Stripe Payments Review
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- Date Established
- San Francisco, CA
- Excellent developer tools
- Predictable flat-rate pricing
- Advanced reporting tools
- Ideal for international merchants
- Excellent marketplace tools
- Exceptional subscription tools
- Multi-currency support
- Account stability issues
- Not suitable for high-risk industries
- Needs technical skill to implement
Stripe is a third-party payments processor built around a simple idea: make it easy for companies to do business online. It’s not just about processing credit cards — that’s boring to most people. The fact that Stripe accepts credit cards is often secondary to all of its developer tools. Regardless of what anyone might think of Stripe’s reliability or customer service, there’s no question that the developer features are industry-leading, and the documentation exceeds just about anything else out there. Whether yours is a SaaS business looking for a subscription billing option, a marketplace looking for an easy way to split payments, or an online retailer looking for a way to enable in-app payments, Stripe has you covered. Its feature list is impressive if a tad overwhelming for the uninitiated. And since mid-2018, Stripe has begun making some significant changes to its business: new pricing, implementing 24/7 customer support, and even some game-changing features.
There’s no question that Stripe is a media darling. With its hip, trail-blazing co-founders, its focus on empowering internet businesses with a developer-first focus, and flexible solutions for almost any kind of online business, that’s not surprising. We haven’t even gotten to all of the big-name online businesses that Stripe processes payments for, such as Lyft, Under Armour, Blue Apron, Pinterest, Wish, TaskRabbit, and more. There’s a lot of talk (and a lot of news articles) about how Stripe wants to change how the entire internet does business, and all the innovation the company embraces. And Stripe claims there’s an 89% chance that any card a merchant might process has been seen on the Stripe network previously (even if the card is new to your business). With its massive array of clients, Stripe’s reach is right up there with the titans of industry.
But does the reality live up to the hype?
There’s a lot to love about Stripe, that’s for sure. It’s powerful, easy to use, and chock-full of features. But it’s not for everyone.
First, as a third-party processor, Stripe isn’t immune to the same sort of problems that plague PayPal, Square, and other payment processors that aggregate accounts rather than opening individual merchant accounts: frequent account holds and/or terminations. Check out a few Stripe reviews just about anywhere on the web, and you’ll see some unhappy merchants with terminated accounts.
Second, while you can use Stripe to run online payments for a simple eCommerce site, that’s barely tapping into Stripe’s potential. There are plenty of other options capable of meeting a merchant’s requirements, and most of the time, you won’t need a developer to implement them. Plus, if you’re interested in a ready-made all-in-one platform to handle in-person payments and eCommerce, Stripe isn’t a good selection.
However, between the round-the-clock, live customer support, and all of Stripe’s many features, I can’t deny that Stripe is very good at what it does. If you want the ability to build a payment processing platform from scratch with top-tier developer tools, Stripe should absolutely be at the top of your list. If you want potent tools for a subscription-based business, Stripe should be one of your top picks. If you want powerful fraud prevention tools, affordable business intelligence, and payment processing that will let you accept orders from customers all around the world, Stripe is for you. For all of these reasons, Stripe has earned itself a respectable score of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Check out the full review for more information, and let me know what you think about Stripe in the comments section!
Table of Contents
Products & Services
Stripe’s basic offerings are deceptively simple, but underneath, you’ll find tools you probably didn’t even realize existed. Everything is broken down into two categories:
- Payment Processing: Stripe gives you instant access to processing, much like Square or PayPal does. It’s a third-party processing service (also known as an aggregator). That means the company will approve you almost instantly and scrutinize your account more closely as you continue to do business. That tends to lead to more terminations than a traditional merchant account, which does its vetting in advance and offers more stability. Stripe’s processing services are available in 34 countries at the time of writing this (including beta tests). It currently accepts more than 100 types of currency.
