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PayPal Website Payments Pro and Express Configuration

Scope and Audience

This document covers the steps needed to configure and run CiviContribute using the PayPal Website Payments Pro plugin. This plugin supports PayPal Pro Express Checkout, and (if desired) Direct Checkout. Consult the PayPal's site for an overview of features and pricing for Website Payments Pro. The installation of the PayPal plugin is recommended for developers and technical users only at this stage. It is important that you thoroughly test your site using PayPal Sandbox Server and Sandbox accounts prior to configuring and enabling live transactions. You will also need to acquire and install an SSL certificate if you planning on offering Direct Checkout.

Overview of Paypal Pro

PayPal Pro allows you to process payments without users leaving your site.

Overview of Paypal Express

PayPal Express is an option available to Paypal Pro account users that works like Paypal Standard. It shows up as an orange button "Check out with PayPal" that appears above the billing address. Pressing it takes the end user to the Paypal website where they pay and hopefully return to the site.

PayPal Express has limitations. Like any offsite payment processor it can only process one transaction at a time. Therefore it is incompatible with the setting "Separate Membership Payment" which can be enabled on the membership tab of a contribution page settings. This setting is used in the case that the contribution page is collecting both membership and donation money. It allows each transaction to be processed separately. In the case of PayPal Express it tries to only process the donation amount because that is the last one on the list. Therefore if the donation amount is not selected or is set to "No thanks" an error will occur:

Payment Processor Error message 10400: Transaction refused because of an invalid argument. See additional error messages for details. Order total is missing.

This is a known issue.

Availability May Be Limited for Organizations Outside of the United States

If your organization is headquartered outside of the United States, we recommend that you confirm availability of Website Payments Pro for your country (and/or banking relationship) with PayPal prior to beginning configuration of this plugin.


PHP Configuration Requirements

The following are the PHP requirements for integrating CiviCRM with PayPal's payment services (as of February 2021

  • PHP 5.3 and above
  • PHP cURL extension with support for OpenSSL
  • PHP OpenSSL extension
  • Composer

Use phpInfo() to check for these extensions. You should see the following lines:

CURL support => enabled
OpenSSL support => enabled

Create a Developer Central Account

  • Go to and click "Sign Up".
  • Fill out the sign-up form (be sure to make a record of the email address and password used - and use a valid email address so you can respond to the activation email sent by PayPal).
  • Check for activation email and click on link to go to Developer Central login page

Create a Business (Merchant) Account on the PayPal Sandbox

  • Login to PayPal Developer Central
  • Click on the Sandbox tab
  • Click Create a test account link near the bottom of the page
    • Signup for a PayPal Account form opens in a new window
  • Select Business Account, select country and click continue
  • Complete both pages of the Business Account Signup form. You can enter 'fake' information as this is only a test sandbox account.
  • Make a record of this Sandbox Business Account login (email and password). You will need it to login to the Sandbox in the future.

Use caution in the domain you choose for your sandbox account

Please make sure that you actually select a domain that matches the one on your test server if you plan to use the recommended Signature Authentication method. While most of the data you input here can be fake, the business website address you enter should match your test server domain as PayPal will encrypt your key using this domain.

  • Now you need to Confirm Email Address for this account
    • The confirmation email for this account is NOT actually sent to an email address. This and all other communications for this 'sandbox account' show under the Email tab in Developer Central.
    • Click the Email tab in Developer Central and locate the confirmation email
    • Paste the confirmation link from this 'email' into your browser URL and enter your Sandbox Business Account password when prompted
    • You should see Email Confirmed. Click continue.
    • Your Business Account Overview page is displayed.
  • Now you need to Get (this account) Verified by adding a bank account
    • Click Get Verified link on left column of Overview page and follow prompts
    • You will be adding a 'fake' Bank Account' (you can enter a fake Bank Name - and use the Routing and Account Numbers as per below)

US Accounts

The Sandbox automatically generates bank account and sort code numbers when you add a bank account to an US Account.

