Braintree Payment Solutions Review
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- Date Established
- Chicago, IL
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 that want to accept payments through websites, smartphone apps, and mobile devices.
Braintree offers a high degree of customizability and invaluable services that make it ideal for forward-thinking app developers, social market-style businesses, and other Internet-based, tech-driven merchants. It also provides seamless, frictionless billing while maintaining access to billing information in a way that most providers don’t allow.
A word of caution: There’s no brick-and-mortar POS solution here. For that, you’ll have to look at Braintree’s parent company, PayPal. Itself owned by eBay at the time, PayPal acquired Braintree in September of 2013, but has maintained it as an independent subsidiary. That doesn’t appear set to change, despite the Great eBay/PayPal Divorce of 2015.
2014, Braintree’s first full year under PayPal’s leadership, was a big one. It saw a $22.8 billion payment volume. (For comparison, PayPal’s payment volume in 2014 was $228 billion.) The money isn’t the interesting part of the story, though. The interesting numbers are found elsewhere: like the userbase, which more than doubled in a single year; or in mobile payments, where payments from Q3 to Q4 of 2014 increased four times over. That’s a significant jump in just three months (helped along, no doubt, by the introduction of Apple Pay).
Braintree, probably better than almost any other company out there, gets how important mobile is, and I think consumers are starting to notice, too.
I wholeheartedly recommend Braintree to you. If you have no need for the developer tools and other capabilities beyond simple payment processing, 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 the company. 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. To find a merchant account that accommodates brick-and-mortar sales, check out our guided merchant account finder.
Products and Services:
We’re not looking at just a simple merchant account provider here. There isn’t even a brick-and-mortar solution with Braintree. It’s mobile and digital products only. If you’re into e-tail, app development, or mobile anyway, you need to take a closer look. But with so many incredibly useful features, you might 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 payments 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 AND 6 languages. This is pretty unique.
- Payment gateway: The in-house gateway comes as part of your account, although you can purchase it separately — for a fairly steep fee — if you already have a merchant account. One of the big advantages to the Braintree gateways is unprecedented freedom (see below).
- Data portability: The Braintree gateway uses its “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 effortlessly split payments between you and your providers, keeping track of your 1099-K tax forms along the way. The 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 One Touch Payment option. We first saw this through Venmo, but now PayPal has adapted that into its own One Touch solution for apps and websites. Users can pay securely and easily, and PayPal will remember their information, so they can complete purchases more quickly in the future.
- $50k in free processing: Developers who integrate with Braintree get their first $50,000 in transactions completely free. After crossing that threshold, the standard fees and rates kick in. There’s no time limit on that offer, and you don’t have to process a minimum volume monthly or yearly. No, this isn’t a gimmick, but it is currently only available in the U.S. and Europe. Learn more about it here.
Braintree rolled out 10 new products features in 2014, and I’m eager to see what else is in the works, especially since PayPal and Braintree share developer teams.
One of the most notable additions was support for Bitcoin, a digital currency, through Coinbase. Bitcoin has generally been at the fringes of the digital commerce sphere, but this support could change all of that. And all you need is to add the Braintree v.zero SDK to your site — which is super easy to do, and gives you a customizable user interface. With v.zero, you can also accept Apple Pay and Android Pay.
In early June of 2015, Braintree introduced something else new: a beta program for buyable pins on Pinterest. (If you’re not familiar, Pinterest is something of an online scrapbook or corkboard, where you can save everything from cute pictures of animals to recipes and craft projects, and much, much more.)
This isn’t new or revolutionary. Everyone is trying to figure out how to transform social media into social shopping — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have all experimented with it — but Pinterest is certainly a spectacular platform to do so, and if anyone can figure out how to make this type of commerce work, I’d put my money on Braintree. Social shopping could change how people sell things online, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out.
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. The two-day payout is another plus. That means you’ll get your money quickly.
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. The 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 e-commerce 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, most of all for low-volume merchants. In my opinion, it’s absolutely worth it, especially if you’re going to take advantage of the 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 it’s not going to make exceptions for just anyone. The company has already made huge changes to its pricing model to accommodate more merchants, and did a good job of it, in my opinion.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
You’ll have absolutely no early termination fee with Braintree, which makes sense given that it’s a PayPal company. 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. That’s a really good deal.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
With such a simple pricing structure, Braintree has an easy job when it comes to transparency. It discloses 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. The website is very well organized, with answers to just about every question you could conceive of.
Braintree doesn’t have thousands of independent agents hitting the pavement to try to sell its 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.
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: 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. US Central Time, Monday through Friday
- Phone: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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 just two complaint with the BBB in the past three years, which was resolved to the satisfaction of the merchant with no further details provided. That’s outstanding. There are no actual complaints against Braintree on Ripoff Report, either. While you can search for “Braintree,” the results you’ll get are mostly for a town called Braintree, Massachusetts.
I don’t know how to communicate to you how unspeakably low this complaint volume is for a processor of Braintree’s size and type. Even Stripe Payments, a Braintree’s major competitor with a similar business model, has about 150 complaints with the BBB. Somehow Braintree manages to move $23 billion around per year without upsetting almost any customers. That’s a serious feat!
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 the old pricing model was cost-prohibitive.
First of all, I think that Braintree was worth every penny, even with the old fees. It packs so many features and services in that 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:
Braintree’s client list speaks for itself, in some ways: GitHub, Uber, AirBnB, OpenTable, LevelUp, and StubHub, just to name a few. Each of them revolutionary in some way or other. And Braintree has helped each of them along the path to greatness.
But if you really want something remarkable…
Braintree has some of the most comprehensive and impressive case studies I’ve ever seen, along with kind words from very successful companies. I mean, its client list is chock-full of unique apps and Internet businesses, many of which provided complex challenges for payment processing. In the case studies, Braintree walks you through these challenges and the solutions. It’s really fascinating reading material if you’re interested in this sort of thing. Check them out.
Aside from these testimonials and the spectacular client roster, you can find a number of independent, unbiased reviews online. 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 First Data or another processor.FALSE. Braintree is now a direct processor. When you sign up, you get a merchant account straight from Braintree — no middleman. For merchant outside the U.S., this may differ. Braintree uses a tiered pricing structure.FALSE. At one point it 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 the company pulls it off. What the fixed-rate model lacks in interchange transparency, it regains in consistency and affordability. When you consider the absolutely enormous number of unique features and services you get at absolutely no additional charge and no monthly fee, Braintree may have the best value in the entire e-commerce/app-commerce processing industry. I’m beyond impressed.
The offer of $50k in free processing is truly remarkable, and definitely something you should consider. We’re always wary of offers like “free” equipment, but this is a no-strings-attached, genuine offer.
With everything Braintree has accomplished in the past two years, it’s poised to own the e-commerce and m-commerce worlds. With Paypal as its parent company, it also has access to some spectacular resources. And that’s only going to get better once PayPal finally spins off from eBay into its own company later in 2015. Keep an eyes open and your ear to the ground for new offerings.
App developers would be crazy not to thoroughly consider working with Braintree, and market-style businesses 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!