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I don't want one that doesn't allow a fully branded experience (Paypal, Amazon FPS, Checkout).
I'd obviously like to enable customers to upgrade their service without having to re-enter their credit card.
What would you recommend based on:
- ease of installation
Don't disallow payPal, they have various API's and methods in place to do silent posts without leaving your web site. You just need to dig a little deeper. They also have the capability I'm about to describe (they call it IPN, Instant Payment Notification, but I am not sure how this works on automatic recurring billing.)
NetBilling has a recurring billing service that provides this functionality.
Authorize.net has recently caught on and is doing the same thing, although their ARB methods are significantly different than their purchase/payments methods. The normal purchases are done via post, but the ARB subscription methods are done via XML only. Funny thing is, when it posts the ARB results back to your site, it does so with a normal query string, not XML. It works though, I am finishing up a project for a customer using this API.
Basically you construct a script that "listens" for posts from the payment processor, parse out the results, and act accordingly (update or notify of a failure.) In A.N., you add your listener's URL to the Silent Post URL in the merchant account settings.
Generally a subscription/transaction ID is generated in the first request, this ID is stored in the processor and you must store this ID on your site. When the processor posts back, it will post back with a reference to this ID, which is your handle to determine which records to update.
In any of the above cases, an SSL cert is required and you must post and receive over SSL for it all to work.
Ease of installation I cannot say, it was pretty easy for me to set up but some programming experience is required. All of the above generally provide sample code to test with, and have test servers you can experiment on.
I spent some time reading about Paypal's Payments Pro APIs. It seems reasonably straightforward, but it looks like you can only set up recurring payments that last for a year. However, it isn't clear what happens when this time frame is up (do you need to collect a new credit card, or can you continue to use the old card).