UK, Australian, Canadian and German Accounts

To add test Canadian, German, or UK bank account information, use the following test numbers.

  • UK
    • Bank account number: Any 8-digit number- try to be unique - see Error message for why
    • Sort code: 609204 or 700709
  • Australia
    • Bank account number: Any one-digit to 12-digit number
    • Account number: any random number
    • BSB Number: 242-200
  • Canada
    • Institution number: 311
    • Transit number: 00001
    • Sort code: Any 8-digit number
  • Germany
    • Bank account number: Any 10-digit number
    • Routing number: 37020500

Error Messages

If receive an an error message when attempting to verify the account, contact MTS requesting that they verify the account for you, providing the email address of the Sandbox account.

Contact MTS including your Sandbox Email Address by clicking on I have an unconfirmed theory that if the account already exists in the system you get the error message which would explain why numbers like 12345678 seem to have failed for me

  • Confirm your bank account by continuing and following instructions on the next screen.
    • Click continue on the Congratulations screen. (Ignore the statements about confirming deposits to this dummy account - this only happens for a live account.)
    • Click Confirm button on the next page (Confirm your bank account). Then follow Sandbox prompt and click Submit.
    • You should see Your Bank Account in the United States Has Been Confirmed

Return to Overview tab in the Sandbox. Your account status should now be *Verified

Enable Website Payments Pro for Your Sandbox Account

  • In Sandbox, click the Merchant Tools tab
  • Under all-in-one payments, click Sign Up under Website Payments Pro
  • Next to Submit Application, press Go
  • Enter 111223333 when prompted for Account Owner Social Security Number
  • Ignore the duplicate Social Security Number warning message at the to of the next page and continue with the application.
  • You should see Application Approved
  • Return to Overview tab and Accept Billing Agreement link in Getting Started panel (upper left corner of My Account Overview page).
  • Click Agree to confirm billing agreement

Sandbox Use of Website Pro is Free

There is actually no charge for using any of the services in the PayPal Sandbox. However, you will need to go through the same steps if you choose to create a live Website Pro Account. EXCEPT there will be a waiting period while PayPal actually reviews and approves your application.

Applying for Website Payments Pro for a Live Account

When going through these steps for a live account, you should see a Getting Started panel in the upper left corner of your My Account - Overview tab. Once you verify your bank account information, you should be able to click on Apply for Website Payments Pro to begin the process. After submitting the requested info online - you will need to wait for an approval email reply from PayPal - in our experience this took approximately 3 days. !PayPal_Web_Pro_Apply.gif!You will get an error message from the PayPal Payments server if you attempt to do a direct (Website Payments Pro style) transaction before your account is approved.

Configure API Access

API Credentials are used to authenticate the connection between the PayPal payment gateway and the server where CiviContribute is installed. Two types of credentials are available - API Signature and API Certificate. The API Signature credential is recommended because it is easier to configure.

Generate API Signature Credential

  • Login to your Sandbox Account.
  • Click the Profile sub-tab from My Account.
  • Click My selling tools.
  • Click API access (under Selling online ).
  • Under Option 2 - PayPal API , click on 2. Set up PayPal API credentials and permissions
  • Select Request API Signature option, click on Agree and Submit
  • A page with your credential information is displayed. Record the values for:
    • API Username
    • API Password
    • API Signature

UPDATE May 20 - PayPal interface has changed in some cases. You may need to visit this url, (Profile, My selling tools, API Access), then click on View API Signature - under NVP/SOAP API Integration.

Changing from API Certificate to API Signature

If you previously used an API Certificate with PayPal Pro, you will not be able to generate an API Signature until you delete the API Certificate. The interface for doing so from Canada in May, 2012 is:

  • Login
  • Click the Profile sub-tab from My Account
  • Click Request API Credentials
  • Under Option 1: PayPal API, click Set up PayPal API credentials and permissions
  • Under Option 2 - Request API credentials to create your own API username and password, click View API Certificate
  • Click Remove, then Remove again
  • Then under Option 2 - Request API credentials to create your own API username and password, click Request API credentials
  • Leave the default Request API Signature as your choice for the kind of API credential. Click Agree and Submit.

