Braintree Payment Solutions Review
Merchant Maverick's Rating: (5 out of 5)
Last Updated: January 5th, 2014.
[UPDATE: Braintree has substantially altered their pricing model to accommodate lower volume merchants and startups, reducing formerly expensive fees to a very affordable level. Read on for more info.]
Is it a brain in the shape of a tree, or a tree that grows brains? I’m not entirely sure, but either way I can tell you that Braintree is definitely smart – smart as a business, and smart for businesses. (It’s an ecommerce/app-commerce/mobile-commerce solution only, I should note.)
Transparency and utility have the front seat when it comes to Braintree’s website and advertising. Their site and interface are enough to make a minimalist designer drool. So sleek, so neat, so – what’s the word – cool. Yes, Braintree has the cool factor of Apple in the mid ‘00s, but without the devastating price tag. They don’t have to sell to you – they make you want to do business with them using pure charm combined with industry-leading service and technical capabilities. Braintree is the cool kid in school, and everyone wants to be their friend.
I mean, just look at the crowd B.T. runs with (no, no, it’s cool – me and Brainy go way back). Suave services like GitHub, Airbnb, Fab, LevelUp, LivingSocial, even Angry Birds – they all choose Braintree, and for good reason. They call themselves a “full-stack” payments platform for developers, which essentially means that Braintree deals with everything from servers, to back end, to front end, to marketing, and everything in between. They traffic in every layer of software and development.
Braintree’s developer-friendly marketplace coding, recurring billing, and data portability make it an ideal and specialized processing option for forward-thinking app developers, social market-style businesses, and other internet-based, tech-driven merchants who need to provide seamless, frictionless billing while maintaining access to billing information in a way that most providers don’t allow.
eBay (via PayPal) acquired Braintree in September of 2013, but so far it looks like they will maintain it as an independent subsidiary. I just hope that eBay doesn’t kill the cool factor, since eBay is about as cool as a parent chaperone at your middle school dance. For the $800 million bones eBay dropped to pluck the fruit from Braintree, I’m guessing they’ll do everything they can to maintain appearances.
I wholeheartedly recommend Braintree to you. If you have no need for their developer tools and other capabilities, then you might want to look elsewhere for the lowest rates. In my mind, though, Braintree offers incredibly valuable services at a fair price, and almost any merchant could benefit from processing with them. Congratulations, Braintreeps (Braintree reps, get it? I didn’t make this up). You’ve earned a perfect 5-star rating.
Read on to learn more about what makes Braintree unique.
- Main headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.
- Offices in Palo Alto, California. San Francisco, California. New York, New York.
Products and Services:
With so many incredibly useful features, you’ll need to take a couple of days to process the possibilities. Everything is customizable, with the most painless integration you’re likely to find anywhere in the industry. Offerings include:
- Merchant accounts: Braintree is a direct processor, so your merchant account comes directly from this provider.
- International accounts: Available in the US, Canada, Europe and even Australia, Braintree is a truly global provider. Not to mention that you can accept payments in over 130 currencies. This is pretty unique.
- Payment gateway: Their in-house gateway comes as part of your account, although merchants can purchase it separate (for a fairly steep fee). One of the big advantages to the Braintree gateways is unprecedented freedom (see below).
- Data portability: The Braintree gateway uses their “vault” system to give you access to your customers’ stored payment information while maintaining PCI compliance. With other gateways, you lose access to this information if you decide to switch providers. This means that all of your recurring payments would be interrupted (a really bad thing). So I’m really impressed to see Braintree offering this wonderful feature.
- Recurring billing: While a bunch of providers can hook you up with recurring billing, not many execute the service as well as Braintree. Customization is king with the Brain. This includes customized failed transaction management, pricing plans, discounts, promos, push notifications, rewards and add-ons, automatically prorated subscriptions, as well as search/reporting capabilities. And lets not forget the secure storage in Braintree’s vault.
