There was a time when businesses could get away with only accepting cash payments, but it isn't much of an option in today's environment. While there isn't much of a choice to be made of whether or not to accept credit cards, you do have a choice as to which of the best credit card processors you will use. Two of the main options small businesses have are Stripe and Square. Both are highly regarded and offer a lot of benefits.
To give you a better idea of which is right for your business, we researched the two against each other. We examined several areas, including pricing, security, software and hardware, integrations, and customer service. Here is how the two stack up against each other.
Stripe vs. Square highlights
Both Stripe and Square are third-party payment processors that enable businesses to accept a variety of credit and debit cards, as well as digital payment methods like Apple Pay. They are both PCI-compliant, which is essential for any merchant. However, they have some distinctions and different capabilities. Here is more about who these services are best for and how they compare in specific areas.
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Who is Stripe for?
Stripe is primarily for e-commerce businesses with in-house web developers. You can learn more in our full Stripe review.
Who is Square for?
Square is for multichannel or brick-and-mortar businesses, particularly in the retail, personal care, and restaurant industries. You can learn more in our complete review of Square.
Plans and pricing
Stripe plans and pricing
Stripe essentially has only one plan available for smaller businesses, the Integrated plan. While it does have another package (the Customized plan), it is designed for merchants with large payment volumes or unique business models.
The Integrated plan includes these features:
- Embeddable checkout
- A custom UI toolkit
- Simplified PCI compliance
- Invoice support
- Ability to process payments in over 135 currencies and local payment methods
- Real-time reporting
These are the costs for Stripe's Integrated plan:
|Type of charge||Cost|
|Online domestic card charge||2.9% + $0.30 for each transaction|
|In-person payments through a virtual terminal||2.7% + $0.05 for each transaction|
|ACH payments||0.8% with a $5 cap|
|Digital wallet payments such as Google Pay, Apple Pay, Click to Pay, WeChat Pay and Alipay||2.9% + $0.30 for each transaction|
Stripe also offers Afterpay, which allows customers to break up a larger purchase into four equal installments, while the merchant gets paid the entire amount upfront. The rate for Afterpay is 6% + $0.30 for each transaction.
If you have recurring billing, you can use Stripe's invoicing module. The first 25 invoices each month are free, after which Stripe charges 0.4% per paid invoice.
Stripe charges no setup fees or monthly fees.
Square plans and pricing
Unlike Stripe, Square has a range of plans.
|Service plan||Monthly cost||Per-transaction rate||Features|
|Free||$0||2.9% + $0.30|
|Professional||$12||2.9% + $0.30|
|Performance||$26||2.9% + $0.30|
|Premium||$72||2.6% + $0.30|
A benefit of Square for those just getting started is the free web hosting it provides to new online stores. A free SSL certificate is included.
Square allows you to accept all major credit cards, PayPal (on the Performance and Premium plans), Apple Pay, Google Pay, and its proprietary digital wallet, Square Pay.
For simplicity, we like Stripe's no-nonsense plan and pricing. We also like that there is no monthly fee. However, for some merchants, the additional functionality Square offers, such as the ability to accept PayPal and its abandoned-cart data, might be worth the nominal monthly fee, especially given Square's other advantages. We're going to call this a draw.
The vast majority of Stripe's credit card processing focus is on e-commerce transactions. To ensure you get Stripe running smoothly, it provides a host of developer resources for integrating its payment platform with your e-commerce site. As a supplement, a virtual terminal is also available. This web-based interface, Stripe Terminal, allows you to accept cards in person by manually keying in the card information. In addition to credit and debit cards, Terminal accepts Apple Pay and Google Pay. Transactions processed through Terminal are integrated with your online transactions for reporting purposes, so you can see all of your transactions in one place.
The standard process is that payouts from Stripe sales revenue arrive in your bank account on a two-day rolling basis. If you prefer, you can set up weekly or monthly batches. Stripe has a relatively low chargeback fee of $15, which is fully refundable if the customer's bank resolves the dispute in your favor.
