App subscriptions overview
An app subscription is a pricing model where users pay a recurring fee to access an app or certain features within the app.
The subscription pricing model is based on time-based, usage-based, or a combination of time and usage-based subscriptions.
The following guide explains how subscription models work at Shopify and the different subscription types that you can implement with the GraphQL Admin API's billing objects and mutations.
How it worksAnchor link to section titled "How it works"
An app can have only one active subscription for each merchant. Merchants must approve the subscription, and any recurring charges are billed automatically.
If a merchant changes their subscription while their current plan is active, then they need to accept a new recurring app charge. The existing subscription is canceled and replaced by the new subscription after the merchant approves it. Charges and credits can be prorated, and charges can be deferred, when merchants move to a new plan depending on the subscription change.
Subscription typesAnchor link to section titled "Subscription types"
You can create the following types of subscriptions for your app:
|Type||Description||Example use case|
Charge the merchant continuously at set intervals.
Provides a payment for each billing cycle. Supported cycles are annual and 30-day.
|Apps that charge a consistent, recurring amount for a service, such as charging $X USD every 30 days for analytics and automation on email campaigns.|
Charge based on app use. Merchants pay for the app continuously.
Provides a constant stream of revenue and merchants continue to get updates for the app that they subscribe to.
|Apps that charge a fee per action, such as charging $0.05 an email for the first 1000 contacts and $0.025 an email for every contact thereafter.|
|Combined time and usage-based||Combines a recurring charge fee structure with charges based on app use.||Apps that perform multiple functions, some of which can be covered by a fee every 30 days and others that are charged by use, such as analytics on email campaigns with scaling charges based on the number of contacts.|
Prorated chargesAnchor link to section titled "Prorated charges"
New subscription charges are prorated when a merchant upgrades to a subscription with a higher price during the current billing cycle. The amount owed is based on the following variables:
- What the merchant has already paid
- The cost difference between the plans
- The time left in the current billing cycle
The following is the equation:
For example, if a merchant begins a 30-day billing cycle on a $5.00 plan, and upgrades to a $15.00 plan on day 15 of the billing cycle, then the merchant is charged $10.00 for the upgraded plan.
Prorated creditsAnchor link to section titled "Prorated credits"
New subscription charges are prorated when a merchant downgrades to a subscription with a lower price during the current billing cycle. The amount owed is based on the following variables:
The cost difference between the plans
The time left in the current billing cycle
The following is the equation:
For example, if a merchant begins a 30-day billing cycle on a $20.00 plan, and then downgrades to a $10.00 plan on day 15 of the billing cycle, then the merchant is offered prorated credits.
The Partner payout is automatically adjusted based on the issued credit and the Partner revenue share. The following image illustrates the timeline:
If a new subscription includes trial days, then the merchant is still charged at the beginning of the next 30-day app billing cycle, but the bill includes a prorated credit to account for the trial days. The following image illustrates the timeline:
Refer to an example of canceling an app subscription and issuing prorated credits.
In the following scenarios, new subscription plans are deferred until the current plan's billing cycle completes:
A merchant switches from one annual subscription to another annual subscription with a lower price.
A merchant switches from an annual plan to a 30-day plan.
A new subscription has a different discount configured.
For example, if a merchant begins an annual billing cycle on a $200.00 plan, and then downgrades to a 30-day billing cycle on a $10.00 plan, the 30-day billing cycle for $10.00 won't begin until the end of the annual billing cycle.
Cancelling subscriptionsAnchor link to section titled "Cancelling subscriptions"
When a merchant uninstalls your app, their app subscription is automatically canceled. The billing account freezes, and the subscription is frozen. Learn more about available subscription charge details.
Get startedAnchor link to section titled "Get started"
Get started monetizing your app by setting up subscription billing.
Time-based subscription billing
Use the GraphQL Admin API to create a time-based pricing model for your app.
Usage-based subscription billing
Use the GraphQL Admin API to create a usage-based pricing model for your app.
Time and usage-based subscription billing
Use the GraphQL Admin API to create a combined time and usage-based pricing model for your app.