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Stripe vs. PayPal vs. Square: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Square’s pricing is best, but Stripe and PayPal have other features you may want in a payment service provider.
By Tina Orem
Last updated on January 3, 2023
Edited byRyan Lane

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⏰ Estimated read time: 6 minutes

Stripe, PayPal and Square are payment service providers, or PSPs, that help small businesses accept payments in person and online. Stripe may be best for small businesses that prioritize customization, and PayPal may be better for small businesses with an international customer base. But if price is key, Square may be your winner.
Here's how these three companies stack up. For additional comparisons, see our breakdowns of Stripe vs. Paypal and Stripe vs. Square.

Stripe pros and cons at a glance

Pros

Highly customizable.

Competitive pricing.

Cons

Prioritizes online merchants.

Developer experience may be necessary to unlock product's full potential.

PayPal pros and cons at a glance

Pros

One of the most commonly used payment processing platforms.

Easy to use and integrate with website hosts and shopping carts.

Transparent fixed fees in 25 currencies.

Cons

PayPal’s offerings are vast and can be difficult to grasp quickly.

Payment processing can be expensive for small purchases.

Not ideal for high-risk or high-volume businesses.

Square pros and cons at a glance

Pros

Transparent pricing.

Free version of its POS includes a lot of features.

Offers related services, such as payroll, that integrate with its POS system.

Cons

Can’t run on Windows devices.

Complex businesses might prefer a more specialized POS system.

» MORE: Read our full Stripe Payments review

Features

Stripe features overview

Stripe is a popular payment service provider that allows small businesses to accept credit cards, mobile wallets, ACH payments and more. There are a lot of ways to integrate Stripe into your e-commerce site because it’s built with developers in mind. It also provides a payment terminal for in-person card transactions if you have a brick-and-mortar store.
Stripe supports global transactions, can process over 135 currencies and supports multiple languages, including Chinese, Spanish, French, Dutch and Italian; this can be valuable for small businesses that want to expand overseas. Stripe’s services work with major e-commerce platforms such as BigCommerce and WooCommerce.
Stripe has two primary payment processing products.

Stripe Connect

Stripe Connect can process over 135 currencies and complete transactions in over 30 countries. Connect is highly customizable, letting small businesses control signup, onboarding and payout timing, and get financial reporting. Pre-made user interface components exist, or you can customize everything using the Stripe API.

Stripe Checkout

Stripe Checkout streamlines checkout on mobile via an API that creates a Stripe-hosted payment page. It works across desktop and mobile, as well as with Apple Pay and Google Pay, and you can customize the buttons and background color. Discounts, sales tax and email receipts are also supported. It works in over 25 languages.

PayPal features overview

PayPal lets small businesses accept and process payments in person and online. It offers two payment gateway services: PayPal Payments Standard and PayPal Payments Pro. PayPal’s services work with major e-commerce platforms such as BigCommerce, Wix and Shopify. You'll need a PayPal Business account to get started.

PayPal Payments Standard

This product may be best if you don’t have coding experience or a developer on your team, as you’ll simply need to copy and paste a line of code or install a plug-in that works with your existing shopping cart. Either option should only take 15 minutes, according to PayPal’s website.

PayPal Payments Pro

This is a customizable checkout solution that also provides access to a virtual terminal so you can accept credit cards online, via mobile or with devices that don’t have an external card reader. Also, you can accept payments in 25 currencies from 200 countries, accept phone payments, and get simplified PCI compliance.

Square features overview

Square may be known best for its point-of-sale software and its little white tile that plugs into checkout systems, but Square is also a payment service provider. It works with credit cards, debit cards, corporate cards, prepaid cards and reward cards.
Card payment acceptance with the Square app is available only in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, France and the United Kingdom. It doesn’t support payment card processing in U.S. territories, nor does it support cross-border card payments (i.e., you can’t receive card transactions if you’re outside the country where you activated your Square account).
Square integrates with Wix, BigCommerce, GoDaddy and other e-commerce platforms. The company’s APIs allow for customization. Businesses can also invoice customers digitally and take card payments without using the Square POS.
In addition to using its POS hardware systems for in-person payments, Square can process payments three ways.

Online payments

Square offers online payment services that you integrate into your online store or mobile app. You can also get a free e-commerce website and add pickup and delivery services or sell on social media.

Remote payments

Square lets small businesses create and send digital invoices to customers, and those customers can then pay with a card or via ACH. You can also send customers a payment link by text or email.

Manual payments

If you need to accept a payment over the phone and key-in the information, you can do that with Square's app or by using its virtual terminal.

Pricing: Stripe vs. PayPal vs. Square

Here’s how these providers compare on monthly fees and transaction fees.
Monthly fees
Stripe
  • $0 for standard Stripe Connect.
  • $2 per account for Stripe Express (for marketplaces) or Stripe Custom (the white-label option that allows businesses to customize the checkout process).
PayPal
  • $0 for standard service.
  • $5 for PayPal Payments Advanced.
  • $10 for Advanced Fraud Protection service, buyer authentication service or recurring billing service.
  • $19.95 for account monitoring service.
  • $30 for Payments Pro, Payments Pro Payflow, Virtual Terminal or recurring payment tool.
Square
  • $0 for Square POS, Restaurant, Retail and Appointments Free plans.
  • $29 for Square Appointments Plus plan.
  • $60 for Square Restaurant Plus plan.
  • $69 for Square Appointments Premium plan.
  • $89 for Square Retail Plus plan.
  • Custom pricing for Square Retail and Square Restaurant Premium plans.
Transaction fees
Stripe
  • 2.7% plus 5 cents for in-person transactions.
  • 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.
  • 3.4% plus 30 cents for manually keyed transactions.
  • 4.4% plus 30 cents for international card transactions.
PayPal
  • 2.29% plus 9 cents for in-person and QR code transactions.
  • 3.49% plus 9 cents for manual-entry card transactions.
  • 2.89% plus 49 cents for online card payments.
  • 2.99% plus 49 cents for invoicing (payment made with card).
  • 3.49% plus 49 cents for invoicing (payment made with PayPal).
Square
  • 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions.
  • 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.
  • 3.5% plus 15 cents for manually keyed transactions.
  • 3.3% plus 30 cents for invoices.
  • These rates are for businesses that process less than $250,000 per year and have an average ticket size under $15. If your business is larger, Square will do custom pricing. Note that sometimes the custom rates are more than 2.6% plus 10 cents.
Other fees
Stripe
  • Additional 1% fee for currency conversion.
  • Disputed charges incur a $15 fee.
  • Small businesses can also design custom packages. Rates vary depending on volume discounts, multiproduct discounts and country-specific rates. Pricing is also quote-based for the custom Connect plan.
PayPal
  • Other fees, including chargeback fees and mobile card reader fees, are on PayPal’s merchant fees page.
Square
  • Appointment prepayments run 2.9% plus 30 cents.
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