Square gives merchants multiple ways to accept payments, including online, invoicing, hosted checkout payment pages, point-of-sale (POS) systems and virtual terminals. In addition to major credit cards, you can accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, Cash App, Samsung Pay, and ACH for invoices.
Square holds your sales revenue in a Square Checking account. You can then transfer the money to another bank within a day. If you need it instantly, you can get it for a fee.
Square offers more ways for your customers to pay, both in terms of location (POS) and types of payment (Cash App and Samsung Pay). It also can get money to your bank account sooner for free. However, we like that Stripe automatically transfers your money without the extra step of going into the app to move it every time. Square narrowly wins in this category.
Stripe includes several online payment security features in its standard plan.
- 3D Secure: This authentication method verifies a customer's identity before an online purchase.
- Card account updater: This automatically updates expired or renewed card information for saved customers, thereby reducing declined charges.
- Radar adaptive acceptance: Stripe's machine learning algorithms purport to improve authorization rates in real time, increasing sales by reducing declined transactions.
Stripe has additional security features available that allow merchants to verify the authenticity of government-issued identification by either matching photos ($1.50 per verification) or having customers key in their name, date of birth, and other data and validating it against government and third-party databases (this is only available for U.S. Social Security numbers).
Square is PCI-compliant, encrypting customer payment information end to end. This ensures that none of your customers' private information is stored on your servers or devices. Its card readers are EMV-compliant, which means they accept chips. This functionality can help decrease fraud incidents. Additionally, Square uses machine learning models to identify suspicious transactions.
Square has no chargeback fees and, in a dispute, represents you with the issuing bank.
Stripe's ability for merchants to verify cardholder identities at the point of sale makes it the winner in the security category.
Stripe offers a mobile app that allows you to search transactions, refund purchases, and view sales and customer data. You cannot use this app to process transactions, however. If you want to do that on the go, you will need to use Stripe's mobile Terminal software.
Square's software makes it easy for businesses that sell through multiple channels to see all of their transactions in one interface. For online transactions, Square lets you process individual transactions on your site, set up recurring transactions, and even process multi-party transactions by layering in a fee on top of third-party payments that you process through your app.
Square can integrate with your website through dedicated developer tools, or you can use Square Checkout, which redirects customers to a Square-hosted payment page.
Although there isn't a huge difference in the mobile software, the inability of Stripe's app to handle transactions makes it clunky. The ability to use Square for in-app fees is a plus. In addition, Square's industry-specific software for POS and its high level of functionality enables you to use it not just for payment processing, but also for inventory tracking and for staff and customer management. As a result, we choose Square as the best credit card processing software.
Stripe offers users two card readers, the BBPOS Chipper 2X BT for $59 and the BBPOS WisePOS E for $249.The Chipper is a mobile Bluetooth device, while the WisePOS is a handheld card reader with a PIN pad and touchscreen.
Stripe doesn't offer many other details, which is another sign that its area of expertise is online transactions.
Unlike Stripe, Square designs and builds its own card processing hardware. For mobile payments, Square offers two versions of its Square Reader.
The Square Reader for Magstripe easily plugs into both Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. This version only accepts swipe credit and debit cards, not chip or NFC cards. There is no cost for your first Square Reader for Magstripe.
The Square Reader for Contactless & Chip is another mobile card reader that connects to your mobile phone or tablet via Bluetooth. You can use it to accept Apple Pay and Google Pay as well as credit cards. It costs $49.
The Square Terminal is another option. It connects to the Square software by Bluetooth and can accept payment by swiping, tapping, or inserting cards. It can also print receipts. The Square Terminal is $299.
For permanent locations, Square offers the POS Register. It has a cashier-facing screen and a customer-facing payment interface that can accept credit and debit cards. You can use it as a stand-alone device or combine it with accessories like a receipt printer ($299), handheld scanner ($119) and cash drawer ($249).
