The Best Payment Platform for Your Business: Paypal, Square, Stripe and Braintree Compared

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best payment platforms

Businesses of all sizes are looking for new ways to accept payments in our fast-paced global economy. Checks are practically a thing of the past and, luckily, getting paid for goods and services is getting a lot easier.

If you’re an entrepreneur starting a new venture or a growing business looking to cross that next revenue milestone, you’re probably wondering what the best payment platform is for your business.

I’ll compare the largest companies currently in the market that can help you get paid: PayPal, Square, Stripe and Braintree. I’ll give you the rundown on their best features to help you decide which one you should use.

Top Features of Paypal vs. Square vs. Stripe vs. Braintree

If you’re considering which platform to use, the features they offer should drive your decision making. Whether your business operates at weekend farmers markets or sells modern backpacks on a website, how and where your customers pay you are just a few of things you need to consider.

PayPal

You’re probably familiar with the ability check out online quickly with your PayPal account, but they offer much more for their business customers.

PayPal has a wide array of merchant service options to help you integrate payments into your website or simply add a “Checkout with PayPal” option to your online cart. They also offer small business loans as well as the ability to help you finance your clients’ purchases.

One of PayPal’s biggest selling points is same-day availability of funds into your PayPal account. If you have a PayPal for Business Debit card, you can get cash from an ATM right away. The best the competition can do is next-day.

That being said, they aren’t a standout in any one particular aspect of accepting payments. While PayPal Here—Paypal’s card reader that’s similar to the Square Reader—is free, you need to provide your own equipment for offline sales.

Square

Square started as a mobile-focused payment processor that has grown to be a major player. Their easy-to-use payment products, modern technology and simple setup are all very appealing. I think we’ve all run into the ubiquitous little white Square Reader at some point.

Additionally, Square offers helpful small business services like payroll management, business loans, invoicing and even gift cards for business to sell to their clientele.

Square’s biggest downside is their fixed pricing model that isn’t competitive for larger companies.

Stripe

Payments, billing and connect. These are the primary tenants of Stripe’s products that allow you to accept payments directly from customers, bill your clients directly and merge all aspects of your receivables in one.

While you may not see their name on any of your favorite mobile apps, you’ve probably worked with the companies they support, including Lyft and Kickstarter. Stripe’s technology is seamlessly integrated into those companies’ API (or Application Program Interface).

But you don’t need to be the next high-tech app to work with Stripe. One impressive service is a tool, called Atlas, that’s designed for people just starting out. Atlas literally helps you start your business by filing your corporation or LLC, helping create your org docs and even setting up a bank account.

Braintree

While Braintree could be a good option for the right startup, its bread and butter is larger, more established corporations. They offer similar services as Stripe, with great UI (User Interface) integration.

Not only does Braintree offer scalable payment solutions for fast-growing businesses, they also offer the most payment options (listed down below). While they do offer standard pricing, custom quotes are more likely what you’ll need if you’re already accepting payments in volume.

Lastly, they offer unique services, like establishing loyalty programs, recurring billing, state-of-the-art fraud protections and more.

How Much Will It Cost You?

Of course, pricing is a major factor in any business decision. You’ll see that the base pricing for all four platforms is very similar. If you like simplicity, PayPal and Square are good. Once your business grows, custom pricing from Stripe and Braintree will become a necessity.

PayPal

PayPal is probably the most well-known merchant services provider, and because many consumers have PayPal accounts, this is certainly in your favor. They also offer invoicing and fundraising assistance.

As a result, their pricing varies depending on which features you’re using. PayPal Here credit card processing fees start at 2.7% per swipe, while keyed payments are 3.5% + $0.15 per trans.

Startup costs are minimal, too, and like its competitors, they only charge for equipment beyond the basic magnetic stripe reader you’ll need for mobile credit card processing. If you’re looking for online payments and invoicing, those start at 2.9% per transaction.

Square

Square has a similar pricing model as PayPal but at different tiers depending on how the transaction is processed. Square payments, using a Square Reader, cost 2.5% + $0.10 per tap, dip or swipe.

Using a different type of reader? Now you’ll pay 2.75% per transaction. Virtual terminal and keyed transactions jump to 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction. Lastly, invoices and e-Commerce payments are 2.9% + $0.15 each.

Further, custom rates are available but only for businesses with $250k+ in credit card sales with average transactions over $15. You’re probably better off with Stripe or Braintree.

Like PayPal Here, you have to pony up for extra equipment aside from the mobile credit card reader, but their sleek hardware gives your business that 21st century look.

Stripe

Stripe’s standard pricing is easy to find as it’s one click away on their website. You’ll pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction with an extra 1% for international transactions. While on the higher side, they do offer custom pricing, so these figures are only starting points.

Also to note, Stripe offers direct debit at 0.8% with a max fee of $5.

Braintree

Braintree matches Stripe’s pricing at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction with custom pricing available for higher volume businesses. But I like that the pricing page of their website lists all the other extras you could encounter, like the added 1% fee of non-USD currencies.

Braintree also offers direct debit at just 0.75% per transaction and a fee cap of just $5. That’s a pretty cheap alternative to accepting credit cards.

How Can Your Customers Pay?

We’ve talked features and pricing, but I’ll quickly run through what types of payments each platform can handle.

PayPal

  • Checks (yep, you may still get them, and only PayPal supports)
  • Credit and signature debit cards
  • Electronic Invoices
  • PIN debit
  • PayPal (obviously)

Square

  • Credit and signature debit cards
  • Electronic Invoices
  • Pay with Square

Stripe

  • Credit and signature debit cards
  • ACH (debit and credit)
  • Alipay
  • Bancontact
  • Electronic Invoices
  • EPS
  • Giropay
  • iDEAL
  • P24
  • SEPA Direct Debit
  • SOFORT
  • WeChat Pay
  • Wire

Braintree

  • ACH
  • AMEX Express Checkout
  • Apple Pay
  • Credit and signature debit cards
  • Electronic Invoices
  • Google Pay
  • masterpass
  • PayPal and PayPal Credit
  • Venmo
  • Visa Checkout

So, Which Payment Platform Is the Best?

We’ve looked the best payment platforms around. And the short answer is that it depends on your business.

If you have a retail presence, Square is the way to go. Meanwhile, PayPal is good for businesses that want an easy setup. Established companies should look to Braintree, while brand-new startups will find Stripe to fit a majority of their needs.

You Need a Small Business Credit Card, Too

While I mainly focused on which of these companies you should use to accept payments, you need to manage your business expenses, too. While saving money on accepting payments is key, maximizing your rewards on your own purchases should be a priority as well.

You can find the best business cards here, but there are a couple standouts at the moment.

The CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard is great if you often fly on American Airlines. It’s currently offering 70,000 miles as a sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 within the first four months of application.

Small business credit card

Is cashback more your style? Check out the Capital One Spark Cash for Business card that offers 2% back on every purchase. You’ll also earn a cool $500 sign-up bonus after spending $4,500 on purchases within 90 days of sign up.

With these options, you can pad your loyalty balance for that next trip or perhaps put a little cash back into your business.