Stripe vs. Square: Which Brand Works Best for Your Business?

Last updated on July 30, 2020

Do you currently have a POS system?

Compare & save, it takes less than a minute.

As a business grows, so does the need to process multiple lines of payment, especially non-cash transactions. This requires a third-party payment processor to aggregate customers into a single merchant account. It also makes managing payments quicker, easier, and more efficient.

Stripe and Square have cornered a large part of the POS market and for good reason. The platforms both offer an open API environment that is conducive to creativity.

Here is a quick comparison of the two systems:




Company Overview

Stripe and Square have a lot in common. They are both developer-friendly platforms that come with a lot of flexibility. The innovative city of San Francisco is home to both brands.

Stripe

Stripe is a financial services and SaaS company that primarily offers payment processing software and application programming interfaces (APIs) for e-commerce and mobile apps. The brand offers card readers to work with the software in both a physical and mobile fashion.

Square

Square was created in 2009 to fill the niche of small business mPOS needs. The idea was created when the owner could not pay a friend online with their credit card.

The name “Square” comes from the free, square-shaped reader that is what led to the brand’s initial popularity.

Stripe vs. Square: SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON SUMMARY

 
POS Software
$0
$0 per month for standard
but options available for a fee.
Payment Processing
2.7% + 10 cents
2.6% + 10 cents
(3.5% + 15 cents for manual entry).
Online Payments
2.9% + 30 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
Hardware
$39
Magstripe reader is free
(additional hardware starts at $49).
Operating System
iOS or Android
iOS or Android
Analytics and Reporting
Yes
Yes
Employee Management
Accounts, time tracking, payroll, exports, and more.
Accounts, time tracking, payroll, exports, and more.
Customer Service
Phone, chat, email, resource center.
Phone, email, and live support (chat), resource center.
Integrations
Yes
Yes
Security
PCI Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).
PCI Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).

Payment Processing

The main reason for using either platform is for payment processing.

Square focuses on letting merchants accept card payments where you can add support for online and mobile wallets. However, the software is lacking ACH support.

Stripe allows merchants to accept a host of localized payments favored in different parts of the world. Additionally, for online payments you can add Apple Pay on the web or other mobile wallets.

Developer Tools

Square and Stripe are “full-stack” payment services which means they both offer robust APIs for your staff to use. Square’s developer tools enable a business to create almost any custom integration you need.

Square has two e-commerce APIs: Transactions and Checkout. Square Checkout consists of a pre-made form that can be pasted into a site with minimal effort. This means merchants are eligible for some perks like chargeback protection and next-day deposits.

The Transaction API is more customizable. Additionally, Square supports:

  • iOS
  • Android
  • Flutter SDKs
  • App-based payments

Stripe is a more flexible platform for an open API. There is extensive documentation for multiple programming languages, both on the web and in mobile apps. The Stripe Elements program lets you create a custom form with pre-built components. This makes it easy for customers to transact and builds on business relationships.

Stripe Checkout generates a pre-built form you can drop into a site with a few lines of JavaScript. In addition to web and in-app payments, Stripe has a host of APIs for other functions. So if you have a motivated developer, this platform might work best.

Integrations

Square makes it easy for a business to engage in e-commerce (even without using the API). Weebly is what they offer for a simple, affordable site-building option.

The list of integrations also includes some of the best shopping cart apps on the market. It’s an omnichannel solution for vendors that wish to sell anywhere without the need for complex integrations or coding work. The advantage here is that you can get set up quickly and selling instantly. After you import products and adjust the settings, everything is ready to go.

The newest feature for Square integrations is called Square Online Checkout which is designed to mirror PayPal’s e-commerce flexibility. This key feature enables a business to embed a custom website with the following:

  • Texts
  • Emails
  • Social media posts

The button allows the buyer to purchase your product, donate, or transfer money straight to your business. It is currently only available in the United States.

While Square makes it simple, Stripe dominates with the vast amount of integration offered. In addition to major e-commerce software partners, the Stripe developers have created an assortment of plug-ins for organizations running on sites like Magento, WordPress, and more.

Stripe also offers robust integrations to take recurring payments—particularly ACH payments. Although Square has advanced reporting, it pales in comparison to the power of Stripe Sigma, an SQL-based reporting tool. If you run a company heavily incumbent upon metrics, this might be a suitable platform.




Merchant Financing

Payment processing services have begun offering their customers financing in the form of loans. After all, they have a clear view of what the business looks like. They also have knowledge of the infrastructure used to collect payment on any debt issue.

