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Some of the world’s largest tech-forward companies, like Uber, Yelp, and Dropbox, use Braintree Payments as their payment platform. But if you want to follow in the footsteps of these tech behemoths (at least when it comes to how they process digital payments), don’t be scared off by their size: Braintree Payments is an ideal payment processing solution for almost all online and ecommerce businesses, even the smallest ventures.
In this Braintree review, we’ll tell you what you need to know about this payment gateway-plus-merchant-account provider (and tell you exactly what that means), including its major features, pricing, and which businesses in particular should consider Braintree as their payment processing company. And if your business doesn’t fit the bill—or if you simply want to see what other payment platforms are out there—then we’ll also recommend a few Braintree alternatives for you to consider.
Braintree is a PayPal company that offers merchants a payment gateway and a merchant account—but what are a payment gateway and a merchant account, exactly? Put simply, the former is a software application that enables business owners to accept payments online, via their business website (with the appropriate plugin) or their ecommerce store. The latter is a type of bank account that holds funds obtained through your business’s credit card transactions. The merchant account provider fronts you the cash you’re due from those transactions, minus their fees, so you don’t need to wait until your customer pays off their credit card bill to get paid.
And here’s the real difference between Braintree and similar, third-party payment processors: Most of the latter, such as PayPal and Stripe, don’t offer individual merchant accounts on their platforms—rather, they aggregate all their sellers into one big merchant account. But Braintree actually offers customers their own, unique merchant accounts, which is a more stable and secure solution. That said, if you already have a merchant account that you’re happy with, you can choose only to use Braintree as your payment gateway provider.
With Braintree as your payment platform, you can accept the payment methods your customers use most: all major credit and debit cards, Venmo in the U.S., digital wallets like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Google Pay, ACH deposits, local payment methods, and, of course, PayPal. Braintree works in over 130 currencies, in over 45 countries around the world.
Braintree offers four major products on their platform. Baked into these four products are Braintree’s additional features, including a suite of fraud protection tools and data security; customized sales reports and access to transaction data on a centralized control panel; and a sizeable list of third-party integrations, from shopping carts like WooCommerce and BigCommerce, to invoice software, to analytics apps and plugins.
Plus, if you need to process payments in person, then you can integrate PayPal Here into your Braintree account, which is PayPal’s range of external card readers. Keep in mind, however, that PayPal Here doesn’t currently offer a countertop POS solution.
Here’s a closer look at Braintree’s four major products:
Braintree Direct provides you with all the tools you need to accept payments online, including a payment gateway and merchant account. You can also store your customers’ information to enable recurring billing, and this service can automatically update customer accounts when their payment or shipping information changes. Everything is PCI-compliant and aligns with industry-wide security standards. It’s a scalable solution, too, so you never need to worry about outgrowing your Braintree account.
This service allows you to securely share your customers’ payment information with your partners, without rerouting your customers to your partners’ site to check out. As Braintree indicates in their case studies, an example of a business to whom this service would be of benefit is a travel site (such as Skyscanner, which is profiled in one Braintree case study) that can share their customers’ information with partner airlines, but still allow customers to book on their own website. That seamless checkout process is crucial for increasing conversion.
If you’re a merchant service provider, such as an accountant, with this service your merchants can give you permission to join their Braintree accounts so that you can manage their data remotely.
On Braintree Marketplace, you can access the platform’s customizable, developer-friendly APIs to implement a comprehensive payment solution into your online business. And as Braintree is a PayPal company, Braintree also allows you to integrate with PayPal’s robust capabilities, too.
One of Braintree’s major selling points is their simple and transparent pricing model: You’ll just pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, which aligns with the industry standard. The only exceptions to this model are ACH direct deposits, which will incur a 0.75% fee; and PayPal and PayPal Credit payments, which cost nothing. Rates are slightly lower for verified 501(c)(3) organizations, too.
