Credit Card Processing

Stripe Terminal for In Person Payments


May 14, 2019

In autumn 2018, Stripe officially announced the launch of Stripe Terminal, an option for in-person payments.

However, it’s not quite what you’re thinking. The Stripe Terminal solution allows businesses to build their own card-present checkout system by programming it with pre-certified card readers. The company calls it an “API-driven solution” and says that it’s geared toward tech-savvy businesses with both online and offline selling channels.

If you’re not tech-savvy (or don’t have an in-house developer) or if you don’t have an ecommerce store/online payment channel, you’ll want to consider other options.

Stripe Terminal Features

As an in-person card acceptance option, the Stripe Terminal enables, well, card acceptance in person. You can accept credit and debit cards using a compatible reader, and may also be able to take NFC (contactless) payments as well. Depending on the reader you choose, you’ll be able to take advantage of capabilities like custom messaging to the cardholder during a purchase. Stripe promises to make it easy to customize the messages that cardholders see on the terminal screen, letting a business offer a coupon or provide information.

Businesses will also be able to update their in-person checkout machines from their online account, controlling the machines remotely. Additionally, Stripe boasts that the new solution allows you to view customers and sales across multiple sales channels, including online and offline sources of payments. That’s helpful for businesses that have both online and offline store options.

Who Should Use Stripe Terminal?

Stripe has a reputation as a platform for developers, and that’s the case for Terminal as well. Stripe itself suggests that the Stripe Terminal is good for “internet-first” retailers and service providers. That is, businesses that primarily sell online, but are expanding into brick-and-mortar sales, or occasionally host pop-up shops or other in-person sales events. The Terminal supplements online card acceptance by allowing a cohesive solution for businesses that sell both on and offline.

The Stripe Terminal requires more programming than some other in-person solutions, so it’s best for tech-savvy businesses or those with a development team.

When reading about Stripe Terminal, you may see comments that it’s not set up for businesses such as coffee shops, salons, and other small businesses. It doesn’t mean that those businesses can’t use the Stripe Terminal – rather, it’s just to caution that Stripe Terminal requires developer knowledge. Small businesses that don’t have a lot of technology demands (such as coffee shops and salons) don’t have in-house developers to handle that type of integration and may find it too frustrating. Furthermore, a key benefit of Terminal is a seamless experience managing both online and offline payments. If your business doesn’t accept payments online (such as a coffee shop), that benefit is useless for your business and another solution will be a better fit.

Square vs Stripe Terminal

Given that Square is well-known for in-person payments, it’s logical to assume that Square and the Stripe Terminal are competing. That’s not quite the case.

Square seeks to be a quick setup card acceptance option that doesn’t require programming knowledge. The company’s plug-and-play style readers and pre-made app allow even the smallest business to get started accepting cards with little effort.

Stripe has always been a developer-focused company that offers comprehensive solutions for those with technical knowledge. That carries over into the Stripe Terminal, which allows businesses to build their own in-person checkout solution. It’s not as much of an “off the shelf” solution as Square.

Stripe itself dismissed the idea that Terminal competes directly with Square by commenting that the target user bases are different.

That said, there’s no reason a customer using (or considering) Square couldn’t choose Stripe Terminal instead. However, it may not be worthwhile if that customer doesn’t have technical knowledge or need the features that programming it yourself affords.

SDKs and Compatible Readers

Stripe currently offers two software developer kits (SDKs) for the Terminal, an iOS and a JavaScript SDK. The company is in the process of developing an Android SDK for the future.

To use Stripe Terminal, you’ll also need a compatible reader. There are currently two options: The BBPOS Chipper 2X mobile reader or the Verifone P400 countertop terminal. The Chipper 2X connects via Bluetooth and works with an iOS SDK. The P400 connects via ethernet and works with a JavaScript SDK. The company plans to offer additional readers (including countertop models with an iOS SDK) in the future.

Stripe Terminal readers

Stripe suggests the current iOS SDK and mobile reader combination if you’re planning for a “mobile-first” experience accepting cards using an iOS device or if you prefer a Bluetooth-enabled reader. The company suggests the JavaScript SDK and countertop reader if you’re looking to create a fully-branded checkout with customizable splash screens and dynamic messages shown to the customer during transactions, or if you prefer a stationary, countertop checkout solution.

Note that the Verifone P400 is a PIN pad, not a standalone terminal, meaning that it needs to be paired with a POS system or other “host” device.

Stripe Terminal Rates

Currently, Stripe Terminal costs 2.7% + 5 cents per transaction. You’ll also need to purchase a reader. The Chipper mobile reader costs $59 while compatible countertop models by Verifone will run you about $299.

Stripe also advertises that custom enterprise rates are available for large businesses.

Prices subject to change.

Ellen Cunningham

BY Ellen Cunningham

Ellen has a degree in English, which she puts to work every day researching and writing articles, processor reviews, and social media posts. She enjoys the challenge of explaining complex topics - making her a perfect fit for credit card processing - and strongly believes in CardFellow's mission of empowering business owners through education.When she's not busy following the latest industry news, Ellen can be found cycling the beautiful trails of southern New England, narrowly losing at pub quizzes, or practicing her trapeze skills in aerial circus class.


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