Accepting credit card payments online has always been tricky and expensive. That is in large part due to the number of participants involved in each transaction and the nature of those participants. Thankfully, a number of startups have risen to the occasion and brought much-needed change to the market. Stripe is, arguably, the most successful of them. In this guide, I review it and provide information relevant to those who registered businesses in the UK / US through Freedom Surfer.
Stripe is an Irish startup, headquartered in the United States, which provides payment processing services to businesses and individuals in dozens of countries. Unlike most of its competitors, Stripe does not provide its users with a graphical interface, relying instead on APIs and third-party developers to publish plugins and integrations (an official checkout button is available for one-time transactions). Thankfully, a large number of plugins and integrations exist, covering most platforms.
Creating a Stripe account takes only a few minutes and is done entirely online. For a list of all countries supported, click here. If your company is registered in an unsupported country, you can still create a Stripe account using a payment processing subsidiary.
Pricing varies on a country to country basis, ranging from 1.4% + 20p to 3.99% + 50 cents. Currency options also vary on a country to country basis. For example, businesses registered in the United States can only link a USD bank account to receive settlements while businesses registered in the United Kingdom can link GBP, EUR, USD, CHF, NOK, SEK and DKK bank accounts. In most cases, payments are subject to a 7-day holding period. For country-specific information, click here. As of 2022, all accounts can process WeChat and Alipay payments. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is no longer supported.
It is important to understand that Stripe does not support all business models and that they tend to take a conservative approach when it comes to risk management. This means that it is not a suitable option for higher risk businesses and those operating in regulated industries (such as insurance, gambling etc).
Overall, the service is very reliable and the decline rate is very low. With that said, it is only suitable for businesses processing low volumes due to the high processing fees and weekly hold (or those who depend on a Stripe integration). In most markets, it is possible to get a much better deal with a local provider. For example, I have paid as low as 1.20% to process transactions on Freedom Surfer (with no additional per-transaction fee) using a more traditional merchant account provided by my bank.