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The Best Alternatives To PayPal: Square, Stripe, & 6 Other Great Options For Small Businesses

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Even if you ignore the nearly ubiquitous consumer wallet, PayPal is a pretty comprehensive and trusted payment solution for merchants all around the world. Read our PayPal review to get the full picture of the company’s expansive offerings.

However, as you can tell from even the briefest of glances at any website featuring vendor reviews of PayPal, it’s not for everyone. Countless merchants have found themselves on the wrong end of an account hold or termination for innocuous or even nonexistent irregularities. Other disgruntled merchants may find fault with PayPal’s transaction fees (which are higher than those of most traditional merchant accounts) or customer support.

Whether you’ve had trouble with your business account previously or you prefer not to deal with PayPal to start with, you can breathe a sigh of relief: There’s no shortage of great PayPal alternatives. However, it’s important that we establish some expectations first.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanySummaryNext Steps
All-in-one payments solution with free mPOS and POS integrations, a free online store, and countless other business features

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Global-friendly third-party processor with PayPal-like pricing, numerous eCommerce integrations, and great marketplace and subscription tools

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Amazon's online sales solution with payment processing conducted online, Alexa-powered sales, and 29 eCommerce integrations

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Shopify provides eCommerce and payment processing to everyone from small-time sellers to large corporations

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Read More

PayPal-owned developer-friendly merchant account provider with marketplace tools and APIs

Read More

Other Featured Options:

  • PayJunction: Merchant account provider offering paperless payments, a virtual terminal, and interchange-plus pricing
  • CDGcommerce: eCommerce-focused merchant account provider with POS and mPOS apps
  • Authorize.Net: Gateway giant and merchant account provider with multiple currency support and echeck processing

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

A PayPal Clone By Any Other Name Has The Same Problems

All-in-one payment processing solutions such as PayPal are known as third-party processors (or payment service providers). These processors bundle a payment gateway with online checkout, hardware for offline sales, PCI compliance, and, typically, other business services as well (such as invoicing). Signing up for a business account with a third-party processor is meant to be as easy as possible and can be done very quickly. That’s because you’re not getting your own personal merchant account — every account gets aggregated into one huge merchant account.

Because of this, the vetting that would otherwise be applied to the merchant before signup is instead applied to each sales transaction. That’s why you see such a high volume of complaints from merchants who have had their PayPal business accounts held or terminated over the slightest (real or perceived) irregularities.

Unfortunately for merchants looking to ditch PayPal for a competing payment service provider, such as Stripe or Square, these same account instability issues are inherent to all third-party processors due to their fundamental structure. That doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to have these problems with PayPal or any other third-party processor. It just means it’s equally likely to happen regardless of which one you choose.

By contrast, a merchant account is different. When you sign up for an account with a merchant account provider, your business gets thoroughly vetted in a process referred to as underwriting. You’ll likely be able to contact an account representative at any point throughout. After the process is over, your business has already gone through the vetting gauntlet, so the merchant account doesn’t scrutinize your transactions nearly as stringently. Ergo, your risk of experiencing an account hold or termination decreases dramatically.

However, merchant accounts have their drawbacks as well. Their pricing models often don’t match up well with the needs of online sellers. Check out our piece on payment service providers for more information about how PSPs such as PayPal differ from merchant accounts. Then, have a look at our article on online credit card processing with a payment gateway for a more detailed examination of how online payment processing works.

How We Chose The Best PayPal Alternatives

When putting together our list of PayPal alternatives, we made sure each choice fulfilled a majority of the following criteria:

  • Predictable, transparent pricing
  • No long-term agreements
  • Few, if any, monthly fees
  • Features serving a range of online businesses
  • Mobile POS app and/or invoicing features
  • A good mix of integrations
  • Simple PCI compliance

For the most part, PayPal exhibits these qualities, so we thought that any alternative to PayPal we recommend should hit many of these same points as well. We also took into consideration the opinions of our expert payments writers and the processors that have achieved the highest scores in our review rankings.

8 Best Alternatives To PayPal That Small Businesses Need To Know About

If you’re not keen on PayPal, here are some alternative payment processing solutions to consider.

1. Square

Square



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square

If you’ve heard of PayPal — especially if you dislike PayPal — the odds are pretty good you’ve heard of Square. What started as just as an mPOS has branched out considerably over the years, becoming a full-fledged business ecosystem, as we discuss in our full Square review.

