The Stripe payment processor has some romance behind it. Not only does it have big-name clients like Lyft, Target, and Warby Parker, but the impressive team of co-founders certainly brings a bit of glamour into the equation. In this Stripe review, we'll uncover if Stripe is all it's cracked up to be.
There's plenty of hype behind the Stripe company, and as a third-party payment processor, it offers some of the best development tools, security measures, and international business modules for online commerce.
The whole point of Stripe is to make it easy for anyone to do business online. If you're running a subscription-based model, Stripe has you covered. If you'd like to customize your shopping cart for something unique, Stripe is there to help you out.
In addition, Stripe has a flat rate for its pricing, so you don't have to think too much about how much your company pays.
Table of Contents:
- A Quick Glance at Stripe
- Where is Stripe Available?
- Stripe Review: The Primary Products and Services
- Stripe Review: The Rates and Extra Fees
- The Difference Between Regular Stripe and Stripe Elements
- Stripe Review: Customer Support
- Who Should Consider Stripe as a Payment Processor?
A Quick Glance at Stripe
Stripe, like most payment processors, isn't perfect. However, the pros definitely outweigh the cons, so we put together a quick list of why or why you might not consider Stripe for your own online business.
- The subscription features are easy and powerful.
- Stripe supports marketplaces.
- International merchants should have no problem with Stripe.
- The reports are easy to understand and comprehensive.
- The flat-rate pricing is transparent and not confusing like so many competitors.
- The development tools stand out for advanced customization.
- High-risk industries and countries are not supported by Stripe.
- You don't get a direct phone support line.
- Stripe puts its own infrastructure over everything. A seemingly random account suspension might happen if you violate the terms.
- Lots of the tools cater to larger companies. This is good for scaling up, but sometimes I get the feeling Stripe cares most about the behemoths.
Where is Stripe Available?
Stripe is offered in over 25 countries at the time of this article. Most of these countries are in Europe and the Americas, so you're going to have to look elsewhere if you live in Russia, most of Asia, all of Africa, and much of the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
I would argue that the locational limitations are one of the biggest downsides to Stripe, but from a business perspective, it's clear the Stripe is trying to avoid the highest risk locations in the world.
As for the countries where Stripe is available, here's the list:
Both Brazil and Mexico are on this list, but you need to request an invite before being approved. If you run your business in the following countries you shouldn't have a problem signing up for an account immediately:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
Stripe has been growing over the years, so you do have the opportunity to sign up for email notifications and specify your country. Then, Stripe sends you an email as soon as it launches in that country. The only problem is that a Stripe launch may never happen in your area.
So, you need to look elsewhere at the time being if Stripe isn't available for you.
If you're in a non-supported country, yet you'd still like the advantages of Stripe, a program called Stripe Atlas is offered to set up your online business as an incorporated company in Delaware.
This program costs you a one-time fee of $500, plus the $100 yearly renewal of your Delaware registered agent. Finally, a $25 per month fee is implemented to maintain an American bank account.
An American business is desirable for a few reasons, and the security and ease-of-use behind Stripe might make this venture worthwhile for some businesses in high-risk countries. However, it's only available to online businesses. A retail store can't get access to Stripe Atlas.
Stripe Review: The Primary Products and Services
The Stripe brand tries to make the packages and services as simple as possible. When you land on the website you might wonder how it could be so basic.
Stripe does this by breaking the products and services into two categories: Payment Processing and Developer Tools.
However, once you start to sift through the features in each of these categories, it becomes clear that far more is offered than just two products.
The Payment Processing Category
As we mentioned, the payment processing tools are offered in 25 countries around the world. That said, it still works well for international business in these locations, since Stripe accepts over 135 types of currencies.
So, you may not be able to run a business with Stripe in Vietnam, but an American or German business is able to collect Vietnamese Dong as payment.
Payment processing is immediately provided to those companies that run business in the accepted countries. It's similar to PayPal, where you would integrate the third party processing tool into your online store. This instant access to payment processing is good and bad.
