Are you looking to create a membership site using WordPress? Or are you looking to transform your business’s existing WordPress site into a membership platform? We'll help you find the best membership plugins for WordPress!
While WordPress is great for publishing high-quality content online, it’s not designed to restrict user access on pages with “members-only” content. This means there’s no way to set up a paywall for your premium content or create membership tiers on your WordPress site using the default functionality. This is why you will need to use a membership plugin to add important membership features to your WordPress site.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the best membership plugins for WordPress so it’s easier for you to decide on the right one for your business.
What is a WordPress membership plugin?
A WordPress membership plugin lets you transform your ordinary WordPress site into a full-fledged membership platform. You can restrict content behind a paywall and let members pay you to access premium content.
In addition to this, using a WordPress membership plugin will let you build a community around your brand. Let’s say you want to offer members something more than just premium content after they subscribe to the membership plan. For this, you can create community forums so members can interact with one another and discuss topics of common interest.
Benefits of using a membership plugin
Let’s talk about some of the main benefits of using a membership plugin for your WordPress site:
- Restrict premium content behind a paywall. The major advantage of using a membership plugin on your WordPress site is that you’ll be able to restrict premium content behind a paywall. This way, if site visitors want to access the premium content, they’ll have to subscribe to a membership plan or subscription plan.
- Create online communities. If you want to create a community of like-minded individuals on your membership site, you will need to use a WordPress membership plugin. A membership plugin lets you create front-end forums, discussion boards, and groups to keep members engaged. This is also great if you want to “award” loyal members a higher role on your membership site. For instance, you can give the community moderator user role to loyal members.
- Manage payments. If you’re looking to offer subscription plans with either one-time payments or recurring payments, you will need to use a membership plugin. Most membership plugins come with payment options out of the box that give you full control over how payments are set up and managed on your membership site. If you make it easier for your audience to make payments, it increases the chances of them renewing their plan after their subscription period ends.
Types of content that can be restricted
With a membership plugin, you have all the functionality you need to restrict access to any type of content on your WordPress membership site.
Let’s take a look at some of the types of content you can restrict access to using a membership plugin on your WordPress site:
If your brand creates high-quality blog posts and only wants to show them to users who subscribe to a paid plan, you can do that using a WordPress membership plugin. For instance, you can create a “Guide to Digital Marketing” blog post and restrict it to users that have the “Members” role on your membership site. This way, if a regular site visitor tries to access the premium blog post page on your WordPress site, they’ll see a “Please subscribe” notification.
If you create podcasts and want to let specific users access them on your WordPress site, you can do this with a WordPress membership plugin. You can publish the podcast episodes on any page of your site and restrict the page behind a paywall. This way, users will have to pay the “Podcast subscription” fee before they can access the podcast episodes on your site.
You can create online lessons on your WordPress site and let students access them after they pay you a fee. Similar to publishing podcasts, you can create lessons and restrict pages that have the lesson content behind a paywall. This limits regular users from accessing the paid online lessons on your WordPress site.
If you create audiobooks and want to sell them to your audience directly from your WordPress site, you can do this using a membership plugin. You can set up a “one-time fee” membership plan that people can subscribe to before giving them access to premium audiobooks on your WordPress site.
If you run a food blog or want to sell recipe cards on your WordPress site, you can do this using a membership plugin. You can create a subscription-based service that charges members a small fee in order to access new recipes.
Difference between membership and LMS plugins
While you can use a membership plugin to restrict content behind a paywall, a learning management system (LMS) plugin is specifically designed to let you create online lessons.
An LMS plugin lets you create lesson modules on your WordPress site and only lets you restrict them behind a paywall. On the other hand, you can use a membership plugin to restrict any part or feature of your WordPress site.
In addition to this, LMS plugins (like LifterLMS or LearnDash) don’t offer the functionality to offer users free trials or special discount offers at the time of registration. While there might be some exceptions, LMS plugins are designed to sell your audience online courses more than letting them be a part of a membership program.
