Subscriptions with Higher Initial Billing Charges

Last modified October 3, 2018

This article applies to Contextual Commerce. (Looking for Classic Commerce documentation?)

For certain types of subscription-based products or services, you might want the initial purchase to cost more than the subsequent renewals. For example, suppose you have a service that requires an initial setup fee, with a nominal monthly fee to be charged thereafter.

This article describes how to set up a transaction with an initial charge that is higher than the subsequent renewals.


If you want to do the inverse - to charge less for the initial purchase (e.g. as an introductory offer) and more for the subsequent renewals - consider using either a coupon or a product-level discount (see Subscription Pricing) and setting the Discount Duration field to 1.

Setup Instructions

Create a Product for the Initial Charge

First, create a standalone product (i.e., not a subscription) with the price of the initial setup fee. Keep in mind that you may want to limit the quantity that can be purchased in a single order to 1 by entering 1 and selecting Locked in the product's Default Quantity field.

For detailed instructions on setting up a new product, please see Products.

Tutorial Video

Check out our tutorial video on creating a product:  How to Create a Product.

Create a Subscription for the Recurring Charges

Next, create a subscription that has the desired configuration for the billing frequency and the amount to be billed for each renewal. For detailed instructions on creating a subscription, please see Subscriptions.

Tutorial Video

Check out our tutorial video on creating a subscription - but be sure to refer to the detailed instructions below for particulars of how to price and configure the subscription:  How to Create a Subscription.
  1. When pricing the subscription, consider whether or not you want to charge customers for the first subscription period in addition to the initial setup fee:
     - If you do not want to charge customers for the first subscription period, enter either a discount of 100% or a discount amount equal to the regular billing price, and set the Discount Duration to 1.  For more information, please see Subscription Pricing
     - If you do want to charge customers for the first subscription period, please skip this step and proceed to step 2.

    Example of the Discounted Price section of a subscription's Pricing dialog, with the Discount Duration field higlighted


    If you enter a discount of 100% off, bear in mind that that applies regardless of the quantity being purchased. If you only want the customer to purchase a single subscription at a time, you can use the Locked option in the subscription's Default Quantity field to prevent customers from changing the quantity via your Web Storefront.

    If you do not want to limit the quantity that can be purchased, but only the "first" one should be free, then use a discount amount rather than a discount percentage.
  2. Once your subscription has been created, click the ADD OPTIONS command on the subscription's detail page.

    Example of a subscription detail page with the ADD OPTIONS command highlighted


    Be careful not to confuse ADD OPTIONS with ADD SUBSCRIPITION ADDONS. The interface elements are similar, but subscription addons become part of the regularly-scheduled, recurring billing amount.
  3. In the Add Options dialog, select Single choice option and then select the Require Selection and Inherit Quantity check boxes that appear, as in the example below.

    Example of the Add Options dialog

  4. Optionally enter an explanation for the initial charge in the Display field. However, if you have supplied a descriptive name for your initial charge product, that might be adequate for this purpose, in which case you can leave this field blank. If you do enter an explanation and your Store supports multiple languages, click the drop-down language selector and enter the explanation in each supported language.
  5. In the Products field, click and begin typing the name of the initial charge product that you created at the beginning of this process. Select the initial charge product from the resulting drop-down list, and then select the Preselected check box for that product.
  6. Click SAVE to save your changes.


    For complete details on this part of the process, please see Product Options.

Test Your Configuration

Finally, test your setup by placing a test order for the subscription. In the example image below, the monthly subscription billing amount has been discounted 100% for the initial purchase since the initial purchase price of $100 is being charged on a separate line.

Example of a Web Storefront with a subscription that has a required product option