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Our company currently offers four plans that our customers can be on. Three of these plans are paid, and one of them is free. The free plan is not supposed to be a free trial - you can stay on it forever and use our product just fine, you just have a cap on how much you can use it per month. As a result, the free plan is set up as a flat fee of $0.00 every month, with no setup fee or trial period. We want potential customers to be able to sign up without a credit card, and only enter a CC# when they upgrade to a paid plan.
We noticed recently that almost all of our subscriptions were canceled after the first billing cycle due to not having a card; Auto Collection is set to On for every customer. These subscriptions were all on the free plan. Does Chargebee's logic attempt to charge a card even if the charge is $0? Is this the expected behavior? Is there a way to set up a plan such that a card isn't charged if it's free?
From reading the forums and help center it seems like the two next-best solutions would either be to set Auto-Collect to Off for customers on the free plan, or to make the free plan have a 240-month trial period and end the 'trial period' when they upgrade. Are there any better solutions out there in this situation?
I can see that you have enabled Metered Billing (Notify and wait to close invoices) on your Chargebee site. When metered billing is enabled, a $0 subscription gets canceled on renewal if Auto Collection is ON without card details.
If you've enabled Metered Billing accidentally, you can disable it which would not cancel such subscriptions. But if you intend to use Metered Billing, the alternate solutions would be to have auto collection OFF or include a trial period in the plan. I see that you've identified these solutions. For the canceled subscriptions, you could reactivate them using the Reactivate Subscription option in the subscription details page.