Top 10 SaaS Subscription Management Software in 2021

by Adarsh Raj Bhatt
person holding iPad

What is SaaS subscription management software?

Subscription management software (suitable for software-as-a-service or SaaS companies), also known as recurring or subscription billing engines, saves payment details and transaction costs so that recurring revenue and customer subscriptions can be handled automatically. 

Subscription-based startups often times use this software to: 

  • Manage customer subscriptions
  • Be a central, source of truth for pricing & packaging that is pulled into sales channels (online, via a CRM tool, etc.)
  • Manage billing flows, dunning emails, and invoicing
  • Accurately report on subscription recurring revenue metrics (MRR, ARR, Churn, subscribers)

Subscription management software automates the recurring revenue or subscription-based business model to give a seamless experience for your customers and accurate tracking and reporting of MRR/ARR metrics for you.

Why is SaaS subscription management software important?

Software suites control the entire system, while standalone solutions provide customized add-ons that make it easier for startups to add subscription services to their existing product or service offerings. 

E-commerce sites, payment gateway systems, catalog management software, and other e-commerce applications all combine with subscription management software. 

A product must meet the following criteria to be considered for the Subscription Management category:

  • Keeps track of payment records and consumer information.
  • Support for and/or integration with a payment gateway is available.
  • Billing and contracts can be automated.
  • Allows for automated payments through a variety of payment methods.

Which startups is SaaS subscription management software suitable for?

As discussed above, subscription management software is best suited for subscription-based businesses. This includes your SaaS, Paas, IaaS software but also eCommerce-related subscription businesses such as wine subscription service. These platforms do provide non-subscription related pricing and packaging options as well and can give you the flexibility to experiment with monetization and find what works best for you.

In most cases, the best time to automate SaaS subscription management is when your startup is launching. 

Why does this matter?

The more in-flight contracts or complexities you have, such as regular adjustments or multi-element agreements, the more difficult it gets to modify contract history later. If your startup is taking off, then now is a good time to address the issue of recurring billing, which is a key component of most SaaS business models. 

After all, the engine that drives most SaaS startups is monthly recurring revenue. So it's important to not worry about writing an app to charge people each month when you're building a SaaS startup. Because having to worry about that translates to ops that would rear their (logistically complex) heads every month if you let them.

What should you look for when choosing the right billing engine?

The "selection process" might comprise entering startup credit card details and agreeing to a dozen pages of unread terms and conditions in some cases, or it might be part of a prolonged procurement process in others. 

Here are some things to think about while looking for SaaS subscription management tools.

Severing Ties

It might seem odd to start thinking about your “divorce” from a SaaS subscription management software before you've even started using it, but you don't really want your information to be kept hostage if the provider fails, is acquired, or just doesn't work out. 

So, express your interest in knowing how they handle provider failures. Even if your prospective provider says something (seemingly) supportive along the lines of, "Sure, just call us, and we'll take care of it," you might want to look into the details more closely because that supportive attitude might change during a contract dispute or if the startup is failing or even if you are just parting from the platform for other reasons.

It is expensive and a huge amount of effort (with potential for a poor customer experience) to change billing engines. It's best to choose a system that works for you now and 5-10 years down the line. So put together a last of use cases and hypothetical experiments you'd like to run and see if your considered vendor enables these options. It's best to check these things upfront vs. going down the line and involving heavy, expensive custom work or worse, a cumbersome migration to a new system.

Support Process

It's integral to understand how easy it is to get answers and make changes to your billing platform yourself vs. relying on your service provider's representative or a third-party representative to make basic changes. This will save you time and money and allow you to be agile in your business decisions.

During the sales process, every provider, including SaaS subscription management provider, offers "world-class" service -- but once you're a paying customer, that narrative might change quicker than you had expected. 

Create a trial account without indicating your startup affiliation, as a test account with a recognized name attached to it could receive preferential help. Submit a service request and evaluate the level of assistance you get. Investigate the model approach for a broader SaaS deployment. 

Can "Tier 1" support be handled by your help desk, or can users contact the SaaS subscription management provider directly? How will the internal support team interact with the SaaS provider's customer service?

