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What is proration?

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Last editedApr 20234 min read

Proration refers to a subscription payment that has been amended based on the actual usage. This means that the user only pays for what they used rather than for the whole billing period.

What is Proration?

Imagine one of your customers cancels their subscription in the middle of a billing period. What do you do? Make them pay for the entire period that they signed up for or charge them accurately for the services that they used?

Prorated billing ensures that your customers are charged fairly and accurately. Find out everything you need to know about proration, including how to prorate fees and why proration in the SaaS space is so important. First off, what does prorated mean?

Prorated definition

Proration sounds complicated, but it’s actually a very simple concept. Essentially, if you use something for less time than you’re scheduled to use it for, it’s fair to expect that you’ll only be charged for the time you used. That’s essentially what we mean by a prorated charge, or prorated amount. Proration is an especially important concept for subscription-based businesses to understand, as many customers will want to change or cancel their subscription plan at some point during a billing cycle.

When is proration used?

Proration can be used whenever your customers change their subscription plan. For example, if a customer downgrades their plan to a less expensive option, they’re likely to have paid more than their expected usage. As a result, they may need to be given prorated credit, because they’re owed cash for the price difference. Of course, if a customer upgrades to a more expensive plan, their monthly bill may need to be increased to reflect the standard of service that they actually received. Prorated billing can ensure that the customer pays the difference.

Example of prorated billing

For a better sense of how prorated billing works in practice, let’s look at an example of how to prorate in the real world. Imagine that a group of customers use Subscription Plan A for the first 15 days of the month before switching to Subscription Plan B for the remaining 15 days. Prorated billing ensures that the customer pays one price for the first half of the month (the price of Subscription Plan A) and a different price for the other half of the month (the price of Subscription Plan B).

Let’s say that Subscription Plan A costs £300 per month, whereas Subscription Plan B costs £200 per month, and that payment is taken at the beginning of the month. In this example of prorated billing, the prorated amount is £150, the prorated credit is £150, and the charge on the new plan for that month is £100. Consequently, the customer’s bill for that month would result in a credit of £50, and next month’s bill would therefore be £50 less expensive.

Why is proration important?

Because most SaaS products allow customers to make changes to their subscription plan in the middle of a billing cycle, it’s important to have the capacity to align fees with consumption. That way, your customers can be assured that they’ve only paid for the service that they used.

GoCardless offers flexible recurring bank payments, such as Direct Debit, that are perfect for proration as you can easily adjust the amount, frequency and date of payment collection for each customer. Furthermore, should you need to collect an initial sum before a recurring payment begins, use our Instant Bank Pay feature for seamless instant payment.

Customers get notified before the payment hits their bank. They also don't need to worry about fraud like they do with credit cards, and bank accounts don't expire, so they’ll never need to update their details.
Scott Westbrook, Director of Business Systems, Deputy

Learn more about GoCardless' cost-effective, secure, and reliable subscription collection service for SaaS businesses, which also offers seamless cross-border collection and integration with 200+ software packages.

It’s a great way to build up customer engagement, boost loyalty, and encourage your customers to re-subscribe in the future. As you may know, customer success plays a significant role in the success or failure of any SaaS business, so learning how to prorate can have a vital impact on your company’s survival.

Tips for how to prorate effectively

Proration isn’t always easy. The math can be complicated, and with customers amending their subscription plans mid-month, signing up days before the end of the billing cycle, and so on, it’s crucial to have a firm grasp of how to prorate before you start sending invoices. Here are some of our top tips for prorated billing:

  1. Be transparent with your customers – Ensure that you’re completely transparent about how you prorate charges, explaining very clearly on your invoices how you’ve come to the prorated amount. This ensures that your customers know what they’re being billed for and sets them up to have a positive experience.

  2. Track the effect of proration on your revenue – Revenue recognition is a major compliance issue for SaaS businesses, so when you prorate payments, ensure that you’re mindful of the dates when you create a new subscription. Otherwise, you may make a mistake and accidentally record cash from subscriptions as revenue.

  3. Utilise a modern payment collection service like GoCardless – With so many different invoices and forms of payment, collecting recurring payments can be a challenge, and prorated billing doesn’t make that challenge any simpler. GoCardless makes it easier to collect recurring payments from customers all over the globe.

We can help with payment collection, including proration

GoCardless uses bank payments such as Direct Debit to collect recurring payments for SaaS and other subscription businesses.

In contrast to payment collection using cards, Direct Debit is more flexible, secure and easier to manage, has lower transaction fees but higher payment success rates, and uses automation to reduce the amount of admin your team needs to deal with when collecting subscriptions.

Using GoCardless for your subscriptions will save you money on transaction fees and time on financial admin. Furthermore, GoCardless integrates with 200+ software packages, offers seamless cross-border payment collection and is highly secure.

Learn more about collecting subscriptions with GoCardless.

Case Study: How Deputy saved time & money using GoCardless

Deputy's mission is to simplify work for the world’s more than 2.7 billion shift workers, with operations in Australia, the UK and the US.

Until May 2020, customers could only pay with credit cards or PayPal but by adding GoCardless Direct Debit to the payment mix, Deputy was able to:

  • save money on transaction fees

  • enjoy a higher payment success rate

  • reduce churn & increase retention

  • save time on admin requirements

  • accept cross-border payments

All this was achieved simply by switching payment collection methods from cards to direct bank payment!

  • Bank payment methods such as Direct Debit are much cheaper than cards because they are direct account-to-account payments. 

  • Deputy has found that GoCardless costs 45% lower per transaction than Visa/Mastercard and 80% lower per transaction than AMEX. 

  • Cards also become lost and expire, leading Deputy to experience payment failure rates of 20% and above in any given month! 

  • In contrast, bank accounts cannot be lost nor expire, and with GoCardless Deputy has achieved a first time payment success rate of 92%. 

Watch the video to see how Deputy transformed their payment collection process:

Cost-effective, secure and reliable subscription payment collection for SaaS businesses.

"For ongoing monthly payments it’s perfect. You can easily adjust the subscription amounts and don’t suffer from the problem of expired cards." - Charles Cridland, Technical Director, YourParkingSpace

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Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help
Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

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