Stripe and Square both offer flexible and easy-to-use payment processing for small businesses. Square offers payment processing for online, mobile, and in-store sales, while Stripe is just for online businesses. In comparing Stripe vs Square, Square is best for retailers and multichannel sellers, while Stripe is best for tech-savvy online businesses.
When to Use Square
Use Square to accept credit cards in-store, on a mobile device, online, or any combination of sales channels. When looking at Square versus Stripe, only Square handles payments across all sales channels in one streamlined system and includes free business management tools. Square includes a free point-of-sale (POS) system, sales reporting, and inventory management. Visit Square to start a free account.
When to Use Stripe
Stripe is an innovative payment processing solution for online and in-app payments. Stripe does have a simple checkout option you can add to any website, but developers use Stripe to create customized checkout solutions for high-volume sellers, subscription businesses, and more. Stripe is a great solution, but is best suited for tech-savvy startups or businesses with a developer. Visit Stripe to get started.
When to Use an Alternative
If you are a nonprofit organization looking to sell online, PayPal offers discounted payment processing rates for nonprofit organizations. Like Square, PayPal has a mobile app for accepting credit card payments in-person. And they have multiple online checkout options that are easy to add to any website. Visit PayPal to create a free account.
Stripe vs Square at a Glance
|Online Payment Processing Fees|
|In-person Payment Processing Fees|
|PCI-compliant Online Checkout|
|Ease of Use|
How We Evaluated Stripe vs Square
When evaluating Square versus Stripe, we looked at what kind of payment processing solutions each offers for online payments and how easy those solutions are to implement. We also considered price and other features such as mobile and in-store payments, POS apps, and back-end management features like inventory and analytics.
The criteria we used to evaluate Stripe versus Square include:
- Price: We looked at how much each solution costs to set up, payment processing fees, and any other fees.
- Ease of use: The best solution should be easy for any small business to set up.
- Sales channels: We considered how each solution allows businesses to accept payments online, in-store, or over mobile.
- Payment types and security: We looked at what types of payments each solution accepts and whether or not they are PCI compliant.
- Ecommerce features: We evaluated what ecommerce features or integrations are available, such as online stores or open API tools.
- POS apps: We considered what other apps or features each solution offers for accepting payments in-person.
- Chargeback protection: We compared how each solution handles chargebacks and what the fees are.
- Customer service: We looked at what kind of customer support each solution offers for business owners.
Stripe vs Square: Pricing & Features
To help determine if Stripe or Square is best for your business, we’ll compare the pricing and features for each solution in-depth. At first glance, Stripe and Square cost the same for online sellers, but the features they offer are very different. Square is best for multichannel sellers as well as online sellers who also want a free website. Stripe is ideal for tech-savvy online businesses that want to create a custom checkout solution.
Square Pricing & Features
Square is an ideal solution for the average new small business looking for a low-cost solution to accept payments online and in-person. Square does not offer as much flexibility in their online payments as Stripe, nor does Square accept as many payment types. But it is incredibly easy to use, and doesn’t require businesses to connect their payment processing with a third-party system. All of the tools you need to accept payments online, over mobile, and in-person are included in the Square platform.
Like Stripe, the primary cost of using Square is the credit card processing fees. Square and Stripe both have flat-rate transaction fees with a pay-as-you-go model. There are no startup, monthly, or cancellation fees for a basic Square account, which includes payment processing, an online store, and a basic POS app. Square does offer expanded features, like marketing and payroll, which come with a monthly fee.
Square Payment Processing Fees
|In-store & mobile sales|
|Virtual terminal (keyed-in)|
Here are the fees you would pay with Square to process a $100 credit card charge:
Square Processing Fees for a $100 Transaction
|In-store & mobile|
Other Square Cost Considerations
Square provides a free credit card reader for your smartphone or tablet when you open your free Square account. So for most sellers, credit card fees are the only cost of using Square.
