This article is part of a larger series on Payments.
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 accept various payment types, offer developer-friendly solutions for creating a checkout suited for your business, and have digital wallet and other one-click payment options to improve the customer experience. Plus, all three are incredibly easy to use and offer baseline solutions 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
Stripe vs Square vs PayPal Quick Comparison
Not sure which option is the best for you? Take this 3-question quiz
Alternative Online Payment Processors
Stripe, Square, and PayPal are some of the best credit card processing companies for small businesses in the industry today. However, if you need a more specific solution, other popular options include:
- Braintree: PayPal’s more robust online payment solution with custom pricing options
- Authorize.net: Our top-ranked payment gateway that works with most websites and merchant service providers
- Stax by Fattmerchant: Best for high-volume billing and invoicing
- Payment Depot: Cheapest credit card processing for established businesses
- PaymentCloud: Best overall choice for high-risk businesses
$25 (gateway fee)
Minimum 2 years for high risk
2.59% + 49 cents
2.9% + 30 cents or 10 cents per transaction and 10 cents batch fee
Interchange plus 15 cents
Interchange plus 15 cents
2.95%–4.25% (high risk)
2–5 business days
Depends on merchant provider
Next-day, same-day for fee
Stripe: 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, earning a score of 4.23 out of 5 in our evaluation.
Stripe Payment Features
Is Stripe Right for You?
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 to 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 the best alternative.
However, if you need a powerful processor or are looking into a platform that uses Stripe as its payment processor, you won’t be disappointed—Stripe is the industry standard.
Square: Easiest Online Payment Processor To Set Up
If you’re looking for an easy way to accept payments online, either as an individual or a small business, then Square is the better option. It is much easier to set up than Stripe, which requires a developer on staff to get the most out of the platform. 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’s credit card processing feature is also ideal for storefronts or in-person vendors wanting to add an online payment option. This is ideal for managing pickup and curbside orders, as well as offering a contactless checkout option.
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.
Square Payment Features
Is Square Right for You?
When it comes to online payments, Square is not the clear winner though it did earn a respectable 4.20 out of 5 in our evaluation. Square’s developer toolkit is not as robust or user-friendly as Stripe’s. And although 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 Checkout Solution
PayPal is the most popular online payment processor, capturing over 47% 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.
One area where PayPal stands out from Stripe is its PayPal Zettle mobile app, which lets you accept credit card payments, PayPal, and Venmo payments in person with a card reader or via manual entry or QR code. Like Square, PayPal Zettle has basic product lists, employee logins and permissions, and sales tracking.
In our evaluation, PayPal came in slightly behind Stripe and Square, with a score of 3.84 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. This makes PayPal’s pricing generally more expensive as Stripe only charges a small per transaction monthly fee while Square includes virtual terminal and invoicing in its free plan.
PayPal Payment Features
Is PayPal Right for You?
Overall, PayPal’s pricing structure is more complex and less competitive than Square’s and Stripe’s. 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.
As 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 still the popular choice for shoppers because of its purchase protection and security features.
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.
How We Evaluated 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.
25% of Overall Score
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.
25% of Overall Score
25% of Overall Score
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.
25% of Overall Score
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.
In comparing Stripe vs Square vs 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.