- Developer Tools: This is the part of Stripe that most users really sink their teeth into, especially if they’re involved in eCommerce. These APIs (application programming interfaces) provide an incredibly reliable and well-considered framework for developers to quickly and easily integrate the Stripe payment platform using a variety of supported languages/frameworks (Ruby, Python, PHP, Java, Node, Go, etc.). Achieving the minimal amount of functionality is as easy as pasting in a few lines of code, but you’ll want to follow along with the walkthroughs to get a sense of everything you can do. It’s a solid foundation to build on and expand your business, and Stripe updates its features and the documentation constantly. The API is testing-friendly, providing different security keys for tests and live code. Stripe even gives you some fake credit card numbers to play around with. Keep in mind that you’ll have to have your PCI compliance validated annually. That can be done with a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) provided by the PCI Security Standards Council.
If you want to take advantage of Stripe’s payment processing without getting involved with the developer tools, consider using a Stripe plugin or integration partner. Stripe officially offers more than 300 partnerships for integration, all listed on its Partnerships page, and searchable by type of integration, your industry, and even location.
As far as eCommerce is concerned, there’s 3Dcart (read our review), BigCommerce (read our review), Shopify (read our review), Wix (read our review), and Weebly (read our review), just to name a few. You can also integrate Stripe with CRM software, invoicing platforms, business analytics, accounting, shipping tools, referral marketing, and more. You can also utilize Stripe’s prebuilt payments page, Stripe Checkout, which offers most of the basic functionality you need along with the ability to customize its look with your brand.
Here’s a quick rundown of some features Stripe has set up for you (or your developer) to work with:
- Payments: If you just want to sell online through a shopping cart, you don’t need to dig deep into Stripe’s payments-related tools if you don’t want to. However, if you are curious about what Stripe can do, here’s a quick primer:
- Accept payments on the web, through mobile apps, and in-person.
- Accept credit cards, mobile wallets, and localized payment methods, including storing payment methods in a secure vault.
- Accept transactions in currency from all over the world and convert them automatically.
- Includes a prebuilt embeddable checkout form (Checkout), plus the ability to build a form from scratch or using prebuilt components (Elements).
- Includes PCI compliance at no charge, including assistance with data migration if you leave Stripe.
- Includes financial reconciliation tools.
- Billing: If you want to send one-off invoices or manage monthly billing/subscriptions, Stripe Billing encompasses all of these features. Stripe’s subscription management tools are extensive and allow you to bill customers as frequently as you need and create plans based on usage, the number of users, flat fees, or any other model that works for your business. Plus, Stripe includes marketing tools, such as free trials.
- Connect: Connect is a suite of tools designed specifically for marketplaces and platforms (think Kickstarter or Uber/Lyft). Stripe supports more than 100 currencies and automatically converts them. You can also use Connect to verify international sellers, add descriptor text that appears on credit card statements, and automate payments for marketplace sellers or create a custom payment schedule.
- Payouts: An automation toolset designed to help you send mass payouts to sellers, freelancers, or service providers. It’s also designed to help simplify compliance requirements with third parties and global markets.
- Atlas: Atlas allows international businesses to incorporate in the US, set up a US bank account, and get tax and legal guidance. Stripe says it has had more than a thousand startups apply in more than 120 countries, and it has added more than 100 partners to the network since the launch.
- Radar: Radar is Stripe’s solution to eCommerce fraud, and it got a massive overhaul in early 2018. Radar 2.0 uses machine learning to better identify and stop credit card fraud and takes into account an enormous stream of data to determine the likelihood of a fraudulent transaction, including the card’s previous transaction history on the Stripe network. Radar also looks at your business’s payment processing and compares it against multiple data models to determine which one will work best for your business while reducing fraud and preventing false positives — that is, flagged transactions that are actually legitimate. For enterprise-scale businesses, there’s Radar for Teams, which gives merchants tools in their dashboard to allow them to set specific rules for transactions, test what impact those rules will have based on previous data, and reduce the amount of manual work your team has to do. Of course, this is all on top of the various other fraud prevention tools, such as AVS and CVV checks.