The good part is that you get approved almost immediately. The bad is that your account eventually gets evaluated as you do business. Therefore, you might see your account shut down if Stripe doesn't like something.
A regular merchant account, on the other hand, does the vetting prior to you setting up an account. So, a merchant account would make more sense if you're worried about getting shut down later.
This part of Stripe is what makes the payment processor stand out from other competition. It's one of the reasons so many large companies partner with Stripe since you can customize the processing system and scale it up as your company grows.
Stripe provides access to the API (application programming interface) so that developers can sink their teeth into the program and integrate Stripe into unique websites. Then, the developer can use programming languages to adjust how the processor works and looks.
With the Stripe documentation and open API, it's a desirable environment for full control.
So, some online merchants might only need the payment processing support, but many others are interested in the development tools. Regardless, each category includes a wide range of other products and services, as outlined here:
- The Stripe Checkout Module – We'll talk about Stripe Elements (further below,) but it's basically a quick way to customize your checkout however you want (using pre-built components).Combine that with the standard Stripe checkout tools and you have a system that allows you to design and launch your checkout quickly. In short, PCI compliance is done for you, and you can make your check out fit your website, all without complicated design tools.
- Subscription tools – PayPal charges for its subscription service, but Stripe does not. This means that running a subscription site allows you to offer multiple tiers, plans, and subscriber types.
- Stripe Relay – The Relay product combines mobile app commerce with your online store. So, if you'd like to have a standalone app you can upload your products from your website and collect payments just like you would through your regular store.
- Stripe Radar – Most online payment processors have some sort of fraud detection, but Stripe takes it to a new level. Since fraud is so common in online business, Stripe stands out quite a bit. Radar utilizes machine learning to identify fraud and the users that commit fraud.It also provides a dashboard for setting rules and seeing which of these rules are broken when people make purchases on your site.
- Stripe Connect – The Connect product works with online marketplaces, where the merchant receives support for over 100 currencies along with the conversion tools needed along the way. You can verify a wide range of international sellers and configure automated payment schedules for the merchants selling in your marketplace.
- Offering coupons and free trials – Some of the best marketing tools you'll need are already in the Stripe payment processor. In short, you can quickly create free trial periods and offer seasonal coupons for new customers who might prefer a deal when getting started with your company.
- Team management – Many companies want to give payment processing and data access to other users in the organization. With Stripe, you have team management tools for setting user permissions so that other people can view this information without going through a single account.
- Options for building your own platform – Stripe supports the building of completely unique platforms, where the checkout process is going to be far more unique than your standard shopping cart and information collection page. For instance, Lyft has a platform where the payment is stored, but it's all tracked based on mileage.
- Support for marketplaces – Marketplaces are part of the platform building portion of Stripe, but it's a little more streamlined, with options for working with your merchants, giving out instant payments, and setting up commission structures.
- Mobile commerce – Stripe Relay is similar to this, but the mobile commerce section promotes the use of Android and iOS apps so that you can collect the payments in those app forms. You even get a feature for saving customer data in the app, allowing customers to make quick payments in the future.
Stripe Review: The Rates and Extra Fees
As we talked about before, Stripe has a flat rate for all transactions. This makes it transparent and easy to understand.
With Stripe, that one flat rate is 2.9% +$0.30.
One word of warning is that Stripe doesn't refund any of these transaction fees. So, if you make a refund to a customer, that transaction fee is lost to Stripe. This means that you may have to eat this cost or charge a slight fee to your customers if they wish to return a product.
An advantage of going with Stripe is the ACH and Bitcoin support. For both of these, the transaction fee is 0.8% per transaction, with a maximum of $5.
How quickly do you receive your payments?
As long as you're not considered a high-risk company, Stripe pays most US merchants within two days. As for companies outside of the US, a seven-day payout system is still in effect.
What about chargebacks?
