I understand I can either go with a combination of:
Payment Gateway (ex: Authorize.net)
Subscription management service (Spreedly, Cheddargettar)
or go with one solution that provides both these functionalities (Ex: Authorize.net, Paypal, FastSpring has a way of handling subscriptions and they can be integrated with their API)
What's the value in signing up with a subscription management service?
I am creating a service that's untested at this point and am looking for a professional way of accepting payments on a monthly basis. I'd like to support upgrades/downgrades/cancellations.
Any suggestions are really appreciated.
Actually, Spreedly just wrote a blog post about this: http://blog.spreedly.com/2012/3/27/spreedly-core-use-cases-single-gateway-why-do-i-need-spreedly Boiled down a bit, it's because you want the freedom to switch payment gateways (and merchant accounts, which many payment gateways may bundle in). If you're not using a subscription management service (or storing the credit card data yourself (shudder) ), you'd have to get every one of your customers to reauthorize their subscription with whichever service you switch to.
There is also the issue of advanced dunning management that both chargify and recurly include.
Infact, chargify has a whole email management process for late payments. I think the value of subscription billing providers isn't just in the ease of accepting payments and flexibility of switch gateways, but their expertise in billing.
It's a question of how much of the work do you want to do yourself. There are full service solutions, which are all-inclusive, making it so there is little development work needed, just about every feature you'd need now/later is available, including global currency, language, and tax support. Then there are plenty of more basic solutions, which may be a good fit for you if you're open to doing a lot of the development work yourself or if you don't need most of the features offered by a full service subscription management and e-commerce solution.