Braintree Payments Review
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- Date Established
- Chicago, IL
- Predictable flat-rate pricing
- Excellent developer tools
- Extensive integrations available
- Comprehensive payment type support
- Multicurrency options
- Overpriced gateway-only option
- Not open to high-risk industries
- Long setup times for accounts
- Reports of closed accounts and held funds
Braintree Payment Solutions Overview
Braintree (sometimes also known as Braintree Payment Solutions) is a merchant services provider that was originally founded in 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. The company has experienced exponential growth over the years and today has seven offices around the world (locations include Austin, New York City, San Francisco, London, Sydney, and Singapore). In 2012, the company acquired popular mobile payments service Venmo. Braintree was then acquired itself in 2013 by PayPal for $800 billion and now lists itself as “Braintree — A PayPal Service” on its website. Today, Braintree is one of the heavyweights in the payments industry, processing more than six billion transactions (and over $50 billion) annually.
Despite its huge size, the company is still focused almost exclusively on the eCommerce sector, with relatively little to offer for retail-only merchants. However, as payment processing systems continue to migrate to the cloud, there are more and more opportunities for merchants in any sector to take advantage of the payment-gateway-based services that Braintree has to offer.
Braintree offers two ways for merchants to use its services. The primary (and, quite frankly, more affordable) way to use Braintree is to sign up for a Braintree merchant account that also includes access to what is really the company’s most important product — the payment gateway. You’ll get a true, full-service merchant account that’s underwritten by Fiserv (formerly First Data) — one of the largest direct processors in the industry. This gives you a measure of account stability that you won’t get with payment service providers (PSPs), such as Square (see our review) or Stripe Payments. Unlike most merchant account providers, however, Braintree doesn’t lock you into a long-term contract or hit you up with an endless array of hidden fees. Billing is month-to-month with no early termination fee (ETF), and you won’t have to pay a monthly account fee. The company offers the simplest, most transparent flat-rate pricing plan we’ve seen anywhere. However, custom pricing (with an option for interchange-plus pricing) is also available for high-volume merchants.
An alternative way to use Braintree is to sign up for the company’s payment gateway and integrate it into your preexisting merchant account from another provider. While this may seem like an attractive option for established businesses, you’ll want to crunch the numbers first to see if this will be affordable for you. While most Braintree users don’t pay either a monthly account fee or a gateway fee, you’ll have to pay a separate gateway fee of $49 per month — nearly twice the industry average. You’ll also pay an additional $0.10 per transaction to Braintree, on top of whatever your merchant account provider charges you. This can add up very quickly for small businesses that process a high volume of small-ticket sales. Unless you have a specific need to integrate some of the specialized features of Braintree’s gateway into your eCommerce website, it’s hard to justify the additional expense of this option.
Braintree is, however, a great choice for international eCommerce merchants. The company’s gateway can currently accept international payments in 144 local currencies, with settlement payable in 44 different currencies.
For eCommerce-only merchants that sign up for a merchant account with Braintree, the company easily earns an overall score of 5 out of 5 stars. The Braintree gateway offers a full range of standard features you’d expect in a modern, secure payment gateway as well as a huge variety of customization options. Unlike many competing gateway providers, the company also features true data portability, meaning that you can easily take your customer database information with you if you decide to switch to a different provider.
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 want a POS integration, 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 work in eCommerce or app development, or you use mobile processing, Braintree might be the merchant account provider for you.
There are two elements of Braintree’s service:
- Merchant Accounts: As we’ve mentioned above, Braintree provides a true, full-service merchant account, complete with a unique merchant ID number for your business. This feature offers greater account stability than you see with a payment service provider (PSP), such as Stripe or Square. Braintree doesn’t have a minimum processing requirement for merchants, so even low-volume businesses can use its services. The company does, however, have an Acceptable Use Policy that makes it unusable by most high-risk merchants.
- Payment Gateway Services: This encompasses pretty much everything else Braintree has to offer beyond payment processing, from the control panel to the API. As we’ve discussed above, it’s possible to use Braintree’s gateway with your existing merchant account from another provider. However, gateway fees and per-transaction charges are nearly two times higher than the industry average, so you should make sure the cost justifies the benefits.