Configure CiviContribute Using API Signature

  • Log into CiviCRM as an administrator.
  • Select Administer CiviCRM.
  • Select Global Settings.
  • Select Enable Components and ensure that CiviContribute is enabled.
  • Select Administer CiviCRM >> Global Settings >> Payment Processors
  • Click » New Payment Processor
  • Select PayPal - Website Payments Pro for Processor Type.
  • Complete the fields in the Processor Details for TEST Payments section with the values from your PayPal Sandbox account's View API Signature screen:
    • Your API Username
    • The API Password
    • The API Signature
    • You can generally accept the default values for Site URL, API URL and Button URL.
Live Payments Test Payments
Site URL
Button URL

During Initial Testing - Use Test (Sandbox) Account/API Info for Both TEST and LIVE Settings

CiviCRM allows you to store settings for connecting to both the Test and Live Payment Processor servers. When first setting up your site to accept online contributions, you should configure both TEST and LIVE server settings with test values. This will ensure that no LIVE transactions are submitted unintentionally. Once you have tested your site thoroughly, you can update the LIVE settings with the correct values for your live merchant account. The TEST settings will be used when you access an Online Contribution Page in Test-drive Mode.

If you are having problems submitting transactions to the PayPal Sandbox - check PayPal's Sandbox Status Page to see if there is an system problem on their end.

Credentials for LIVE Payments

Remember that when you are ready to configure CiviContribute for LIVE payments, you must generate new API credentials by logging in to your live merchant account (at Then, enter these values in the Processor Details for LIVE Payments section of the Payment Processor configuration form. We recommend doing an initial LIVE contribution yourself and then checking for activity by logging back in to your PayPal account.

Changing Your API Access Method

If you have setup your API Access using the API Certificate method, and want to change to API Signature - you first need to Remove the existing credential. Click View or Remove Credentials from the API Setup page (My Account >> Profile >> API Access). Then click the Remove button. After confirmation, you are redirected to the API Setup page where you can click Request API Credentials to get a new credential.

Configure Drupal Error Reporting

The PayPal SDK currently triggers a PHP warning during transaction processing. This warning does not affect processing - but you need to make sure that Drupal is configured to NOT display warnings on the screen.

  • Navigate to Drupal administer >> settings or ( administer >> site configuration >> error reporting )
  • In the Error Handling section, the Error Reporting drop-down should be set to Write errors to log. Update and save this setting if needed.

NOTE: This is the recommended setting for production sites.

If the following warning is displayed after clicking Make Contribution - your Error Reporting setting is incorrect:

warning: Services_PayPal::getType(Services/PayPal/Type/Struct.php)
[CRM:function.getType]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory
in <drupal-root>/modules/civicrm/packages/Services/PayPal.php on line 50.

Assign this Processor to your Contribution or Event Registration Page(s)

You must assign your new Payment Processor to your Contribution Page or Event Registration before you can test-drive them.

  • For Contribution Pages - go to Manage Contribution Pages » Configure » Contribution Amounts and select your PayPal Website Pro processor, then click Save.
  • For Event Registration - go to Manage Events » Configure » Event Fees and select your PayPal Website Pro processor, then click Save.

Test-drive a CiviContribute Online Contribution Page

  • Login and navigate to Administer CiviCRM >> Configure Online Contribution Pages.
  • Click on the referenced 'Test-drive' link for your page and make a contribution. In this mode, contributions records are saved with a Test flag. These are not shown under contact view - but you can view them by searching for Test Contributions under CiviContribute » Find Contributions.

Test Credit Cards

Use the PayPal Sandbox Add a Credit Card function to generate credit card numbers which are valid for testing.

Recurring Contributions

CiviCRM supports Paypal Pro recurring contributions.

