digital content.) If your charge back rate is over 10%, you might be charging too much for your content. A lower price might discourage charge backs. If it’s under 10%, then you are inline with most online digital stores I think.

Finally, if you are generally upset with PMPro and “this many problems” I encourage you to use another plugin.


I think you are way off with many of the points. I don’t have any issue with charge backs or fraud or anything of that nature. I was merely stating that the way it is configured encourages people to act this way. As mentioned you way the user is put in a pending state which normally would be okay however like I said that doesn’t happen with me. The user gets created and grants access immediately.

Anyway I have decided to move over to another plug in.

Hi Jason, I have my site configured with PayPal Express now and everything for the most part seems to be working great, except on a certain computer, in the IE 10 browser, when my husband tests a subscription, he is not able to log into PayPal. He’s being told his password username is NOT correct, when in fact we know it is. I can even test the account, log in to PayPal and make a payment in his account on my computer. What would cause this problem with him falsely being told his log in information is not correct, when it actually IS? We’ve tested this over and over, so we know the login information is right… he can even go directly to PayPal and log in fine there. I’m hoping that new users don’t run into this problem, but if you’ve had anyone experience this or have any advice, please let me know ASAP, I am launching this tomorrow. Thank you, H. Smith

We don’t have support for Advanced right now. Just Pro. If you put this code in a your active theme’s functions.php or a custom plugin, it should make the PayPal account optional at checkout when using PayPal Express.

add_filter(‘pmpro_paypal_account_optional’, ‘__return_true’);

Want to let people know:

1. If you are using PMP + PayPal Standard, and a new person signs up – fills out the checkout form (username, email, password), –> get then redirected to the PayPal checkout page and HERE closes the window (abandons the sale). PMP will create that user in your membership site.

2. With PMP + PayPal Express that doesn’t (appear) to happen. PMP doesn’t automatically creates a user if that user abandons the final checkout/PayPal page.

You get api/Express access with a PayPal Business account (you basically need to verify your account). Hope this helps.

In according with Jay, i’ve resolved the same problem with the PAyPAL Express payment method. Setting up the API data and the IPN works perfecly!!! No new subscriber is registered until the payment ends right

Please help, I’m a bit confused. As of today’s date (Jan 13, 2014) I went to sign up to Paypal and am offered only 3 types of business paypal accounts: “Standard” (free), “Advanced” ($5 / mo), and “Pro” ($30 / mo). There is no signup for “Paypal Express”. Am I missing something???

Anyway, I love PaidMembershipsPro so far from the descriptions and want to set it up correctly to avoid problems down the road and appreciate the Admin sharing the reasons to get “Paypal Express”.

Now, just tell me “how” to sign up for it! (I feel like “doh”! Homer Simpson).

Thanks in advance

I’ve set up everything on Paypal to use Paypal Express, but am unable to set up Enhanced Recurring Payments (Unavailable at this time).

Perhaps this is unavailable for Indonesia. Even if it is available, I wouldn’t want to pay the extra $19.99 Monthly Fee.

Is Enhanced Recurring Payments absolutely necessary or is it just to accept recurring (Subscription) payments from clients who don’t have a Paypal account.

Sorry if this is slightly off topic. I’ve searched for the last couple of hours and only as a last resort have asked for clarification here.


So turns out you can get paypal express with optional paypal login. I did have to change the class.pmprogateway_paypalexpress.php to:

foreach($additional_parameters as $key => $value)
$nvpStr .= “&”.urlencode($key) . “=”.urlencode( $value);

and added to my functions.php:

function add_sole_option_to_paypal($params)
$params[“SOLUTIONTYPE”] = “SOLE”;
$params[“LANDINGPAGE”] = “Billing”;

return $params;
add_filter(“pmpro_paypal_express_return_url_parameters”, “add_sole_option_to_paypal”);

Is the class pmprogateway file something you guys can correct in the next release?

Hi Everyone,

Difficult to read all the good about PMP Pro and then to start wondering if you can use it 🙂 ?
What about using PMP Pro with PayPal Payments Advanced (5$/month)… would that work? Also I am on cloud flare and thus would have to move to the paid service… but it still involves caching, would that work with the Cloud Flare Pro option (the cheapest but nevertheless 20$/month) – Finally would a VPN really be necessary even if, at the beginning, the pages for members would not be that numerous (membership is really for events rather than for most of the pages that will remain public)

PMPro works with PayPal “Pro”, but not “Advanced” right now.

Cloudfare caching would definitely break things. You would want to exclude the same things we say to exclude here.

Having a low amount of traffic may help, but the reality is that modern day shared hosting takes a lot of shortcuts and relies on caching to make up for it. Running a membership site, even under low load, requires more horsepower than they typically offer.

Thanks Jason! i went through Stripe and PayPal in detail and I definitely vote for Stripe, thus the problem is removed, andI shall follow your advice regarding the VPN and install PMPro.

However, as far as as cloudflare is concerned, i am a bit reluctant to abandon it as it is absolutely great regarding security and speed: they have pages rules where you can specify the pages that should not be cached (including with rules that can apply to range of pages/posts), would that work with you?

Thank you anyway for your answer, and for the great work you do!

To all who need some additional comparison of payment-processing options, I found this helpful:

To Patty: In addition to your budget, each business operating online *does* have technical requirements (whether you call them that or not, or whether you know that or not). A search on yielded several results for “PayPal Express” but perhaps this is a good starting point to understand the differences: Overall, it doesn’t seem like you’ll have any problem – but by sharing the technical issues in this post, PMP is alerting (educating) you (and the rest of us) about potential problems. I find that a developer’s proactive & helpful approach typically prevents “surprises” down the road!

Thanks very much, “mangoman”. I’ll definitely be researching this further, and appreciate this information and link.

Jason, mine is a very small startup business, which I hope to grow. I don’t have “requirements”; I have a budget.

If $30-99/month hosting (as a low starting point, as you wrote) is a requirement for using PMP, that’s definitely a deal-breaker for me.

I don’t know much about PayPal or payment gateways; they’ve always worked so smoothly for me that I haven’t had to learn about the details.

I went to my PayPal account and only saw two options: “PayPal Payments Standard” and “PayPal Payments Pro”. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere, but I haven’t even found any mention of “PayPal Express”.


This is really confusing, many of my clients are using paypal standard for more then 3 years in shared hosting and none have any issue ,I have already developed a site with PMP to use with paypal standard now it seems have to give a second thought on using PMP

If your requirements include shared hosting and PayPal Standard, PMPro may not be the best membership plugin for you.

PMPro software is free, but that doesn’t mean it’s low end. If you are running a business with it, it makes sense to invest in your hosting.

Hm. This is really involved and confusing. I’ve used PayPal Payments for years without a single problem ever, so this makes me wonder if PMP is going to be really problematic.

I’m trying to give you all the information you need to make a smart decision. The truth is that PayPal “Standard” is a bit of a misnomer, at least with regards to PMPro integration. It doesn’t integrate in a standard way at all.

One of the main difference with PMPro and other plugins, which is a big bonus, is that the checkout process is one page and members gain access right away. It doesn’t work this way with PayPal Standard. We suggest using a different gateway, but if you are very comfortable with PayPal Standard, changing membership plugins is an alternative. Obviously I think PMPro is the best membership plugin and other plugins will cause other issues, but for some sites it may make sense to use something else.

And also, upgrading your hosting and going through the troubleshooting list above will often resolve the PP Standard issues. Many people are happily using PP Standard with PMPro, but quite a few have issues. We want to help them through it.

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