Single-order vs Multi-order prepaid plans

Learn about the pros and cons between single-order vs multi-order prepaid plans. Also learn how to set up each prepaid plan type.

Single order and multi-order prepaid plans offer very different ways of creating prepaid subscriptions for your store.

  • Single-order prepaid is simple to set up because they can be attached to any existing product, but have specific limitations with 3PL software because they have a single order with multiple underlying fulfillments. Even if you don't rely on 3rd party logistics and fulfillment software, you may need to make updates to your order table filters to better utilize these plans (read more below)
  • Multi-order prepaid requires more setup but is fully compatible with 3PL software and external fulfillment processes because they create multiple unique recurring orders for each subsequent order. That being said, they require the creation of separate products that are distinctly used for the prepaid plans.

If you need assistance with the setup of prepaid plans, be sure to reach out to our team via the chat icon within the app or email us at [email protected]

The single order prepaid plan

Single-order prepaid plans allow you to add prepaid options to any product already in your store. You set the delivery frequency, set the prepaid term lengths, and any discount you want to offer to customers that prepay for this product.

The biggest benefit to the single-order prepaid plan is that it’s very easy to set up and can live alongside any other typical subscription plan. If you add this plan type to a product that already has a subscription, the option simply shows up as another payment option via the product page.

Whenever an order gets created, a fulfillment schedule gets added to the original order. As the date nears for another fulfillment, the status of the order updates to “scheduled”, then “unfulfilled”.

The drawback of this plan however is that older prepaid orders may get buried in the order table as time passes. This is because the reverse-chronological sort of the list means that newer orders will appear above it. This may mean that an order that needs to be fulfilled is several pages down in the list.

One approach to make this process easier is to create saved views for the order list. Because we add ‘Prepaid’ tags to each prepaid order, you may consider creating a filter for “Unfulfilled” orders that are tagged with ‘Prepaid’. This way, you can show a subset of the list that is filtered for prepaid orders that need to be fulfilled, despite their position in the list.

Another major drawback of the single-order prepaid plan is that most 3rd party fulfillment apps and services are NOT able to work with this order type. Because Shopify only recently introduced the multiple-fulfillment schedules, most popular fulfillment tools are not yet set up to work with this. Because of this limitation, we don’t recommend using this plan type if you rely on 3PL software.

How to set up a single-order prepaid plan

Step 1. Enabling the setting

When creating a new prepaid subscription plan, select ‘Single-order prepaid’ in the prepaid plan section.

Step 2. Entering prepaid plan terms and discounts

You can set the delivery frequency of the prepaid plan under 'Subscription Frequency'. Prepayment terms and discounts are entered in the 'Prepaid terms' section.

Step 3. Attach any products you want to offer to this prepaid plan

Then simply attach this plan to any product you would like and the rest works as expected. Note that with the single-order prepaid plan, you can attach this prepaid plan to existing products, including ones that may already have subscription plans attached.

Step 4. Save the plan

Now select 'Save' in the contextual save bar at the top of the screen


When the customer selects the prepaid plan on the product page, the total cost is calculated by multiplying the price of the product by the term length. When one-time or other subscription plans are also attached to the product, we display a "/delivery" price within the plan selector to make it easier for customers to calculate which option is best for them.

The multi-order prepaid plan

Multi-order prepaid plans solve many of the issues described above by creating zero-dollar orders for all subsequent orders. When a customer purchases a product with a multi-order prepaid plan, they pay the full price on the first order and recurring orders are discounted by the full cost of the product.

The biggest benefit is that each subsequent order gets a new order number with a unique order date, making this much more versatile and compatible with existing 3PL software and services. This also means that new orders are at the top of the order list, so you won’t need to worry about creating filters for your order table.

In this image, you can see that a new order (with a unique order number) is created. Subsequent orders are discounted at the full amount to create zero-dollar orders.

The drawback of this prepaid plan, however, is that you will need to create unique products that are specifically designed to be used for prepaid plans. This means that you won’t be able to simply attach this type of plan to any product that already exists in your store. Some merchants see this as a benefit because they prefer having a separate SKU for prepaid plans such as “gift memberships”.

How to set up a multi-order prepaid plan

Step 1. Enabling the setting.

When creating a new prepaid subscription plan, select ‘Multi-order prepaid’ in the prepaid plan section.

Step 2. Enter prepaid terms

You need to specify a prepaid plan by selecting...

  1. A delivery frequency

  2. The term length.

  3. Autorenew policy

    1. When autorenew is enabled, whenever the prepaid term ends, the cycle restarts, and the user is rebilled, followed by recurring free orders. This process continues at the same cadence until the admin or shopper stop the autorenew process.

Note that Multi-order prepaid does not have discount settings because pricing policies are fully controlled by the product (see step 3). Also, note that multi-order prepaid plans only offer a single term length. If you need to offer additional term lengths, you will need to create additional plans. Be sure to read "additional examples..." below for more advanced setups.

Step 3. Creating a product - Important

Remember that multi-order prepaid plans discount subsequent orders fully and because of that you will need to create a new, distinct product specifically for the prepaid plan. When creating a prepaid product, remember to price it at the full price of the prepaid plan.

For instance, if you want to offer a “yearly membership” to monthly wine deliveries, you should set the price for what you want to charge for the entire year.

In this example, we’re creating a product that cost $850 for 6 months, which is equivalent to $150 per order. The shopper will pay $850 on the first order, followed by 5 free orders.

Step 4. Attach the plan to the product(s)

Navigate back to the plan you originally created in step 2. Scroll down to ‘product’ and select any products that you would like to offer with the same delivery frequency and term length. You can attach multiple products to the same prepaid plan as long as you intend for them to have the same term length (ie. prepayment for 6 months).

Step 5. Save the plan

Now select 'Save' in the contextual save bar at the top of the screen

Step 6. Be sure to set the product as ‘subscription-only” - Important

Exit the plan screen and navigate back to the product page (within Shopify) and select the option under subscriptions that forces this product to only be sold as a subscription.


Because these prepaid plans are only offered as "subscription only", you typically do not have distinct options on the product page unless you have an advanced setup (shown below). Also, because the price is controlled by the product and not the plan, a "/delivery" price is not displayed.

Additional examples of advanced multi-order prepaid plans

Note that you can have several variants with distinct prices depending on several factors to offer unique combinations of prepaid plans.

Type 1 - Single product with different options for sizes, all variants share the same multi-order prepaid plan

This allows you to offer variants with distinct styles and pricing that all have the same prepaid term length.

Type 2 - Multiple variants within the same product, each attached to their individual multi-order prepaid plan and priced accordingly.

The benefit of this setup is that it allows for variety in term length from a single product.

Type 3 - Offering one-time and multi-order prepaid (workaround)

Unlike the simplicity of the single-order prepaid plan that simply attaches to existing products, you need to create unique products for the multi-order prepaid.

Because of this, a workaround is required when trying to present both one-time and prepaid together. In order to accomplish this, you need to create two separate products and tie them together with a custom liquid template.

This will require custom development but offers very versatile prepaid options while still working with 3PL software (which is a known limitation of single-order prepaid plans).

Closing thoughts

These prepaid options allow for a lot of flexibility and integration with existing 3PL setups. Our Multi-order prepaid plan is specifically designed with software like Shipstation, for instance.

We hope that this clarifies the specific differences between the two plan times, but as always, do not hesitate to reach out to our team via [email protected] if you have any questions or need additional help in setting up your prepaid plans.