Stripe VS Square: Comparing Features, Pricing, & Key Differences In 2021
Square has the edge for in-person payments, but Stripe is well-suited for international eCommerce.
|Ideal For||Merchants with access to a developer/strong technical skills, merchants who sell exclusively online, merchants who want a large choice in shopping carts||Merchants with minimal technical skill, merchants who sell primarily in person but want eCommerce as well, merchants who want a seamless experience between in-person and online sales|
|Online Transaction Pricing||2.9% + $0.30 per credit card, 0.8% per ACH transfer||2.9% + $0.30 per credit card, 1% per ACH transfer|
|Supported Online Payment Methods||Credit cards, ACH, Click to Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay On The Web, Localized payment methods||Credit Cards, ACH|
|Standout Features||Customizable checkout, dynamic currency displays & conversion, extensive developer support||Free Weebly-powered online store, powerful inventory and customer management, extensive developer support|
|What’s Missing||No ready-made POS for in-person sales||No support for international selling, Limited reach outside the US|
|Next Steps||Visit Site
Spend a little bit of time reading up on Stripe VS Square, and you’ll start to see the similarities. They’re both giants in the payments industry, media darlings that have transformed the way people pay for things as well as the way merchants accept payments. They’re both on the leading edge of technology and rely heavily on machine learning to drive their payment processing systems.
Most importantly, both Square and Stripe offer huge assortments of commerce tools that make it easy for merchants to run their businesses. With the various APIs and integrations available, plus support for in-person, online, and even in-app payments, there are almost limitless possibilities for creating a custom system with everything from invoicing to email marketing and more.
However, once you get past that point, it becomes harder to draw apples-to-apples comparisons because Square’s offerings are much more varied. Square is an all-in-one processor that can handle in-person and eCommerce payments as well as inventory management, CRM, and more. Stripe has generally focused more on mobile and eCommerce, with powerful tools for marketplaces and subscription-based businesses. It’s a relative latecomer to POS transactions.
To keep things fair and within a manageable scope, we’re going to primarily consider each company’s online/mobile commerce tools and point of sale (POS) options and touch briefly on the additional services each one provides. If you want to know more about the additional services each company offers, however, check out their respective in-depth reviews.
Table of Contents
- Stripe VS Square: Quick Summary
- Key Differences Between Stripe & Square
- Stripe VS Square: Fees, Rates, & Pricing
- Ease Of Use
- Customer Service & Support
- User Reviews, Complaints & Criticisms
- Which Is Best For My Online Payment Processing Needs?
- Frequently Asked Questions About Square & Stripe
- Square VS Stripe: The Final Verdict
Stripe VS Square: Quick Summary
Both Stripe and Square offer powerful, full-service third-party payment processing APIs. Square has a pretty clear edge when it comes to processing in-person payments and being ready to go right out of the box. Stripe’s robust multicurrency and payment method support, on the other hand, can give it an edge in international eCommerce.
Stripe Payments Overview
Stripe is sometimes called the eCommerce version of Square, but while there are some distinct similarities they’re not really aimed at the same type of customer. Stripe does offer a huge one-stop suite of expandable payment tools. It is also, like Square, a third-party processor. Stripe is even dipping its toe into POS, and now offers in-person transactions at a comparable price to Square, though its in-person feature set is far more limited. Stripe’s international commerce reach is far greater, however, and really only rivaled by PayPal where third-party processors are concerned.
Stripe is geared first and foremost toward the developers who will implement its toolset into their company’s payments processes or their own eCommerce service. You don’t need to be a programming genius to use Stripe, but having someone on your team who can play with its code under the hood is important if you want to get the most out of it.
- Excellent developer tools
- Advanced reporting tools
- Ideal for international merchants
- Exceptional subscription tools
- Multicurrency support
- Needs technical skill or third party software to implement
- Barebones POS support
Square Payments Overview
Square is one of the biggest names in payment processing. It’s famous for being a convenient, pay-as-you solution for lower volume businesses that do most of their transactions in-person. While Square does excel in this area, the company hasn’t forfeited eCommerce to its competitors.