In addition to its free mPOS and POS integrations, Square offers a free online store, free domain, shopping cart integrations, virtual terminal, card info storage vault, and invoicing. That’s not to mention the APIs or the monthly add-on services (including employee management, payroll, and appointment booking). Square’s free online store is somewhat limited compared to other options, but it is a breeze to set up. If you need something more complex, the API and eCommerce integrations allow for more advanced online stores.

Like PayPal, Square is a third-party aggregator. That means Square users face the same inherent account instability as PayPal users. But the sheer value of what you get for nothing beyond the cost of processing is astounding, which is a major reason why Square is easily the closest direct competitor to PayPal. It even has a consumer wallet, Square Cash.

Square Fast Facts

  • Type Of Processor: Third-party processor
  • Processing Rates: 2.6% + $0.10 (Square POS in-person transactions), 2.9% + $0.30 (per online transaction or invoice), 3.5% + $0.15 (keyed-in and card-on-file transactions)
  • Monthly Fee: None for payment processing, though other Square services may carry a monthly fee
  • What We Like: The predictable flat-rate pricing, affordable card readers, variety of POS apps, invoicing, and developer tools
  • What We Don’t Like: The account instability inherent to a third-party processor

Read this article for a more detailed look at Square’s pricing.

Get Started with Square

Read our in-depth review

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2. Stripe Payments

Stripe Payments



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stripe

Stripe and PayPal have a lot of similarities. For one, they both target online and in-app payments. They both work on a global scale, displaying local currencies and handling currency exchanges for its merchants. They make it possible to power marketplaces and share information, so merchants can sell on others’ platforms. Stripe is built first and foremost for developers, and its API and documentation reflect that. Read our Stripe review to learn more.

Stripe has a couple of compelling tools in its arsenal. First, its Atlas program allows international entrepreneurs to get established in the US. Second, it has a tool that allows programmers to manage and organize their data through custom SQL database questions.

Other Stripe tools include a prebuilt payments page, billing and invoicing, a toolset to help you send mass payouts to sellers and service providers, and even a corporate credit card.

Stripe, like PayPal, is an aggregator. That is, it lumps all of its user accounts into communal merchant accounts. That means account stability can be an issue, just as it is with PayPal.

Stripe Fast Facts

  • Type Of Processor: Third-party processor
  • Processing Rates: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (online), 2.7% + $0.05 per transaction (offline)
  • Monthly Fee: None for payment processing
  • What We Like: The predictable flat-rate pricing, developer tools, reporting tools, affordable card readers, and multi-currency support
  • What We Don’t Like: The account instability inherent to a third-party processor

For more on Stripe pricing, read our article on the subject.

Read our in-depth review

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3. Amazon Pay

Amazon Pay



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amazon pay

Launched as a subsidiary of Amazon and formerly called Amazon Payments, Amazon Pay specializes in online payment processing and does not support offline sales. Unlike PayPal, Amazon’s payment processing is conducted online, which means that customers won’t have to leave your website to complete their payment. This is known to increase the likelihood that a customer will complete a sale. What’s more, Amazon is a trusted name among consumers, thus allowing your customers to make payments with confidence.

Amazon Pay also integrates with 29 eCommerce providers — you’ll have no shortage of choices for online sales.

We like that Amazon Pay supports recurring payments and automatically renewing subscriptions. We also like Amazon’s Seller Central dashboard, as it allows you to manage your chargeback claims, view sales reports, and more, all from one central location.

Amazon Pay even lets your customers make purchases through their Alexa devices! Hey, why not?

Check out our Amazon Pay review to learn more.

Amazon Pay Fast Facts

  • Type Of Processor: Third-party processor
  • Processing Rates: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (4.0% processing fee + $0.30 per Alexa voice-activated transaction)
  • Monthly Fee: None
  • What We Like: Competetive flat-rate pricing, convenient checkout system, and a wide range of eCommerce integration options
  • What We Don’t Like: The account instability inherent to a third-party processor, the lack of offline payment processing capability

Read our in-depth review

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4. Shopify

Shopify



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shopify

Shopify started in 2006 as an eCommerce platform. In the years since, the Shopify ecosystem has grown to include an iPad-based POS system as well as payment processing in the form of Shopify Payments, which it provides through a partnership with Stripe.

You can use Shopify as an eCommerce store without using Shopify Payments as your payment processor. However, Shopify will take a transaction fee of 0.5%-2% out of each sale if you use another payment processor (this is in addition to your payment processing fees). If you use Shopify Payments as your processor, Shopify waives the transaction fees. However, you’ll still have to pay the processing fees as well as a monthly fee to use Shopify’s eCommerce platform.