Functionality versus Maturity

It's easy to get caught up in the ostentatious usability and compelling cost savings of a SaaS delivery model and obsess about having the latest, cutting-edge features.

But there’s a catch.

Revolutionary functionality is sometimes the domain of the SaaS market's newest and least mature players. Although the functionality might be appealing, other aspects such as customer service, disaster relief, and, eventually, corporate funding might not be up to par. It's important that your chosen vendor doesn't shut shop and disappear overnight.

Pricing & Business Model

The support for different pricing models is one of the most appealing aspects of SaaS and subscription-based billing. Ensure that your chosen vendor can support different pricing models that you'd like to experiment with.

For instance:

  • Recurring billing that's monthly, quarterly, annual, etc.
  • Usage based billing
  • Flat fee billing
  • A combination tiered billing
  • Discounts and coupons

In addition, ensure that the billing engine supports your business model (optimally out-of-the-box):

  • Do you have a self-service checkout portal? What about a direct sales team? Can self-serve customers convert to direct sales customers? Can the billing engine support both options seamlessly?
  • Do you offer a free trial upon which your lead is charged automatically? What about freemium and upgrade options?
  • Do you offer payment terms for your larger enterprise customers?
  • Do you want to experiment with usage-based billing on some plans while keeping your existing customers on their grandfathered plans?
  • Do you want to send out dunning emails 

We recommend testing out these scenarios before you purchase your billing engine vendor. Ask for sandbox or trial access and see how this works in the system.

Cost to you

Inevitably, cost is an important factor. Many billing engines offer a combination of flat fee + % revenue as a charge to you. While the costs may seem affordable at an earlier stage, they can quickly add up as you scale in revenue.

Model out costs of your preferred vendor as your revenue grows and see what works best for you. Factor in costs of customization and productivity. For instance, a billing engine that allows you to do more yourself without involving your engineering team or the billing engine's support team will save you time and money for each effort which may be worth the higher cost for the ROI delivered.

Some billing engines offer a startup discount. This is great for your early years as you scale - but usually they last a year. Do take that into account when you factor in your costs.

Subscription Management Software Reviews

1. Chargebee

Pricing:  $0/ month billed annually for your first $100k in revenue

Each stage has an overage fee applicable that is a % of overage revenue that falls above the brackets described below.

  • Launch: For early-stage startups that want to spend more time developing and less on manual operations. $0/ month billed annually for your first
  • $100k in revenue.
  • Rise: For agile startups that want to grow their revenue with quick experiments and data-driven decision-making. $299/mo (includes $50K/mo revenue)
  • Scale (Most popular): For fast-growth scale-ups that want to grow by maximizing efficiencies in their revenue operations. $599/mo (includes $100K/mo revenue)
  • Enterprise: For very large startups looking for enterprise-class compliance while diversifying revenue streams. Get a quote tailored to your requirements. 

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: Chargebee fuels self-service SaaS and with a free trial / freemium plan, a great onboarding flow, and a highly useful product, customers can experience immediate value and upgrade in no time.

Flexibility in pricing & packaging: 

Support for a variety of pricing models including flat fee, usage based, volume based and a hybrid models. Chargebee also gives options for free trials with credit card information collected upfront or post trial and allows you to get customer payment links for quick customer checkout on landing pages not integrated with Chargebee.

Analytics and the ability to see MRR/subscription metrics: Chargebee's Subscription Analytics Platform, RevenueStory, gives you 360° business visibility on subscription analytics. It helps you identify the key performance indicators driving revenue, subscriptions, signups, activations, churn, and a host of other metrics that you genuinely need to make more effective decisions.

Out-of-the-box vs. customizations available: Rich with game-changing tweaks and features for 500+ edge-cases, Chargebee helps you handle complex scenarios without complicating them.

Ease of use: Chargebee is simple and easy to use.

2. Chargify

Pricing: “Essential” package starting at $599 /mo + 0.9 percent of revenue on overages (includes $75k/mo of revenue)

  • Essential: Starting at $599 /mo + 0.9 percent of revenue on overages (Includes $75k/mo of revenue)

Ideal for under $2.4M ARR

  • Standard: Starting at $1,499/mo + 0.7 percent of revenue on overages (Customized Revenue Threshold)

Ideal for $2.4M–$6M ARR

  • Specialized: Starting at $3,499/mo + 0.5 percent of revenue on overages (Customized Revenue Threshold)

Ideal for $6M+ ARR

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: Chargify includes the functionality to allow a subscriber to securely update their payment information online. This page is also known as the Self-Service Page (SSP).

