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 choosing Braintree Payment Solutions (or, for everyone’s sake, Braintree) is a no-brainer — an easy but sophisticated way to accept payments.
Braintree offers merchant accounts and a payment gateway, with a high degree of customizability and multiple services available at no charge beyond processing fees. That makes it ideal for forward-thinking app developers, marketplace-style businesses, and other Internet-based, tech-driven merchants. It also provides seamless, frictionless billing while providing access to billing information in a way that most providers don’t allow.
These sorts of companies don’t often like to disclose just how big they are. But even if you’ve never heard of it, Braintree is big. Big enough that the company processes more than one billion transactions per quarter — that’s more than 4 billion transactions per year. And while Braintree hasn’t released any recent numbers, it did process more than $50 billion in total payments volume back in 2015. Given the company’s continuous growth, it reasons to say Braintree processes even more than that now.
You’re probably thinking that Braintree is sounding an awful lot like Stripe — and you’d be right. There’s definitely a lot of similarities between the two, from their developer-first focus to the core services provided. The primary difference is that while Stripe is a third-party processor, Braintree offers a bank-sponsored merchant account, which translates to more stability.
I wholeheartedly recommend Braintree Payment Solutions. 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. And you won’t find much better options if you need a platform to build a mobile or ecommerce system on. 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. If you’re a current or previous Braintree merchant, we’d love to hear from you. Please check our guidelines, then leave us a comment about your experiences!
Table of Contents
Products & Services
We’re not looking at just a simple merchant account provider with Braintree. In fact, if you wants a POS integration or an mPOS app, or an all-in-one solution, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. With Braintree, it’s mobile and digital products only. If you’re into e-tail, app development, or mobile anything, you need to take a closer look.
But with so many features, you might need to take a couple of days to process the possibilities. Everything is customizable, with one of the most painless integrations you’re likely to find anywhere in the industry.
There’s two elements of the service:
- Merchant accounts: Braintree is a direct processor, so your payments account comes directly from this provider, which translates into greater stability than you see with an aggregator such as Stripe or Square. Braintree is a also global provider, with international accounts available for merchants in some 45 countries total, Not to mention that you can accept payments in over 130 currencies. While Braintree does have a list of prohibited businesses, it doesn’t have a minimum processing requirement for merchants.
- Gateway services: This encompasses pretty much everything else Braintree has to offer beyond payment processing, from the control panel to the API. It’s worth noting that if you already have a merchant account and just need the gateway, you can use Braintree for a fee. However, it’s a higher cost than other gateways, so you should make sure the cost absolutely justifies the benefits.
Braintree’s services can be broken down into four elements or products:
- Braintree Direct: For businesses that want to sell directly on a website or in a mobile app. Direct requires Braintree to act as the gateway as well as the processor.
- Braintree Auth: This is more for partners and platform providers than merchants, but Auth is a way for these businesses to securely share merchant data and take authorized actions on behalf of merchants. Auth is, at the time of this review update, still in a closed beta for US businesses only.
- Braintree Contextual Commerce: These tools remind me a bit of Stripe’s Relay tools, allowing for merchants to share information and sell on each other’s sites and apps. There are two APIs, allowing Braintree merchants to share within the Braintree network and outside of it.
- Braintree Marketplace: Braintree’s marketplace solutions allow you to seamlessly manage all aspects of the business, including splitting payments between you and your providers, and 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.
Additional Braintree Features
In addition to Braintree’s four core offerings, you do get access to a wealth of additional features at no additional charge:
- Sandbox: If you want to test out Braintree before you go about integrating it into your system, there is a sandbox for developers to play in. It’s free, though you do have to register.
- Drop-In UI and Custom Fields: When it comes to checkouts, it’s your choice — select Braintree’s ready-to-go checkout UI for your site or app, or use the custom hosted fields to create a unique checkout experience while maintaining PCI compliance.
- Different Presentment and Settlement Currency: If you sell internationally, Braintree offers an option for you to offer different presentment and settlement currencies, meaning the currency you can display on the site can be local the customer, while you still get the funds in your deposit currency. Even better, Braintree handles all the conversion for you.
- 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 let’s not forget the secure storage in Braintree’s vault. More notably, recurring billing through Braintee is free, whereas with PayPal it’s a $10 monthly fee.
- Payment Updater: Never lose a subscriber to a new or re-issued card. Braintree will automatically obtain and update that info for you, so you don’t have to reach out to customers, which is pretty awesome.
- Integrations: Braintree is compatible with an assortment of third-party services, from shopping carts to recurring billing and invoicing tools. Check out the full list.
- Fraud Protection Tools: With a Braintree account, you get access to fraud monitoring tools through the company’s partner, Kount. You can set parameters for security and override certain suspicious transactions if necessary. (Just make sure you have these features enabled to begin with!) Braintree notes that these tools aren’t always completely compatible with third-party shopping carts, so be aware of this.