- Braintree Marketplace: For market-style merchants, you just cannot beat Braintree. If you fall into this category, I’m legitimately excited for you to try this service. Braintree will effortless split payments between you and your providers, keeping track of your 1099K tax forms along the way. Their flexible escrow service gives you the option to pay right away, or wait for fulfillment. Plus, it’s free. You only pay the normal processing rate for the initial transaction, and nothing else. Be aware that the marketplace feature only works for US-based companies with US-based providers.
- Venmo payments: While we’re on the topic of Braintree’s marketplace, this service allows you to pay your market providers using their email addresses or mobile phone numbers, so you don’t have to deal with collecting and verifying bank account numbers.
- One-touch payments: App developers will love Braintree’s proprietary Venmo Touch payment integration, allowing users to pay easily and securely.
Fees and Rates:
For most of us, the rates and fees charged by Braintree are incredibly simple:
- $0.30 transaction fee
That’s it. One rate. No surcharges. No fees. So simple. That means:
- No monthly minimum (used to be $75)
- No monthly fee
- No annual fee
- No PCI compliance fee
- No early termination fee
- No set up fee
- No gateway fees (monthly or setup)
- No statement fees
You’ll be responsible for chargebacks, though, which come with a reasonable $15 fee. This is industry standard and unavoidable. If you knew how much of an expensive pain in the ass it is for processors to deal with chargebacks, you'd consider $15 unbelievably low. Their two-day payout is another plus, and an improvement for Braintree.
While I like that Braintree provides incredibly accurate and plain disclosure here, flat rate services will never be as transparent as itemized fees and interchange-plus rates. All costs just come out of the 2.9% + $0.30, and you have no way of knowing the actual expense behind the scenes.
Still, I like this system for Braintree. Their old pricing system had expensive monthly minimums and fees, making them a cost-prohibited provider to merchants with smaller volumes. Now, with this new pricing structure, all merchants can afford to use Braintree’s unique services.
A Quick Example:
For a point of reference, 2.90% + $0.30 is what you’d expect to pay for non-qualified ecommerce payments with a good-quality processor, along with maybe 1.90% + $0.30 for qualified. Figuring a half and half split between the two, you’d pay about 2.40% + $0.30 on average, making Braintree about 0.5% more expensive that I might like to see. So if you’re doing $5,000 worth of sales each month, you might expect to pay an extra $25 with Braintree. But when you consider that standard monthly service and gateway fees usually come in at about $25 anyway, you can see that Braintree is actually offering competitive pricing, even for low-volume merchants. In my opinion, it’s absolutely worth it, especially if you’re going to take advantage of their unique marketplace, partners API, recurring billing and data storage features.
High volume merchants may qualify for customized pricing. Aside from that, though, don't expect to be able to negotiate. Braintree is what it is, and they’re not going to make exceptions for just anyone. They’ve already made huge changes to their pricing model to accommodate more merchants, and they did a good job in my opinion.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
You’ll have absolutely no early termination fee with Braintree. You can see the standard Braintree Merchant Agreement if you’re interested.
Another plus: If you do choose to leave Braintree, you get to take all of your customer data with you. Good deal.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
With such a simple pricing structure, Braintree has an easy job when it comes to transparency. They disclose all rates, fees, and important contractual stipulations in plain sight, with absolutely no surprises.
The much tougher task here is properly describing all of Braintree’s many features and customization options. It’s a big job, but Braintree performs outstandingly. Their website is very well organized, with answered to just about every question you could conceive of.
Braintree doesn't have thousands of independent agents hitting the pavement to try to sell their products. All salespeople are in-house as far as I know, and they know the Braintree products inside and out. This is an optimal sales situation.
I’m not sure how Braintree does it, but in late 2012 they launched a new Instant Merchant Application, allowing you to begin accepting payments within 30 minutes of applying. My first reaction to this was a cringe of inevitable failure. Surely these merchants must be subject to all sorts of account holds and freezes due to this practice. Right? Well, apparently not...