The differences between Paypal Standard Subscriptions and Paypal Pro Recurring Contributions are as follows:

  • Standard Subscriptions require the contributor/donor to have a Paypal account while Pro Recurring does not require the donor to have a Paypal account. A credit card is sufficient to use Paypal Pro recurrings.
  • Standard Subscriptions are included for free in your Standard account services. Pro Recurring feature costs an additional monthly charge on top of Pro.

To take advantage of recurring and one-time contributions on the same CiviCRM Contribution page, you must have the Pro Recurring add on. You cannot process Pro one-time donations and Standard Subscriptions from the same Contribution page.

Once you have added the Recurring feature to your existing Paypal Pro account, configure your IPN settings in Paypal so CiviCRM can receive updates on the recurring contributions:

  • Log in to your Paypal account
  • Click Settings (Gear icon)
  • Click Account Settings > Website Payments > Instant Payment Notifications
  • Follow the instructions here: IPN Notify URL to work out the correct URL to use
  • Enter the URL and save


You can re-send an IPN message from this area by using the IPN search. This is good if you have had it set to the wrong URL & want to resend them once you've fixed it


If you are still using the deprecated you should switch to the standard CiviCRM URL details can be found here: IPN Notify URL

Expected Behavior

When CiviCRM processes a recurring contribution via Paypal (Standard or Pro) a single Contribution is created in CiviCRM which is marked visibly as "recurring". However within the Paypal account history, two separate transactions will be visible.

  • The 'initial' payment is transacted immediately, in the amount specified
  • A separate, 'repeating' (in the case of Pro) or 'subscription' (in the case of Standard) is also created, which will transact again at the specified interval, duration and amount

With Paypal Standard, a payor wishing to stop their recurring payment may do so within their own Paypal account by stopping their subscription. In contrast, with Paypal Pro, the payment is made via credit card and thus the repeating payment must be stopped from within the merchant's Paypal account, not the payor's Paypal account.

Recurring Processing Failure Credit card numbers and expiration dates change over time. Because neither CiviCRM nor Paypal are capable of reaching into a payor's wallet to update this information, you should expect that a percentage of recurring payments will fail. When this happens, CiviCRM records a contribution of status "Failed" associated with the Contact record, although CiviCRM does not send a "Failed" email notification to the payor directly. Paypal will, however, send an email to the payor notifying them of a failed recurring payment and the repeating payment or subscription will be canceled. The payor can then attempt to re-establish their payment.

Apply for and Configure Your LIVE Account

Once you are comfortable with your site's operation in testing mode, you will need to apply for a live PayPal Business Account here - or upgrade an existing PayPal account to a Business Account. Approval may take several days.

The basic steps for obtaining and configuring your live Profile and settings are the same as for the Sandbox process described above - except that you will request the API Signature from your live merchant account login - and populate the Live settings in the Processor configuration screen.

Once you have your LIVE account configured, it is important that you submit a few live contributions prior to exposing your live online contribution page(s) to the public.


Turning on Taxes in PayPal causes payments to remain pending

If you change the PayPal setting so that PayPal calculates and adds taxes, then the total amount charged by PayPal will no longer match that in CiviCRM. When PayPal calls back to CiviCRM saying it has received payment for $Total including taxes this doesn't match CiviCRM's $Total that excludes taxes. If you check your CiviCRM log file (generally under files/civicrm/ConfigAndLog/) you'll find an error similar to

Nov 04 10:12:57 [info] Amount values don't match between database and IPN request

The solution is to turn off the PayPal Sales Tax option.

Sales tax support is added to core in v. 4.6, and there is a Canadian Sales Tax extension available. Feel free to contact Joe (dot) Murray (at) JMAConsulting (dot) biz for advice on how to create an extension for your jurisdiction if need be.

Configuring PayPal API Certificate Credentials

Generating and Configuring PayPal API Certificate Credentials

Note that this method is not supported in CiviCRM v1.8 (and later)

API Certificates are an alternate authentication method for interacting with PayPal's servers. Follow these procedures if you wish to use this method rather than the default API Signature credential.