Let’s talk about the major differences between LMS plugins and membership plugins:
Create lessons and quizzes
LMS plugins are designed to let you create online courses or lessons for your students. You can design your online course and create a content flow that resonates well with your audience. On the other hand, a membership plugin doesn’t have many features that let you set up online courses the way LMS plugins do. However, you can still create lessons by publishing the online course content on your WordPress pages and restricting them behind a paywall using a membership plugin.
More learning features
Compared to membership plugins, LMS plugins primarily have more student and learning enhancement features such as student progress tracking, quizzes, and assignments. This can only be useful if you’re looking to create an online course website rather than a membership site that has recurring subscription plans.
Similar to learning features, LMS plugins also come pre-built with many gamification features such as the ability to award your students course completion certificates. While membership plugins don’t have such features, you can still “award” your members by creating leaderboards like a “Top Members” page and listing the most loyal members along with their achievements.
How to choose the right membership plugin
Most business owners have the same questions in mind when choosing a membership plugin such as "Is there a membership plugin for WordPress?", "What is the best free membership plugin for WordPress?" and "What is the easiest WordPress membership plugin?".
It can be challenging to decide on the right membership plugin for your brand, especially if this is your first time building a membership site. Let’s go over some of the major factors you should consider when choosing the best membership plugin for WordPress.
Identifying your needs
The first thing you want to do is identify your brand’s needs when considering committing to a membership plugin. You want to think about the type of membership site you want to create and how to structure your membership plans. For instance, if you want to create multiple membership tiers with recurring payments, you will need to use a membership plugin that lets you accept recurring payments.
Similarly, you need to see if your membership plugin supports the payment methods your business uses. This is important as you want to easily integrate the membership plugin with your existing WordPress site without having to change it fundamentally.
Features to consider
Depending on your brand’s unique needs, there are a few features you’d want to consider when choosing a WordPress membership plugin:
If you’re looking to create multiple membership tiers and offer premium content based on the subscription plan a user subscribes to, you will need a membership plugin that lets you create multiple subscription levels.
Let’s say you want to create three membership tiers “Gold”, “Silver”, and “Bronze”, each with different prices. Users who are willing to pay you more can subscribe to the “Gold” membership level in exchange for access to all the premium content on your site while users with the “Bronze” membership level will have limited premium content to go through.
You will need to think about the payment methods your brand uses and if your membership plugin supports them. A robust membership plugin will allow payment integration with some of the most popular payment platforms such as PayPal, Stripe, and RazorPay.
Depending on what kind of content you’re looking to publish as membership content, you will need to use a membership plugin that gives you full control over how membership content will be restricted. For instance, if you have multiple membership levels, you will want to restrict membership content by membership levels or by user role.
Reporting and analytics
A big part of effectively managing a membership site and ultimately growing it is being able to view reports and analytics of your site’s performance. A solid membership plugin gives you access to reports and member data that can be crucial to the brand’s decision-making processes.
You also want to have functionality that lets you easily manage your members the way you’d like to. For instance, you want to have the option to send customers automatic reminders that their subscription is about to expire.
Compatibility with other plugins and themes
The last and most important thing you want to consider when choosing a membership plugin is whether it works seamlessly with your WordPress theme and design settings or not. You don’t want to end up with a broken WordPress website when first launching your membership program.
In addition to this, you also need to see if the membership plugin is compatible with other plugins your brand may use for important things such as email marketing, creating pop-up messages, or page builders. If the membership plugin you choose doesn’t work with your existing WordPress site’s functionality, it can be hard to migrate to new plugins or exhaust more of your brand’s budget towards purchasing new plugins and tools.
Password Protected Categories
Password Protected Categories lets you create a membership site in WordPress in two different ways. You can restrict access to content using simple password protection or by setting up user role protection.
With simple password protection, you assign one or more passwords to the categories on your website. This way, you can hide entire categories from regular site visitors. For example, you can categorize all membership content under the Members-Only Content category and protect it with a password.
The other way is to create members-only pages that only selected, registered users can access. You can also use this method to show different content to different members. For example, users with the Beginner user role might see only basic-level content whereas users with the Advanced user role get access to all member content.
This is a simple alternative to using a fully featured membership plugin. It's way less overwhelming and lets you restrict access to content without all the flashy features of traditional membership plugins like content dripping, member management tools, and online course builders.
