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Giant Hat’s Ultimate Guide to Payment Gateways

For many online shoppers, the checkout process is a make-or-break moment for their e-commerce experience. There are dozens of payment gateway options, however in this article, we are comparing the 4 most common platforms that integrate well with the custom websites we design using WordPress with either the WooCommerce or Magento e-commerce platform.

What is a Payment Gateway?

A payment gateway is the infrastructure (software and servers) that allows people to pay for goods and services from an e-commerce retailer. The gateway is added to an e-commerce retailer’s site through a third party. A payment gateway authorizes credit and debit cards for online merchants and facilitates communication within banks.

When developing new website projects or adding an e-commerce solution to a client’s existing website, the payment gateway is always a decision point that gets people tripped up. There is so much information out there to weed through. Usually, the first inclination is to go ahead and use PayPal or another payment processor that has been used in the past, even if it isn’t the best fit for the new website or business model. In order to make the decision process easier for our own clients, we have done the research and are comparing the key features of each in this article.

5 Key Considerations When Selecting a Payment Gateway

In order to select the best possible gateway for your business or organization, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will it provide a great user experience?

Some payment gateways are better than others at eliminating steps and making the checkout process seamless. Do you want your user to complete the transaction entirely without ever leaving your website, or are you okay with the customer being directed to another website to make the purchase?

  • What products and services am I selling?

Event tickets, merchandise, memberships or subscriptions to a platform or service, organization that sells sponsorships, church or nonprofit that takes recurring donations?

  • Where do I do business?

Do you sell or accept payments both online and offline? If you have a brick and mortar presence or take payments in person, you will likely want to consider payment gateways that can also integrate with your in-store POS system or a mobile device card-reader (i.e. Square Reader or PayPal Here). Do you sell internationally? Visa and MasterCard are common in the US, but if you sell internationally there may be other payment methods or overseas banking institutions that your gateway needs to support.

  • Does it integrate easily with the website/e-commerce platforms and my bank account?

For our clients, we look at ease of integration for our custom WordPress website framework, e-commerce platforms WooCommerce or Magento, and plugins such as Gravity Forms and Event Tickets plus for registration and event ticket sales. If you use another platform, such as Squarespace or Shopify, you will want to understand if they have recommendations or limitations on what payment gateways that can be integrated. Also, the back-end experience of some gateways are better than others. Is it important for it to be easy for those in your organization to login to review past purchases or registrations, cancel transactions, or give returns?

  • What are the fees and contracts?

Payment gateways and merchant accounts charge various different fees that can include monthly fees, fixed fees per transaction, variable fees based on a percentage of transaction amounts, and extra fees for things like chargebacks, payments from international cards, and more. Also, make sure you understand what kind of contract you are signing up for (fixed or monthly rolling).

Payment Gateway Comparison


PayPal is one of the most recognizable names in online payment. With over 244 million users it’s definitely a trusted platform, and chances are a good portion of your demographic has a PayPal account. PayPal is a great alternative or “back up” solution to any other gateway solution you may have on your site. You can, of course, use it as your sole solution, but many brands have it as an alternative choice at checkout. Why? It’s a time saver and an alternative to people who do not wish to dole out their credit card info to every retailer they are purchasing from. Offering PayPal as a secondary option can raise your sales conversion rate. There are three tiers of Paypal accounts.

PayPal Standard

  • Transaction fee: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, and for international sales, it’s 4.4% transaction fee plus a fixed fee based on currency received. (PayPal Standard Pricing)
  • Other fees: No setup or monthly fees
  • Contract: None
  • Payment Methods: 9 major credit cards, PayPal Credit, and PayPal
  • Countries: Available in 203 countries and 25 currencies
  • Bank Transfers: Estimated arrival 1 business day
  • Invoicing: Yes
  • Point of Sale/In-Person Payments: PayPal Here – In store fees are 2.7% of the transaction.
  • Non-profit organizations: Discounted rate of 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction for eligible charities. (PayPal for Nonprofits)
  • Other features: Supports ALL platforms, since PayPal redirects back to its own site (unless you choose to integrate with PayPal Express)

PayPal Pro

  • Transaction fee: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (PayPal Pro Pricing)
  • Other fees: $30 per month
  • Payment Methods: 9 major credit cards, PayPal Credit, and PayPal
  • Countries: Available to US, UK, and Canadian-based organizations
  • Other features: Fully customizable with easy cart integration and APIs

PayPal Express

  • Transaction fee: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
  • Other fees: None
  • Payment Methods: Accepts PayPal payments only, no credit/debit cards
  • Other Features: Provides an optimized experience for mobile shoppers. Speedy checkout service for users who are already PayPal customers because they don’t have to create a new account.