However, if you need a checkout register or more advanced credit card reader, you’ll need to purchase some hardware. Square offers several low-cost options and even has one with a payment plan, so you can add these capabilities without spending much upfront.
Here are Square’s credit card reader and register hardware options and costs:
- Magstripe card reader: Free with Square account
- Contactless and chip reader: $49
- iPad register stand with card reader: $169, iPad not included
- Square Register: $999 or $49 per month for 24 months, includes tablet, stand, customer-facing display, and card reader
Square also has optional features that you can add onto your account as needed for a monthly fee. These features include industry-specific POS systems for retail and restaurant, advanced ecommerce features, payroll management, loyalty programs, email marketing, and more.
Fees for optional Square features include:
- Square POS: $0
- Square online store: $0
- Square Retail: $60 per month
- Square Restaurants: $60 per month
- Square Loyalty: From $45 per month
- Square Marketing: From $15 per month
- Advanced ecommerce: From $12 per month
- Employee management: $5 per month per employee
- Payroll: From $5 per month
Square Payments Accepted
Square processes all major credit cards, plus Apple Pay, Android Pay, and eWallet payments across all sales channels. Square also offers a free card reader and POS for accepting mobile payments. Stripe does not have any features for accepting in-person payments.
However, Stripe accepts more types of online payments, including 135 different currencies, and offers really affordable ACH payment processing, which Square does not have. ACH, or Automated Clearing House, payments are bank-to-bank transactions also known as e-check payments or electronic fund transfers. If you are a multichannel seller, Square wins this category. But if you are an online-only business, Stripe accepts more payment types.
Square International Payments
With Square, you can accept credit card payments from international customers using internationally-issued Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, JCB, or UnionPay cards. Unlike Stripe, Square doesn’t handle the currency conversions for you, so your international customers may pay currency conversion charges from their card issuer.
Square PCI Compliance
Square, like Stripe, offers hosted payments that are PCI compliant. There are no extra steps businesses need to take. When comparing Square versus Stripe on PCI compliance, they are dead even.
Square Ecommerce Features
When it comes to integrating Square and Stripe payments with ecommerce platforms, they both have plug-and-play integrations with popular platforms. They both also have open API and developer tools, though Stripe’s has more features and resources for building custom checkouts. However, only Square has a free online store feature. With Square, businesses can create a free ecommerce site that automatically connects to Square payments.
Square Mobile Payments
Square has an industry-leading mobile POS solution for accepting payments on-the-go. Square’s mobile POS app is free and easy to use, and all Square accounts come with a free card reader. Stripe does not offer any kind of mobile payment or POS solution, so you would need to connect it with a third-party software. If you need to regularly accept in-person payments, Square is the better choice for your business.
Square Virtual Terminal
A virtual terminal lets you key or type in credit and debit card numbers to process payments for things like phone orders, invoice payments, and when you don’t have a card reader available. Square’s free virtual terminal is available on the Square dashboard online and in the mobile app. Since you’re not physically swiping the credit card, Square’s keyed-in payments carry a higher processing fee than in-person and online methods: 3.5% plus 15 cents per transaction.
Square POS Features
Square’s free POS system is a leading small business management platform. With Square, businesses can process sales, record transactions across multiple channels and stores, manage inventory, schedule employees, track commissions, and collect customer contact information. You can even add fully integrated advanced features like marketing campaigns, loyalty programs, appointment scheduling, and complete payroll for low monthly fees. Stripe does not offer any POS features, so Square is the clear winner here.
Square Recurring Payments
Square supports recurring payments for monthly fees, lessons, and repeat services like lawn care or maid services. Recurring payments are done through Square’s online invoicing function. It works well, but for managing high-volume recurring payments, like for an online subscription service or subscription box sellers, Stripe is the better choice.
