1. Figuring out how much you owe
Minimum membership dues are set now at $7/month. You also have the option of pledging to pay more if you wish to contribute a bit extra (all dues go back into services/infrastructure at some point). There is a portal page where you can learn more about this and set your pledge amount.
See HcoopBudget for the nuts and bolts of how we came to our current dues amount.
2. Deposit policy
Every member is required to keep with us a deposit equal to the current estimate of three months' hosting costs at the lowest pledge level. This comes out to $21 at the time of this writing. Your deposit amount is displayed on the front page of the portal.
Your balance is the amount of money you've sent us so far, minus your deposit, minus all charges billed to you so far.
- If your balance becomes negative and stays that way for three months, the Board of Directors may vote you out of the cooperative, and will definitely do so if you haven't contacted us asking for some kind of special exemption.
- Since getting in touch with people over the Internet can be much more complicated than it seems at first, we try to help you out by doing what we can to get your attention when your membership is in danger of being terminated. Specifically, when you can only survive one more month of dues without reaching a point where you've paid less than you've been charged, we will try to disable all of your services hosted with HCoop that aren't needed for e-mail communication.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to you if you're putting a minimal amount of effort into staying in good standing with HCoop. We send automated e-mail reminders every month to people who are within two months of dipping into negative balance territory. Naturally, it's important that you keep your HCoop e-mail set up properly so that you receive these e-mails. See the discussion of this in the first parts of MemberManual/GettingStarted/AccountCreated for further information.
If you have a pledge amount above 1, it will be reset to 1 before proceeding if a new charge would make your balance negative.
- New members only need to send us US$10 to open accounts. A new member has a one-month grace period when we won't enforce any of the above rules. After the first month of membership ends, it's business as usual, with no modifications to the rules to take into account that a "free month" just ended. New members will also receive the same low balance reminder e-mails as everyone else when applicable, even if those messages might contain warnings that are inaccurate because of this exception.
As with all aspects of HCoop, the board of directors is open to requests to accommodate special circumstances. Open a Bugzilla bug in the "Financial" category to make a request.
3. How to pay
The easiest ways are by PayPal or Stripe. We recommend that you pay via the customized payment links on the main portal page. If you somehow can't access that, there is a generic, publicly-viewable page with the appropriate links.
Remember that both providers deduct service fees, so that we will receive and credit you for less than you type in to send. You'll find fee information on the portal's front page and financial page. While the fees may seem steep, they may actually be the best fees you'll find for online transfers of our volume. Your credit card company imposes similar fees, but you just don't see them because merchants jack up their prices to compensate! However, if you have a better suggestion for how to accept payment online, then we're all ears on the hcoop-discuss mailing list.
We will also accept physical payments, like mailed checks or international money orders or whatever you find necessary, though it is significantly more of a pain for us. If you feel that you can't pay with PayPal or Stripe, open a support ticket explaining exactly which payment method you want to use and why you can't use PayPal or Checkout. Many people refuse to use PayPal because of "horror stories" that they've heard, but it seems very rare to meet anyone who personally has experienced anything bad of this kind from PayPal. It really is quite a safe and convenient way of sending and receiving money.
4. Epilogue: How did we come up with these payment policies?
We want to switch to automatic debiting of a flat monthly fee from members, but we're not there yet. For now, we need to make sure that we don't let members stick around, using our services, even when they've stopped paying. Quite frequently, members disappear and stop responding to attempts we make to contact them. Our bylaws allow the Board of Directors to vote to boot members whose balances have been negative for three months. Thus, we set the deposit requirement to three months of costs, so that we can boot anyone who has obviously disappeared, before the point where he's paid less than he's been charged.