Braintree’s services can be broken down into four elements or products:
- Braintree Direct: Direct is built for businesses that want to sell directly on a website or in a mobile app. It allows you to accept multiple payment options, including credit/debit cards, PayPal, wallets, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. Direct also gives merchants access to features, such as fraud protection tools, recurring billing, and reporting and integration options.
- Braintree Extend: Extend allows merchants to share payment data with partners, including other platforms, merchants, or service providers. Some merchants use Extend to share payment data with fraud protection services, secondary vault providers (to build in data redundancy), or rewards and loyalty partners. Also, Extend allows you to develop in-context commerce experiences and add purchasing options within your partner’s content.
- Braintree Marketplace: Braintree’s marketplace solutions allow you to seamlessly manage many aspects of your business, including splitting payments between you and your providers. We weren’t able to find information on pricing for Braintree Marketplace, so be sure to ask before you sign up for the service.
- Braintree Auth: This service is aimed at third-party providers rather than merchants, but you’ll still want to use it if you need to integrate a third-party service, such as invoicing, data analytics, or recurring billing, into your Braintree account. Auth is a way for these businesses to securely share merchant data and take authorized actions on behalf of merchants.
Additional Braintree Features
In addition to Braintree’s four core offerings, you get access to a wealth of additional features at no extra charge:
- Sandbox: If you want to test out Braintree before integrating it into your system, there is a sandbox for developers to play in. It’s free, although you do have to register.
- In-Store Payments: While Braintree is primarily designed for eCommerce businesses, you can also process payments in person using PayPal. Braintree will integrate with your current mPOS app or third-party POS provider to process card-present transactions. This feature is currently available for merchants in the US, UK, and Australia. Since you’ll be using PayPal for these transactions, you’ll be paying PayPal fees. Check out our review of PayPal for more information.
- Payouts: This tool is designed for marketplace businesses. The Payouts tool uses Hyperwallet to manage mass payouts to the merchants who are selling on your platform.
- Reporting: View reports and use the available filtering tools to isolate different elements. Use the API to build custom reports.
- Data Security: Braintree now offers 3D Secure 2.0 (3DS 2.0) to all users. 3DS 2.0 is the new industry standard for customer authentication, and it’s nice to see it available here. Further, Braintree uses data encryption to store information in the Braintree Vault, and Braintree is a validated Level 1 PCI DSS compliant service provider.
- Drop-In UI & Custom UI: 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 payment APIs to create a unique checkout experience while maintaining PCI compliance.
- Global Selling: Braintree offers features for international selling, including global fraud protection and the ability to accept payments in over 130 currencies. After you accept these funds, Braintree will convert the currency and deposit funds in your US account in USD for a 1% fee.
- Different Presentment & Settlement Currency: If you sell internationally, Braintree lets you offer different presentment and settlement currencies, meaning the currency you can display on the site can be local to the customer. At the same time, you still get the funds in your deposit currency. Even better, Braintree handles all the conversions for you.
- Recurring Billing: While many providers can hook you up with recurring billing, not many execute the service as well as Braintree. Customization is king with Braintree. This includes customized failed transaction management, pricing plans, discounts, promos, push notifications, rewards, add-ons, and automatically prorated subscriptions. And let’s not forget the secure storage in Braintree’s vault. More notably, recurring billing through Braintree is free; with PayPal, there’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 after their old card is declined.
- 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!). Please note that while Kount Standard is free to use, there are additional fees associated with using Kount Custom.
- 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 either have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to download your customer data in a secure format to transfer to your new account or you lose access to this information altogether if you decide to switch gateway providers.
- Integrations: Braintree is compatible with a wide assortment of third-party services, from shopping carts to recurring billing and accounting tools.
- Serverless Connections: In the near future, Braintree will introduce a new method to share data between your merchant account, third-party partners, and payment processors in a serverless environment.
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 are all of the payment methods that Braintree supports, which you can integrate into your system at your discretion. It is nice to see such an array of payment options from a single provider:
- Credit & Debit Cards: This also includes acceptance of prepaid debit and gift cards.
- ACH Direct Debit: ACH Direct Debit is currently available as a “limited release” for US merchants. The rates for ACH are listed in the Pricing section below.
