It's never been easier to start a business from anywhere in the world. Entrepreneurs can use cloud-based software to manage their business remotely and collaborate with team members they've never met in person. And with payment technology, anyone can instantly accept payments from customers on the other side of the globe.
Two of the most popular payment gateways are Stripe and Square. Stripe is the most well-known brand of the two and popular as a go-to choice for online payment processing, often as an alternative to PayPal. It's also highly customizable and scalable.
On the other hand, Square is best known for making payments accessible for businesses of all sizes and levels of tech-savviness. Square started with an affordable card reader that quickly became popular with brick-and-mortar stores and has since expanded to much wider payment functionality.
But how do Stripe and Square stack up, what's the difference between them, and how can you make the best choice for your business? Here's our head-to-head comparison of the two platforms.
- Introducing Square and Stripe
- When to choose Square
- When to choose Stripe
- Online payments
- Point of sale
- Stripe vs. Square pricing
- Quick summary: when to choose Stripe vs. Square
- Sync Stripe and Square with your other apps
Introducing Square and Stripe
|Best for||Small businesses and brick-and-mortar stores||Startups, software platforms, ecommerce platform users|
|Excels at||POS with a quick set-up for straightforward online sales||Highly customizable payment flows for online sales|
|Billing||Pay-as-you-go, no monthly charges or lock-in||Pay-as-you-go, no monthly charges or lock-in|
|Complexity||Low unless you opt for Square's developer tools and API||Mid-to-high if you want customization|
|Customer service||9am-5pm, Mon-Fri||24/7|
Square believes everyone should be "able to participate and thrive in the economy" and that no one should be left out because the cost is too great or the technology too complex. This has been their ethos from the beginning, when they started out with a little white card reader popular with small retail stores and cafes that didn't want to lose a large chunk of their profits to payment processing costs.
They now enable sellers to accept chip and PIN and contactless payments, as well as offering a Cash App to allow people to send money instantly to family or friends. Square's CEO and Co-founder is Jack Dorsey, also CEO and Co-founder of Twitter, who launched the company in 2009.
Stripe offers "payments infrastructure for the internet". Millions of businesses of all sizes – from startups to large enterprises – use Stripe’s software and APIs to accept payments, send payouts and manage their businesses online. Irish entrepreneur brothers John and Patrick Collison founded Stripe in 2010.
Comparing Stripe vs. Square in 2020 – which is the best payment solution for you?
Both Stripe and Square are two of the biggest names in payment platforms. But they're not always the best fit for the same types of businesses. Here's how to tell the difference and decide which is the best choice for you.
When to choose Square
1. You want ease and affordability
Square's philosophy is that anyone should be able to participate and thrive in today's economy – which means providing an alternative to other more complicated solutions, including Stripe.
It's a fantastic choice to start accepting payments through multiple channels quickly and easily without any coding or unnecessary hassle.
2. You have a brick-and-mortar store
Square is an excellent fit for retail stores, cafes and restaurants. With the Square ePOS (electronic point of sale) system, you can accept every way your customers want to pay and link your transactions seamlessly with your online store. This includes credit and debit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay, digital gift cards and invoices.
Square also offers Square Appointments, an appointment-scheduling POS system. There's also Square for Retail plus Square for Restaurants, offering a specialist POS for front-of-house and back-of-house operations including pickup and delivery.
Square is much more accessible globally than Stripe's point of sale solution, Terminal, which is currently only available to businesses in the US and Canada.
3. You process occasional online sales
If your business generates some online revenue, especially as a secondary revenue stream to a physical store, Square can be a great choice to power your online payments.
Square stands out from Stripe by offering an all-in-one online shopping experience, including a store website builder and seamless functionality for online food ordering with pickup or delivery, online retail, and donations for fundraising. In comparison, Stripe only offers a checkout experience.
If you already have a website, you can simply integrate Square Online Checkout with easy checkout links to streamline the payment experience for you and your customers.
However, for ecommerce stores that are operating at scale, Stripe tends to be a better choice than Square due to its huge scope for customization.
When to choose Stripe
1. You want a highly customizable solution or API
Stripe is trusted by many of the world's biggest brands to power their online payments. Its major selling point is flexible integration options that fit your desired complexity.
To keep things super simple, you can just choose a quick hosted payment page with Stripe Checkout.
But if you have the tech know-how, you can design your payments process with fully customizable flows via Stripe Elements, their prebuilt UI elements. You can also contact them to build a fully API-based integration with your own UI.
To stay on top of your sales, Stripe has a user-friendly dashboard where you can see how every channel is performing at a glance.
2. You have an established ecommerce store
Because of its level of customization, Stripe is a great choice for growing ecommerce stores that want a payment flow that thrives at scale.
Ecommerce businesses can choose to create their own payment flow or benefit from Stripe's huge range of third-party integrations. For the many ecommerce stores using Shopify to power their business, Stripe integration is a piece of cake and often one of the first steps after setting up a store.
Stripe is also an extremely common integration for online course platforms such as Kajabi and Teachable, making it a go-to choice for online business owners and solopreneurs. Stripe's recurring billing tends to be cheaper than Square's, which is another perk here for subscription-based service providers.
3. You have a fast-growing startup
Stripe Connect offers a set of programmable APIs and tools to facilitate payments on a software platform or marketplace, making it a go-to choice for fast-growing startups.
You can use prebuilt or custom flows to onboard users, accept payments in 135+ currencies, and process payouts quickly and control how funds flow. On the Connect dashboard, you can monitor exactly how your business is doing.
Stripe also handles compliance and risk management, offering card data tokenization to help with PCI compliance and verification systems to manage KYC checks among other value-adds.
