PayPal Billing Frequency Explained

SubscriptionBoss uses PayPal terminology for the billing parameters: billing period, billing frequency and billing cycles. Billing cycles is clear enough but the use of billing period and frequency has led to some confusion.

For example one user set up a billing period of “month” and billing frequency of 12 thinking that this would result in 12 monthly bills: however this is interpreted by PayPal as one bill every 12 months.

The actual period between bills is calculated by multiplying the billing period by the billing frequency

Here are some common billing schedules:

  • Billing Period = Month; Billing Frequency = 1; means every month
  • Billing Period = Month; Billing Frequency = 3; means every 3 months or quarterly
  • Billing Period = Month; Billing Frequency = 12; means every 12 months or annually
  • Billing Period = Annual; Billing Frequency = 1; means every 1 year or annually
  • Billing Period = Week; Billing Frequency = 2; means every 2 weeks or fortnightly

Can I change The Billing Frequency On A Live PayPal Agreement If It Was Set Up Incorrectly Initially?

For existing orders/agreements then you cannot change the billing frequency say from 12 to 1, as from the PayPal buyer perspective the effective price would be going up by a factor of twelve. Some small modifications (generally reductions) are possible but not increases of large scale.

So you would need to cancel the existing agreement on PayPal and ask the buyer to sign up again.

When you go into PayPal and cancel the agreement, the SubscriptionBoss plugin will be notified of the cancellation and run the Infusionsoft cancellation action set you may have set up for that subscription. You need to check the content of this to make sure any messages/emails that it sends out are appropriate since you may have created this action set with the presumption that it was the member would be making the cancellation.

I would therefore suggest telephoning or emailing the member first and explain there had been an ‘administrative error’ and that they had been placed on a annual rather than monthly billing cycle by mistake – and that you would cancel the existing PayPal agreement and ask them to sign up again – obviously giving them some bonus offer would smooth the path. With this approach you can tell them that they can happily ignore the cancellation emails.

Or if you do not want the user to receive any cancellation email then put a ‘rule’ on the cancellation action set that makes the action set not run for that specific contact.


  1. Hi Russel,

    Thank you for this article. I’m wondering if this is not a mistake in your text: Billing Period = Annual; Billing Frequency = 12; means every 1 year or annually. Annual 12 times mean every 12 years no?

    Thank you,

  2. Thank you for taking the time to share the meaning of different increments for Paypal subscription setup.

  3. Scott speed says

    Can you choose any period such as ever 4 months or bi annual ?

    • You can do billing at any frequency up to 1 year. So every 4 months is possible but every 2 years is not. This is a PayPal limitation.

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