The Password Protected Categories plugin comes with all the right features to create a functional membership site in WordPress.
Simple password protection
The Password Protected Categories plugin lets you add one (or more) passwords to a WordPress category. This makes it easy to restrict access to that category, its sub-categories, and all of its posts.
You can create a single password or multiple passwords for each category you want to protect. The benefit of creating multiple passwords for a category is that you can give out different passwords to different users. This is much more secure than using a shared password.
Once users log in, the Password Protected Categories plugin automatically directs them to the correct category based on their password.
User and role protected categories
Using the Password Protected Categories plugin, you can also restrict WordPress categories by user accounts and user roles. For example, if you’ve created a user role called Members for all registered members, you can choose to only show certain categories to those users.
Once users with authorized user roles log in to your WordPress membership site, they can view the protected categories.
Content restriction options
The Password Protected Categories plugin makes it easy to create hidden areas within your WordPress site. This makes it perfect for businesses that don’t want to create a traditional membership site. It's perfect for anyone that would like to make certain parts of their existing sites private. The plugin lets you protect specific categories using passwords or user accounts and user roles.
The Password Protected Categories plugin works seamlessly with a wide-range of WordPress and WooCommerce plugins. You can use it with pretty much any eCommerce or events calendar plugin that uses custom post types.
In addition to this, you can use it alongside a registration forms plugin like Profile Builder or Theme My Login to create registration and login pages for your membership site.
If you’d like to offer a free trial, you can use Password Protected Categories with the Expire Users plugin to revoke user access after a specified period.
Pros and Cons
- Intuitive and easy to get started with.
- A simple solution for restricting access to members-only content in WordPress.
- Lets you set up simple password-protected categories and restrict access by user and role.
- Plenty of documentation and tutorials to help you set up the perfect, simple membership site.
- Doesn’t offer built-in functionality to create lessons or online courses.
- Need a separate plugin for detailed reporting and analytics.
Password Protected Categories is best for businesses that are looking for a simple and easy way to create a membership site in WordPress. It’s perfect for password protecting content and restricting access to content by user and user role. Password Protected Categories is one of the simplest and best membership plugins for WordPress sites.
Paid Memberships Pro
Paid Memberships Pro offers an “all in one” solution that’s designed to help you sell paid memberships. It’s the best all-around option for creating your brand’s membership site in WordPress.
Paid Memberships Pro gives you full control over how your membership site is set up.
For starters, you have the option to create unlimited membership levels with different pricing and content-accessing settings. This way, it’s easier to create a more diverse membership site that has content and pricing plans designed for all types of users. In addition to this, you can also create organizational membership programs and create “child” accounts or accounts that organizations can give out to their new employees. For instance, organizations can set up a parent-paying account and let their employees create child accounts to access the premium training content from your membership site.
Form builder and custom invoices
The great thing about Paid Memberships Pro is that it also lets you gather custom information from members. You can use the form builder to create a custom registration form. This is much easier than sending emails back and forth to WordPress users after they submit the registration form. You also have the option to customize the payment invoices you send to members as well as send re-subscription reminders to your members before their subscription period ends.
On top of having the option to create flexible pricing rules for your membership plan, the Paid Memberships Pro plugin also seamlessly integrates with some of the most popular payment gateways including Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.net, Braintree, and 2Checkout. This way, you can offer users multiple payment options for subscribing to your membership site.
Content restriction options
One of the highlight features of the Paid Memberships Pro plugin is its content restriction options. The robust plugin lets you restrict everything including your site’s pages, posts, blocks, and categories behind a paywall. You can also create a small preview of the restricted membership content for users who haven’t subscribed yet. This helps encourage regular site visitors to register and subscribe to your paid membership program.
Analytics and reporting
Paid Memberships Pro also gives you a detailed insight into the sales and revenue of your membership site. This way, you can better analyze the performance of your membership site and make changes accordingly. In addition to this, you can also view detailed site traffic data such as member visits, views, and logins. This can be useful for improving your brand’s marketing campaigns.