Square now boasts a respectable offering of eCommerce tools that is likely more than adequate for the majority of its customers. There’s not as much here for international sales or highly customizable security features, but like the rest of Square’s offerings it’s meticulously and elegantly designed as well as easy to use.
- Impressive feature set
- Affordable chip readers
- Powerful multi-channel ecosystem
- Limited international payment method support
- No single-account support for multiple currencies
- Expensive for larger and high-volume businesses
Key Differences Between Stripe & Square
For all their similarities as third party processors with month-to-month billing, there are a handful of key attributes that differentiate the two services. Let’s take a closer look:
Both Stripe and Square target smaller businesses looking for broad, platform-based solutions, but ultimately their strategies take opposite forms. Stripe primarily targets eCommerce businesses and provides nominal support for POS if desired. Square primarily targets brick and mortar business transactions but makes it easy for businesses to dabble in eCommerce. Stripe and Square have similarly pricing for eCommerce, but Square is typically cheaper for in-person transactions.
Square has come a long way in developing its toolsets for programmers, but Stripe is at or close to the top of the list when it comes to do-it-yourself customizations.
Both Square and Stripe take a modular approach to advanced features, allowing you to add premium features to your base month-to-month accounts. Square tends to break their advanced features into packages that you pay for with a monthly fee. Stripe, on the other hand, typically charges an additional percentage per transaction for its advanced features. There’s no clear winner here: you’ll need to consider your transaction volume and needs.
Square can take credit cards through the Square app in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia. Stripe is available in 40 countries, with four more available by invitation. Both Stripe and Square support different payment methods depending on the country, but Stripe supports considerably more overall. Square does not currently allow you to charge your customer in different currencies; to do so you’d need to open a separate account. Stripe supports currency conversion as well as the ability to route different currencies to different accounts if you want to avoid conversion charges.
Stripe and Square are both third-party payment processors. This means that when you sign up for an account, you won’t be given your own merchant account. Instead, Stripe and Square aggregate their customers into large merchant account pools, from which processing fees are deducted. The advantage is that you can start and stop your account quickly. The disadvantage is that you may experience account instability and, when you do, it can be difficult to resolve account freezes and holds.
Third-party processors are popular because they have very low barriers to entry, and their month-to-month agreements are convenient for small, low-volume businesses. These platforms also offer supplemental services for businesses that want the convenience of getting them from a single provider. If you want to really get into the weeds on features, check out our Stripe and Square Payments reviews. Here, however, are some ways in which the services differ:
Square, for the most part, focuses on letting merchants accept card payments. You won’t get ACH support, but if you sell online, you can add support for online/mobile wallets.
Stripe’s payment processing goes beyond cards. In addition to ACH, Stripe allows merchants to accept a host of localized payments favored in different parts of the world. Plus, for online payments, you can add Apple Pay on the web and other mobile wallets.
Businesses that aren’t looking to do a lot of coding in-house will want to look for strong shopping cart integrations for eCommerce.
In keeping with its user-friendly reputation, Square makes it easy for businesses to engage in eCommerce. Square has acquired Weebly for an easy, affordable eCommerce option. Plus, Square’s list of integrations already includes some of the best shopping cart options — and the list keeps growing. Square is an omnichannel solution for merchants who want to sell anywhere without needing to build a complicated system of integrations or do a lot of coding work. The advantage of choosing Square is that you can get set up quickly with access to all of Square’s free tools and software, and it’s ready to go after you import your products and adjust your settings a bit.
Square also has Square Online Checkout, which is designed to match some of PayPal’s eCommerce flexibility. Square Online Checkout allows you to generate a link/button that you can embed in your website, emails, texts, or social media posts. The link allows the buyer to buy your product, make a donation, or otherwise transfer money to you. It’s currently only available in the US.
Where Square goes for ease of use, Stripe dominates in the sheer number of integrations. In addition to integrations with major eCommerce software providers, developers have created an assortment of plug-ins for businesses operating on WordPress, Magento, and other websites. If you’re not sure where to start, you might end up needing to do a lot of research to decide the best course of action — but you can at least take heart in knowing that there’ll be something that will meet your needs.
Stripe also has far more robust options for businesses that need to take recurring payments, particularly ACH payments. While Square does offer advanced reporting, it’s still nothing compared to the power of Stripe Sigma, an SQL-based custom reporting tool.
