Businesses need to get paid. It’s one of the immutable laws of the universe, like gravity, or hipsters loving avocado toast and coffee with ridiculous names.
Once upon a time businesses only had to worry about cash, cheque or credit cards. Now your business needs to accept a range of payments, from Bitcoin and Ethereum to Polish Zlotys and Malaysian Ringgits.
The good news is there’s no shortage of great payment gateways. The bad? With so many options, trying to figure out what's best is like trying to pick your favourite Rocky movie: nigh on impossible.
And the last thing you want to do is spend hour after hour comparing options. It's super boring (trust us, we just did it). But you wouldn't hand out your credit card details to anyone now, would you?
What payment gateway you choose matters for your business and your clients. So to take some of the stress out of the process, we've gone ahead and compared three of the best on the market: PayPal, Stripe and Braintree.
In this post we’ll compare each one to help you figure out which is one is right for your business. Let's hop to it.
Let’s start by making sure we’re on the same page. What do we mean by the term ‘payment gateway?’ And does it have anything to do with gates? (No.)
A payment gateway is simply a term for the technology that lets you take payments online. It takes the money from your customer and transfers it to your business, all through the magic of the web.
Here's a quick overview of how they work for the visual learners in the crowd:
"Payment gateways are the middleman between you and your customers. They validate the customer’s card details, ensure the funds are available in their account and send it over to you securely."
Beyond that, they give businesses and consumers buffed up security, encrypting your payment data (like credit card and bank details) to keep your cash safe. This security is one of the main benefits of using a dedicated payment gateway.
You'll find payment gateways on any site that requires ecommerce (transactions that take place on the web). They help businesses of all shapes and sizes make buying and selling things a breeze. (So does Paperform, by the way, but that's another story).
Let's take a look at the three stars of the show: PayPal, Stripe and Braintree.
Comparing PayPal, Stripe and Braintree is kind of like comparing Mars, Snickers and Twix. While they’re all chocolate bars, their individual features add up to make them unique. So let’s have a quick look at each one.
PayPal is one of the most trusted names in payment gateways. It’s used by millions of companies, online stores and auction sites to process payments, simplify online shopping and send money securely.
It’s one of the few gateways to offer peer-to-peer transactions. That means as well as using PayPal for business, you can use it to send money to friends and family.
Stripe is a PayPal alternative that combines a powerful payment platform with a comprehensive stack of applications. The apps cover everything from in-person payments and subscription billing to helping launch a new startup from scratch.
With Stripe, businesses are empowered to build their own unique platforms with easy-to-use software and API. It provides everything you require for a complete ecommerce experience, online or in-store.
Braintree is a sub-service of PayPal designed to simplify the payments process in app or on your website. It gives you a seamless and secure checkout that lets users pay how they want, reducing cart abandonment and boosting conversion rates.
Check out the table below to get a clearer idea of the features of each product.
|Fees||$30/month for payments pro
2.9% + $0.30/transaction
1-4% transaction for currency conversion
$20 per chargeback
|No monthly fee
2.9% + 0.30/transaction
2%/transaction for currency conversion
|No monthly fee
2.9% + 0.30/transaction
1%/transaction for currency conversion
|Payment methods||PayPal||AliPay, Android Pay, Apple Pay, Bitcoin, ACH||PayPal, Venmo, Android Pay, Apple Pay, Bitcoin, more|
|Payment cards||Most major cards||Most major cards||Most major cards|
|Availability||202+ countries||25 countries||46 countries|
|Refund Policy||Returns a partial transaction fee for issued refund||Returns a transaction fee for issued refund||Returns a transaction fee for issued refund|
|Payouts||Within 2 days||Within 2 days||Within 2 days|
|Special Offers||Discounts for large-volume clients||Discounts for large-volume clients||No fees for the first $50,000|
|Supported platforms||Ruby, Python, PHP, Node.js, Java, iOS, Android||Ruby, Python, PHP, Java, Node.js, Go, Android, iOS||Ruby, Python, PHP, Node.js, Java, Android, iOS|
|Monthly fees||With Payments Pro||No||No|
|Notable clients||Ebay, Shopify, ASOS||Google, Slack, Salesforce, Amazon||Uber, StubHub, Airbnb|
The pricing model for most online payment processors is super simple. They charge a flat-rate fee of around 2-3% on every transaction plus a few cents on every dollar.
"If you're a small business these micropayments can add up quickly. You'll have to weigh up whether this pricing model is worth it for your business."
Pricing also changes based on what country you’re in. There are additional fees for international cards, currencies and conversions. You’ll also have to pay a fixed fee of at least $15 ($20 with PayPal) for chargebacks, which is like a refund.
PayPal, Stripe and Braintree all offer customization in their prices to help you create the ideal solution for your business. You can get volume discounts, country-specific rates and a whole bunch of other features to tailor the experience to your needs.
