Quick Start Guide
- What is Cheddar?
- Creating a Product
- Pricing Plans & Tracked Items
- Creating a Customer Subscription
- Setting Up a Gateway Account
1. What is Cheddar?
Cheddar is a subscription management and recurring billing application (also known as "reoccurring billing") that has been designed and built with flexibility and ease of use in mind. Those two things don't exactly go very well together. A flexible system isn't automatically easy to use and a system that is easy to use typically isn't very flexible. All things considered, we think we've done a pretty good job meeting both those goals. However, there are a few things that are just too difficult to explain in a word or two in the interface. So, here's a quick start guide to get you going with a little explanation of some of the methods used by Cheddar to meet that flexibility goal.
Signup is easy. All you need is a name, email address, and password. This account will be the "owner" of the product account you will subsequently create. The email address of the "owner" account is used as the default FROM: address when Cheddar sends emails to your customers, if enabled. It is also the recipient of notifications sent by Cheddar in the event of some sort of error, like a declined payment.
The Cheddar signup process involves a round-trip email verification step. We do this to make sure that your email address is real and that you are who you say you are. Once you've completed the email verification step, you can create a "Product".
3. Creating a Product
The word "product" is what we use to refer to your business. Think of the product as what you're selling in general terms.
You'll want to use a nice name for your product account since this value is used to refer to your business in email notifications sent to your customers on behalf of your business (if enabled).
The "Product Code" is your unique code to identify the product account. It can essentially be anything. If you use the Cheddar API to integrate with an application on your end, you'll use this code to refer to this product account.
3.1 Development and Testing
A product account is considered to be in development or testing mode if it isn't live. This is the default state of a product account. To keep a product account in development mode, simply don't make it a live account. See Going Live below.
You can create as many product accounts as you need for development and testing. You'll probably want to name your development and product account(s) descriptively to decrease confusion. You'll probably also want to make sure that the user accounts that have access to each product account are appropriate for your situation. For example, it's a good idea to only allow certain user accounts access to certain development accounts to avoid cross communication between development environments or accidental connection to a production account, for example. More on this concept can be found in the Managing Users and Administrators article.
3.2 Going Live
Going live is done simply by adding your credit card to Cheddar and choosing the appropriate pricing plan for your situation in the Go Live step of the setup process. Once you've added your method of payment, you'll be able to configure your live payment processor so you can accept real money from your real customers.
4. Pricing Plans & Tracked Items
Pricing plans mixed with their "tracked items" is the special sauce of Cheddar. Put it on anything, and it's sure to taste great! Tracked items make almost any type of pricing model possible. They enable models like micro-payments, transactional billing, usage limits, access control, metered billing or just tracking items for whatever you need to track items for. Use of tracked item configuration isn't necessary but configuring a pricing plan is.
4.1 The Pricing Plan
Pricing plans on their own are pretty simple. They've got a name, a code, a billing frequency, an optional setup charge, and an optional recurring charge. There are a few options here regarding when you want to bill your customers. You can delay the first bill (like a trial period) or charge the customer immediately upon signup.
4.2 The Tracked Items
Pricing plans don't have to have tracked items but they open up a whole new world of possibilities for billing your customers. Each tracked item has a name and a code. That's the easy part. Then, configured within each pricing plan, each tracked item configuration has a quantity of the item that is included in the pricing plan ("Quantity Included"), a cost of each item in excess of the quantity included ("Overage Amount"), and a flag indicating whether or not the quantity included is per billing cycle or forever ("Monthly" or "Quarterly", etc. Also known as "Is Periodic").
The "Overage Amount" signifies how much a customer is charged for each item in excess of the "Quantity Included". If the "Overage Amount" is zero, Cheddar will not allow the customer to have more than the "Quantity Included" for the item. If the "Overage Amount" is negative, the item can be used to issue a recurring discount on a customer's invoice.
If the "Monthly/Quarterly/Annually/etc" (also known as "Is Periodic") checkbox is checked, then Cheddar will set a customer's item quantity usage back to zero at the beginning of each new billing cycle. If it is not checked, Cheddar will never automatically change the customer's usage quantity of the item.
4.3 Free Pricing Plans
So, what if you need to provide some level of usage to potential customers for free? Well, you can create a free plan in Cheddar. A plan is truly free if it has a zero dollar setup charge amount, a zero dollar recurring charge amount and zero possibility of tracked item overage charges. If a customer is subscribed to a truly free plan, Cheddar does not require any credit card information for that customer. A subscriber may stay on a free plan indefinitely without ever paying you :(
4.4 Free Trials on Paid Plans
You can also offer a "free trial" subscription on a paid plan as long as the first bill on the subscription isn't due on signup. Offering a free trial is a good example of why you might want to accept subscriptions on a paid plan without a payment method. You can then use Cheddar's email notification system or webhooks to prompt these customers to convert to being a paid subscriber by entering their payment information after they've had a chance recognize the full value of your service.
5. Creating a Customer Subscription
Once your plans are configured, you can start adding customers and subscribing them to plans.
5.1 Add a Customer
The minimum information necessary to create a customer if the subscribed pricing plan is "free" is name, email, your customer identifier and a pricing plan. Cheddar takes it from there. If the pricing plan isn't free, payment information is optionally required. A payment method is inherently required if the pricing plan is configured to bill on signup (and you haven't overridden that option in the signup API call). In other words, if you require payment at the time of signup, a payment method is required. If you don't, then you may optionally require payment method via your product settings. The bare minimum requirement when a payment method is required is cardholder name, credit card number and expiration date. You can, of course, choose to require additional information like CVV, and billing address.
5.2 Change a Customer's Subscription
Change the customer's subscription information at any time, switch to a different pricing plan, issue a custom credit or debit and manage tracked item quantities.
Of course, all this can be automated via our super simple API as well. More info about the API can be found here: https://cheddargetter.com/developers
6. Setting Up a Gateway Account
If you're just running Cheddar through it's paces, you don't need a gateway account. Cheddar simulates gateway interaction while you're developing or testing your integration. It's a good idea, however, to start the process of getting setup with a merchant account and gateway while you're in development. You can do that here.