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Building a Recurring Billing System Part 2: Storing Information

As we saw in our previous post Building a Recurring Billing System, we will need to be responsible for providing a system to effectively manage our customers’ recurring subscriptions. Authorize.Net can take care of the payment processing for us as well as the scheduling of each payment. But to take our level of management and customer service to a higher level we will need to build a system to effectively manage it for us.

To effectively manage this system we will need to store some information pertinent to our transactions. Fortunately we do not need to store sensitive information but it would still be good to point out that being PCI compliant couldn’t hurt.

So what kind of information do we need to store? To determine that we need to know what information Authorize.Net is storing to do our recurring transactions. Any complete recurring billing subscription will store the customer’s credit card information (number and expiration date) and customer’s billing information (name, address, city, state, and zip code). Storing the credit card information is obviously required if the credit card is to be charged again at any point in the future. The billing information is required so Address Verification (AVS) can be done on each transaction (this is only necessary to keep your rates to a minimum. After the first transaction AVS serves no real purpose). Most subscriptions will also contain the customer’s ID number for the website so you can associate the subscription with their record in your system.

The customer billing information can be stored in its entirety as this is not considered sensitive information and you will find no objections from your customers. In fact the odds are your application will require this information anyway. As far as storing the credit card information we do not need to store much. We do not want nor need to store the credit card number. Once it is in the Authorize.Net ARB system we have no use for it. But we will find storing the last four digits handy if we plan to inform our customers of which card they are currently using. Storing the expiration date will be necessary if we plan to inform our customers of their impending expiration and invite them to change it before it does expire.

Do we need to store anything else? Yes. Since the ARB system only allows for subscriptions to be set for a maximum duration of three years, we will need to keep track of how long a customer’s subscription is so as they approach their three year anniversary we can handle the updating of their subscription for another three years. Also, when we initially establish a subscription we will be provided with a subscription ID. We will need to store that if we wish to edit or delete that subscription at a later date.

To summarize, we need to store:

  • Last four digits of the customer credit card number
  • Expiration date
  • Billing address
  • Customer ID
  • Subscription ID

With this information we have the foundation from which we can build our own subscription system. Now we can begin to offer functionality to our system that will enhance our customer’s user experience and make our job of managing these subscriptions easier.

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