- Manual Transactions: While it’s not quite a virtual terminal, you can create credit card transactions through Braintree’s Control Panel. If other payment methods are saved in the vault, you can authorize transactions that way as well.
- 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.
All of this is good to see. These are pretty solid features for merchants, and you don’t necessarily get all of these from any old merchant account provider — especially not data portability or advanced fraud protection.
And then, of course, there’s all of the payment methods that Braintree supports, which you can integrate into your system at your own discretion. However, it is nice to see such an array of payment options from a single provider:
- Credit and debit cards: This also includes acceptance of pre-paid debit and gift cards.
- ACH direct debit: Support for ACH is still in closed beta at the time of writing. Rates aren’t disclosed, though Braintree’s site claims to offer “low, capped fees.” Braintree says it will work with merchants to get the best pricing for their needs.
- PayPal: Braintree’s integration with PayPal shouldn’t surprise you, since it’s a PayPal company. You’ll still need a PayPal account to process through Braintree, but you will get a simple, time-saving and seamless setup and a unified way to accept all forms of payment.
- PayPal 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.
- Android and Apple Pay: Integrate payments from the two major mobile wallets into your setup.
- Venmo payments: 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.Not only that, but you can actually accept Venmo transactions from consumers as well. Braintree has just added the ability to accept Venmo payments on the web in addition to app payments.
- UnionPay: UnionPay is China’s predominant issuer of credit and debit cards, and certain Braintree merchants are eligible. Take note, you’ll pay different rates to accept UnionPay.
- Visa Checkout and MasterPass: In addition to all of the above ways to checkout, you can integrate support for Visa and MasterCard’s online wallets.
- Pay with Google: This new Google API lets a merchant pay with any card they have on file with Google, not just Android Pay. That includes Google Play, Chrome, and even YouTube.
That just about covers what Braintree has to offer merchants. The knowledge base and documentation are two good resources to learn more about what Braintree can do. And of course, don’t forget that you can go poke around in the sandbox if you feel inclined.
Fees & Rates
For most of us, the rates and fees charged by Braintree Payment Solutions are incredibly simple:
- 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee for everything except Bitcoin
That’s it. There are no surcharges, no fees. That means:
- No monthly minimum
- No monthly fee
- No annual fee
- No PCI compliance fee
- No early termination fee
- No set-up fee
- No gateway fees
- No statement fees
You’ll be responsible for chargebacks, though, which come with a reasonable $15 fee. This is industry-standard and unavoidable.
Braintree’s rate of 2.9% + $0.30 is absolutely competitive, especially when you consider there are no other fees and everything is very predictable. If you’ve integrated with PayPal, you’ll pay your standard PayPal rates, whatever they may be. It’s also worth noting that Braintree does offer volume discounts if you process more than $80,000 per month, as well as a non-profit discount. (2.2% + $0.30 and 3.25% + $0.30 for Amex).
I did mention that Braintree’s gateway is available independent of its processing services, though at a cost. Braintree says the gateway is compatible with most US merchant accounts, and you can even connect multiple accounts. Here’s what you’ll pay:
- $49/month for gateway
- $0.10 per transaction
- $10 for additional merchant accounts beyond the first
All in all, that’s reasonable for everything you get — but you get a better deal when you use Braintree’s processing.
I also mentioned earlier that Braintree is a global processor. You can accept payments in a huge number of currencies and settle transactions in a different one. The company automatically handles conversions for you at a 1% fee over the exchange rate. That’s a lot better than paying foreign exchange fees.
The two-day payout is another plus. That means you’ll get your money quickly. It’s not as fast or as convenient as next-day payouts or the instant access PayPal offers, or even Square’s instant deposit, but it’s on par with a lot of the best processors.
Contract Length & 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. It’s pretty standard fare as far as merchant agreements go, and nothing that should worry you. As we’ve already said, there are no extra costs or hidden fees, so you don’t have to worry about early termination fees or monthly minimums or anything. Please make sure you check the list of acceptable business types before you sign up, too!
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. You’ll just want to make sure the new system is PCI compliant.
Sales & 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 explaining all of Braintree’s many features and customization options. Fortunately, it has some great resources: its developer guidelines, its article center (which is your self-service knowledge base), and its FAQ (a starter help center). You’ll also find an active blog with some good information for merchants, which is always nice to see. Want more information? Braintree also has a resource center to help businesses stay up to date on trends in the payments industry.
Braintree doesn’t have thousands of independent agents hitting the pavement to try to sell its products. All salespeople are in-house, and they know Braintree products inside and out. This is an optimal sales situation because it tends to lead to far more transparent practices and much happier merchants. It just seems like there’s far less pressure in these kinds of situations to close the deal at whatever cost — even if that means lying to a merchant and promising the world. While there are some companies that manage their independent reps well, they’re definitely few and far between. So I like that Braintree keeps is team in house.