Flexibility in pricing & packaging: 

Support for a variety of pricing models including flat fee, usage based, volume based and a hybrid models.

Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics: Chargify’s MRR analytics give you a crystal clear view into net MRR growth and the composition of MRR movements

Out of the box vs. customizations available: With Chargify.js, startups can now have the best of both worlds—a fully customizable integration without the added responsibilities

Ease of use: The interface is easy to use.

3. Recurly

Pricing: Starts at $149 /mo + 0.9 percent of revenue (Core)

  • Core: $149 /mo + 0.9 percent of revenue
  • Professional: For scaling a startup’s subscription business. Accelerate your growth with a robust revenue optimization engine and flexible payment options. Recurly gives you a quote.
  • Elite: For a comprehensive subscription management solution. It claims to catapult your revenues with the most sophisticated yet lightweight platform on the market. A quote for the same is provided by Recurly.

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: It is integrated with DataHero, a provider of self-service Cloud BI, enabling users to quickly identify and better understand their startup through data analytics and visualization.

Flexibility in pricing & packaging: 

Support for a variety of pricing models including flat fee, usage based, volume based and a hybrid models.

Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics: Recurly Analytics provides visibility into key startup metrics and surface subscription insights that allow you to make better business decisions.

Out-of-the-box vs. customizations available: Recurly's Item Catalog enables you to separate the merchandise that you sell from the way you sell it. An easy way to think about it is this: an item catalog is what you sell, while the subscriptions you offer are how you sell it.

Ease-of-use: Recurly is very easy to use. Their UI is clean and intuitive. 

4. Stripe

Pricing: Pay-as-you-go pricing at 2.9 percent + $0.30 per successful card charge

  • Integrated: Pay-as-you-go pricing 2.9 percent + $0.30 per successful card charge
  • Customized: Design a custom package for your startup. Available for startups with large payments volume or unique business models. 

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: Available with Stripe

Flexibility in pricing & packaging: 

Support for a variety of pricing models including flat fee, usage based, volume based and a hybrid models.

Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics: Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics

Out of the box vs. customizations available: 

  • Out-of-the-box UI
  • APIs for fully custom forms

Ease-of-use: Stripe is potentially a very good credit card processor for online-only startups. It's fast and easy-to-implement for someone with developer experience, and also relatively inexpensive.

5. Zuora

Pricing

  • There are four basic pricing models in the Subscription Economy
  • You can test your pricing as much as you want with Zuora (dynamically and in real-time)
  • Zuora does not make its pricing publicly available. It prompts leads to get a custom quote.

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: Zuora helps automate startups’ billing processes for a better self-service customer. 

Flexibility in pricing & packaging: Packages range from freemium pricing to promotional pricing; cross-platform packaging & bundling; consumption-based pricing; and one-time, recurring, or pay-as-you-go charge models.

Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics: Zuora provides attractive and accessible metrics out-of-the-box with Zuora Analytics

Out-of-the-box vs. customizations available: Zuora has an out-of-the-box taxation engine for customers that have simple tax needs and can maintain tax rate tables themselves. There are many features/functions in Zuora which you can automate, which will save a ton of time and headspace performing otherwise manual and repetitive tasks.

Ease-of-use: Very easy to manage and figure out where to navigate to.

6. SaaSoptics

Pricing: SaaSOptics pricing starts at $600 per month. They do not have a free version. SaaSOptics does not offer a free trial.

Flexibility in pricing & packaging: 

  • Easily implement pricing and packaging changes
  • Manage custom, monthly, quarterly, annual, delayed-start, and milestone billing with ease

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: Startups built on SaaSOptics eliminate their risky dependency on spreadsheets and streamline financial operations that help drive up sales. 

Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics: A cloud-based solution, the SaaSOptics platform allows startups to pull accurate SaaS metrics and analytics quickly. 

