Stripe is one of the world’s leading ecommerce payments providers for a reason… but it won’t be right for all UK merchants. Find out why below.
- Affordable rates
- 24/7 live chat is available
- PCI compliance is taken care of for you
- No credit check required
- Highly customisable
- Accept payments in over 135 currencies
- Wide range of third-party integrations available
- Extra fees apply for transaction protection and dedicated customer support
- No phone-based help service
- Lengthy seven-day payout times
- Some features are only available to US or Canada-based businesses
- Not well-suited to bricks and mortar enterprises
Stripe’s client list reads like a who’s who of global ecommerce: Amazon, Deliveroo, Asos, Facebook – it goes on! Which is all very well, but how does the company perform for small and medium-sized enterprises? For the everyman?
In this article, we'll take a closer look at what Stripe has to offer your ecommerce business, and help you decide whether this online payments powerhouse is a good fit for you.
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What is Stripe?
- Founded in 2010 in San Francisco by Irish brothers John and Patrick Collison
- Currently valued at $95 billion (£68.5 billion)
- Powers the ecommerce efforts of millions of companies, in over 120 countries
Stripe is a company that helps businesses around the world to accept credit and debit card payments online.
This is typically achieved via an embeddable payment gateway that sits on your business’s website – integrating with your shopping cart software to facilitate the transaction, and collect your customer’s money.
In recent years, Stripe has been extending its offerings into the card reader space – allowing merchants to accept face-to-face payments – though its raison d’etre is still very much concerned with online payments.
For instance, the Stripe Terminal – the company’s own-brand PDQ machine – isn’t yet available in the UK, just the US and Canada. In the UK, Stripe currently only offers face-to-face payments via card readers from third-party hardware providers Verifone and BBPOS.
For that reason, business owners who are planning to take in-person payments should look elsewhere – namely, to one of the UK’s top merchant account providers. But if you’re exclusively in ecommerce, and want one of the slickest, most seamless payment platforms on the market today, Stripe should be your first port of call.
So, what can Stripe do for your business? Let’s take a look.
What does Stripe do?
Stripe offers a range of different products designed to combat five specific pain points for sellers: accepting payments, combating fraud, managing billing, reporting on sales, and connecting third-party sellers.
Stripe’s most popular products for merchants include:
Stripe allows you to take online card payments quickly, easily, and securely with a fully customisable payments page, or checkout. You can integrate it into your website with just a single line of code, or take a more technical approach and customise it to fit the look and feel of your online shop.
An automated machine learning fraud system, Stripe Radar checks cards against a global fraud database to minimise the risk of chargebacks to your business. It’ll also help you manage the rigorous demands of SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) on your payments process, and help you guard against pirates and proxies.
With Stripe Billing helping you to streamline and scale your recurring revenue, you can send your customers a one-off invoice, or set up billing on an ongoing basis.
With a slick, intuitive platform that feeds you easily digestible insights into your payments and cash flow, we reckon Stripe Billing is a must for ambitious businesses.
Stripe Sigma puts autonomy over your business’s analytics back into your hands. You can schedule and save custom reports, and use SQL (Structured Query Language) logic to dig deep into the data that matters.
Stripe Connect is a dedicated platform that connects you to a range of online marketplaces (think eBay, Amazon, etc.). The platform allows you to pay – and receive funds from – a variety of third-party sellers across more than 30 countries.
What are Stripe’s features and benefits?
We’re taking you on a whistle-stop tour through some of the main ways that using Stripe can benefit your ecommerce business. Ready?
✓ Take payments in a huge range of currencies
With Stripe, you can accept payments in more than 135 currencies, while European cards – at just 2.9% + 30p per transaction – are surprisingly cheap to accept. You can get paid via dozens of payment methods, too; empowering your international customers to pay how they choose, and boost your chances of a conversion at the checkout.
So, the UK may be distancing itself from Europe and the world… but with Stripe, that doesn’t mean your business has to do the same!
✓ No credit check… check!
Stripe joins Square, Nochex, and just a small handful of merchant services providers that don’t run a credit check when you sign up.
This isn’t just excellent news for those with bad credit, it’s good for everyone. The lack of a credit check – or any other serious underwriting process – means your account can be set up in double-time. With Stripe, you can be all set up within minutes.
To find out how you can access payment processing with a bad credit rating, check out our guide to the best no credit check merchant accounts in 2021.
✓ Super customisable
It’s no exaggeration: Stripe is the most customisable merchant services provider around.
For a payments solution that matches your website’s UI (user interface), you can contact Stripe to build an entirely API-based integration. Plus, the invoices Stripe allows you to create and send through the platform are (surprise, surprise) fully personalisable to the look and feel of your business and brand, too.