It's standard in this industry to charge $15 for all chargebacks. Stripe is no different. Stripe does have an evaluation process in place for all chargebacks. What's nice is that Stripe actually refunds the $15 fee if a chargeback dispute results in your favor. However, most merchants state that this is a very rare thing to happen.
Which companies are the Stripe pricing and fees best for?
Stripe pricing is reasonable and easy to understand. That said, it's not the least expensive for many online stores. For instance, some interchange-plus plans out there make it cheaper for certain companies. There are also plenty of payment processors that offer discounts to certain brands, especially non-profits.
The main advantage of Stripe is the lack of monthly and hidden fees. This is especially advantageous for low volume merchants.
Stripe has also recently added support for micropayments, where you pay a higher percentage transaction fee and the flat per-transaction fee is dropped. This comes in handy for artists, musicians, and anyone else selling digital goods, since it would be tough to eat a transactional fee of $0.30 for an item you're selling for $0.99.
Contracts and Early Terminations
You're not locked into any contracts with Stripe, making it useful for if you want to terminate your account early. In fact, Stripe doesn't really have any hidden fees, making it one of the more transparent options out there.
A Warning on Chargebacks
It's important to read the terms of service from Stripe since it pretty much states that Stripe can freeze your account for any reason it deems worthy. So, if you are looking for more stability, Stripe might not be for you.
If your industry is considered high-risk, Stripe might not be for you. If you have lots of chargebacks, Stripe might not be for you. In fact, Stripe states that it doesn't work with merchants with chargeback rates of more than 1%.
That's a difficult number to stay under for online merchants.
The Difference Between Regular Stripe and Stripe Elements
Stripe Elements actually integrates with the regular Stripe payment processor. The core functionality of Stripe is to collect payments through your online store, while the Stripe Elements tool is a collection of pre-built modules for making a customized checkout area.
The Stripe Elements checkout pages are built by the Stripe team for full optimization, localization, and real-time validation.
In short, it's an easy way to get away from hosted checkout pages from third-parties or e-commerce platforms. You know the pre-built checkout modules are optimized to boost sales, and you still get the solid pricing and reliable interface of the regular Stripe system.
Not only that, but you can adjust your checkout area to fit your brand perfectly. Elements work with far less code than usual, and it gives you the best building blocks for making your own checkout experience.
Stripe Review: Customer Support
The best part of Stripe customer support resides in its documentation and online resources. To start, the Stripe blog covers updates on the processor and how you can implement some of the new features.
The development page has a full API reference module, with information on all popular coding languages.
The Stripe Support area provides a knowledge base for seeking out certain topics and locating articles for things like subscriptions, disputes, fraud, accounting, refunds, and more.
A documentation area is also there for more advanced research.
As for direct contact information, Stripe doesn't have a phone line for you to call. However, you can send in an email and get placed into the ticketing system. Opinions about how Stripe support treats customers is widely disputed. Some companies have great words to say, while others think the complete opposite.
It typically depends on your own unique experience, as the same kind of debate on customer support can be found with just about every other payment processor in the industry.
Who Should Consider Stripe as a Payment Processor?
With the addition of micropayment support, artists and people selling digital goods have a home at Stripe. The average online e-commerce store owner should do just fine with Stripe, considering the pricing is standard and you don't have to worry about hidden fees or multiple payment plans.
Not having to pay a monthly fee is also great for low volume sellers.
Most of the western world has access to Stripe Payments, but you might get rejected or shut down from Stripe if your business is considered too risky or Stripe doesn't support companies in your particular region. The same goes for online stores with higher than a 1% chargeback rate.
Other than that, Stripe is perfect for developers and companies that want full customization over checkout modules. The API is available for complete integration control, and the Stripe Elements builder is sure to help you even more with your creative process.
If you have any questions about this Stripe review, drop a line in the comments below. We would love to hear from customers who have used Stripe in the past since it always seems to be a good conversation when talking about payment processors.
Feature image by Adewale Bobby