Out-of-the-box vs. customizations available: Scale billing and payments smoothly and automate GAAP-compliant revenue recognition

Ease-of-use: SaaSOptics is easy to use, trusted by investors, within reach for early-stage startups, and provides a streamlined implementation process

7. GoCardless

Pricing:

  • USA

1 percent + $0.25. Max $2.50

An additional fee of 0.1 percent applies to transaction values above $1,000. Failure and chargeback fees apply.

  • International

2 percent + $0.25.

Currency conversion included — they use the real exchange rate 

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: Smart SaaS startups give customers self-serve portals to configure the services that they use, and so does GoCardless.

Flexibility in pricing & packaging:

Basic billing scenarios covered but GoCardless integrates with other billing and subscription management systems.

Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics: Integrated with ChartMogul, which uses critical metrics like Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), Churn Rate, and Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) for measuring recurring revenue growth and understanding customers better. 

Out-of-the-box vs. customizations available: Customise the out-of-the-box payment pages, or build your own customized integration using GoCardless’s API. 

Ease-of-use: GoCardless has a simple build that requires minimal investment of time and cognitive resources to understand, with user-friendly documentation and a sandbox testing environment

8. Profitwell

Pricing: There is a free version of ProfitWell metrics. ProfitWell offers a free trial.

Free tools can be used to discover revenue problems. Paid tools solve those problems. 

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: Available

Flexibility in pricing & packaging:

Supports basic pricing scenarios.

Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics: Absolutely accurate, real-time subscription reporting and analytics — completely free forever.

Out-of-the-box vs. customizations available: Automates everything from simple subscriptions to complex usage and event-based billing models. In addition, Profitwell also has advanced out-of-the-box tools like customizable checkout options.

Ease-of-use: It is very easy to use and navigate between functions within ProfitWell’s interface.

9. SageIntacct

Pricing: SageIntacct subscription pricing can run from $15,000 a year for a single-user system or a single entity startup to $60,000 or more for organizations needing to manage multiple entities, projects, or contracts. 

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: Available

Flexibility in pricing & packaging: Budgeting and planning tools from SageIntacct bring a lot of flexibility into the planning, forecasting, and budgeting process. 

Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics: See real-time graphical views of Churn, MRR, ARR, Renewal, CAC, Payback, and other key SaaS metrics.

Out-of-the-box vs. customizations available: The flow of the menu is customizable, while the out-of-the-box setup is quite easy and straightforward to use for anyone having previous experience using an accounting system.

Ease-of-use: Easy to duplicate past entries and also relatively easy to research historical information. 

10. 2Checkout

Pricing: Easy and simple way to sell globally

  • 2Sell: Easy and simple way to sell globally

3.5 percent + $0.35 per successful sale

  • 2Subscribe: Helps you develop & boost your subscription business

4.5 percent + $0.45 per successful sale

  • 2Monetize: All-in-one solution to sell digital goods globally

6.0 percent + $0.60 per successful sale

The 2Sell plan is for 3.5 percent + $0.35 per successful sale

Support for self-serve and direct sales business models: Available

Flexibility in pricing & packaging: 

Supports a variety of billing scenarios but more known for its payment gateway capabilities.

Analytics and ability to see MRR / subscription metrics: Executive, financial, marketing, and subscription-related reports are available out of the box, and you can always dive deeper into your startup’s KPIs with reports that are just a few clicks away. 

Out-of-the-box vs. customizations available: You can customize the out-of-the-box shopping cart templates offered by 2Checkout and create completely personalized designs of the interface your customers use during their purchase. 

Ease of use: They have a very robust API and their platform is pretty comprehensive with a considerable number of features.

We can help!

At AbstractOps, we recently went through evaluating vendors and decided to go with Chargebee as our vendor of choice to manage our billing and subscription management. The features work best with how we sell to customers across sales channels, along with great service and pricing that's hard to beat.

At AbstractOps, we help early-stage founders streamline and automate regulatory and legal ops, HR, and finance so you can focus on what matters most — your business.

If you're looking for help with choosing a SaaS subscription management software, we can help you evaluate the right vendors and choose one that works for your short-term and long-term needs. Sign up to get started.

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