self managed recurring billing

I'm working on setting up the credit card processing part of a rails app for my company and running into some issues. I'm currently working with the ActiveMerchant plugin and connecting to our account at Everything's been relatively easy to setup, until I got to the recurring billing part. The problems I'm finding are...

A. ActiveMerchant doesn't appear (yet?) to support's *new* Automatic Recurring Billing (ARB) API.

B. ARB doesn't appear to directly notify our application about what charges failed or succeeded, instead sending a daily email that a person would have to read and then manually go take appropriate actions on user accounts, which completely surprises me. I wrote a recurring billing interface to Paypal in Perl over two years ago, and this was a standard part of the interface for them all the way back then.

C. ARB doesn't allow the kind of control we need for deciding when and how much to charge people. ARB wants us to setup a schedule to charge card X Y times at Z frequency. However, our system would be a little more akin to allowing users to use a card already on file for future purchases without having to re-enter the card. The amounts and frequencies are going to change a lot. We don't want to store the card info on our sever, but would rather store in on the gateway and just send them a key referencing the previously used card and tell them to, "charge that one again for this new amount, and respond with the status."

Has anybody else run into any of these issues, and if so, how did you deal with it. We're not married to ActiveMerchant or, so if there are alternatives to either/both that would allow the kind of control we need, I'd love to hear about them.

To summarize, we need to charge irregular amounts at irregular intervals to a specific card keyed to a specific customer *without* storing the credit card info on our server *or* requiring the customer to re-enter their card info every time, and find out immediately (*not* via email) if the charge succeeded or failed. Pipe dream?


I wrote a ruby library for interacting with the recurring billing API for TrustCommerce ( You could write one for the ARB API. It's really not that hard. Take a look at for the code. Maybe you can use it as a template for building an ARB one...

I wrote about my experiences with using Paypal Payflow for Lighthouse:

Those basic subscription services are fine, except there's no way to tell when a payment fails. You just have to watch the emails and close accounts manually, or write something to parse the returned emails. I'd love it if they had something similar to Paypal IPN.