Square Chargeback Protection
Square offers $250 of chargeback protection coverage per month. So, if one of your customers disputes a charge, you have some protection against the loss. To be eligible for protection, you need to respond to the payment dispute within Square’s seven-day window and show that you followed Square’s recommended fraud prevention best practices. Stripe does offer very good fraud prevention tools, but no protection insurance if you lose a dispute.
Another plus when it comes to chargebacks is that Square doesn’t have a chargeback fee. In contrast, Stripe charges a $15 fee when a customer disputes a charge. Stripe refunds this if you win the dispute, but if you lose, you’re out the sale amount plus $15. With Square, if you lose, you’re just out the sale amount, and if the transaction is eligible, your loss is covered through Square’s chargeback protection. Visit Square to create a free account.
Stripe Pricing & Features
Stripe’s most impressive feature is its highly customizable, developer-level payment tools. These tools are great for building custom online checkouts, adding a checkout solution to an existing website, or building an in-app payment processing solution. However, building a custom checkout requires technical knowledge and development skills. Instead, we’ll focus on how well Stripe delivers the features that most small sellers need to accept payments and manage sales, and how those compare to Square.
Overall, Stripe is free to use. Small businesses will just pay a transaction fee. There are no setup, cancellation, or monthly fees with a Stripe account. Both Square and Stripe are free to use and offer flat-rate payment processing. They both charge an online transaction fee of 2.9% + 30 cents for most transactions. However, Stripe accepts more payment types than Square, including ACH payments.
Stripe Payment Processing Fees
Here is what you would pay to Stripe to process a $100 credit charge for each type of payment method:
Stripe Processing Fees for a $100 Transaction
|Online credit card|
|Online international credit card|
Other Stripe Cost Considerations
Stripe provides a great selection of payment processing options, including cost-saving options like ACH payment processing. But, unlike Square, Stripe does not offer any online store solutions, POS apps, or any kind of checkout hardware. To use Stripe as an online payment processor, you will need to connect it to a separate website or ecommerce platform, which will typically come with fees ranging from $10 to $100 per month. Square, on the other hand, offers a free online store for online payments, and has a free POS app for in-person payments.
Stripe includes the following features:
Stripe Payments Accepted
Stripe processes all major credit cards, plus Apple Pay, Android Pay, Google Pay, eWallet payments, ACH, and e-check payments for U.S. sellers. For global payments, Stripe accepts AliPay and WeChatPay. It’s also working on accepting a growing number cryptocurrencies and other types of online payments. If you’re interested in accepting emerging payment methods online, you can even have Stripe notify you as they become available. Overall, Stripe definitely beats Square when it comes to accepting a variety of payment types.
Stripe accepts many payment types, including international payments and 135 currencies
As mentioned above, Stripe accepts ACH payments (Square does not), which can be a huge cost-saver for your business. Stripe’s ACH payment processing fees are just .8% and capped at $5 per transaction. Here’s a look at how ACH fees compare to credit card processing fees:
Stripe ACH Payment vs Credit Card Payment Fees
Stripe International Payments
In comparing Stripe versus Square, Stripe has more international payment options. Stripe accepts payments in 135 international currencies, and handles real-time currency conversions right on your website. That means international customers can see the cost of products in their currency and make purchases without conversion charges. This feature is very rare, and something that Square does not offer. So, if you have an international customer base, Stripe would be the better option for you.
Stripe PCI Compliance
Both Stripe and Square have hosted checkouts, meaning all data is processed through their systems, so you don’t have to worry about handling sensitive data yourself. Both solutions are PCI compliant, so you don’t have to worry about taking any extra steps. Stripe has security guides on its website to walk you through PCI compliance for all of its integration options.
Stripe Ecommerce Features
Stripe is designed for online sellers, so it can connect with virtually any type of website, online sales platform, or ecommerce platform. Stripe also integrates with in-app payment solutions, subscription sites, and multiseller online marketplaces. Many popular ecommerce platforms have direct plug-and-play integrations with Stripe, so it is easy to install. If you are a developer or have one on your team, Stripe has a robust developer toolkit for creating custom ecommerce checkout solutions.