Stripe's core focus is on online payments, and it's here they really thrive. There's a complete stack of payment options to choose from including simple checkout pages and embeds, subscriptions, and recurring payments and solutions for SaaS platforms and marketplaces.
The disadvantage for some smaller businesses is that Stripe offers a checkout solution, not an all-in-one storefront. It needs to be connected to another website or ecommerce platform, like Shopify. If you want everything in one package, take a closer look at Square instead.
With Square, it's extremely straightforward to start selling online with easy checkout links. Even if you don't have a website, you can give whatever you're selling a name and price and create a link to sell it online.
On the Square dashboard, you can see how your online and offline channels are performing in one place.
If you want to build a website, that's simple with a Square Online Store. You can use the website builder to create a site that looks great on all devices with zero code required and launch for free with no monthly fee. You will only pay when you make a sale at 2.5% per transaction.
With the services Square for Retail and Square for Restaurants, it's also an excellent choice for businesses in these industries.
Point of sale
Terminal is Stripe's point of sale solution, which offers flexible developer tools, pre-certified card readers and cloud-based hardware management. The key characteristic of Terminal is that it extends your online presence into the physical world: it's the best fit for businesses that are online-first, rather than the opposite.
Stripe's main limitation for in-person payments is that Stripe Terminal is currently only available to businesses in the US and Canada.
Stripe hardware includes pre-certified card-readers with cloud-based fleet management. This starts at $59 for the BBPOS Chipper™ 2X BT and $299 for the Verifone® P400.
Square, on the other hand, was initially built for customer-facing small business merchants, especially in retail. Although their feature set has grown a lot since then, this is still the use case where they stand out from competitors.
With the Square ePOS (electronic point of sale) system, you can accept every way your customers want to pay. This includes credit and debit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay, digital gift cards and invoices.
Square gives shops, restaurants and other customer-facing small businesses everything they need to create a straightforward and connected payment infrastructure, from in-person sales to subscriptions and online payments.
Square hardware includes a Square Register for $799, Square Stand for $169, and a Square Terminal for $299. These are also available with affordable monthly plans to distribute the cost across three, six or twelve months. There are also extremely budget-friendly Square Readers from $10 to $49.
|Overall||Accept payments, send payouts and manage your business online.||Whether in person or online, take all kinds of payments quickly and securely.|
|Online payments||Highly customizable checkout and payment flows. |
Need to connect it with a website or ecommerce platform.
|Choose between a free online store for an all-in-one solution, or simple checkout links.|
|Online Store||-||Accept payments, send payouts and manage your business online.|
|Mobile payments app||-||Accept payments on your smartphone or tablet alongside the card reader or with manual entry.|
|Point of sale / in-person payments||Stripe Terminal offers flexible developer tools, pre-certified card readers and cloud-based hardware management.||ePOS enables payments by credit and debit card, Apple Pay and Google Pay, digital gift cards, invoices, and more.|
|Payments for platforms||Stripe Connect offers programmable APIs and tools to facilitate payments on your software platform or marketplace, process payouts, and manage compliance.||Build commerce solutions for your own business with the Square API and developer tools.|
|Subscriptions and invoicing||Use Stripe Billing to bill customers with subscriptions or invoices. Benefit from flexible billing logic, free trials, prorations, overages, and smart retries.||Use the Card on File feature within Square Invoices to process recurring or subscription-type payments.|
|Payouts||Standard payout timing depends on country and account type. |
With Connect, programmatically send payouts as soon as the next working day to your sellers, freelancers or service providers and offload KYC and verification requirements.
|With Square’s standard transfer schedule, transfers are initiated every weeknight for payments taken Monday-Friday before midnight.|
|Fraud and risk management||Offload KYC and verification to Stripe. Stripe's Radar machine learning is included in all plans and offers powerful fraud-fighting tools with billions of data points across the Stripe network.||All plans include free fraud monitoring and detecting. For more fraud prevention, Square now offers Risk Manager as a customizable risk management system. From 6¢ per online transaction you can assess risky payments, block repeat fraud, quickly identify trends, and make your own rules.|
Stripe vs. Square pricing
Is Stripe or Square cheaper? Both Stripe and Square offer very similar pricing, but there are some subtle differences.
Stripe stands out by letting you accept ACH direct debit payments (or bank transfers) and also works out cheaper for recurring or card-on-file transactions, making it a better choice for larger businesses with a subscription model.
|Online card transactions||2.9% + 30 cents||2.9% + 30 cents|
|In-person card transactions||2.7% + 5 cents||2.6% + 10 cents|
|ACH direct debit transactions||0.8% with $5 cap||-|
|Recurring / card-on-file transactions||From 0.5% for Starter or 0.8% for Scale||3.5% + 15 cents|
Quick summary: when to choose Stripe vs. Square
What's the difference between Stripe and Square? While customizable online payments is Stripe's jam, Square exists to make payment technology more accessible to businesses of all budgets and tech-savviness, especially brick-and-mortar stores.
For highly customizable online payments, Stripe is a fantastic choice. For straightforward in-person payments with occasional online sales, Square is one of the best on the market.
Here's our quick summary of Square vs. Stripe:
|When to choose Square||When to choose Stripe|
|You want ease and affordability||You want a highly customizable solution or API|
|You have a brick-and-mortar store||You have an established ecommerce store|
|You process occasional online sales||You have a fast-growing startup|
Sync Stripe and Square with your other apps
For the best results from Stripe and Square, make sure to integrate your payment platform with your other business apps. With a two-way sync via PieSync, you can connect your contact data to all the right places in your business, so you're always looking at the most up-to-date and reliable information.