If you’re comparing Stripe vs Square vs PayPal, you’re likely looking for the best online payment processor for your business. These three household names are all incredibly easy to use and can accept a variety of payment types. All three products offer developer-friendly solutions for creating a checkout that’s suited for your business including digital wallet and other one-click payment options to improve the customer experience. Plus, all three offer baseline solutions that come with no contracts or monthly fees.
However, there are a few key differences that make Stripe, Square, and PayPal best for different use cases:
- Stripe: Best for online-only businesses including tech-savvy startups, B2B businesses, and international companies.
- Square: Best simple, low-maintenance online payment solution for individuals and small businesses.
- PayPal: Best customer-friendly checkout option to add to an existing website.
Why Stripe Is the Best Overall Online Payment Processor
Stripe is an industry-leading online payment solution because of its powerful, secure, and developer-friendly technology. Stripe can be added to any website, app, or checkout through user-friendly APIs or one of Stripe’s over 700 partner integrations.
Advanced fraud protection, invoicing and billing software, international payment solutions, and B2B compatibility also push Stripe ahead of Square and PayPal in our evaluation.
When to Use Square
Stripe is a robust solution that can be added to any website or app and grow with your business. However, to build a custom solution and get the most out of the platform, you’ll need a developer on staff.
If you’re looking for an easy way to accept payments online, either as an individual or a small business, Square is much easier to set up. It’s low-maintenance and works great for businesses processing under $10,000 per month—once you get past that point, you may want a more robust solution.
Square is also ideal for storefronts or in-person vendors that want to add an online payment option. This is ideal for managing pickup and curbside orders, as well as offering a contactless checkout option.
Why You Should Add PayPal to Your Online Checkout
PayPal is the most popular online payment processor, capturing over 53% of the market share. PayPal is a trusted brand with a fast checkout process that’s a favorite for shoppers because many people already have PayPal accounts. Adding a PayPal payment option to your checkout can decrease cart abandonment and improve your overall sales.
However, its pricing is not as competitive as Stripe or Square. You can likely lower your transaction and/or monthly fees by using another processor for a majority of your transactions. So, PayPal is best as an addition to your online payment setup.
How We Evaluated the Best Online Payment Processors
To evaluate Stripe versus PayPal versus Square, we took a look at overall fees, payout times, and reliability. We also considered ease of use, variety of features offered, number and types of platform integrations, and each payment processor’s customer service reputation.
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We considered contracts; monthly, chargeback, and cancellation fees; transaction pricing; and availability of volume discounts. While all three offer pay-as-you-go billing, Square scored highest here with a lack of chargeback fees. PayPal requires a monthly fee for Pro accounts, which caused it to fall behind.
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We looked at how many types of transactions each processor can handle. Stripe pulled ahead with its international and multi-currency capabilities, ACH & eCheck, and B2B payment options. All three offer invoicing, ecommerce, and card-on-file payments. Note that Square and PayPal have stable virtual terminals, while Stripe’s virtual terminal is not meant to be used as a primary payment solution.
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Overall, all three scored fairly evenly for customer support, deposit speed, fraud prevention tools, mobile app, customer management, and developer tools. However, Square stands out for its robust POS mobile apps and customer management. Stripe offers the best fraud prevention and developer tools.
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Here we looked at overall pricing transparency and value; ease of use including account stability and the user interface; popularity including reputation and user reviews; and integrations including ecommerce platforms, website builders, and CRM software. Square and Stripe offer the best value with free business management tools and custom volume discounts. PayPal has an edge with its user-friendly reputation with customers and speedy checkout. All three are compatible with the most popular small business software. And, all three are plagued with account stability issues because they are aggregators and not traditional merchant accounts.
Stripe: Best Overall Online Payment Processor
Stripe is the industry standard for online payments with its powerful APIs, top-notch security, variety of compatible payment types, and flexibility to work with almost every type of website or billing setup. In our evaluation, Stripe earned a 3.94 out of 5, beating Square and PayPal, particularly when it comes to compatible payment types, fraud prevention and security, and developer tools.
Stripe’s highly customizable setup makes it harder to navigate, install, and maintain than a plug-and-play solution like Square or PayPal. For reference, Stripe is used by large companies like Shopify, Instacart, and Slack. If you just need an easy way to accept basic payments online, Stripe might be more than you need, especially if you are managing your business yourself.
Also, Stripe is just a payments solution—it’s meant to be added onto third-party tools and websites. If you are looking for an all-in-one solution for setting up a website or payment link to accept payments, Square is a better choice. If you need to add payments to your existing site, but want a simpler solution with a virtual terminal and mobile POS options, PayPal would be a better choice.
Square: Easiest Online Payment Processor to Set Up
Square is one of the best-known names in payments, mostly for its Square-shaped mobile card reader. In fact, Square is our pick for the best merchant services for small businesses and the best mobile payment processing.
However, when it comes to online payments, Square is not the clear winner. In our evaluation, it earned a 3.89 out of 5. Square’s developer toolkit is not as robust or user-friendly as Stripe’s. And, though Square has a one-touch Square Pay solution, it’s not as ubiquitous or user-friendly as PayPal’s.
Where Square does stand out is its ease of use and a wide variety of plug-and-play payment options. Square offers a website builder with an online store, invoicing tools, virtual terminal, payment links that lead to a hosted checkout page, buy buttons you can add to any website (similar to PayPal), and QR code payments.
PayPal: Customer-Favorite Online Payment Processor
PayPal is a popular business and peer-to-peer payment solution. Adding a PayPal checkout to your online store, website, invoice, or donation collection lets customers complete transactions with their PayPal accounts, meaning they don’t have to type in any payment information. While there are now more one-click checkout options including Apple Pay and Google Pay (which PayPal, Stripe, and Square all offer), PayPal is popular with shoppers because of its purchase protection and security features.
In our evaluation, PayPal came in slightly behind Stripe and Square, with a score of 3.53 out of 5. PayPal’s Pro, Advanced, and virtual terminal accounts require a monthly fee, and except for nonprofits, PayPal does not offer custom rates or volume discounts. Overall, PayPal’s pricing structure is pricier and more complex than Square or Stripe.
When it comes to compatible payment types, PayPal beats Square because of its international payment options. However, PayPal does not offer special solutions or pricing for B2B payments and requires a monthly fee for ACH and e-Check payments, which Stripe offers with a free account.
One area where PayPal stands out ahead of Stripe is its PayPal Here mobile app, which lets you accept credit card payments, PayPal, and Venmo payments in person with a card reader, manual entry, or QR code. Similar to Square, PayPal Here has basic product lists, employee logins and permissions, and sales tracking.
Read our review on PayPal Here to learn more about its app features.
Alternative Online Payment Processors
Stripe, Square, and PayPal are our top-recommended online payment processors. However, other popular options include:
- Braintree: PayPal’s more robust online payment solution with custom pricing options
- Authorize.net: Popular payment gateway that works with most websites and software
- Stax by Fattmerchant: Best for high-volume billing and invoicing
- Payment Depot: Cheapest credit card processing for established businesses
- PaymentCloud: Best for high-risk businesses
In comparing Stripe versus Square versus PayPal, it’s important to consider which features are most important for your business. PayPal is the best option if you want a simple way to accept money securely online by the world’s most recognized brand in this category. If you need an easy way to accept online payments, or need a solution that handles online and in-person payments, Square is your best choice.
Finally, if you want a customizable online payment solution that can scale with your business, Stripe is the best option for you.