The Authorize.Net Developer Blog

Posts from Authorize.Net employees, community members and experts about integrating with the Authorize.Net Payment Gateway: sample code, tutorials, and problem-solving techniques, just to name a few.


by on ‎12-03-2010 10:22 AM (402,698 Views)

A common question we have here in the community is “When should I use ARB and when should I use CIM?” I thought it would be good to outline what each service does, and in which cases it’s best to use each.

What is ARB?
ARB, or Automated Recurring Billing, is exactly what the name implies: a solution for automatically processing recurring or subscription-based payments. ARB allows you to create a subscription that includes your customers’ payment information, billing amount and payment schedule. Once a subscription is created, Authorize.Net will handle the transactions for you, submitting payments using the information and schedule provided. ARB also includes the ability to customize trial periods and pricing.


When to use ARB
ARB should be used when your merchants’ recurring transactions will be billed on the same date and for the same amount each occurrence. For example: membership fees. If your merchant will be billing their customer a membership fee of $10.00 a month, and they’ll bill it on the first of each month, then ARB is the way to go. You can create a subscription that bills $10.00 on the first of each month, for however long the membership is to be. Once created, Authorize.Net takes care of billing the customer each month.


The same goes for semi-annual or yearly charges. If your merchant will bill their customer on November 11th of every year for an annual membership of $100.00, then ARB will work just fine.


What is CIM?
CIM, or Customer Information Manager, is designed to simplify PCI DSS compliance. When you use CIM, you store your customer’s sensitive payment information on Authorize.Net’s secure servers for use in future transactions. This helps satisfy PCI DSS compliance as securely storing data is one of the requirements. Storing this information on our servers also allows your returning customers to use previously stored payment information and allows you set up recurring payments as well.   


When to use CIM
If you store your customers’ information, then CIM is an ideal solution as it helps you with PCI DSS compliance. But CIM is also beneficial for any merchant who needs to process recurring transactions on different dates or for different amounts for each occurrence. For example: utility companies. If your merchant bills their customers every month for an electric bill, the amount will be different every month. In this case, CIM is the best option.  You can create a payment profile that will be stored on Authorize.Net’s servers and then use that profile to bill the customer their amount due every month.


CIM is also good for usage charges. If your merchant only bills their customer when they actually use the service, then create a profile with the payment information and use that profile for billing when the service is actually used.


The bottom line
ARB is for very structured recurring payments: the subscription will bill on the same date and for the same amount each time.

CIM is for flexible recurring payments: the payments can be on different dates and for different amounts each time.

ARB requires less work on your end as you simply create the subscription and then Authorize.Net processes the payments according to the schedule you created.  

CIM requires more work on your end as you will have to come up with a scheduler that will call the CIM API to charge the customer’s profile for each scheduled payment. However, it does provide the flexibility necessary for some recurring transaction models.  Plus, it provides the added bonus of storing your customers’ information which allows you to simplify the purchase process for repeat customers.

More info
You can check out the CIM guides and the ARB guides. Feel free to post any questions here as well.