Shopify has a lot to offer online vendors. You’ll get features, such as abandoned cart recovery, a Facebook store, reporting features, order management, and plenty of third-party integrations. You’ll also get to choose from some decent card readers for in-person sales.

However, pricing can get confusing. If you use Shopify Payments, you’ll be paying a per-transaction rate of 2.9% + $0.30 for online sales and 2.7% for in-person sales unless you sign up for one of Shopify’s two more advanced plans (Shopify and Advanced Shopify). If you do sign up for one of the advanced plans, you’ll be paying a discounted rate of 2.6% + $0.30 or 2.4% + $0.30 for online transactions and 2.5% or 2.4% for offline transactions. However, you’ll also be paying $79/month or $299/month for these two advanced plans, respectively, so you’ll only be saving money on processing fees with these plans if you’re a fairly high-volume seller.

And if you do over $500K a year in sales, Shopify has a payments solution called Shopify Plus for you. Read our Shopify Plus review if your business falls into this category.

Shopify Fast Facts

  • Type Of Processor: Third-party processor
  • Processing Rates: 2.4% + $0.30 to 2.4% + $0.30 per transaction for online sales; 2.4%-2.7% for in-person sales
  • Monthly Fee: $9/month for Shopify Lite, $29/month for Basic Shopify, $79/month for Shopify, and $299/month for Advanced Shopify
  • What We Like: Competetive flat-rate pricing, convenient checkout system, and a wide range of eCommerce integration options
  • What We Don’t Like: Account holds/instability, the fact that there’s a monthly fee

Check out our guide to Shopify’s plans and pricing for a closer look at costs.

Get Started with Shopify

Read our in-depth review

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5. Braintree Payment Solutions

Braintree Payment Solutions



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braintree

Throwing Braintree in here as an alternative seems like a bit of a cheat, given that PayPal owns Braintree. However, despite this (and a seamless PayPal integration), Braintree does operate mostly independently of its parent company. Instead of aggregating accounts the way PayPal does, Braintree offers individual bank-sponsored merchant accounts. Braintree is developer-friendly with extensive documentation and a powerful API that you can integrate into all kinds of mobile and online payment applications. It also handles currency conversion, so you can sell globally and display items in local currencies.

Braintree offers marketplace tools along with APIs for sharing information, so merchants can sell directly on their sites or through someone else’s site or app, which is all pretty cool. Plus, Braintree’s simple flat-rate pricing is just as easy to figure out as a third-party processor’s pricing structure.

Read our full Braintree review to get the whole story on this PayPal-owned merchant account provider.

Braintree Fast Facts

  • Type Of Processor: Merchant account
  • Processing Rates: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (established businesses may be able to negotiate custom pricing)
  • Monthly Fee: None
  • What We Like: Competitive flat-rate pricing, compatibility with PayPal for in-store payments, a developer sandbox, reporting, and recurring billing
  • What We Don’t Like: Some reports of held funds and closed accounts, long setup times for establishing accounts

Read our in-depth review

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6. PayJunction

PayJunction



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payjunction

PayJunction is one of our top-rated merchant account providers. Its defining characteristic is its paperless payments, which we love to see. But dig a little bit deeper, and you’ll find a developer-friendly payment solution that works not just with retail but with online payments as well. In addition to the virtual terminal (it even accepts checks!), recurring billing, and credit card vault, PayJunction offers a free shopping cart of its own plus several integrations. There’s also a full-stack API to play with. You can also collect signatures for card-not-present transactions.

PayJunction’s major advantage is that you get your own merchant account, which leads to greater account stability. PayJunction also offers an interchange-plus pricing plan. However, this option is best suited for merchants who consistently process more than $10,000 per month. Below that and you’ll encounter a monthly fee.

Read Trading Ease For Transparency With Interchange-Plus if you’re not sure what interchange-plus pricing means. Then, check out our PayJunction review for even more information.