Stripe is a company that has built their business with web developers in mind first, merchants second. This has led to Stripe’s creation as a gateway that truly integrates seamlessly with websites, apps, and other digital platforms.

  • Transaction fee: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, plus an add’l 1% for international cards (Stripe Pricing)
  • Other fees: No setup, monthly, or hidden fees
  • Contract: None
  • Payment Methods: 6 major credit cards, plus direct bank transfers via ACH or echecks
  • Countries: Available in 25 countries and 100+ currencies
  • Bank Transfers: Transfers arrive in your bank account on a 2-day rolling basis. Or you can opt to receive transfers weekly or monthly.
  • Invoicing:
  • Non-profit organizations: Non-profits around the world use Stripe to accept payments. If you have 501c(3) status, they do offer special pricing for organizations that qualify. (Stripe for Nonprofits)
  • Point of Sale/In-Person Payments:
  • Other Features: Easy cart integration and APIs


Square was founded in 2009. It is one of the most feature-rich mobile processing systems that does not require monthly fees. While Square’s payment processing service is not appropriate for all business types, many small businesses enjoy the predictable pricing and quick and easy setup.

  • Transaction fee: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (Square Pricing)
  • Other fees: No setup or monthly fees
  • Contract: None
  • Payment Methods: 6 major credit cards
  • Countries: Available in 5 countries (US, Canada, Japan, Australia, UK) and 5 currencies
  • Bank Transfers: Deposits are made in your bank account within 1-2 days, or instantly for a 1% fee.
  • Invoicing: Yes
  • Non-profit organizations: Square does not offer a discount for nonprofits – many take advantage of the 2.75% rate for swiped transactions on a Square Reader (Square for Organizations)
  • Point of Sale/In-Person Payments: Square Reader – the flat rate for keyed transactions is 3.5%+$0.15 and 2.75% for swiped ones.
  • Other features: Square provides free advanced analytics including a detailed and informative dashboard representing current sales data. Square is great for retailers and multi-channel sellers.

Established in 1996, is one of the oldest payment gateways. They provide the gateway, but not the merchant account (although there is a setup option to acquire a merchant account through a 3rd party provider during registration). has a great international presence and offers broad support for multiple currencies.

  • Transaction fee: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction ( Pricing)
  • Other fees: Monthly fee of $25
  • Contract: None
  • Accepted Payment Methods: Offers offer a variety of payment options ranging from 5 major credit cards and e-checks to Visa Checkout and PayPal.
  • Bank Transfers: Typically 1-3 business days
  • Invoicing: Yes
  • Non-profit organizations: No discounts found
  • Point of Sale/In-Person Payments: Accept credit cards in person through a Virtual Point of Sale reader
  • Other features: Integrates well with Gravity Forms plugin, if you are creating custom donation or registrations on your website. Subscription capabilities for regular or recurring donations.

Why Stripe is our Top Choice

As you can see, there are many nuances between these top 4 payment gateways. To make your decision easier, we will come right out and tell you that hands-down, we recommend Stripe as the top choice for almost every business or organization that we work with. Stripe is a simple tool that can satisfy the needs of most online stores. Stripe is well-known for its reliable security system and it supports both Android Pay and Apple Pay, using more than 100 available currencies. Stripe is known for being innovative, and as such it is a top solution if accepting cutting-edge online and global payments is your goal.

It has a secure open API that can be easily connected or even customized by your developers. Developers use Stripe to create an array of customized payment checkouts for high-volume sellers, multi-seller platforms, subscription businesses, and more. In conclusion, Stripe offers an amazing suite of developer-level tools which in turn assist us in building the best possible e-commerce solution for our clients.

*Note: All transaction fees and other information are current as of the date of this post. For the most up-to-date info on fees and features, please refer to each payment gateway’s individual website.


payment gateway comparison