- Issuing: Another addition to Stripe’s feature set is the ability to generate physical and virtual cards. This would allow, for example, a company to create employee expense cards or for creators of mobile wallets that use Stripe as a back-end processor to issue cards linked to the user’s mobile wallet balance.
- Corporate Card: For those interested, Stripe now offers a corporate credit card. The big selling point here is that customers who spend $5,000 on the card get $50,000 in free payment processing, along with similar perks with Stripe’s partners. Your credit limit will be based on your payment processing and bank history.
- Relay: Relay allows you to power purchases in mobile apps, creating a mobile marketplace of sorts. Relay’s features enable merchants to link their eCommerce catalogs with your app or directly upload product information. Relay creates in-app buy buttons and forwards all the sales information to the merchants to fulfill the order.
- Sigma: Whereas a standard, tech-driven payment processor might let you generate custom reports using a selection of prebuilt criteria and call that advanced, Stripe Sigma allows you to create truly custom reports using SQL. If you can write an SQL query, Sigma can give you the data for it (assuming, of course, Stripe collects that data). This is well beyond what you’ll get even from Square, which is top-tier for reporting and moving into the realm of advanced business intelligence. But instead of paying an expensive monthly subscription fee for those tools, Stripe prices Sigma using a sliding scale based on the number of charges per month.
- Capital: Like many of its competitors, Stripe now offers some of its customers financing in the form of short-term loans and merchant cash advances. You can log into your dashboard to see if you qualify. If you do, you can select one of the offers. Funds are typically available the next day.
Two more features I’d like to talk about are Stripe’s support for teams and its support for global merchants. One of the features Stripe offers is the ability to create teams and set custom permissions for your users. This allows you to delegate responsibilities while still securely controlling access to your data. This is, as with several of Stripe’s features, probably of most interest to enterprise-scale businesses rather than your typical small business, but I do want to point it out. Second, Stripe isn’t just available to US merchants. At the time of writing this, Stripe supports merchants in 34 countries, and that number has been steadily growing over time.
That’s Stripe in a nutshell. If you’re wondering, “Do I really need all that?” the answer is probably no. If you don’t have a developer on the team, and you have no coding experience yourself, you’re not going to be able to get the most out of Stripe. It’s powerful, but it’s not a solution that works for anyone or everyone. Stripe is more friendly to large businesses, high-tech businesses, SaaS platforms, and marketplaces. If you’re just trying to run an eCommerce business, you might want to check out one of Stripe’s processing partners and get set up through them or look elsewhere entirely. Square and Shopify both offer similar feature sets and comparable pricing. Plus, Shopify’s white-label payments service, Shopify Payments, is powered by Stripe, but you get a much more merchant-friendly platform that isn’t reliant on your ability to write code.
Fees & Rates
One of the nicest things about pay-as-you-go processors is that they generally have a pretty clear pricing structure. For credit card and ACH transactions, Stripe charges simple, flat rates:
- Credit Cards: 2.9% + $0.30
- ACH: 0.8% (capped at $5)
Stripe does offer nonprofit discounts and a plan for businesses that deal in micropayments but does not disclose the details of these services. Stripe says, “contact us to talk about them,” which is a pretty clear sign that not all merchants will qualify for them, and some negotiation might be required.
It’s worth noting that Stripe will not refund processing fees, even in the case of returns and refunds. Be prepared for this when you create your business’s return policy. Additionally, Stripe charges an industry-standard chargeback fee of $15. I like that it will refund this fee if the chargeback is decided in your favor, even though it won’t refund transaction fees generally. Not all processors do this, and it’s relatively generous considering that they have to pay to do the paperwork one way or the other. However, customer reviews of Stripe suggest that very rarely, if ever, will you have a chargeback decided in your favor.