Stripe Capital and Square Capital are remarkably similar. Rather than applying for a loan, both platforms will automatically extend an offer to any qualifying customer through the dashboard.

While the two brands call the product a loan, it functions more along the lines of a merchant cash advance. That means you repay the loan through the payment processor itself. A small percentage is taken from your credit card sales until you’ve made good on the amount, plus a flat fee.

A few differences include:

  • Stripe Capital is faster with next day delivery of funds.
  • Square Capital provides more upfront details about the service.

Additional Services

Both payment processors offer other popular features like:

Square

  • Square Appointments
  • Multilocation Management
  • Advanced Reporting
  • Team Management
  • Loyalty Program

Stripe

  • Radar fraud detection
  • Virtual cards for mobile wallets
  • Automation toolset for payouts
  • Stripe Billing
  • Atlas for international business

Hardware

Square and Stripe have similar terminals, but Stripe tends to be more complicated. Here is a brief comparison of the main hardware they offer:

Fixed Terminals

 
Stripe – Verifone V400
Square Terminal
Internet Connection
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (LAN), 4G
Wi-Fi, Ethernet (with an extra hub)
Card Technology
Magstripe, EMV, NFC
Magstripe, EMV, NFC
Online/Offline
Yes
Yes
Push-button Keypad
Yes
No
Touchscreen
Yes
Yes
Terminal Checkout
Must be programmed
POS features built-in
Works with POS?
Must be programmed
Designed to be used on its own.
Square hardware is built to be used out-of-the-box for card payments and comes fully integrated. Stripe gives you a choice of two card terminals, a stationary Verifone, and a mobile BBPOS card reader.

Only the mobile reader can be set up without code (using a third-party app). The Verifone terminal needs to be manually programmed with a POS software plug-in (a set of APIs and SDK).

Another main difference is that the Verifone model works with 4G, so a company is never limited to a local wi-fi network. This means Stripe can literally be used anywhere. Although Square boasts the same connectivity, you need to be hooked up to a local wi-fi network to employ the platform.

Mobile Terminals

When comparing the mobile hardware of both brands, there are also key differences:

 
Stripe BBPOS Chipper 2X BT
Square Reader
(swipe and chip/contactless)
Internet Connection
Bluetooth to mobile with cell connection.
Bluetooth to mobile with cell connection.
Card Technology
Magstripe, EMV, NFC
Magstripe, EMV, NFC
Online/Offline
Yes
Yes
Keypad
No. Keypad in app
No. Keypad in app
Display
No
No
iOS/Android App
Can be programmed and
connect with third-party apps.
Works out-of-box with Square POS.
Can also use third-party apps.
When it comes to mobility, Square boasts two separate card readers: Square Reader for magstripe and Square Reader for EMV chip and contactless payment. Both function with the free Square POS app on an iPhone, iPad, or Android device.

The main thing to remember about the two platforms is that Square hardware is simple and comes optimized while Stripe equipment is something that needs programming.

Software

Stripe Software

Stripe hardware can be connected to one of two free apps: “Payment” or “Collect” for Stripe. These programs are clearly designed with Stripe in mind. Subscriptions are managed straight through the platforms. Other key benefits to the software include:

  • Product library
  • Send e-receipts
  • Save details in a customer database
  • Process refunds
  • Tipping

Although several features are like Square, Stripe’s offering is more simplistic. However, detailed functions like product management are better organized.

Square Software

Square Point of Sale is the application that is built into the Square Reader. It functions as a complete POS system with the ability to integrate other forms of equipment like a receipt printer and cash drawer. It has a well-rounded breadth of features that include (but are not limited to):

  • Inventory management
  • Staff controls
  • Payment processing
  • Marketing
  • Reporting and analytics

The software platform can be downloaded on both iOS and Android devices.

In comparison, the Stripe app provides the basics needed to accept orders and process payments. The Square platform offers extensive features that a smaller business may not need.

Cost

Here is a breakdown of Stripe vs. Square costs:

Platform
Card Reader
$49
$39
Countertop Terminal
$299
$239
Monthly Fee / Setup Fee
$0
$0
Online Payment
2.9% + 30 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
Card Terminal
2.7% + 5 cents
2.7% + 10 cents
Additional App Fess
1% – 3% per transaction
Free
International Card Fee
1%
None
Currency Conversion Fee
1%
None
Instant Payouts
1%
1%
Stripe and Square fees are similar except for when it comes to in-person payments. In this case, Stripe has more costs involved. However, online payments typically charge the same.