Billing & Invoices
Both Stripe and Square offer billing functionality, but they go about it in different ways. Remember that Square tends to segment its services into sub-services like Square Online and Square Invoices. The good news is that maintaining a Square Invoices account doesn’t cost anything. While not the most comprehensive service, it is very easy to use, offering quick billing, online payment processing, sales analytics, a POS sales app, and inventory management.
Stripe Billing lets you send one-off invoices or manage monthly billing and subscriptions. It also supports marketing tools and tiered and usage-based subscriptions. Stripe Billing is an add-on service that adds a small fee to recurring charges depending on whether you choose the Starter or Scale package. The Scale packages automatically sends Stripe data to NetSuite.
As “full-stack” payment services, both Square and Stripe offer extremely robust APIs for any developers on your staff. It’s not so much a matter of which service better supports developers, but which ecosystem better suits your business.
Square’s dev tools make it possible for you to create almost any custom integration you could need. For eCommerce, there are two APIs: Checkout and Transactions. Square Checkout is a premade form that can be dropped into a site with minimal fuss. Using Checkout means merchants are eligible for some perks, such as next-day deposits and chargeback protection. The Transaction API, combined with Square’s payment form, is more customizable. Square also supports app-based payments and supports iOS, Android, and Flutter SDKs.
In-person payments are Square’s specialty. Square POS is one of the most powerful free mobile apps out there, and it does very well as a countertop iPad POS, too. Check out our complete review for an in-depth look at the app as well as compatible hardware. You also have the option to work Square integrations into your existing POS system.
In comparison, you probably aren’t looking in Stripe’s direction if you’re mainly a brick-and-mortar business. Stripe does, however, support POS payments through Stripe Terminal. This isn’t a full suite of hardware and custom apps, but rather developer tools you can use to integrate Stripe into compatible POS apps. It’s not a bad option if you’re already in Stripe’s ecosystem. While Square more or less blows Stripe out of the water where POS is concerned, Stripe can boast one unexpectd advantage. With Square’s base rate change to 2.6% + $0.10, Stripe’s 2.7% + $0.05 rate for card-present transactions can actually be a little cheaper than for small in-person transactions. The breakeven point is $50.
Yes, capital, as in loans. Payment processing services, such as Square, Stripe, and PayPal, have begun offering their customers financing. It’s not as strange as it sounds. Payment processors have a pretty good idea of what your revenue looks like, as well as the infrastructure to collect payments on any debt they issue. While both companies call their products loans, they actually function a bit more like merchant cash advances. That is to say, they’re repaid by your payment processor taking a percentage of your credit card sales until you’ve repaid the amount you were extended, plus a flat fee.
I wouldn’t recommend choosing either service based on their Capital program: it’s more of a perk than anything. Overall, Stripe’s service is reportedly faster, but Square reportedly offers high borrowing amounts. Neither company lists a range of fees, but both use 10% as an example.
Stripe VS Square: Fees, Rates, & Pricing
I am happy to say that pricing for both Square and Stripe is mostly straightforward. There are no monthly fees, no monthly minimums, and no statement fees. That’s very nice to see.
You might run into a few situations that aren’t simply explained, but here’s what you can generally expect for pricing:
|Pricing Model||Flat-rate, pay-as-you-go||Flat rate, pay-as-you-go|
|Online Transaction Cost||2.9% + $0.30||2.9% + $0.30|
|In-Person Transaction Cost||2.7% + $0.05||2.6% + $0.10|
|ACH Payments||0.8% (maximum $5)||1% (minimum $1)|
As you can see, Stripe and Square’s pricing schemes are very similar. 2.9% + $0.30 is more or less the industry rate for online transactions, at least as far as flat-rate pricing is concerned. We touched on in-person transactions earlier, but to sum up: Stripe is cheaper for transactions under $50, Square for transactions over $50. Square’s POS infrastructure is much more developed, however, so I’d think of Stripe’s POS support as more of a perk to supplement your online transactions than a go-to for in-person transactions. That said, undercutting Square in the price department for small transactions could make Stripe a surprisingly good darkhorse solution.
