Stripe vs PayPal, what’s best for a digital publisher?

In 2014, blogger, Shannon George, wrote a detailed article comparing two online payment processors, PayPal and Stripe . The article, Paypal vs. Stripe, is a great read to understand the differences, pros, and cons of each.

If you are using the WordPress platform for your digital publication, both processors can handle subscriptions (recurring and non-recurring). It’s nice to have a choice, but they are both very different. PayPal has been around much longer than Stripe (since 1998, 12 years longer than Stripe) and uses a standard and familiar steps for processing credit cards that’s been around and, up to recently, has been the norm for years. When you take a look at Stripe, they use a streamlined process that may take getting used to, but will become the norm quickly.

Let’s compare Stripe’s service to PayPal’s Standard Version, both do not require you to have a contract with them, have no monthly fees and have tough security standards. (The Advanced and Pro versions of PayPal have monthly fees, so let’s assume we are all a little sick of monthly fees – even though there are advantages to these programs – and focus on the PayPal Standard version.)

Your Cost for PayPal processing:

  • No fee if your subscriber/customer uses their PayPal account/funds.
  • 2.9% + $0.30 per credit card transaction (3.9% for international credit cards, 2.2% for non-profits with 501(c)(3) status).

You Cost for Stripe processing:

  • 2.9% + $0.30 per credit card transaction, worldwide (lower % for very large customers)

If you’re not familiar with Stripe, in a nutshell it is an online credit card payment processor. Yes, there are many out there already, but Stripe is different. It’s hassle-free, easy to manage, and pre-built with slick checkout pop-up boxes which are great for publications. Stripe is easy to configure, easy for your customer to use to sign up and cancel subscriptions.

If you’re not familiar with PayPal, it has been the one of the standard online credit card processors for a personal use or small businesses to accept payment of any product or service. (Not linked to any point of purchase terminal).

No need to worry about security with either service (no extra set up for you to secure your checkout experience). Since their server processes credit card payments, you do not need to purchase and install a SSL certificate to enable a secure connection on your site. Stripe uses HTTPS for all of its services, including its checkout box on your site – and PayPal has HTTPS on its checkout page. This type of certificate encrypts and verifies the information sent between the person’s browser and the website’s server – so all personal information is safe when typed in and sent to the processor.

If you’re familiar with PayPal Standard, you’ll know that a customer does not need to have to have a PayPal account to pay, but is redirected to the ‘secure’ PayPal site to check out. PayPal’s page has the “Pay with my PayPal Account” window open (and the “Pay with a debit or credit card…” window closed underneath). I understand why PayPal would rather have a customer use their own PayPal account versus using a credit card (lower fees for them), but it requires your customer to click on “Pay with a debit or credit card…” to start the process.


If a person does use a credit card, there are 10 different pieces of information that PayPal requires to complete the transaction. Not difficult for the subscriber, but does take a little time to fill out.

Stripe_checkoutWith the Stripe processor, there is only one “version” of the service and it’s embedded into your site with a slick small box that only requires a few things (email address, c/c #, expiration date and CVC, the 3 digit code on the back of the card). Can you imagine an easier way to subscribe? One step. Something they call “single click payments”. Payments are secure and easy.

Another cool option with Stripe is a very quick way to have Stripe “remember” subscriber’s payment information. Instead of having to ‘set up’ an account with a login and password (such as with PayPal), Stripe uses the subscriber’s email address and mobile telephone number together to expedite the process of checking out in the future. No password needed! If a customer encounters another Stripe checkout box (on your site or another Stripe processing website), the credit card information will already be filled in. Customers can edit the credit card number easily if they wish to use a different card. The most recent card information will be stored on Stripe’s secure server.

Stripe_RememberIf a subscriber uses a different computer to check out on a website using the Stripe processing system, once the person types in their email address Stripe will send a verification code by text to the person’s mobile phone to verify his/her identity. The customer types in the code and voilá, transaction complete. This makes it easy in case the subscriber does not have the credit card handy.

Stripe_Paypal_PmtSince we’re mainly focused on publishing and how to handle subscribers here – let’s talk about how these processes work with your site. Both PayPal and Stripe have a variety of plugins for WordPress in the suppository. It can be a little daunting knowing which one to choose unless you’re working with a developer that has his or her own favorite. As a publisher, if you’re using the LeakyPaywall plugin for managing different subscription/payment levels, Leaky Paywall has standard PayPal and Stripe payment options in the Settings page of the WordPress dashboard. The current version of Leaky Paywall (version 3.x) does not require that you install any additional plugins. With Leaky Paywall you can have both payment options for customers visible, or just one – your choice.

Once you start using Stripe and PayPal – you’ll see the differences right away. For simple subscriptions where you don’t need to mail anything (and don’t need a shipping address), Stripe is a great choice. Stripe does offer many options for those of you who have products to ship, but for subscriptions, set up is simple for you and fun and easy for your subscriber. If you already have a PayPal account and use it for other ‘product’ purchases and want to keep all of your payments together, this is a great choice for your convenience. Keep your reader in mind and keep it simple – you decide.

Thirsty for more information about Stripe and Paypal? Read Rob McLarty’s 2015 Stripe VS PayPal article for more comparisons.

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