How-to: Accept no-code recurring payments with Stripe

About me

I’m a Partner Manager at Builtfirst where I manage relationships with SaaS partners like HubSpot, Zendesk, Brex & more. I participated in (& organized a meetup for) a startup apprenticeship program, Praxis.

You can find me at a park playing sports, a concert, or wine tasting.

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Since Stripe first released their API, they’ve enabled web developers to easily collect digital payments securely with a better user experience than PayPal. No confusing redirect to another page, or being required to create an account. 

The simplicity of integration was their claim to fame. Now, their services have expanded well beyond accepting a credit card online. In 2018, when I started contract work with Stripe, Stripe Billing was released, giving developers complete flexibility to accept recurring payments. It’s still the most robust recurring payments API I’ve come across, allowing you to charge customers in a seemingly infinite number of ways. 

This sounds great, but what about us non-technical people? 

I was an Account Executive for Stripe and would occasionally have conversations about code with developers. But in speaking to teams without those resources, one of the most common conversations I had was, “can I use Stripe without code?”. 

As Stripe has grown, it’s given customers simple ways to accept payments. But this wasn’t exactly clear to customers (and still isn’t), as it’s not the primary use-case. This guide aims to bridge that gap by providing a step-by-step guide to collect recurring payments, all within the Stripe Dashboard. You won’t find that anywhere in Stripe documentation.

Getting Started

This guide is based on the presentation I created in 2019. For a simple, visual guide, follow along there. It’s now out-of-date, so some Dashboard screenshots don’t mirror the current and a couple of steps are no longer necessary. 

Of course, you’ll need to register for a Stripe account. Luckily, that’s pretty easy to do. 

Once you start collecting “live” payments (real credit cards), you’ll need to provide in-depth information, like your personal identification, bank account to deposit payments, etc. But while you familiarize yourself with the interface and test, you can get by without that.

Step 1: Create a Product

First things first, you need something to sell. Navigate to the Products section of the Dashboard. Then click the blue “+ Add Product” button.

Stripe Products Dashboard

Once you’re there, you’ll provide a name, description, image, and pricing details. Pricing details are where things can get complicated. Under pricing model, you can select standard, package, graduated, or volume pricing. 

Stripe Dashboard Create Product

Most will go with standard pricing. The other options don’t make sense unless you are integrated into their API; this is because they’re based on units, which is difficult to update and keep track of manually.

For this reason, the guide will focus primarily on standard pricing. As shown above, you’ll provide a base price and a billing period, which can be daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or custom. For more information on different use-cases, check out the common subscription models documentation.

Congratulations! You’ve created your first Product. 

Stripe Dashboard Product View

A few notes while viewing the Product page:

  • “Copy to live mode” once you’re ready to use it with your customers.
  • “+ Add another price” if you’d like your product to have 2 different charges at different periods. For example, you could charge $10/month, with an additional $100/year charge.
  • “Create a payment link” if you’d like to generate a secure link for customers to sign up. This sort of bypasses the rest of the guide. I don’t recommend it if you’d like to email customers an invoice.

Step 2: Create a Customer

Without someone to charge, you don’t have a Subscription! Navigate to the “Customers” section of the Dashboard. Then, click “+ New Customer”. 

Stripe Customers Dashboard

All you need for a Customer is an email address, but you can also provide a name and billing, shipping, and even tax information if you’d like. 

Once you’ve created your customer, it’ll look something like this:

Stripe Customer View

A few notes while viewing your Customer:

  • Under “Actions”, you can create a Payment, Invoice, Subscription, Quote, edit information, adjust the balance, apply coupon, or delete. Creating a Subscription here simply auto-selects this Customer.
  • Under Payment Methods, you can add a credit card or bank account if you already have it. It’s not recommended to use this method, as it’s difficult to verify PCI Compliance, as described here.
  • When we create the Subscription, we’ll be able to email the customer with a link to pay the invoice and save the information to auto-charge later!

Okay, great! Now you have a Product, and someone to charge for it. Let’s put it together with a Subscription.

Step 3: Create a Subscription

Now onto the fun part – where you get paid. Navigate to the “Subscriptions” section of the Dashboard. Note that I’ve toggled “Test Mode” on the top right. That way, I can verify everything is working correctly without actually charging someone.

You should see something like this. As usual, you’re going to click “+ Create Subscription”.

Stripe Subscriptions Page

From there, you’ll be presented with the Subscription view:

Stripe Dashboard Create Subscription

First, you’ll select your Customer. Then, you can add the Product we created earlier.

You also have the option to add tax, a coupon, or a trial period. If you haven’t created a default tax rate or coupon before, you’ll be prompted to create one. A trial period is simply a set number of days before the customer gets charged.

The key step is the payment method. If you don’t already have the Customer’s payment information, you need to email an invoice for the customer to pay manually. Once selected, provide a due date (default is 30 days after sending).

You’ll also be able to select which payment methods you accept when “include a Stripe-hosted link to an invoice page in the invoice email” is checked. The three main options are credit card, ACH (bank transfer), Apple/Google Pay, or WeChat Pay. Credit card fees are much higher than ACH, and credit cards can be lost or stolen, so ACH-only is beneficial for larger transactions. You just need to persuade your customers to provide it over credit cards.

Finally, you can add a Memo and select “Advanced Options” that tie into the API, add a Custom Field (such as an Order ID), and a footer. More on that in the docs.

Once you’re ready, click “Schedule Subscription” for a later date, or “Create subscription” for it to start immediately!

Step 4: Email Invoice

Once you’ve created the Subscription, Stripe waits about an hour or so to send out the email. You can check it out for yourself by scrolling down to the Invoice section of the Subscription view:

Stripe Subscription View

Once you pull open the Invoice, you should be able to click on “Send invoice”, as shown below:

Stripe Invoice View

Once it’s sent, the email will both have an invoice PDF and a link. The page will look similar to this:

Stripe hosted invoice

If you navigate to your branding settings, you can update your logo and color for the invoice as well. Now, all you can do is wait for your customer to pay!

Step 5: Start Auto-Charging

This is arguably the most important step. Once you’ve collected payment from your customer, they will not be auto-charged from here on out. They will continue to receive invoices to pay manually every month without this step. 

We’re going to head back to the Subscription section of the Dashboard, and find your latest Subscription. Click on the blue “Actions” dropdown, then “Update subscription”.

Stripe Subscription View

This should look familiar – you’re back in the Subscription view. Scroll down to “Payment method”, then switch from “Email invoice for the customer to pay manually” to “Automatically charge a payment method on file”. The Customer’s payment information should now auto-select:

If they have multiple payment methods on file, you can click the pencil icon to switch or head back to the Customer view to manage their information.

Enjoy Automatic Recurring Revenue

Congratulations! You now have an auto-charged Subscription without the use of code. You now get the smart features that come with Billing, such as smart retries (Invoice Plus only), automated failed payment emails, and an automatic card updater.

To learn more about using Stripe without code, check out this help article

If you’re interested in learning more about my experience generating over $50M lifetime processing volume with Stripe, click here. Thanks for reading!

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