Stripe has minimal hardware options, and none for a POS solution, while Square offers a variety of sleekly designed and functional hardware. Square is the winner for card processing hardware.
Stripe integrates with QuickBooks and NetSuite. Since its strength is e-commerce, it has a lot of tools to help developers easily integrate Stripe with merchant websites. This includes comprehensive testing tools, a developer dashboard, and hundreds of platforms and extensions.
Stripe's basic plan includes free application programming interfaces (APIs) to help you customize your online selling and checkout experience. You'll need a good web developer to take advantage of these tools, as they are not something a non-techie can handle.
Square offers hundreds of integrations that allow you to enhance the service's functionality, including many industry-specific integrations.
- Retail: Shopventory, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Wix and Shippo
- Beauty and personal care: Square Appointments, Jotform, Cognito Forms and IntakeQ
- Restaurants: Square KDS, Postmates, Kyoo, Homebase and QuickBooks Time
Square also offers several social media integrations, including for Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. GoDaddy, Mailchimp, Gift Up, ZipRecruiter and TapMango are some of its other popular integration options.
Square has many more integrations than Stripe, making it a more versatile solution, so it's our winner in this category.
Stripe customer service
Stripe provides 24/7 support by phone, chat, and email, as well as technical support on the techie/gamer app Discord.
Square customer service
Square's customer support team is available by phone, email, live chat and social media. However, our research found Square's customer service record to be a bit spotty. For regular day-to-day operations, the systems seem to work well, but when problems occur, some customers report trouble with getting a satisfactory resolution.
For customer service, Stripe's 24/7 access to support is the clear winner.
Approval and setup
Stripe approval and setup
Stripe is easy to apply for, and once you're approved, it is reasonably easy to set up for those with web developer skills. This type of work is necessary if you want Stripe to be built right into your website. For those without that level of technical aptitude, Stripe has a no-code option for payment links. With this option, your customers will be taken to a custom page hosted by Stripe to check out. Invoicing is another payment method that a tech novice can set up without help from a programmer.
For merchants who need web integration but do not have their own programmer, Stripe offers custom integration for an additional fee, or it can match you with a verified third party with prebuilt solutions to make it easier to integrate Stripe with your website without knowing code.
Stripe will not approve merchants in industries that it considers high risks, including financial institutions, online gambling, securities brokers, cannabis dispensaries, cryptocurrencies, bill pay services, insurance providers and crowdfunding sites.
Square approval and setup
As with Stripe, Square's online application can be completed quickly. Once you're approved, it is relatively simple to set up Square. How long it takes depends on the functionality your business needs. Square Checkout, which does not require coding, and prebuilt third-party solutions make it quick and seamless to set up. However, if your main revenue stream is online sales, you will likely need a web developer to get everything running smoothly.
Although both companies have lists of industries that they are unwilling to serve, Square's list is much longer, including some that seem innocuous, such as membership clubs and direct marketing.
For its better integration for nontechnical merchants, we are giving the edge in this category to Square.
Stripe vs. Square summary
- Square is best for brick-and-mortar or mobile in-person businesses because of its software and hardware. We also found it to be a top turnkey solution for new e-commerce businesses because of its many platform integrations.
- Stripe is best for strictly e-commerce businesses, because its more robust security will protect you from fraud and excessive chargebacks and declines.
Is there a monthly fee for Square?
There isn't a monthly charge for the Free plan. The other plans have monthly fees that range from $12 to $72.
Can you leave money in your Stripe account?
While Stripe automatically transfers your sales revenue into your linked bank account every two days, you can proactively fund your Stripe account by transferring money from your bank account to pay for future refunds or chargebacks.
Does Amazon accept Stripe?
Yes, Stripe is a partner of Amazon and processes a significant portion of Amazon's transactions.