Customer management tools
Paid Memberships Pro also gives you advanced customer management tools. This makes it easy to manage and run your membership site, even if you’re not very tech-savvy. Using the plugin, you can add or remove members manually, import or export your entire member base data, and even create special “membership managers” user roles on your WordPress site.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to use, even for beginners who want to create their first membership site with WordPress.
- Flexible membership features that let you set up unique membership programs according to your brand’s requirements.
- You don’t need a separate plugin for accessing detailed reporting and analytics of your membership site.
- The core plugin functionality plus 33 add-ons are completely free to use.
- Doesn’t offer functionality for setting up lesson modules or creating online courses.
The Paid Memberships Pro plugin is recommended for business owners that are looking for a single plugin to create a professional membership site on WordPress without having to touch a single line of code.
Paid Member Subscriptions
Paid Member Subscriptions is a membership plugin option that offers a simple yet effective solution for setting up a membership site on WordPress-powered sites.
The Paid Member Subscriptions plugin is very easy to use. It helps you transform your ordinary WordPress site into a full-fledged membership site.
It gives you full control over setting up multiple membership tiers on your WordPress site. Using the WordPress admin panel, you can set up membership tiers as per your brand’s requirements.
The plugin also makes the process of setting up payment methods on your WordPress site. You can set up some of the most popular payment methods in a few simple steps. These include PayPal and Stripe.
Content restriction options
Paid Member Subscriptions lets you restrict content on your membership site in two ways. You can either restrict content based on the membership tier the user is subscribed to or based on their logged-in status. You can create advanced content restriction rules that let you protect premium content from unauthorized users and redirect them to the checkout page of your membership site.
The intuitive plugin also lets you create discount codes for your membership plans. This way, you can create promotional offers and incentivize your target audience to register for a paid membership plan. Prospective members can use the awarded discount codes when subscribing to a membership plan to get a price reduction.
In addition to all of these great features, the Paid Member Subscriptions plugin also lets you set up automatic email notifications. You can configure the plugin to trigger notifications based on certain events. For instance, you can send automatic emails to members when their subscription period expires or when they login to their membership accounts.
Pros and Cons
- Lets you set up a complete membership site in four simple steps. Free version available.
- Offers advanced membership functionality for restricting content and setting up membership plans.
- You can also offer a free trial period and create discount coupons using one plugin.
- 15 add-ons that let you extend the plugin’s functionality.
- Integrates with email marketing services like Mailchimp, community-building plugins like BuddyPress and bbPress, and affiliate programs.
- Doesn't have LMS features such as certificate creation, quiz, and assignment creation, and setting up progress bars on your website.
Paid Member Subscriptions is the perfect solution for businesses that want to use a simple plugin to handle all aspects of their membership site on WordPress. The plugin offers four easy steps that cover everything from creating the membership site to accepting payments from your members.
WooCommerce Memberships is the best option for creating a membership site if you need to sell other types of products online as well instead of just selling membership plans. The plugin lets you set up a WooCommerce store alongside selling membership programs to your target audience.
WooCommerce Memberships is different from the other recommended membership plugins in this roundup as it also fully integrates with WooCommerce. This means you can sell other types of products as well as membership plans to your audience. For example, you can sell apparel products and sell fashion design membership programs on the same site using one membership plugin.
WooCommerce Memberships makes it very easy to set up membership plans on your WordPress site with WooCommerce enabled. You can either set up a membership plan as a standalone product or grant membership access to your customers as a part of a product purchase. For instance, let's say a user purchases a “Laptop” product. You can automatically award them a membership plan that lets them access the “Downloads” section on your site.
Content restriction options
The great thing about WooCommerce Memberships is that it also lets you create advanced content restriction rules. In addition to this, you can also drip content or schedule when users can access specific content after subscribing to a membership plan. This makes it easier to create a more refined and engaging member experience on your e-commerce membership site.
The WooCommerce Memberships plugin also lets you set up discounts and members-only perks on your site. This way, you can reward your customers when they make purchases from your online store and encourage them to visit again soon.
The WooCommerce Memberships plugin also lets you add “membership notes” on your site. This way, you can easily communicate with registered members by sharing the notes with them via email.