Customer Service & Technical Support
While many providers struggle to maintain an acceptable level of customer support, Braintree has a reputation for excellence in this category. While there is no live chat option, you do get email and phone support at no charge and with no limits. In fact, Braintree likes to bill itself as offering “white-glove support.” We’ll explore whether that’s actually true or not in a little bit.
For now, if you need to get a hold of a knowledgeable support rep, you can do so during these hours:
- 5 AM to 12 AM Central Time, Monday-Thursday
- 5 AM to 8 PM Central Time, Friday
- 8 AM to 7 PM Central Time, Monday-Thursday
- 8 AM to 5 PM Central Time, Friday
If it’s an emergency, you can get service 24/7/365 via email from reps and engineers on-call, and that’s pretty awesome. We’ve also already mentioned the website resources as well. In all, I find them to be quite comprehensive and easy to navigate, which is always nice.
I’m always thrilled to see phone support available, because the lack of it is invariably a major complaint against any merchant account provider. So this is definitely a great thing for Braintree, especially since it seems a growing number of merchants are growing frustrated by Stripe’s lack of phone support.
Braintree also maintains a Status page, where you can find information about outages or other technical difficulties in real time. Rather than getting a bunch of inconsistent anecdotal evidence in a giant rumor mill, you can see direct from the source whether something is working.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Braintree has just seven complaints with the BBB in the past three years. That’s an extremely low number of complaints for anyone, but when you consider just how large Braintree is, it’s outstanding. Stripe, which is also extremely large, has hundreds of complaints.
Unfortunately, the BBB has lowered Braintree’s score to a B+ because it seems customers aren’t happy with the company’s response to their complaints. However, looking over the complaints, a couple relate to the chargeback process, another relates to an account being terminated for high risk, and one is about the fee structure in the Asia-Pacific region. One is from a customer who claims a Braintree merchant never shipped their order. Braintree also has 5 reviews on the BBB site, all of which are negative. A couple relate to being unable to open an account, one relates to a termination, one is just a general plea for help. So again, I don’t necessarily think this small smattering of complaints is indicative of a problem.
That said, there are other sources of complaints on the web, with more reliable information. And among those complaints, here is what I’ve seen:
- Long Setup Times for Accounts: This isn’t surprising, given that you do get an actual merchant account and not just an aggregated account like you do with PayPal (Braintree’s parent company) and Square and Stripe. You won’t get instant access, and you’ll have to provide several documents before you’re approved. This is definitely one of the more common and consistent complaints.
- Closed accounts and held funds: The overall serious complaint volume is pretty small, but among the serious complaints, these two show up most often. In theory, a proper merchant account means that holds and account closures are less likely than with aggregated accounts. And judging by the overall low complaint numbers, I think that’s true of Braintree. However, you should make peace with the fact that Braintree won’t accept every type of business. We highly recommend that you check out Braintree’s Acceptable Use Policy, including the list of prohibited businesses. if you’re on the list or in any sort of high-risk field, you’re better off pursuing a merchant account with a processor that specializes in working with those kinds of businesses, including Durango Merchant Services.
- Slow Response Times from Customer Service: I see a few complaints about this, but not a substantial number. In addition to slow response times, I’ve seen a few allegations that there isn’t communication between departments and you might get inconsistent answers. I do generally believe Braintree offers good customer support, but bad experiences do happen. That’s unfortunate, but not representative of the Braintree experience on the whole.
- Lack of Intuitive Interface: There are a handful of complaints about Braintree not being particularly user-friendly. These users don’t like the control panel or the reporting tools. However, there’s nothing that particularly stands out as consistent in these complaints. I’m more inclined to say “be aware this is something you might agree with” than to say it’s actually a problem.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Braintree’s client list speaks for itself, in some ways: GitHub, Uber, AirBnB, and DropBox, just to name a few. But if you really want something remarkable…
Braintree actually bothers to put in the effort to create case studies and shows how its solutions can be used to tackle different problems. Not many companies actually invest in doing this, but it’s always nice to see. You’ll see the case studies come from smaller-name businesses, too, not just the giants of industry.
That’s not the only source of good reviews. There are quite positive reviews of Braintree from actual users on other review sites around the web, mixed in with the negative reviews. As I dug through them I found that people really like the following:
- How easy it is to integrate Braintree
- Consistent pricing with no monthly fees
- The lack of problems they encounter when using the service
Developers in particular note how solid the API is. They also like the extensive support for various programming languages. I have seen some older complaints to the contrary, so it seems that Braintree has stepped up its efforts in this regard recently.
Braintree is probably the only provider I’ve rated 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 because it offers both consistency and affordability. When you consider the absolutely enormous number of unique features and services you get at absolutely no additional charge and for 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 three years, it’s poised to own the ecommerce and m-commerce worlds. And that’s only going to get better as Braintree keeps finding ways to innovate and reshape the payments space. Keep an eye open and your ear to the ground for new offerings.
App developers would be crazy not to thoroughly consider working with Braintree Payment Solutions, 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!