- 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. You’ll also gain access to PayPal’s 250 million+ active users. Running PayPal transactions through Braintree means you will be paying PayPal rates on those transactions. Notable PayPal features include PayPal One Touch and PayPal Credit.
- Digital Wallets: Braintree supports all major mobile wallets, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. There are no additional fees to use these payment methods.
- Venmo Payments: Accept Venmo transactions from consumers on the web and through iOS and Android apps. There are no additional fees.
- Visa Checkout & MasterPass: In addition to all of the above ways to check out, you can integrate support for Visa and Mastercard’s online wallets. Process payments with both options for no additional fee.
That just about covers what Braintree has to offer merchants. The support articles and developer docs are two good resources to learn more about what Braintree can do. And, of course, don’t forget that you can poke around in the sandbox if you feel inclined.
Fees & Rates
For most merchants, the rates and fees charged by Braintree Payment Solutions are incredibly simple:
- 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
That’s it. There are (for the most part) no surcharges or additional fees. That means:
- No monthly minimum
- No monthly account fee
- No annual fee
- No PCI compliance fee
- No early termination fee
- No setup fee
- No gateway fees
- No statement fees
A few exceptions to this rule are fees that apply when your customers make an international transaction. Any transactions presented in a non-USD currency incur a 1% fee, and an additional 1% fee applies to transactions made on payment cards that were issued outside of the US. Also, you’ll be responsible for chargebacks, 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 (minus those international fees), and everything is very predictable. If you’ve integrated with PayPal, you’ll pay your standard PayPal rates (which will also probably be 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions). It’s worth noting that Braintree does offer volume discounts if you process more than $80,000 per month. Braintree also offers a discounted rate for nonprofits (2.2% + $0.30 per transaction, and 3.25% + $0.30 per transaction for Amex).
For businesses processing over $80,000 per month, there is also the option to negotiate a custom pricing plan. While you can choose between either a flat-rate or interchange-plus pricing plan, the interchange-plus option will almost always be more affordable overall. It’s also the most transparent form of pricing that’s available, as you’ll always know exactly how much your processor is charging you as a markup. Flat-rate pricing is more predictable, but you’ll inevitably end up paying more for some types of transactions, particularly PIN debit sales.
Braintree also offers ACH Direct Debit transaction processing at a fixed rate of 0.75% per transaction, with maximum per-transaction fees capped at $5. Discounted rates are available for enterprise businesses under the custom pricing option discussed above.
As we’ve mentioned, Braintree’s payment gateway is also available independent of its processing services at a cost. The gateway is compatible with most US merchant accounts, and you can even connect multiple accounts. Here’s what you’ll pay:
- $49.00 per month for gateway fees
- $0.10 per transaction (this is in addition to processing rates charged by your processor)
- $10.00 per month for each additional merchant account beyond the first
For the majority of merchants, this will add up to a costly option. Most merchant services providers charge around $25 per month for gateway fees and an additional $0.05 per transaction for each sale processed over the gateway. In other words, Braintree’s prices are about twice the industry average. However, if you need to take advantage of any of the unique features available through the Braintree gateway (such as the extensive API library, for example), it might be worth it. You might also be able to justify the cost if your merchant account provider is offering you much lower processing rates than you can get with Braintree’s one-size-fits-all flat-rate prices.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
You’ll have absolutely no early termination fee with Braintree. You can see the standard Braintree Merchant Agreement on the company’s website 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 more difficult task here is properly explaining all of Braintree’s many features and customization options. Fortunately, it has some great resources: developer docs, support articles (which serve as your knowledgebase), and FAQs. You’ll also find an active blog with some good information for merchants. Want more details? 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 have a thorough knowledge of Braintree’s products. 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 to them. While some companies manage their independent reps well, they’re definitely few and far between. So I like that Braintree keeps its team in-house.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Braintree makes its customer service and technical support readily available. Although there is no live chat option, you 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 Braintree lives up to that claim in the User Reviews section below.