Stripe and Square both integrate with popular ecommerce platforms. Stripe has more tools for developing custom checkout solutions. But, only Square offers free tools to create a website. Stripe needs to be connected to another platform, whereas with Square you can do everything through the one provider.
Stripe Mobile Payments
Currently, Stripe does not offer any solutions for in-person mobile payments. If you are an online seller using Stripe, and want to add in-person sales, you will need a third-party POS app or payments system. Square, on the other hand, has a free mobile app and sends all account holders a free mobile card reader for accepting payments.
Stripe Virtual Terminal
Stripe doesn’t have a virtual terminal feature and supports very limited keyed-in entry payments within its dashboard. Stripe users get around this by entering phoned-in orders via their website or by using one of the many Stripe-integrated third-party invoicing solutions. Square’s streamlined, all-in-one solution beats Stripe in this aspect since it includes a built-in virtual terminal in its free point-of-sale system.
Stripe POS Features
Unlike Square, Stripe does not offer POS features. Stripe is beta testing a programmable POS solution, but it is currently invite-only. So, to use Stripe to accept in-person payments, you will need to connect Stripe to a third-party solution, which may come with additional fees and will definitely require some setup time. Square, on the other hand, offers a free POS system that can be used on iOS and Android phones and tablets. Square’s POS app is extremely easy to use and requires very little setup.
Stripe Recurring Payments
In comparing Stripe versus Square for recurring payments, Stripe is the better solution, particularly for high-volume sellers or businesses with a subscription model. Stripe has a solution called Stripe Subscriptions that helps you design and manage recurring payments for any type of subscription business, including educational sites, subscription box retailers, health and fitness memberships, free trials, auto-renew payments, and more.
Stripe Chargeback Protection
Stripe has industry-standard procedures when it comes to disputes and chargebacks. It charges a $15 chargeback fee if a dispute is filed, and refunds that fee if the dispute is decided in your favor. But if you lose, you’re out the sale amount plus $15. Unlike Square, Stripe offers no protection coverage if you lose a dispute.
Stripe does, however, provide its sellers with a top-rated fraud protection tool called Radar. It uses machine learning to help you identify high-risk sales and gives sellers tools to flag risky transactions before clearing or to block high-risk sales altogether. Though Stripe doesn’t match Square’s $250 per month chargeback protection, Radar helps minimize your chances of becoming a victim of online fraud. Visit Stripe to create a free account.
Stripe vs Square Ease of Use
Overall, Stripe and Square are both relatively easy to use, as they are designed for small businesses and startups. They are both extremely easy (and free) to sign up for, and offer instant access to credit card processing tools. However, making the most out of what Stripe has to offer requires some technical development knowledge.
Square Ease of Use
Whether you’re looking to create an online store, sell via mobile, or add Square payments to an existing POS or ecommerce platform, Square makes it very easy to get started. Signing up for a free account takes just a few minutes, and then you can manage everything through your Square Dashboard. POS apps can be downloaded for free on any iOS or Android device. Plus, Square has a Getting Started guide, complete with step-by-step instructions and videos.
Stripe Ease of Use
Like Square, Stripe gives you instant access to its wide array of credit card processing tools the minute you sign up for your Stripe account. Unlike Square, which lets you accept credit cards using a number of online and offline means, to accept payments with Stripe, you’ll need to connect it to an online sales platform, like an online store. This is how Stripe is used by the majority of its small business users.
Stripe provides plug-and-play integrations for a huge number of ecommerce platforms. In most cases, your online setup takes just minutes. But, you do need to have your separate online store setup to accept orders and payments online using Stripe. Plus, if you want to use Stripe for in-person payments, you’ll have to add third-party providers, which requires additional setup.