Stripe’s partner directory – a compendium of software platforms and plugins that Stripe offers pre-built integrations with – also offers hundreds of ways in which you can expand the functionality of your payments setup.
That includes options for accounting, accepting in-person transactions, managing customer communications, and collecting recurring payments – basically, just about everything under the sun!
✓ Low rates
With fees starting from just 1.4% + 20p per transaction, Stripe is one of the most affordable online payment methods around.
✓ A slick, seamless, and highly user-friendly interface
Just take a look at that thing…
✓ Say goodbye to PCI
If PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance has had you tearing your hair out, well… clean up those tufts, and listen up.
Stripe is certified to PCI Level 1 – the most stringent level of certification available in the payments industry.
This means that all transactions that take place over Stripe’s own (PCI-validated) servers will automatically be compliant, so that particular burden won’t sit on your business’s shoulders.
Sure, if you’re implementing a more technical solution – such as a payment gateway that’s integrated into your site via API – you may be liable for handling your own PCI compliance. Fortunately, this is something the majority of small businesses – particularly those just looking for a simple way to accept online payments – shouldn’t have to worry too much about!
For more information about what payment gateways are – and which suppliers are doing them best – head to our breakdown of the 15 best payment gateways in the UK.
✓ Fast payouts available
With a payout time of up to seven calendar days – that’s the length of time between when Stripe captures the payment, and when those funds actually reach your account – Stripe isn’t the speediest in this field.
However, Stripe does offer an extra feature, called ‘Instant Payouts’. This allows you to have your funds sent straight to your debit card within minutes, meaning you’ll be able to start spending your earnings straight away. ‘Instant Payouts’ will set you back a fee of 1% of the payment’s amount, with a minimum charge of 40p per payout.
What are Stripe’s drawbacks?
We’re all about even-handedness here at Expert Market. So, to help you understand the reasons that Stripe might not be your best option, here's what it doesn't do so well.
X Not suitable for bricks and mortar merchants
Now that pubs, restaurants, and shops are opening back up again, it’s time to start thinking about how to accept credit and debit cards from across the bar, at the table, or over the counter.
After all, the pandemic has exposed the limitations of cash, and brought the need to accept contactless face-to-face transactions into the limelight.
The only issue? With Stripe, facilitating said face-to-face payments isn’t particularly easy.
As we mentioned earlier, the Stripe Terminal isn’t yet available in the UK, and you’ll instead have to rely on a highly-priced card reader outsourced from Verifone or BBPOS.
Opt for a card reader from SumUp or Zettle instead, or – even better – take a deep dive into our bumper guide to the best credit card machines for small businesses.
X Extra charges
Stripe’s ‘simple’ fee structure – which it bills at just 1.4% + 20p per transaction – is, indeed, simple. That is, until you start unpacking the additional charges.
Stripe’s tools for fraud prevention, billing, granular reporting, and premium customer support all cost extra. Our tip? Do your research before signing up. Find out exactly which of Stripe’s ancillary functions you’ll require, and take care to factor them into your budget before signing on the dotted line!
Speaking of costs, scroll on – we’re breaking down Stripe’s lengthy litany of prices below.
How much does Stripe cost?
We know you might not have time to read all the detailed Stripe pricing information we’ve assembled for you below. After all, you probably skipped your way down the page to get here (admit it!).
So, here are all the key Stripe costs you need to know about, displayed in a table for your viewing pleasure.
|Transaction fee (European card)||1.4% + 20p|
|Transaction fee (Non-European card)||2.9% + 20p|
|BACS direct debit||1% (min. 20p, max. £2)|
|Stripe Billing||0.5% per recurring payment|
|Stripe Radar||4 to 6p per screened transaction|
|Sigma||From 1.5p per charge|
|Premium Support||From £1,400 per month|
|Instant Payouts||1% (minimum 40p)|
|BBPOS WisePad 3 reader||£49|
|Verifone P400 reader||£249|
Stripe’s fees are simple, and charged on a pay-as-you-go basis. That means no setup fee, and no recurring monthly charges.
Once you’re set up on the system, funds are deposited into your account on a seven-day rolling basis.
In comparison, similar payment providers – such as both Zettle and Square – charge between 1.75% (for in-person transactions) and 2.5% (for ecommerce or keyed transactions) – so it’s clear that Stripe’s fees are highly competitive for both small and large businesses.
The POS terminals – dynamic card readers that come equipped with cloud-based hardware management software – that Stripe provides via a third-party manufacturer will also incur a fee.
It’s also worth noting here that Stripe – despite offering a 24/7 live chat service, and a range of help and support services through its website – charges a fee for ‘Premium Support’. The cost for this starts from a steep £1,400 per month, but it’ll buy you a dedicated account manager, faster, more prioritised responses, and emergency support for critical issues.