There are no additional Square fees for currency conversion, premium cards, or international transactions. It should also be noted that if you choose Stripe’s mobile card reader with a ready-made payments app, there can be an extra transaction fee with that third-party. Therefore, transparency is lacking.

Integrating a Stripe reader with a uniquely designed app should not incur app-based transaction fees, but there could be additional costs that are unexpected. Square, on the other hand, has no such app fees. It is completely free to use the point of sale system with the Square Reader. The same goes for the Square Terminal software.

Payouts

Both Square and Stripe offer automatic payouts to your bank account, yet Stripe’s processing time is less predictable. While Square advertises “next-business-day” transfers, deposits can take up to two days to clear. If you activate the “Instant Transfers” features, money will be received within a few hours.

The Stripe payout schedule, however, relies on several factors. The brand takes into consideration things like:

  • Industry
  • Country
  • Risk involved

The first payout will take 7-10 business days, but subsequent transfers will be faster. It should also be noted, if Stripe considers your business “high-risk” payments may also take a much longer time.

Online Payments

Stripe provides the foundation for a business to build any type of online payment system they so desire. However, that requires a source for development. In other words, this is not the right platform if your business needs a program that will hit the ground running. The platform has some of the best API documentation out there, which enables companies to custom-code solutions like:

  • One-off invoices
  • Marketplace solutions
  • Subscription/billing based on usage, location, type, and other factors
  • Trial preceding a subscription

None of these features are ready. It requires a professional developer and/or robust integration tools. However, if you’re using it for an online store, it can connect straight to an ecommerce platform (without the need for a developer).

In contrast, Square offers several out-of-the-box options for a vendor to accept remote payments. This includes factors like:

  • Integrated online store
  • Email invoices
  • Keyed-in payments (in POS app)
  • Virtual terminal (phone and mail order payments)

There is no coding required for any Square online payment. All are, by default, free through paid e-commerce plans.

Customer Service and Support

The longer a brand does business online, the more reviews (both good and bad) they will collect. Stripe and Square have their share of stellar commentary along with negative feedback.

Since both platforms are aggregators, customers can be subject to random and/or frequent account holds. This means, you don’t get a unique merchant account (like the ones provided by acquiring banks). Instead, payments are received through a pooled account. So, although it is fast to open an account, it is also riskier.

While Stripe has 24/7 customer support, Square is committed to office hours via phone and email. Additionally, both platforms boast an extensive knowledgebase for self-empowerment.

Additionally, Square operates a robust Seller Community for online interaction with your peers. Discuss everything there is to know about the platform with people in the same boat as you. Gather answers from other merchants, as well as Square support reps who monitor the page.

Additionally, the Square team watches “Stack Overflow” for questions related to products and services. However, there are customer complaints about the quality of support. The bigger the business, the harder it is to reach people.

Overall, the largest complaint comes from merchants whose accounts were terminated. Not only do you simply receive an email, but the company cuts off access to phone support. So, if there is a mistake, your business could suffer.

For a while, Stripe lagged in customer service and support. However, these days, the platform is viewed as a competitive solution in this space. They did a lot of work to improve and it shows. They also maintain a self-service knowledgebase much like Square’s (although not as extensive or detailed).

Stripe also employs a freenode IRC channel (#Stripe) and after years of comments about interpersonal merchant relationships, they now offer 24/7 customer support for all. Although it has not eliminated everything, it improves the customer service experience overall. If you have a larger business, Stripe also offers premium support packages.




In Conclusion

In summation, both platforms will suit a business well. Square is built more for a company that is just starting out. Stripe is geared towards enterprise ventures and online pursuits. Each platform offers similar solutions so it may boil down to how your developers deem the open API workable.

These software programs are pliable. Do what you want with them but first, know what you are doing. A little research goes a long way before making big decisions. Once you have chosen a solution, check into the proper integrations to make it a well-oiled machine.

The following two tabs change content below.
POS Quote Team

POS Quote Team

The staff at POSQuote.com is composed of industry professionals, experts, and current business owners. Through extensive research, we compile buyer's guides and review the best POS systems in the industry.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*

Ready to get started? Call us at 1-800-715-2435!

Choosing a POS system can be a difficult decision, but we're here to assist you. We don't just review POS systems; we provide complete buyer's guides that are tailored to your business type. Reach out to us to see how we've helped more than 5,000 business owners with POS solutions!