Other than that, there are no extra or hidden fees (like setup, maintenance, service, or early cancellation fees), though you will need to pay an additional 1% for non-U.S. currency, and if the customer’s card is issued by a non-U.S. bank. You’ll also be charged a flat $15 for chargebacks. But again, Braintree’s pricing is clearly delineated on their website.
Also, as we mentioned earlier, you may choose not to avail yourself of a Braintree merchant account. If you choose to integrate your Braintree payment gateway with your existing merchant account, however, you’ll need to pay a $49 monthly fee for your payment gateway, as well as $.10 per transaction and another $10 for any additional merchant accounts you link up.
Alternately, if you process more than $80,000 per month, you can opt for a custom pricing model that’s based on your sales volume and business model.
While Braintree is an excellent payment processing option for online-only retail or marketplace businesses, it certainly won’t suit every small business out there. Here are just a few of your alternative options:
We think that Square POS makes up for many of what some small businesses would perceive as Braintree’s shortcomings (or no-gos). Most notably, if you don’t have a developer on your team, then Braintree’s API might be too complex for you to implement on your own. Also, Braintree doesn’t provide POS hardware outside of PayPal’s own external card readers, which are limited to mobile POS systems—so if you need a countertop register, then you’ll need to set your sights elsewhere.
Here’s where Square might help you out: First off, Square’s free software is easy to use—you simply need to download the app to your smart device or laptop, then hook up one of Square’s external card readers to accept and process payments in person. For in-person payments, you can choose from Square’s range of external card readers, which include mPOS solutions as well as Square Register, their fully functional countertop POS terminal.
Square can accept payments online through their virtual terminal, too, which is compatible with major ecommerce platforms. And if you’re building your online store from the ground up—and you want your customers to have a seamless checkout experience, using Square as your payment processor—then you can use Square’s Weebly store setup option, which gives you access to professional online store templates.
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Like Braintree, Stripe is the fully integrated payment processor of choice for some of the most famous tech companies out there, like Slack and Lyft. As such, Stripe is remarkably customizable—which is ideal if you engineers who can take advantage of that feature, or if you have a programming background yourself.
Beyond that, Stripe is loaded with all the payment processing capabilities you’d expect from such a processor trusted by tech giants. Take a look at our Stripe review for a comprehensive look at what Stripe can do for your business (even if you’re not as major as OpenTable quite yet.)
If you want a dedicated merchant account and a payment gateway from the same provider, like Braintree offers, then Stripe and Square may not be the best options for you—as we mentioned, those providers aggregate all of their customers into one merchant account.
As an alternative, look into Authorize.Net. This service offers similar features as Braintree, such as fraud prevention, recurring payments, saved customer information, and automatic account updates. You can also add a customizable “Pay Now” button to your ecommerce store for a fully integrated checkout experience. Do note, however, that Braintree’s Better Business Bureau profile is superior to Authorize.Net’s—where Braintree only has eight customer complaints, Authorize.Net has 110. Most negative Authorize.Net reviews concern held funds, frozen accounts, and hidden fees.
Authorize.Net’s payment gateway-merchant account bundle pricing model is the same as Braintree’s: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. However, you’ll also need to pay an additional $25 monthly fee for this service plan.
If you run an ecommerce business and need a robust credit card processing solution, Braintree should be at the top of your list, thanks to their comprehensive, highly customizable checkout solutions, transparent pricing structure, and ability to accept a huge amount of payment types in over 100 currencies.
That said, your digital payment processing options certainly don’t begin and end with Braintree. Square is worth consideration for businesses that don’t have an engineer to take advantage of Braintree’s APIs, and/or that need more robust in-person POS hardware than what Braintree has to offer. Stripe is another widely used, tech-forward payment processing solution to look into, while Authorize.Net can be an option for businesses that want their own, dedicated merchant account, rather than a shared, aggregate account with every other seller on their payment processor’s platform.
Even if you have your heart set on Braintree—and we recommend this platform for certain businesses—we still recommend comparing Braintree with other major payment gateway (and/or merchant account providers) out there. That way, you can sell easy in the knowledge that you’re partnering up with the absolute best payment processor for your unique business.