Stripe also boasts a range of add-on services, which – for an extra fee – help your business with billing, fraud protection, and analytics.
Costs here differ wildly. ‘Sigma’ – Stripe’s solution for saving and scheduling customised reports – starts at 1.5p per charge, while Stripe’s chargeback protection feature comes with a fee of 0.4% per transaction.
Costs for Stripe ‘Billing’, a package that automatically reconciles your business’s invoices and includes smart recovery tools for reducing churn, start at 0.5% for recurring charges. ‘Adaptive Acceptance’ – machine learning-driven models that improve your authorisation rates in real time – costs 0.08% per successful card charge.
Is Stripe right for my business?
As this article’s opening sentence will be the first to tell you, Stripe isn’t for everyone. Dive into a few of our most common FAQs – supplied by UK business owners themselves – below, to explore whether Stripe’s popular ecommerce payment solution is a good fit for you.
“I want the best merchant services for ecommerce. Is it Stripe?”
We’ve made it clear that Stripe isn’t the right pick for bricks and mortar-based companies, but for ecommerce businesses, there are few better selections than Stripe.
What it lacks in customer support and payout speed, Stripe makes up for in cleverness and unfettered levels of customisability. To view how the company stacks up against the rest of its closest competitors, have a read of our guide to the best merchant account providers for ecommerce.
“I want to take payments at my restaurant. Should I choose Stripe?”
In your case, choosing Stripe would be a mistake. Stripe is best for online businesses only – so unless you’re planning to shut up shop and go completely takeaway (which we’re guessing you’re probably just about done with by now!), you’ll want a solution that facilitates in-person payments, too.
You’ll find them all, ranked, on our guide to the best merchant services for hospitality. It’s updated for 2021 – so don’t miss it!
What’s Stripe’s customer support like?
Stripe doesn’t offer phone-based support, however you are able to request a call through its website. There’s also a live chat service, which operates 24/7, and – should you decide to seek help via email – Stripe promises a response within 24 hours.
Now, this won’t be a huge barrier to many businesses. The platform is slick, and the odds are that most users will rarely have to bring a problem to Stripe’s attention; even complex processes such as refunds are handled automatically, and fairly painlessly.
But if you prefer speaking to live support staff, you may be frustrated with the service.
Of course, money talks, and – if you’re set on the finest support, and have the budget to burn – you can opt to pay for Stripe’s ‘Premium Support’ package, at £1,400 per month.
What do Stripe’s customer reviews say?
Stripe has a Trustpilot rating of 3.4/5 – indicating an ‘Average’ score – with only 55% of a total 5,628 reviewers (at the time of writing) bestowing it with the full five stars. Not terrible… but certainly not great. How does this compare to similar companies, then?
Not well. SumUp – our top provider in the payment facilitator space – has a ‘Great’ Trustpilot rating of 4.2, while Zettle weighs in with decent rating of 3.9/5.
Square, however – the Jack Dorsey-led payment provider that’s been going from strength to strength in recent years – has an outstanding Trustpilot score of 4.3/5. That’s almost a whole star superior to Stripe, for an ‘Excellent’ rating. So what gives?
We looked at a few of Stripe’s most recent customer reviews to find out. And, since the company’s overall ratings aren’t amazing, we thought it apt to start with the less flattering feedback.
Stripe reviews: the bad
- Neil, Stripe customer | 30th March, 2021
“Terrible customer service. Stripe does not have a phone number, so there’s no way to get anything done in a timely manner. It will also cut off your account, for no reason at all, without warning. You’ll have to go hours – maybe even days – without the ability to accept payment from customers.”
- Kathy, Stripe customer | 19th February, 2021
Here’s something we already know to be Stripe’s Achilles heel – it’s long seven-day payouts – borne out in the customer feedback. Slightly more worrying, though, are those remarks about the help and support.
We already know Stripe doesn’t have a phone number for incoming calls – you’ll have to request one to speak to any agent, or settle for a live chat conversation instead – but this Stripe review shows just how much the company may be letting its customers down here.
Another recurring (and alarming!) theme across Stripe’s reviews is that the company has the tendency to withhold payments, or pause accounts due to suspected fraud or lack of verification. We know this to be an issue with similar companies – many reviews of Square and SumUp cite similar things.
It’s a typical problem with companies like this, and stems from their business model.
Stripe, Square, SumUp and Zettle all provide aggregated merchant accounts. This means that they batch transactions from a wide variety of sellers together, instead of providing a dedicated service. This allows these companies to offer cheaper rates and do away with monthly fees (and sometimes the credit check, too), but also leaves them more at risk of fraud – meaning they’re quick to pause, suspend, or cancel accounts at little notice.
Sadly, this can result in a lot of innocent companies incorrectly becoming ‘bycatch’ in the trawling net of these overprotective fraud policies, and having payments that are owed to them blocked.