Square also has no chargeback fees, which is very unusual. Not only that, but the company has rolled out Chargeback Protection, which will cover the actual chargeback costs on qualifying disputes up to $250 per month. This doesn’t apply to merchants who use the Transactions API, but it is available for those who use Square Checkout. For each chargeback, Stripe will assess a $15 fee (unless the chargeback is decided in your favor). In that case, you’ll pay absolutely nothing.
Square does now offer ACH payment support, although it comes in at a higher cost than Stripe’s.
Ease Of Use
Square has built its empire on the idea of simplicity. All of its software works perfectly together, with centralized reporting. While the premium iPad POS systems (Square for Retail and Square for Restaurants) offer interfaces designed especially for their respective niches, Square POS — the free mobile point of sale app — is very intuitive and easy to use. Square’s eCommerce options are likewise easy to use; you just need to connect Square to your online store to enable payments. However, keep in mind that the complexity of your eCommerce store depends on which shopping cart software you use. Control of your payment information — from the POS app, your online store, invoices, and any other channel — is all centralized under the Square dashboard.
Stripe is complex. It’s the nature of the beast — with so many features and a developer-first focus, Stripe is not going to be as simple as Square, especially for users who aren’t exactly tech-savvy. Though there are ways around having to type any code, these “plug-and-play” integrations aren’t the service’s real strength. Once you get Stripe up and running, it’s perfectly user-friendly, but it’s really hard to beat Square in this arena.
Customer Service & Support
It wasn’t always the case, but Square and Stripe have similar avenues of contact for customer support. After years of lagging behind, Stripe actually may be easier to reach by phone: Stripe’s phone service is 24/7, while Square’s is Mon. – Fri, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. PT. This doesn’t necessarily speak to the quality of that service, however, and both companies receive similar complaints regarding account freezes and holds.
In addition to the contact methods above, Stripe now offers large businesses premium support packages starting at $1,000/month.
User Reviews, Complaints & Criticisms
As far as complaints go, the single biggest issue for both Square and Stripe is a common one:
- Account Holds & Terminations: This is unsurprising (understatement of the year, right there) because it’s a common issue with any third-party processor. Because these payment systems are usually open to almost anyone right away and they are all lumped into one large merchant account, there’s a greater risk that some of those accounts will be terminated for risky behavior. There’s very little scrutiny done before a subaccount with one of these processors is approved, which stands in contrast to merchant accounts, where the processing company will do a lot of underwriting and investigation before approving your application. Both Square and Stripe use a lot of machine learning to analyze transactions and flag suspicious behaviors. The potential for account holds or terminations is universal — you will encounter it with any third-party processor. If you want to avoid it, your only alternative is to seek out a traditional merchant account.
The other big complaint that I see with both is also a pretty common one:
- Poor Customer Support: If I’m honest, reports about the quality of customer service conflict. But because of how common the complaints are, I’m listing it here. With Stripe, the most common issues are the lack of live support (which, in theory, should no longer be a problem) and slow response times for email. With Square, a lot of the complaints about poor customer service come from terminated merchants, but I’ve seen a few complaints about slow or unhelpful email responses.
Additional frequent complaints about Stripe include:
- Lack Of Fraud Protection: I want to be clear: Stripe does have fraud management tools and a system to help merchants fight chargebacks. But I have seen complaints from merchants who don’t think these are adequate. Chargebacks are not settled by Stripe, so there’s not much the company can do beyond pass the requested documents on. But for fraud prevention, merchants need to make sure they have the appropriate tools enabled.
- Not User-Friendly: There’s a lot of testimonials from users (especially developers) who like Stripe and find it simple to set up. There are plenty of others who disagree with that idea. I’m inclined to think most people with a decent technical backing will get along fine with Stripe, but for some people, especially those with less technical knowledge, it’s not going to be a good choice.
For Square, there are two other common complaints:
- Lack Of Advanced Features: It’s not that Square doesn’t have enough features or that it’s missing anything important. The complaints about Square often focus on the lack of very particular advanced features that you typically find in full-scale POS systems. In this case, I think Square’s lack of extensive subscription tools would fit the bill. As another example, some merchants have been upset for quite a while over the lack of Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) reporting. Square added this feature with its Square for Retail app, but not for online sales or its free POS. Square has some robust reporting tools, but in the end, they won’t hold a candle to Stripe’s Sigma offering.
