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Stripe vs. Square: A Payment Processor Showdown

By Mike Rand Reviewed By Ann Cornell
By Mike Rand
By Mike Rand Reviewed By Ann Cornell

When you’re looking for an online payment processing provider, your research could come down to the 2 major players in the game:  Stripe vs. Square.

Although Stripe and Square provide versatile and similar products, there are clear differences between them. Let’s break down Stripe vs. Square fees, pricing and features to help you choose which is best for your small business. 

Stripe vs. Square: A Quick Comparison

Stripe Square
More user friendly X
Accepts more payment types X
More hardware options X
Better for in-store or online transactions? Online In-store

Stripe vs. Square: Features and Functionality

Stripe Features Overview Square Features Overview
  • Optimized checkout tools
  • Can accept global payments with a single integration
  • Data security and regulatory compliance
  • Total payout control from your business bank accounts
  • Financial reconciliation and reporting
  • 24/7 support via phone, chat and email
  • Automated dispute handling
  • A unified business dashboard
  • A developer platform for third-party integrations
  • App integrations
  • Application programming interface
  • Customer profiles and feedback
  • Reporting and analytics
  • POS hardware compatible
  • Integrated payment processing
  • Real-time inventory management, sales data and sales history
  • Discounts and refunds
  • Text or email receipts
  • Invoicing and invoice tracking
  • Employee management
  • Some marketing features

The Basics

Both Stripe and Square are payment processors that facilitate non-cash transactions. Square, specifically, started to help small businesses accept credit card payments. Square has since grown to offer card-reader hardware, point-of-sale (POS) software and other resources to help with your business’s management and operations.

Stripe has been primarily used for online payments, although the company offers a programmable in-person payment terminal for an extra fee.  Its custom option makes it a white-label product. Stripe is also developer-friendly, making it easy for companies with developers to customize, brand and integrate the service in their business operations

Payment Options

In addition to accepting major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover), both services accept mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Stripe edges out Square because it can accept multiple national currencies. Through its sources application programming interface (API), Stripe can even accept payments from overseas processing platforms such as China’s AliPay and WeChat Pay.

Having multiple payment methods can improve your business’s bottom line: You’ll reduce or eliminate the risk of losing customers over a lack of payment options. It’s a better solution for larger volumes of payments, too.

Square’s payment processing offerings have enough digital features to get your business online, but it’s not as versatile as Stripe and can’t accept as many payment types.

A server points to items listed on a customer’s menu at a restaurant. Square has several options for in-person POS hardware.

Stripe and Square Integrations

Most notably, Square integrates seamlessly with your in-person point of sale (POS) system. This keeps your online and in-person payments running through a single account, making bookkeeping a snap.

Stripe comes with a custom user interface (UI) toolkit. If your company has a smartphone app, you can even integrate Stripe with it to enable seamless purchasing within your app. This makes Stripe a much better option for larger operations that have some technical know-how and can use that option to their advantage.

You can create and publish an ecommerce website with Square Online. Square also allows the business owner to add payment links to social media posts and connect eCommerce sites to an Instagram account. Square can be helpful to professional services businesses with its ability to schedule appointments and bill customers via invoices or keeping payment methods on file.

Additional Products

When it comes to Stripe vs. Square, both companies offer more than payment options. Square has a business debit card, and Stripe has a corporate card. Small business owners can also receive financing through Stripe Capital and Square Capital.

In addition to website-building, Square can help small business owners build a customer loyalty program. The brand also provides professional photographs of your products and offers payroll services.

Stripe has Radar, an integrated service for fraud protection, Sigma, a business analytics tool, and Atlas, a platform for starting a business. 

The verdict? Square is the better choice if you need more support marketing your business and handling some administrative tasks. However, Stripe’s in the lead if you need help getting your business started or compiling data and protecting against fraud.

Stripe vs. Square Fees 

When it comes to Square vs. Stripe fees, the numbers are a close, and sometimes an exact, match. Stripe charges 2.9% plus 30 cents per card charge. Square’s fees range from 2.6% plus 10 cents to 3.5% plus 15 cents, depending on the payment type. You won’t have to worry about getting hit by a higher card processing rate by choosing one over the other.

Stripe’s fee structure is pretty straightforward if you’re only accepting credit and debit cards. There’s no upfront fee, and you can set up an account in minutes. It’s comparable to Square in this regard. But there are some complexities in Stripe’s fee structure for different types of payments. Here’s how pricing and processing fee structure breaks down:

Transaction Type Stripe Square
In-person card and digital wallets 2.9% + 30 cents 2.6% + 10 cents
ACH transfers 0.8% (maximum $5) for direct debit; $1 per payment for credit 1% per transaction; minimum fee $1
Online payments 2.9% + 30 cents 2.9% + 30 cents
International payments 3.9% + 30 cents (additional 1% fee charged if currency conversion required) N/A
Invoicing 0.4% after first 25 invoices each month free (with Starter plan) 2.9% + 30 cents; 3.5% + 15 cents if paid using a card on file

Stripe Pricing vs. Square Pricing

It’s free to create an account on both platforms, but you might need to pay a one-time charge or subscription fees to obtain their additional software. 

Square’s POS software fees:

Square’s in-person payments also require you to buy the company’s hardware.

Square’s pricing and fee structure is simpler than Stripe’s. That said, the pricing depends on how you use Square and whether you want any add-on features. 

The company also provides the hardware* you’ll need to accept payments in-store:

  • Card reader (magstripe): $10 per reader (but first reader free)
  • Chip card reader (more secure than standard card readers): $49
  • iPad stand: $169 or $16 a month for 12 months 
  • Square Register: $799 or $39 a month for 24 months
  • Square Terminal: $299 or $27 a month for 13 months

Stripe offers a fewer number of in-person card readers:

  • BBPOS Chipper 2X BT: $59
  • Verifone P400: $299

If you want to have options for your in-person payment processor, Square is the way to go.

*Some hardware might be available at lower prices through resellers.

A concept photo where a compass needle points to the word "decision." Stripe vs. Square: Which is best? That depends on your needs. 

Stripe or Square? The Verdict

We name Stripe “the best” payment processor because it’s more customizable and is capable of accepting more types of payments.

However, in the Stripe vs. Square showdown, we always recommend small business owners select the option that best fits their business’s needs. The following situations impact which service is better for you:

When to Use Stripe

  • You’re running an online operation and want to be able to accept more types of payments worldwide 
  • You’re anticipating transactions with high dollar amounts or a large volume of online transactions

When to Use Square

  • You’re running a brick-and-mortar operation
  • If you don’t have a developer on hand who can integrate more complicated payment services into your technology. 
  • If this is your first time branching into e-commerce
Mike Rand Contributing Writer at Fast Capital 360
Mike Rand is a contributing writer for Fast Capital 360. He is a freelance writer and content marketer. A published author, he writes about technology, marketing and law as well as small business management, business operations and startups.
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