Here’s some proof that Stripe likes international businesses: Merchants can display prices in multiple local currencies instead of just one. Stripe automatically converts them for you. You’ll pay a 1% conversion fee on top of transaction fees, but you won’t have to worry about exchange rates or anything like that. Plus, Stripe offers extensive support for popular, localized payment methods across the globe.
Stripe offers two-day payouts to most US-based merchants, except those it deems “high risk.” However, most international merchants will encounter longer funding times, all based on which country they’re in. While a waiting period of two business days is pretty standard across the industry, you can get faster payouts from some merchant account providers as well as Square.
In the spring of 2018, Stripe started making some changes to its pricing for its supplementary services, including Billing and Sigma. So let’s take a look at what those extra services will cost:
Billing: Stripe has broken its billing tools down into two tiers: Starter and Scale. The Starter plan for Billing is free for the first $1 million in recurring transactions. After that threshold, Stripe charges 0.4% per transaction, on top of processing costs. The Scale plan charges 0.7% per transaction. However, as a tradeoff, Stripe offers a discount on ACH credits and wire transfers as well as access to Stripe Sigma, which would be a separate charge on its own.
Connect: Stripe’s marketplace tools come with an assortment of additional fees if you opt to use Express or Custom accounts instead of Standard.
That includes a $2 monthly fee + 0.25% markup on account balances, $0.25 per ACH payout, and expedited debits at a 1% transaction fee. However, Stripe may negotiate with you if your business’s needs are atypical, so you can get a better deal that suits your needs.
Radar: If you need super-advanced fraud tools, you can get an add-on suite at the cost of $0.04 (waived for accounts paying the standard 2.9% + $0.30 pricing) per transaction processed. Honestly, I don’t think most small businesses will need this. These advanced fraud protection tools are mostly meant for very large businesses with multiple staff members who help analyze the data and spot fraudulent transactions. For those with dedicated fraud teams, there’s a more customizable version available for $0.06 per transaction (or $0.02 if you’re paying the standard price). Chargeback protection is also available for 0.4% per transaction.
Sigma: Stripe’s business intelligence/advanced reporting tool is priced on a sliding scale based on your overall transaction volume, rather than based on some tiered model. I like this because it puts some powerful tools into a reasonable price range, even for very small businesses.
Below 500 charges a month, you pay only $0.02 per charge (up to $10), along with a $10 infrastructure fee. Above that threshold? You’ll pay a monthly infrastructure fee (starting at $25 and increasing with each tier), but you get a discount on the per-transaction fee. For example, for 501 to 1,000 charges per month, you would pay $0.018 per charge versus $0.02 in the previous tier. I like Stripe’s tool for estimating the pricing (pictured above) as well. Check it out if you’re interested in Sigma.
Terminal: For businesses that want to integrate Stripe Payments into a POS system, you’ll process payments at 2.7% + $0.5 per transaction. There are no additional fees to access the developer tools. Stripe offers a choice of two integrated card readers, a BBPOS Chipper X2 BT and a Verifone P400, which sell for $59 and $299, respectively. There’s also a 1% fee for international cards.
If your primary criterion is cost, keep this in mind: Stripe is competitively priced, but it’s not the most affordable option. There are still many interchange-plus plans as well as nonprofit discounts available. Stripe’s lack of monthly fees is a mark in its favor, especially for low-volume merchants. And its costs for add-on services (such as Billing) are very reasonable. In the end, though, you can only be sure you’re getting the best deal if you compare the numbers for yourself.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
No early termination fee. Period. Thumbs up because that’s what we like to see here. And remember, we said Stripe will help you export your customer data and take it with you if you ever decide to leave.
However, I can’t stress this enough: Just as you’d read a contract for a merchant account, read Stripe’s terms of service before you sign up. As with most other third-party processors, Stripe does include a provision that it can terminate your account or implement a hold if it deems your business an unacceptable risk (or for pretty much any other reason or no reason at all).