Overall, Stripe is incredibly simple to set up and use for what it’s intended for, and that’s online payments. But to add functionality that competes with Square’s in-person payments and business management features, Stripe’s overall ease of use falls sharply since you have to wade through multiple third-party solutions to make it all work.
Stripe vs Square Customer Service
Customer service is one area where both Square and Stripe can fall short compared to other payment processing solutions. Of the two, only Square offers phone support, which has limited hours and requires a customer code. Both Square and Stripe have robust online knowledge databases and tutorials. Stripe’s customer service is available through online forms and group chat.
Square Customer Service
Square offers phone support to account holders. If you want to actually speak to someone to learn more about it, simply sign up for a free Square account and you’ll be able to call in using a phone access code before you ever process a charge. Phone support is available Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific Time.
Beyond phone support, 24/7 Square customer service is available via email and chat. They are also responsive on Twitter and Facebook. Many common questions can be answered in Square’s online tutorials or their community forum.
Stripe Customer Service
Stripe doesn’t offer any phone support, but there is a Freenode (#stripe) chat community that includes both Stripe tech pros and users, where you can get quick advice. The most effective way for account holders to reach Stripe is via email. You can also follow them on social media, but it’s not a primary means of support. Since Stripe’s real focus is the developer-level crowd, Stripe’s online developer documentation is excellent, if you happen to speak tech.
Stripe vs Square Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Deciding between Stripe and Square can be a tough decision, especially if you’re exclusively selling online. If you still have a question about Square, Stripe, or how they compare, visit our community forum and an expert will get back to you.
Can I use Square card readers with Stripe?
No. There is no direct integration for Stripe and Square. Square card readers can only be used to process Square payments.
When should I use a Stripe vs Square alternative?
If you are a brick-and-mortar retailer, such as a boutique or specialty shop, you would benefit from using a POS and payment processing system that has more sophisticated features, such as inventory management. If that’s the case, Lightspeed is a good alternative.
If you operate a sit-down restaurant, you will also want a solution that is specifically designed for your industry, such as TouchBistro or Toast. If you are a nonprofit organization, opt for a payment processing solution that has special nonprofit rates, such as PayPal.
If you are a large, established business, you would benefit from choosing a payment processor that offers interchange-plus or subscription model pricing. Flat-rate pricing, like Square and Stripe offer, is good for small and startup businesses. However, larger businesses regularly processing over $20,000 per month could save money by choosing another payment processor such as FattMerchant.
How much does Stripe cost?
Stripe is free to use; businesses just pay a transaction fee that is automatically deducted from each payment you process. Since Stripe is designed for online payments, there are no hardware fees. You will need to connect Stripe to some kind of ecommerce platform or website in order to process sales, which may come with a fee depending on the third-party service you use.
How much does Square cost?
A basic Square account, including payment processing and POS app, is free. Businesses just pay a transaction fee that is automatically deducted from each payment you process. There are optional Square features you can add on, such as loyalty and marketing programs, for a monthly fee. Square comes with a free card reader, but if you are accepting payments in-person, you will also need an Apple or Android smartphone or tablet.
How does Stripe compare to PayPal?
PayPal is more similar to Square than Stripe, in that it comes with a free mobile POS app to accept in-person payments. When it comes to online payments, PayPal is similar to Stripe in that PayPal checkout can be added to almost any website or ecommerce platform. But, PayPal also has an invoicing solution that’s easy to use, like Square’s.
Small businesses looking to accept credit cards often compare Square versus Stripe to see which provides the best set of payment processing features. Square’s focus is on the multichannel seller while Stripe targets online sellers. If you sell both in-person and online, or want a free basic website with online checkout, use Square. If ecommerce is your focus, use Stripe if you have developer skills and want a custom checkout.
Square is our overall pick for small and growing businesses that have a range of selling needs. With Square, you get far more than just payment processing services. You get a suite of business management tools for free, plus plenty of ways to expand the basic capabilities for low monthly fees. Start a free Square account today.