Generate and Download API Certificate Credential

  • Login to your Sandbox or Live Account.
  • Click the Profile sub-tab from My Account.
  • Click the API Access link in the left column (under Account Information )
  • Click request an API certificate under the Direct Access section.
  • Fill in the API Certificate Request form
  • Record the API Username and the API Password selected (you will need this to create your API Profile and configure CiviCRM later)
  • Click Generate Certificate and then Download on the next page
    • A certificate file will be downloaded to your local machine (file name will be cert_key_pem.txt)

Create Your API Profile and Configure CiviCRM with your PayPal Configuration Settings

During Initial Testing - Use Test (Sandbox) Account/API Info for All Settings

CiviCRM allows you to store settings for connecting to both the Test and Live Payment Processor servers. When first setting up your site to accept online contributions, you should configure both TEST and LIVE server settings with test values. This will ensure that no LIVE transactions are submitted unintentionally. Once you have tested your site thoroughly, you can update the LIVE settings with the correct values for your live merchant account. The TEST settings will be used when you access an Online Contribution Page in Test-drive Mode.

The final steps in getting ready to use CiviContribute with PayPal in TEST MODE are to create and store an API Profile on your server, and enter settings in the Payment Processor section of the CiviCRM configuration file. This is actually a pair of files which are used to authenticate your server to the PayPal transaction server.

  • Create or locate a directory which can be used for your API Profile files. During this step, your webserver must have read/write access to the path - but for security it should preferably be a directory that is NOT below your web root. Note down the path to this directory - this will be your TEST_CERT_PATH.
  • Navigate to Administer CiviCRM » Global Settings » Enable Components and make sure CiviContribute is enabled.
  • Now go to the Global Settings » Payment Processor.
  • Set your Payment Processor value as either PayPal (for Website Payments Pro) or PayPal Express.
  • Set both your TEST and live ..._Certificate Path settings to the directory noted above. Include a trailing slash on both path settings.


    Make sure the Test and Live Username fields are blank before saving this screen. If these fields are not empty, you will get an error from PayPal when attempting to make a test or live contribution.

  • Open your CiviCRM configuration file in a text editor (civicrm.settings.php)

  • Set both your TEST and live ..._PASSWORD settings to the API Password you used when requesting your sandbox certificate.

    define( 'CIVICRM_CONTRIBUTE_PAYMENT_TEST_PASSWORD' , 'fo$y7#233u' );
    // ...
    define( 'CIVICRM_CONTRIBUTE_PAYMENT_PASSWORD' , 'fo$y7#233u' );
  • Now log back to your site (with Administer CiviCRM permission) and go to Administer CiviCRM

  • Click on the new item in the CiviContribute section of the control panel - Create PayPal API Profile. (If this item is not visible, check your CiviCRM configuration file to make sure the Payment Processor setting is PayPal or PayPal_Express, and the Enable Components setting lists CiviContribute.)
  • Select sandbox as your API Environment, enter the API Username you used to request your sandbox digital certifcate, and browse to the certificate file you downloaded from PayPal earlier.
  • After submitting the form, you should see a status message with your Profile PAYMENT_KEY value. You may also want to verify that the *.cert and *.ppd files have been created in your CERT_PATH.

    // example API Profile files
  • Go back to you CiviCRM configuration file, and enter your Profile PAYMENT_KEY value in both TEST and LIVE settings.

    define( 'CIVICRM_CONTRIBUTE_PAYMENT_TEST_KEY' , '82dd81ec5b571959b3d36b73bd30d4o2' );
    // ...
    define( 'CIVICRM_CONTRIBUTE_PAYMENT_KEY' , '82dd81ec5b571959b3d36b73bd30d4o2' );
  • Finally, it is recommended that you set the directory permissions to READ-ONLY for your API Profile directory (CERT_PATH).