Founded in December 1998, PayPal is a worldwide online payments system that operates as a payment processor, money transfer, and other electronic payment services. It’s a leader in the industry, with 179 million active accounts as of January 2016, according to Time. The company started as a payment option for auction site Ebay, but is now a separate entity, offering credit card processing to a wide range of businesses.
But PayPal is not without detractors. Some customers complain of account freezes or unhelpful customer service, while others find it expensive. The flat rate pricing structure can be appealing, but is also more expensive for some businesses than other options.
- Quick Comparison
- Online Processing Account and Pricing Models
- PayPal Options
- PayPal Baseline
- Braintree Payments
- CardPointe by CardConnect
PayPal is big, but it’s not the only player on the block, and there are plenty of choices for businesses looking to save money or set up alternatives to PayPal when taking payments. We profiled some companies for in-person/swiped transactions in our guide to Square alternatives, but this guide dives into options for online payment processing.
Note that pricing and features are subject to change - we’re listing what they are as of early 2017. If you’d like more detailed and current information on any particular vendor, use CardFellow’s free online quote comparison tool or read our latest reviews.
Online Processing Accounts and Pricing Models
PayPal is a flat rate credit card processing company, meaning that it offers a fixed rate for transactions regardless of the card type. This type of pricing looks simple, but in many cases it’s more expensive than other models. However, the right solution for you will depend on your business. For this article, we’re including alternatives that use different pricing models to help you find a PayPal competitor that fits your particular business needs.
Before getting into alternatives, it’s important to note that there are multiple ways to accept PayPal payments. You can use PayPal as your credit card processor for all payments, or you can use a processor of your choice while still accepting PayPal.
The PayPal express checkout is designed for businesses that already have a processor but simply want to add PayPal as a choice for customers. Another option is the Payflow gateway, which acts as the “credit card machine” of your website but works with the processor of your choice. You can read more about these options in Taking PayPal at Your Business.
Creating a regular PayPal account is free, there’s no fee for canceling, and no monthly fees. The pricing model is based entirely on transactions.
Regardless of whether your customer uses PayPal or a credit card to make a purchase, you’re going to pay a fixed fee of 2.9% + 30 inside the U.S.
Non-profits are eligible for a discount, paying only 2.2% plus $0.30 per transaction up to $100,000. Businesses with transactions mostly under $10 can take advantage of PayPal’s micropayment fees, which are 5% plus $0.05. This greatly discounts large volumes of smaller payments.
There are other fees to consider, such as a $20 chargeback fee, a $0.30 fee for incomplete authorizations and card verifications with no sale. The fixed fee portion is also charged for refunds. Additional services like recurring billing and fraud protection can also be added.
For a monthly fee of $30, you can upgrade to PayPal Pro, which includes a virtual terminal for phone payments and checkout/shopping cart options directly on your site. PayPal buttons added through WordPress plugins and other options redirect to the PayPal website.
Payments made to/from PayPal are available almost instantly, although it can take up to 10 business days to transfer money to an external bank account. A PayPal Business MasterCard makes this easier.
Both PayPal’s app and website offer a variety of tools, with simple invoicing and exporting being at the top. The app does have less access than the website, but redirects to the mobile website work seamlessly.
Braintree is actually owned by PayPal, but operates as a separate company. Like PayPal, Braintree charges 2.9% plus $0.30 for most transactions, with no monthly fees, or minimums. Unlike PayPal, it also includes recurring billing and fraud protection for basic accounts.
Braintree has an introductory offer where it will cover your processing fees up to a limit of $50,000. Volume pricing discounts can also be obtained if you process more than $80,000 per month.
With an enterprise account and high volume transactions, Braintree has been reported by some customers as being cheaper than PayPal.
Like PayPal, Braintree has a web portal, and, although it’s not as well-known as PayPal, users like Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and CTO of Airbnb, report it handles foreign transactions much better. Other than that, both accounts can actually be used in tandem relatively easy.
Braintree’s online portal can handle up to 90% of PCI compliance for your business. It’s partnered with 3DCart, WooCommerce, Yodle, and more to make shopping carts and payment processing much easier.
CardFellow’s Braintree review.
Stripe’s pricing for credit card and direct transactions is 2.9% and $0.30 per transaction like PayPal, but it also processes ACH and Bitcoin transactions. These are charged at 0.8% up to a maximum fee of $5.
Disputed payments and chargebacks may be charged a $15 fee, depending on whether the dispute is found in your favor. Other services, such as Connect and Atlas add additional features and associated costs to your Stripe account.
Non-profits and large-volume accounts can qualify for discounted pricing options, although they’re not listed on the website. Other pricing variations can apply to your business, so read the terms and conditions carefully.
Stripe has both a web-based and mobile app, both of which are integrated with a lot of tools for invoicing, refunds, payment tracking, and more. It works with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and several other proprietary payment platforms.
Advanced developer toolkits allow customization of payment processing options. The scalability of recurring payments, mobile, and reporting features make it a great option for some businesses. International payments are cheaper and integration with existing apps is much better.
CardFellow’s full Stripe review.
Authorize.net is one of the most popular gateways for accepting online payments. It’s available as a bundled solution with the gateway and credit card processing, or the gateway can be used separately with your choice of processor.
If you go with the bundled solution, it follows the other flat rate options, charging 2.9% and $0.30 for each transaction. A $49 setup fee and a $25 monthly gateway fee may apply.
If you use the gateway with another processor, the pricing will be set by the processor you choose. That means you’ll have the option of securing more competitive pricing through services like CardFellow. Read more about Authorize.Net fees.
In addition to payment tracking and searching, Authorize.Net offers refund capability, invoicing, returns, electronic check acceptance, QuickBooks syncing, and even customer information management. The company offers a short introduction video:
These tools make it relatively easy to integrate the platform with other services for database and spreadsheet management. It can also be integrated into third-party POS and hardware systems.
Another solid payment gateway service, National Merchants, Inc (NMI) provides a WordPress plugin that allows WooCommerce to accept credit card payments securely. In fact, it provides a suite of secure payment solutions, the cost of which depend on which payment processors you pair it with.
NMI has a virtual terminal and accepts payments in a variety of currencies, cards, and payment options. Reporting, invoicing, and third-party integration with over 300 third-party applications is included as well as a gateway emulator to make migrating from competitors easier.
NMI offers a variety of security extras, including Merchant Defender, iSpyFraud, and CertifyPCI.
When you use the NMI gateway, you’ll need a merchant account from a processor as well. That processor will set your pricing, so be sure to use a comparison service like CardFellow to find the lowest cost option for your business.
CardFellow’s NMI review.
CardPointe is a solution from CardConnect. Pricing varies depending on your credit card processor. It includes a payment gateway, virtual terminal, fraud protection, and hosted checkout, among other features. CardPointe can be an excellent choice for businesses that accept a lot of B2B transactions.
CardPointe allows real-time transaction management that includes payments, voids, and refunds, much easier than many online gateways. Invoicing (including recurring billing), customer data management, and transaction history is all enabled both online and via mobile.
CardPointe is available from multiple processing companies, and those companies will be responsible for setting the pricing for your transactions.
CardFellow’s full CardPointe review.
This list of PayPal competitors is not exhaustive, and the best PayPal alternatives will depend on your particular business needs. Flat rate options are best for very small businesses, but usually not the lowest-cost solution for medium and large businesses. However, any solution can be the right one, depending on the pricing and terms you secure. At CardFellow.com, we help you get the right solution for your budget, and can work with you as your needs change. Give it a try.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned freelance writer focused on business and technology. His work appears in Huffington Post, Fast Company, and The Street.