Merchants in the US and Canada can get a hold of a knowledgeable support rep during these hours:
- 5 AM to 12 AM Central Time, Monday through Thursday
- 5 AM to 8 PM Central Time, Friday
- 8 AM to 7 PM Central Time, Monday through Thursday
- 8 AM to 5 PM Central Time, Friday
If it’s an emergency, you can get service 24/7/365 via email from on-call reps and engineers, and that’s pretty awesome. We’ve already mentioned the website resources that you’ll have access to as well in the Sales & Advertising Transparency section. 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.
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 directly from the source whether something is working.
Braintree is also active on social media, with regular posts on Facebook and Twitter, and it has lots of informative videos on YouTube.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Braintree is not accredited by the BBB and currently has a B- rating. The company has received 14 complaints within the past three years, with ten of them having been filed within the last twelve months. While this is a significant jump in complaint volume from our last review update, it’s still a remarkably low number of complaints about a company of this size. Many of the complaints were filed within just the last several months, leading us to suspect that the current COVID-19 pandemic might be a factor. With many merchants switching to an online-only business model or adding online sales for the first time, it’s only natural that many of them would sign up with a leading eCommerce specialist such as Braintree. Having more customers naturally leads to more complaints, particularly in the payments processing industry.
Braintree’s BBB profile also includes nine customer reviews, with an average rating of 1.5 out of 5 stars. Bear in mind that some of these reviews are word-for-word copies of complaints posted on the same site and presumably left by the same merchants.
While Braintree’s overall complaint volume is very low for a company of its size, there are a few issues that came up repeatedly, including the following:
- Long Setup Times for Accounts: This isn’t surprising, given that you get an actual merchant account and not just an aggregated account like you do with PayPal (Braintree’s parent company). You won’t get instant access, and you’ll have to provide several documents before you’re approved. This is one of the more common and consistent complaints. Another complaint I have seen echoed is that Braintree requires merchants to submit so much documentation that at times it feels “intrusive.”
- Withheld Funds & Sudden Account Closures: Among the serious complaints, these two issues show up most often. In theory, a proper merchant account means that holds and account closures are less likely than with aggregated accounts. Judging by the overall low complaint numbers, I think that’s true of Braintree. However, I have seen numerous complaints that state that Braintree allowed the merchant to process payments before the account was “fully approved.” Then, after the merchant had been processing payments for a while, Braintree conducted a full review of the account and determined that it could not support that business. In some cases, that means merchants who shipped products during this period lost the payments (and products) from those transactions, in addition to having their accounts closed. The Braintree representative I spoke with says that this occasionally happens with merchants in the EU and that Braintree always provides a disclaimer that merchants should wait to ship orders until their account has been fully approved.
- No Support For High-Risk Merchants: We always recommend that you read the Acceptable Use Policy for every merchant account you apply for. This will significantly reduce the risk of you signing on to a service that boots you out after a short amount of time (like what we described above). Braintree does not accept high-risk businesses, and your idea of high-risk might not line up with the company’s definition. We highly recommend that you diligently read 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 (see our review) or PaymentCloud (see our review).
- Insufficient Fraud Protection: We always see complaints regarding chargebacks and fraudulent transactions, and Braintree is no exception. Merchants state that Braintree’s fraud protection services aren’t enough to protect their businesses. Some even complain that the number of fraudulent transactions they process has increased after switching to Braintree.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Braintree’s client list speaks for itself: StubHub, 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 invest in doing this, but it’s always nice to see. You’ll see the case studies come from smaller-name businesses, too, and not just the giants of the industry.
That’s not the only source of good reviews. There are 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 like the following:
- How easy it is to integrate Braintree
- Consistent pricing with no monthly fees
- Easy to use and integrate
- Lots of payment methods available
Developers, in particular, note that the API is solid. They also like the extensive support for various programming languages.
Braintree is one of the few merchant services providers that score 5 out of 5 stars without a widely available interchange-plus option. That would usually be a deal-breaker for me, but the company pulls it off because it offers both consistency and affordability. When you consider the enormous number of unique features and services you get at no additional charge, and for no monthly fee, Braintree may have the best value in the entire eCommerce processing industry.
With everything Braintree has accomplished in the past few years, it’s poised to continue as one of the most important providers in the eCommerce and mobile processing 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 and market-style businesses would be crazy not to consider working with Braintree Payment Solutions. The people at Braintree 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!
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.