PayPal are the pioneers of online payment processing, so it’s no surprise their pricing model has become the industry standard. It’s free to sign up for a PayPal account and they take a small amount out of each transaction before it hits your bank account.
Your merchant account gives you the ability to accept payments online, in-person, by phone or email. You can make payments, sell globally and feel safe while doing so with PayPal’s excellent fraud and seller protection.
But the final pricing depends largely on where your business is based. The fixed fee changes for each country - plus processing fees can add costs for business owners who require a lot of currency conversions.
On top of their standard features, PayPal offers virtual terminal and recurring payment options, though both come with additional monthly fees. They also provide discounted processing fees for charities and nonprofits, which is a nice touch.
Stripe offers a complete payment platform with simple pay-as-you-go pricing. You get all the tools you need to manage payments (which goes without saying). On top of that you get constant updates, no monthly fees and over 100+ features.
It has all the functionality a savvy business owner could need. From global payments and third-party integrations, to real-time reporting, iron-clad data security and 24x7 customer support. You can even accept in-store payments with Stripe Terminal.
On top of all that, Stripe has an app suite to help make the ecommerce platform of your dreams. With access ranging from a few extra bucks to a few hundred, you can add recurring subscriptions, automatically detect fraud, or turn an idea into a startup with Atlas.
Braintree’s pricing is similar to PayPal’s, but you’ll notice it’s cheaper for domestic transactions. For this great price, you can build a killer checkout experience, as well as access everything you need to manage your payments.
With Braintree’s per transaction payment system you get access to a vast array of features including a merchant account and gateway, basic fraud tools, third-party integrations, data encryption and much more.
Privacy-conscious online businesses can pay extra for beefed up security protocols like 3D Secure and Kount Standard, which help fight against fraudulent transactions and add additional verification steps for cardholders, so you aren't bothered by any obscure African princes offering you millions.
PayPal supports all the credit cards you would expect, including Visa, Mastercard and American Express (though the latter comes with a bumped up fee). You can also accept more obscure cards like JCB, Maestro, Discover and Diners Club.
With PayPal you can only accept payments via PayPal, credit or debit card. That means if you want to accept hip new currencies like Bitcoin and Etherium, or any other type of payment service, you might want to check out one of the other two services on this list.
If you choose to go with a PayPal POS system, you can accept all the major cards in your brick and mortar store too. Customers can pay by chip, swipe or tap with Apple Pay and Google Pay. (It's a quick way to way to improve your customer service.)
Like PayPal, Stripe supports all the major players. But its biggest advantage in the battle of Stripe vs PayPal is that it accepts AliPay, China’s leading payment platform. If you’ve got business in China then that might be enough to win you over.
Stripe also takes Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments (direct transfers from one bank account to another). These payments are inexpensive, easy to automate and make record-keeping a breeze.
ACH comes in handy if you need to do things like move funds between banks, pay a service provider, or deposit a salary into your employee’s account. And if you need a holistic solution, you can create a seamless experience by blending Stripe with an in-store Stripe Terminal.
So how does Braintree stack up? Well, it doesn’t offer AliPay payments, (sorry to our Chinese friends), but it does have ACH direct debits, as well as heaps of integrations with popular payment methods.
Capture payments with PayPal and Venmo (two of the largest digital wallets in the world), as well as the usual methods like VISA checkout and MasterPass. Customers can also use Google Pay and Apple Pay, making purchases even easier (and faster).
By offering so many different payment methods, Braintree reduces friction during the checkout process. The idea goes that because it’s so easy to complete any given purchase, you’ll be able to make more sales.
If you’ve ever found yourself abandoning a full digital shopping cart because of a dodgy website, you’ll know how important a seamless checkout process can be. Plus, you can even accept in-store point of sale payments with their full POS system.
PayPal is super user-friendly for both businesses and customers. Set up is almost too easy: just connect your bank account and verify your details. That’s it. Once you’re up and running it’s a breeze to use on both ends.
In terms of the checkout process things couldn’t be easier either. Customers press the PayPal button, enter their account details and the money is transferred. Voila! And if they use One Touch, it literally only takes the press of a button.
Beyond accepting and making payments, on the backend you can access data insights and metrics to increase sales and reduce cart abandonment. And with their invoicing API, you can even customize invoices and automate parts of your workflow to save time.
PayPal has been the market leader in financial tech for over 20 years and it shows in their design. Whether you’re in-app or on the web, each feature is well-crafted and uses intuitive processes to solve problems for customers and merchants alike.
Stripe’s bottom line is to help organize every part of your financial stack, from credit card payments to your checkout page and everything in between. They achieve this through excellent attention-to-detail, beautiful web design and one helluva product.
Whether you’re a tech-savvy developer going the API route, or a busy entrepreneur looking for a pre-built solution, it only takes a few minutes to create an account and start watching the cold, hard (digital) cash role in.
Stripe gives you the tools to create just about the perfect checkout experience. Pick from prebuilt, hosted payment pages and customize them to match your brand. All pages dynamically adapt to your customer’s location and come with mobile wallets, coupons, tax rate support and more.