If you prize stability over anything else in a processor, Stripe isn’t a good choice for you. But if you’re looking for flexibility and no monthly fees, or a scalable platform to build your business on, Stripe is an excellent choice.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Stripe uses transparent, ethical, and fair advertising with none of the common problems seen with big companies. Stripe has no hidden fees, no unusual contract terms, and no scams or gimmicks to speak of. It lays out the pricing exhaustively on its website.
If you’ve processed cards before, you shouldn’t be met with any surprises from Stripe as far as financial operations go. If you haven’t processed cards, then there might be a slight learning curve. But Stripe is a good company to learn with (financially speaking) since the service is entirely pay-as-you-go.
I do wish it was a little easier to learn about some of Stripe’s features. It’s not that the information doesn’t exist; usually, it’s buried in the documentation part of the site rather than laid out on the main pages. That’s better than many companies that don’t offer any sort of information at all, at least.
Customer Service & Technical Support
I’ve spent a lot of time reading customer reviews of Stripe and seeing how it evolved and changed over time. And in the last couple of review updates, the dominant thread that I noticed among the complaints from merchants was frustration at the inability to reach someone at the company in real-time. I figured it would only be a matter of time before Stripe caved and implemented some form of phone-based customer support.
I wasn’t expecting Stripe to roll out 24/7 live chat AND phone support to all of its customers, but it now applies to all Stripe customers. If you’ve had trouble reaching Stripe in the past, this is a bit of a game-changer. This is in addition to Stripe’s self-help knowledgebase, email support, and Freenode IRC chat (#stripe). While I’ve found that the developer documentation is better at showcasing different features and abilities than the knowledgebase, it will cover most of your basic questions.
Overall, the comments I’ve seen about Stripe’s support have been good. Most of the negative experiences seem to relate to account terminations or funding holds. And that’s nothing new or unique. Those complaints are pretty typical of any third-party processor (including Square and PayPal). However, we’ll need a little more time to gauge how effective these new customer support channels are.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
At the time of writing this review, Stripe’s BBB page still has an A+ rating with 356 complaints in the past three years, 133 of them closed in the past 12 months.
Stripe also has 93 reviews on the BBB page, with an aggregate rating of fewer than 2-stars out of 5. That is disappointing but not exactly surprising. You can find other positive reviews elsewhere on the web, but that’s another section. We’re looking specifically for the bad stuff right now, and BBB is where you’ll find a disproportionate number of those.
I did look at a few other review sites to gather some more information on merchant experiences with Stripe, and the reviews were mixed. Some merchants do love Stripe; others have problems. These are what I’ve found to be the most common complaints:
- Account Holds & Terminations: Without question, the most common complaint against Stripe is sudden account terminations and sweeping payment reversals without notice and with little explanation. Merchants also comment about sudden holds on their funds while their account is “under review.” This kind of thing happens all the time with third-party payment providers. While they give you instant access to payment processing, they can (and absolutely will) review your account and processing habits soon after you begin to use the service. At this point, they can cancel your account for any number of reasons, real or perceived. That said, Stripe is better than some PSPs in this regard, usually giving about five days advance notice before shutting your account down. If you have been shut down, it offers alternatives, typically PaymentCloud.
- Unresponsive Customer Service: This seems to come up less often with everyday problems and more when a serious and difficult concern comes up (such as funds being held or accounts getting canceled). More than one user has complained about being ignored in these situations, or that it takes days or weeks to get a response. Despite Stripe expanding its service channels, this appears to remain as a pain point for many customers.
- Not User-Friendly: Stripe is not a payment processing option for the layperson or the DIYer — not unless you’ve got coding experience. Plenty of users complain about the ease of use (or, perhaps more accurately, the lack thereof). Remember: Stripe was built with developers in mind first and foremost. If you need something that you can just plug-and-play, this is not the option for you. Instead, I highly recommend checking out Square if you’re chasing simplicity over everything else.