- New POS Pricing Model: For a long time, Square was a great deal for small businesses that conducted a lot of small, in-person transactions. The 2.75% flat pricing meant that the cost of your transaction always scaled with your sale. That’s gone now, with Square using a more typical percent-plus model (2.6% + $0.10). While there’s nothing sinister about this — it more accurately reflects the costs involved — it has affected a lot of Square’s customers.
Neither Square nor Stripe lacks in the integration department. In fact, you’ll probably need to use search tools to dig through the overwhelming number that they have. Overall, Square probably has an edge in terms of big-name integrations, where Stripe is more of a platform that you hack on (or, in plain English, mess around with).
Square centralizes its integrations in the Square App Marketplace, which is good because there are a lot of them. They include accounting tools, eCommerce, invoicing, POS systems, inventory, recurring billing, and a lot more. Lately, Square has added more integrations tailored to specific industries, such as healthcare management, too. As I touched on earlier, you can also develop your apps for Square using one of its APIs.
Stripe similarly consolidates its official integrations on its Partners page, where you can find first-party extensions, eCommerce platforms, accounting synchronization, POS software, customer management extensions, and more. You can also join Stripe’s Partner program as a developer or commission one to build you a custom app.
Which Is Best For My Online Payment Processing Needs?
If you’ve made it this far, you probably have a decent idea of each company’s strengths and weaknesses. If you skipped ahead, or if you’re looking for a neat and tidy summary, you came to the right place.
Choose Square If…
- You run a brick-and-mortar business. If you only do some of your business online, you’ll likely benefit more from Square’s POS infrastructure, software, and hardware.
- You want an easy-to-use solution. Not a developer? Don’t know any developers? Don’t want to know any developers? Square is designed to get you up and running quickly, with access to popular integrations as well.
- You also want productivity and management support. Square offers a lot of tools to help you manage your company and your customer base.
Choose Stripe If…
- Your business does international eCommerce. Stripe’s support for multiple currencies and payment methods makes it a better choice for companies doing business globally.
- Your business is completely or mostly online. While you can use Stripe for POS, that’s not where it shines. Its ecosystem is optimized for online transactions.
- You have an in-house developer. Stripe is made with developers foremost in mind. Whereas this can sometimes make it inconvenient for laypeople, a programmer or two should be able to get it up and running with little effort thanks to Stripe’s extensive documentation and tutorials.
Frequently Asked Questions About Square & Stripe
Square VS Stripe: The Final Verdict
Stripe and Square have some very important core similarities: They’re both third-party processors with an assortment of tools that allow merchants to sell online. Neither one is suited to high-risk industries, and there’s a lengthy list of businesses neither company can work with. But despite that, both Stripe and Square offer tools that cater to a huge assortment of industries. They’ll both grow with your business, making it easy to scale up. But despite their similarities in terms of business model, it’s also pretty clear that what each company does best is completely different.
Square is a spectacular all-in-one processor, with a ready-made solution. You can sell in a store, on the go, and online — and get all of your information and payments and orders collected in one simple, intuitive dashboard. There’s a vast array of add-on products that allow you to consolidate a host of business functions under one name, and they’re guaranteed to work together perfectly. If you have limited technical knowledge, Square is going to be much easier to get started with and to navigate through the different features.
Stripe focuses on internet payments (both on the web and in-app), but its tools make it possible for businesses to cater to customers all over the globe. The international appeal — from the local currency displays to the sheer breadth of payment methods accepted — makes it clear that Stripe is already a global player. Not only that, but with Stripe’s APIs and documentation, a savvy developer could create all kinds of payment customizations for a business. Business owners who don’t have a developer on staff and who don’t have a lot of technical knowledge themselves may initially struggle with understanding how to use Stripe, especially if they want to do more than integrate it with some sort of shopping cart software.
Sit down, think about what features are mandatory for you to have — and then look at which ones you’d like to have, but aren’t necessarily required. From there, it should be fairly clear which solution is right for you! Don’t forget to check out our complete reviews of Stripe and Square for more insights into how they function.