PayPal for Subscriptions

Shopify's new Subscription APIs allow merchants to use Shopify Payments alongside PayPal Express on the same Shopify store. This article details how you can set this up.

Setting up PayPal

You can add PayPal to your store using the instructions provided by Shopify here.

Reference Transactions

PayPal requires merchants to have Reference Transactions enabled before using PayPal with subscriptions. You must be approved by PayPal in order to charge customers automatically.

When you have activated PayPal Express on your store, Shopify will automatically ask PayPal for Reference Transactions on your behalf. This happens only if you have Ordergroove already installed. Otherwise, you will need to manually ask PayPal, and PayPal will email you once you are approved or request more information.


You can check the status of your request by going to the Payments section of the Shopify admin.
For more information on Shopify's reference documentation, click here.



In order to test subscriptions with PayPal Express, you'll need to purchase from the store with a different PayPal account than the one set up to receive payments on the store. You can set the store to manually capture payments in the Payments page of the Shopify Admin as well.


  • Accelerated checkout methods will not display PayPal Express when a subscription product is involved.
  • Customers cannot swap payment methods after they create their subscriptions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can merchants use PayPal Express for subscriptions alongside their primary gateway?

Yes, this allows two payment options for merchants using Shopify Payments while allowing other merchants to sell subscriptions via PayPal Express and still offer direct credit cards for one-time purchases via their primary gateway.