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What is a recurring payment?

What is a recurring payment?


Imogen Walker


03 Feb 2023

Read time

3 Minutes



Recurring payments have drastically become a popular business model. And it’s no wonder when you look at the perks. We’re not just talking you’re typical lending businesses; subscription services have seriously taken over.

But why is that? Well, when it comes to optimising the checkout experience, aka the secret to success for every modern-day e-commerce business, it is done in a number of ways:

  1. Frictionless, customer authentication methods
  2. One-click payments  
  3. Automated online payments

What do these three features have in common? They are often linked to recurring payments!

With more and more regulations being continuously rolled out in the payments space, and with the shift in customer behaviour focusing more and more on convenience, it’s not surprising that this is the stand-out business model that’s exponentially growing. Taking after the likes of Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime, subscription/recurring business models are becoming increasingly popular as automated online payments become the preferred way for customers to pay.

This blog will take you through the key need-to-know points about recurring billing and how this automated payment type is on the rise.

What are recurring payments?

Setting up a recurring business is very simple really. All you need is the ability to take recurring payments and the processes by which they occur. But first, let’s go back to basics.

Recurring payments are defined as any transaction where the customer consents to have their card details stored or use previously stored details to make a transaction. In other words, a contract of sorts is established between you, the merchant, and your customer so that they’re now a part of your subscription service. So, once this has happened, you can then schedule a transaction to be automated and pulled from your customer’s account or card within a certain time period.

The difference between recurring payments and subscription services

It’s much easier to think of a recurring payment as part of a tool used in the overall subscription service. A subscription service is more like the business model and the recurring payment is the method used to collect the funds. A subscription payment plan can also come with additional features on top of the automated billing function, offering customers a range of plans.

These additional features help to combat one of the biggest causes of churn – failed payments. When it comes to recurring billing, merchants can often encounter this due to do not honour codes. These typically occur at the checkout stage because the customer experiences one of the below:

  1. Insufficient funds
  2. Card verification issues
  3. Failure to update card details

Failed payments can lead to unmanageable cash flow and, ultimately, a whole can of worms being opened that you’d rather avoid. Now, this is the part where we tell you there’s an easy resolution and there is… It’s those extra features we mentioned!

Benefits of recurring payments

One of the biggest benefits of recurring payments is how convenient they are. Its purpose of being an automated way of paying for a service so that once it’s set up the customer rarely needs to do anything makes it such an attractive option.

Here are the key features that make this happen:

Account Updater

Using an account updater tackles all three frustrations at once. With this tool, recurring payments are no longer interrupted by invalid card numbers, cancellations and other reoccurring problems when processed. In fact, this feature completely prevents them from happening at all. The account updater will automatically replace out-of-date information with the correct details, abolishing all potential friction in the payment journey.

Card Tokenisation

You may be worried this retention of customer details is not a secure way to deal with your customer’s data. This is where card tokenisation comes in.

Card tokenisation is a process by which card data is substituted by a token representative in the first transaction your customer makes. This is a very secure way for customers to allow you to store their data and enable:

  • Retention of tokenised data for future use
  • The secure transfer of money at set intervals

It also allows for that all-important one-click payment functionality which guarantees a seamless checkout experience for your customers.


The use of a flexible scheduler is a great way for you to establish a cash flow strategy that eases the stress that comes with taking recurring payments. When using a payment provider, like Total Processing, you’ll be able to manage and schedule payments to prevent unintentional subscription cancellations and encourage more successful payments to be made. This is a smarter way to retain customers but also allows you to stay in charge of the flow of funds.

All these features make up the smart, automated recurring billing model for your business that’ll unlock more conversions and successful payments. It’s a simple solution to offer your customers the personalised, easier billing system they demand to stay with you in the long term. 

What’s next?

Now we’ve gone through the amazing technology that is recurring payments and subscription billing, let’s talk about the process of getting set up. Keeping with the running theme of this blog, it’s pretty simple! All you need is a payment provider, like Total Processing, that offers both a payment gateway and a recurring billing service all-in-one. And there you have it. All these great features and software are at your disposal for automated conversions.

Get in touch today and we’ll help start you on your journey.

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