Pros and Cons
- Seamlessly integrates with all kinds of WooCommerce stores.
- Advanced features for restricting content based on membership levels or user roles.
- Functionality for setting up discounts and members-only perks.
- Only works with WooCommerce. It isn’t designed for only WordPress sites as it’s a dedicated WooCommerce extension.
The WooCommerce Memberships plugin is recommended for business owners that are looking to expand their existing WooCommerce site and take it to the next level by introducing membership plans.
#5. Other options worth considering
Other than the best membership plugins for WordPress listed above, the plugins we’re going to show you next are not quite as modern or well-developed but are still worth considering.
MemberPress is a WordPress membership plugin that lets you set up a content paywall on your website.
While MemberPress is a dedicated membership plugin, it also offers functionality for creating online courses on your membership site. The plugin lets you sell premium membership content on your WordPress site without having to code.
ARMember offers a turn-key solution for converting your existing WordPress site into a membership platform.
The premium plugin gives you full control over the pricing rules of your membership plan. This means you can offer membership programs with one-time payments or set up recurring subscription payments on your membership site. In addition to this, ARMember also comes pre-built with a lot of features for keeping your members happy. You can showcase public user profiles and award your members badges and achievements upon completing courses or membership programs.
MemberMouse is a powerful membership plugin that offers a simplistic approach to setting up your brand’s membership site with WordPress.
The robust plugin lets you set up any kind of membership or subscription product on your WordPress site. You can restrict content anywhere on your site and create dedicated “members-only” areas. This way, users who want to access the premium sections of your site will have to subscribe first.
Wishlist Member is a membership plugin that’s used by over 100,000 membership sites.
The Wishlist Member plugin offers an intuitive solution for creating a full-fledged membership site using one plugin. You can also easily set up payments on your membership site. The plugin lets you set up recurring payments for your subscription plans without having to go through any hassle. It’s the perfect solution for businesses that want to use a simple membership plugin to handle all membership aspects of their sites.
MagicMembers is a membership plugin worth mentioning in our list of the best membership plugins for WordPress.
This plugin's approach to creating a membership site is quite simple. Using the plugin, you can create your brand’s membership site within a few minutes thanks to the intuitive setup wizard. The best part about the MagicMembers plugin is that it seamlessly integrates with some of the most popular payment methods including Authorize.net, Stripe, PayPal Standard, PayPal Website Payments Pro, and PayPal Express Checkout.
WP-Members is a free-to-use membership plugin for WordPress that is fully customizable and offers flexible membership features that let you design your brand’s unique membership website within a few minutes.
While the plugin lets you create membership plans and restrict content based on the user’s subscription status, you can also use it for adding custom user registration fields to your WordPress site. This is a simple and straightforward way to gather additional information from members when they submit the member’s registration form on your membership site.
Which is the best membership plugin for WordPress?
Creating a membership site yourself can be intimidating. But, if you use the right plugins, the whole process becomes intuitive and easy to understand, even for less tech-savvy business owners.
We shared some of the best WordPress membership plugins and highlighted their standout features. You will need to choose the plugin that works best for what you want to achieve with your membership site.
- If you simply want to restrict access to content, we recommend going with Password Protected Categories.
- If you're looking for a membership plugin with reporting and analytics, Paid Memberships Pro is worth a shot.
- The Paid Member Subscriptions plugin has a free version for users that want to start with a basic membership site.
- If you want to integrate the membership plugin with your WooCommerce site, go for WooCommerce Memberships.
Ready to start setting up your membership site on WordPress? We recommended using membership plugins like Password Protected Categories!
nice job - i need info this too - i run a football pool and i want to change it to non-paid membership site, free for my boyz, and i will play with "WP-Members Membership Plugin" . . . the only one that offers a free version - just a basic setup, all of nothing to the site
thanks again for your work - i do appreciate it - best of luck to you
ps - your popup is so annoying
Hi, Lar. Thanks for your feedback. I'm glad this info is helpful. All the best with using the WP-Members Membership Plugin on your football pool's site. Sorry to hear you find the popup on our Password Protected Categories sales page annoying. I'll relay your comment to our developers. Cheers.