- Lack Of Fraud Protection: This issue ties into the matter of chargebacks but is also worth discussing in its own right. Merchants don’t seem to feel like Stripe gives them a way to protect against fraudulent charges and chargebacks. That’s not to say there aren’t any tools that merchants can enable — there are several, though some come at a premium. But it’s the merchant’s responsibility to review those fraud monitoring controls and enable any features they deem appropriate.
The lack of fraud protection is not something to take lightly, so I really dug into it. Here is what I found: Stripe has an automatic algorithm that works to identify fraudulent transactions and flags them. There is not a lot of information out there about how it works. We do know the system can generate false positives. If you find a declined transaction that you know to be legitimate, you can override it and try the transaction again.
You can also mark transactions as fraudulent and refund them yourself (make sure you report them to Stripe.) Second, you can enable CVV and AVS (address) checks and automatically decline transactions that fail them (these are two separate things). That second part is important because a transaction can still go through even if the checks fail. However, at the same time, it is not uncommon for legitimate shoppers to get their zip codes wrong. These checks aren’t enabled by default, so you have to go in and adjust your settings yourself. That should be one of your first steps after signing up with Stripe, to be honest.
In the meantime, do your homework. Check that you have any relevant security measures enabled. And if you notice a change relating to Stripe’s fraud protections, let us know!
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Stripe has an expansive and impressive list of successful clients, including IndieGoGo, Reddit, Mashable, Volusion, eHow, Hubspot, and recently, Amazon. We’re talking about some major internet players, which definitely constitutes a big deal — even though no specific praise is given besides their continued business.
While Stripe doesn’t go as far as Braintree does with intensive case studies, it does at least offer a nice page of logos for you to browse and some shiny marketing copy. Aside from that, I would love to see some case studies about features beyond fraud prevention and maybe some more proof from some small and medium-sized businesses, not just the giants of commerce.
Here’re are some reasons Stripe is popular.
- Freedom & Control: While it takes a bit of technical knowledge to wring the most out of Stripe, there’s a lot you can do with it. Few other MSPs offer quite as much potential.
- Pricing: It’s not the cheapest possible option, but its pricing is fair, especially if you’re making use of the API.
- Global Utility: Stripe’s ability to deal with different currencies and service 34 countries around the globe give it an edge, particularly when it comes to eCommerce.
- Documentation: Stripe provides a lot of useful information online, and is, overall, quite transparent.
Please leave us a comment if you have firsthand experience with Stripe. Make sure to review our comment policy before posting to ensure we’re able to publish your remarks.
Without any doubt, Stripe is a major contender in the new, simplified, and stylized online payments industry. Stripe, Braintree, and probably others I haven’t discovered yet are all vying for the top spot. Each offers subtly distinct services but charges almost the same rates and operates on similar business models. PayPal and Square (read our review) figure in there too, especially as they move more and more into the realm of omnichannel commerce, not just mPOS or eCommerce.
In theory, Stripe delivers everything that small and large merchants alike should want. However, it has one major shortcoming, and that is the stability of its clients’ accounts. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly a unique failing among payment aggregators, either. If you want guaranteed stability, your best bet is one of our top-rated merchant accounts.
Second, many tools are targeted especially at developers, large businesses, and marketplaces. It’s all well and good that Stripe offers them. They’re important. If you’re tech-savvy, or you have someone to handle the code for you, you’ll go far with Stripe. But if all you want is an easy way to take payments on your website, I don’t see a clear advantage of using Stripe over one of the other options. In fact, Stripe will probably be far beyond what you need.
And finally, you’re going to get competitive pricing with Stripe, but it won’t be the lowest pricing you can get. For that, you will have to look elsewhere. You can start by comparing our preferred merchant accounts, all of which deliver in terms of exceptional stability, customer support, and pricing.
Stripe has earned its 4.5-star score for now. It is not a perfect processor, but it is a very, very good one. Ultimately, ask yourself two questions: (1) Will you use the tools Stripe has to offer? (2) Does Stripe have everything you need? If the answer to both questions is yes, it’s worth pursuing. If the answer to either question is no, you should look for other options.
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We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.