PayJunction Fast Facts

  • Type Of Processor: Merchant account
  • Processing Rates: Interchange-plus + 0.75% (though PayJunction will match or beat your current rates if you have a processing history)
  • Monthly Fee: $35/month if you process under $10K monthly — none otherwise
  • What We Like: Great pricing for mid-to-high volume merchants, free gateway, month-to-month agreements, and electronic and email signature capture
  • What We Don’t Like: Monthly fee for lower-volume merchants, system isn’t global-friendly

Get Started with PayJunction

Read our in-depth review

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7. CDGCommerce

CDGcommerce



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cdgcommerce

CDGcommerce presents itself as a merchant account provider specializing in eCommerce, which I don’t see very often. However, it does offer a solid mix of online and in-person transaction features as well as an interchange-plus pricing plan and nonprofit discount to boot.

The most obviously lacking feature is an API for custom integrations and other developer features. CDG’s gateway, Quantum, is compatible with most shopping carts and has an Authorize.Net emulation mode to ensure compatibility with anything else. CDG also offers the choice of using Authorize.Net as its primary gateway at no additional charge. Every account also gets virtual terminal access at no extra charge.

If you want in-person payments, you can get a POS app or an mPOS app in addition to all the eCommerce features. For the full picture, you guessed it — read our CDGcommerce review!

CDGcommerce Fast Facts

  • Type Of Processor: Merchant account
  • Processing Rates: Flat-rate OR interchange-plus pricing available — see our review for details
  • Monthly Fee: $10/month account support fee, $39/month for equipment replacement protection, $79/year insurance fee
  • What We Like: Competitive interchange-plus pricing, free payment gateway, free virtual terminal, and month-to-month billing
  • What We Don’t Like: Only available to US-based merchants, the mobile card reader is not EMV-compatible

Get Started with CDGcommerce

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8. Authorize.Net

Authorize.Net



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authorize.net

Authorize.Net started strictly as a gateway, but these days, it’s started bundling its own processing service. It’s a reseller relationship — meaning the company sets you up with a merchant account through a partner, though Authorize.Net doesn’t disclose which one upfront. You can also opt for the gateway separately. However, in many cases, it’s less expensive to get the Authorize.Net gateway through a merchant account that has a partnership. Often, the company waives the setup fee and sometimes lowers the monthly fees.

Authorize.Net is still one of the most trusted names in gateways, and one of the most widely compatible options. That’s no small thing. Not only that, but Authorize.Net has an API for you to integrate into all sorts of solutions, including in-app payments. There are even basic mPOS app buy/donate buttons.

See our Authorize.Net review for more details.

Authorize.Net Fast Facts

  • Type Of Processor: Merchant account
  • Processing Rates: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (corporations processing more than $500K per year can negotiate a better deal)
  • Monthly Fee: $25/month gateway fee
  • What We Like: Support for multiple currencies, month-to-month billing, echeck processing, and advanced fraud detection
  • What We Don’t Like: It may be cheaper to use Authorize.Net when bundled with another service

Get Started with Authorize.Net

Read our in-depth review

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Which PayPal Alternative Is Right For Me?

We hope this article has given you an overview of some of the leading payment processing alternatives to PayPal. Read our article on our favorite online payment processors for another detailed look at the best processing options out there.

Naturally, the processor that is the best PayPal alternative for you is going to depend on the particulars of your business, but in broad terms, Square has our general recommendation. It’s overflowing with features for small businesses, comes with a free website, and its online processing rates are identical to those of PayPal.

However, at the end of the day, we aim to give you enough information to make the decision that’s best for your own business needs.

A Last Look At Our Top Picks

  1. Square
    Summary - All-in-one payments solution with free mPOS and POS integrations, a free online store, and countless other business features
  2. Stripe Payments
    Summary - Global-friendly third-party processor with PayPal-like pricing, numerous eCommerce integrations, and great marketplace and subscription tools
  3. Amazon Pay
    Summary - Amazon's online sales solution with payment processing conducted online, Alexa-powered sales, and 29 eCommerce integrations
  4. Shopify
    Summary - Shopify provides eCommerce and payment processing to everyone from small-time sellers to large corporations
  5. Braintree Payment Solutions
    Summary - PayPal-owned developer-friendly merchant account provider with marketplace tools and APIs
  6. PayJunction
    Summary - Merchant account provider offering paperless payments, a virtual terminal, and interchange-plus pricing
  7. CDGcommerce
    Summary - eCommerce-focused merchant account provider with POS and mPOS apps
  8. Authorize.Net
    Summary - Gateway giant and merchant account provider with multiple currency support and echeck processing
Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson has been writing about payment processing and mobile payments since 2014, and has been quoted in articles for Credit Karma and The Next Web, among others. She graduated from The University of Kansas in 2010 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism.
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