“It’s a pandemic. You can’t withhold payouts from small businesses right now. I mean come on!”
- Alyssa, Stripe customer | 6th April, 2021
Stripe reviews: the good
So, what is Stripe doing well? Affordability and intuitiveness seem to be at the top of the list…
- Aida, Stripe customer | 6th April, 2021
…and customisability isn’t far behind!
- VB, Stripe customer | 2nd April, 2021
Plus, despite the large portion of negative reviews we found, there were some that bucked that trend completely.
“Our developers loved implementing it, and it’s super easy for our customer support [team] to invoice, charge, and refund customers. Payments to our bank account are fast.
“Stripe’s support is always responsive, although sometimes the answers are a bit generic, and issues can take a while to get to the bottom of. But in the end, Stripe’s team is always able to help.”
- Alex, Stripe customer, 21st March, 2021
Ultimately, Stripe’s reviews are a mixed bag. Before entering into an agreement with the company, you should know that the company has paused payouts to small businesses without notice before, and that its customer service – while by no means terrible – can tend to be limited.
However, the platform itself boasts mostly rosy reviews, with Stripe’s customers lauding its ease of use, developer-friendliness, and customisability.
What other merchant services providers should I consider?
As you’ll have gleaned by now, Stripe’s service won’t be for everyone. It’s designed pretty much solely for ecommerce businesses, after all – so what about merchants who are looking to take payments from over the counter?
If this is you, you’re better off going with a provider such as SumUp, Zettle (formerly iZettle), Square, or PayPal Here.
All boast similarly affordable rates to Stripe's, but combine online payment processing with some nifty mobile card readers for accepting in-person transactions.
Explore our reviews of each of these providers below.
Stripe offers some of the lowest online card payment processing fees around. The platform is robust, feature-rich, and intuitive to use. For most businesses, Stripe works like a dream – but for the small number that do encounter a problem with their account, that dream can very quickly become a nightmare.
If you’re searching for a provider with low transaction fees, then look no further than Stripe.
But if you’re happy to pay a little more for the peace of mind that a dedicated customer support team provides, you’re better off going with a company such as Zettle, or PayPal (the latter of which, funnily enough, now owns the former!).
And, if you’d prefer to eschew Stripe’s pay-as-you-go plan in favour of a provider that offers lower per transaction fees – but that levies monthly charges instead – you can opt for a dedicated merchant account provider, such as Paymentsense or Handepay.
This approach works if you have a high, consistent monthly turnover, but isn’t well-suited to smaller setups – especially not seasonal business, micro-merchants, and tradespeople.
If you’re not sure about any of this, we recommend utilising our free quote-finding service to compare rates and packages from multiple merchant services providers.
TL, DR: It’s the easiest way to ensure you’re getting the best deal for your business. So how does it work?
Well, simply click on one of the buttons below to get started. We’ll ask a few questions, including:
- Do you currently accept card payments, and if so, with whom?
- What industry are you in?
- How do you want to accept card payments?
- How much are you intending to process by card per month?
Once we have this info through our form – which takes literally 30 seconds to fill in – we’ll match you with one or more payment providers that meet your needs. They’ll then be in touch with you directly, to offer tailored, no-obligation quotes and advice. It’s that simple – happy researching!
How we analyse and rate Stripe and other merchant services providers
At Expert Market, it’s our aim to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date, and transparent product and service reviews possible. So, to help you better understand the best merchant account options out there, we’ve conducted in-depth, extensive research into the payments industry and its top companies.
Here’s how we did it:
We worked with two independent researchers over 60+ hours to rate 13 different merchant services providers – eight traditional (dedicated) merchant account suppliers, and five payment facilitators.
Our project assessed four separate varieties of payment methods, as well as nine specific features. Using a bespoke, industry-style algorithm, we rated each provider across four key metrics.
- Help and support: we assessed the level of customer support (such as email, phone, or live chat), as well as its availability (24/7, or weekdays only?), to provide a weighted score for each merchant account supplier.
- Affordability: our affordability algorithm took into account the specific transaction and monthly fees for various transaction types, as well as any one-off costs. Our analysis also included contract length, package type, the flexibility of each providers’ pricing structures, plus the price of any hardware required.
- Features: we assessed each supplier on up to eight specific features. We then weighted these scores, and translated them into a point value system. This allowed us to form accurate ratings for each merchant account provider, and make specific recommendations to you.
- Customer approval: we assigned each provider a ‘customer score’, which involved seeking opinions from within the community, as well as feeding data aggregated from online sources into a unique algorithm. This allowed us to calculate overall customer approval scores for each merchant account supplier, in real time.
We take the integrity of our research seriously. If you’ve got any questions at all about our research process, feel free to get in touch with Rob, our financial services specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.