I searched far and wide for complaints related to this practice, but couldn’t find a single one. Since they’ve been using the instant service for over a year, I think it’s safe to say it really works. The application itself seems stunningly straightforward, brief, and entirely undaunting. All in all, Braintree provides the simplicity of setting up a Square account, but with none of the drawbacks.
This feature came along with their new fee structure, demonstrating Braintree’s movement toward opening their services to startups. Previously, Braintree only made sense for well-established, well-funded, experienced businesses.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
While many providers struggle to maintain an acceptable level of customer support, Braintree has a reputation for excellence in this category.
Braintree offers an extensive knowledgebase – an essential support feature in my opinion. Sometimes you just want to look something up without getting on the phone with customer support. By using this resource, you can solve the vast majority of issues on your own time.
If you need to get a hold of a knowledgeable “Braintreep” (Treep for short), you can do so during these hours:
- Email: 5am to 8pm US Central Time, Monday through Friday
- Phone: 9am to 5pm US Central Time, Monday through Friday
If it’s an emergency, you can get service 24/7/365 via email from reps and engineers on-call.
You’ll be impressed by Braintree’s Status page, where you can find information about outages or other technical difficulties in real time. This is a pretty unique and much-appreciated service.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Braintree has one complaint with the BBB in the past three years, which was resolved to the satisfaction of the merchant with no further details provided. This is exceptionally low!
I scoured the internet for Braintree complaints, and found a few. For the most part, these complaints don’t come from Braintree’s clients – they come from outsiders looking in complaining that their old pricing model was cost-prohibitive.
First of all, I think that Braintree was worth every penny, even with their old fees. They pack so many features and services in – the value is almost incalculable, at least for merchants who are going to utilize these features. For merchant who aren’t – why not just look elsewhere?
That’s all beside the point now, since Braintree offers a fixed-rate pricing solution with absolutely no additional fees. This is ideal for low-volume merchants, since the service is entirely pay-as-you-go.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Okay, are you ready to be astounded? Sitting down? Not sipping your coffee? Okay…
Braintree has some of the most comprehensive and impressive case studies I’ve ever seen, alongside kind words from very successful companies. I mean, their client list is chock-full of unique apps and internet businesses, many of which provided complex challenges for payment processing. In their case studies, Braintree walks you through these challenges and their solutions. It’s really fascinating reading material if you’re interested in this sort of thing. Check them out.
Aside from these testimonials, you can find a number of independent, unbiased reviews on the net. Be aware, though, a lot of these reviews are outdated or otherwise flat-out incorrect. Here are some misconceptions:
Braintree is too expensive for most merchants.FALSE. At one point Braintree’s pricing model was cost-prohibitive, but those days are long gone. Braintree uses FirstData or another processor.FALSE. Braintree is now a direct processor. When you sign up with them, you get a merchant account straight from Braintree – no middleman. For non-US-based merchant, this may differ. Braintree uses a tiered pricing structure.FALSE. At one point they did, but these days Braintree has a fixed-rate pricing model. 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Got it? Good.
Braintree is probably the only provider I’ve rated at 5 stars without a widely available interchange-plus option. That would usually be a deal breaker for me at this level, but they pull it off. What their fixed-rate model lacks in interchange transparency it regains in consistency and affordability. When you consider the absolutely enormous number of unique features and service you get at absolutely no additional charge and no monthly fee – Braintree may have the best value in the entire ecommerce/app-commerce processing industry. I’m beyond impressed.
With everything Braintree has accomplished in the past year or two, they’re poised to own the ecommerce and m-commerce worlds. I think the PayPal buyout will provide the necessary fuel to make this happen right on time. App developers would be crazy not to thoroughly consider working with Braintree, and market-style business would be, too. These people are not only delivering a developer-friendly medium – they’re bringing ethical, transparent, high-quality processing services to the table. When you put these two attributes together, you get a solid 5-star processor. Good work!