You can simplify things even further with third-party integrations and automated invoicing. Best of all, Stripe works the same across every browser and device, so you can keep the user experience consistent across the board.
No matter whether you’re a small ecommerce business or a SaaS giant, Stripe gives an industry-leading user experience suitable for all your payment needs.
Like PayPal and Stripe, Braintree’s setup is super quick. As they so eloquently put it on their website, “you can start accepting payments for your next great idea almost as quickly as you have your next great idea.”
Within minutes (there’s a trend here) you’re able to accept payments on your site. If you are so inclined you can customize the design to fit your brand and UI, and even select from a light or dark theme on mobile devices.
The checkout flow itself is modern, simple and flexible enough to look great on any app or website. Braintree is all about giving merchants and customers choice, from the payment methods your customers can use to the custom CSS you can add.
It's also localized for 23 different languages (tres bien!), so you can be confident your customers are supported wherever they may be. Shiny new features are constantly being added too, like Hyperwallet, the new tool to help companies pay sellers and freelancers globally.
PayPal is one of the biggest financial technology services in the world. It doesn’t so much integrate with other services as other services integrate with them - making running and growing your business a breeze.
There’s not much PayPal’s partners don’t cover. Set up online stores with Shopify, take in-person payments with Lavu, or add a shopping cart to your Wordpress site with WooCommerce. The options are only as limited as your imagination.
As is the case with Stripe and Braintree, developers can also build their own custom integrations using HTML or PayPal’s API. So what we're saying is, you've got options out the wazoo.
Stripe offers a colossal list of third-party integrations to expand their services and offer new solutions. To make things easier they have a handy ‘Popular Solutions’ guide that outlines cool workflows you can adapt for your own business.
Whether you want to create the ideal ecommerce business, automate invoices and memberships, accept in-person payments, or manage customer communications, Stripe’s got you covered. It's got everything bar the kitchen sink.
In terms of numbers and quality, Stripe offers the best bang for your buck when it comes to integrations. From Squarespace and Mailchimp to Twilio and Xero, you’ll find something for every use case.
And if somehow you need something else? You can build your own custom Stripe integration with the help of verified developers, agencies and consultants ready to work with you.
Braintree is like a good kindergarten student - it plays well with others. It plugs into some of the most popular ecommerce platforms, shopping carts, analytics services and billing applications on the web.
They have a few different categories of integration: Partner integrations, Enterprise plugins, Vetted by Braintree and miscellaneous apps that pair well with the service.
You’ll find most of the big players like WooCommerce, Salesforce and NetSuite are supported. Then you can search by category to find what you need, from web dev tools to CRM systems.
They’ve also got Zapier integration which adds roughly a trillion integrations. But if you're tech savvy and can’t find an integration for your needs, you can always build your own solution with Braintree’s open API.
PayPal’s Help Center is your one-stop shop for all your needs. You’ll find answers to all sorts of common questions, helpful community conversations and access to the Resolution Centre, where you can resolve transaction or account issues.
There are also tutorials for complex and simple procedures, whether you just want to confirm an email address or figure out the IRS reporting requirements. You’ll be able to find answers to just about any query - it’s an excellent resource for beginners and veterans alike.
PayPal’s customer support and Seller Protection is where it shines. It helps protect your money and gives peace of mind to your business and customers, so you can buy and sell with confidence.
From the get-go Stripe has put a concerted effort into their customer support and it shows. They’ve built a responsive solution that has you covered, with chat, email and phone support no matter what time zone you’re in.
In addition they’ve got one of the most comprehensive libraries of documentation you’ll find anywhere. Search just about any query related to Stripe and you’ll be met with a high-quality article outlining everything you need to know and more.
Complex or businesses can also upgrade to Premium Support which allows you to delve deeper into your data, build custom reports, get instant answers and better manage your transactions.
Braintree has learned from Stripe and doubled down on written documentation. On the Support Articles page you’ll find all you need to know about Braintree, and how to get the most out of its many features.
If you’re after more technical docs, the developer page has your back. On both pages the layout is clear and simple to follow, so you won’t have a hard time finding what you’re after.
And at any time expert advice is just a few clicks away. Spend less time worrying with support from in-house experts who can advise you on best practices, answer your burning questions and help with things like chargebacks and card attacks.
As you might have noticed after reading (or skimming) through 3,000 words about PayPal, Stripe and Braintree, each offers a fantastic service and a range of benefits.
We’re not trying to pit one against the other in a payment gateway deathmatch, it’s about finding one that’s right for you. Each is suited to different things, so take the time to check out the comparisons and weigh each one up.
This is one fight we have no stake in. With Paperform you can create landing forms and ecommerce pages that accept payments with PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, or even use Square if you want to. It's completely up to you.
Why not take advantage of our 14-day free trial and see for yourself? No credit card required.
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