Stripe is on a serious roll at the moment and looks set to be a major rival to the big players in the payments industry such as Paypal. Anyone who is familiar with the story of the Collison brothers from Limerick will wish the company well - it's a great success story for Irish entrepreneurship and tech talent. In fact as we see it, Stripe is disrupting not only the big incumbents in the field - but the entire landscape of online payments - with it's complicated and convoluted structure of payment gateways and merchant service providers. With just a few lines of code, Stripe does away with the need for both - it's a genuinely innovative piece of technology that strips out all the complexity of setting up an e-commerce business as far as taking payment goes.
So when we decided to move to Shopify, I was pretty keen to take a look at Stripe Ireland to see how it measured up against the other options for a small Irish online business like ours. Shopify integrates seamlessly with Stripe (and Bitcoin) so the temptation to join the revolution and sign up with Stripe was obvious. Until I started to crunch the numbers that is. As far as I can see, Stripe in Ireland just doesn't stack up financially. It's pitched at 2.4% + 24c per transaction and they make a very big play out of the fact that there are no hidden extras, no confusing exception charges, monthly recurring charges etc. That's all well and good but 2.4% + 24c is still high and here's the killer for me anyway - that's charged on every type of card - even VISA DEBIT. Now, in Ireland the VISA DEBIT is fairly new - it's the replacement for the old Laser scheme operated by the Irish banks. And crucially, those transactions generally do not attract a percentage fee at all - they usually go through at 20 to 25 cents only. Adoption of visa debit is very high in Ireland and we certainly see a lot of transactions on this card rather than a credit card. In fact, through the recession in Ireland the trend was not only for people to pay down unsecured debt like credit card borrowings, but also to avoid using them at all. So use of this card is high. As soon as we started to look at the numbers in detail, Stripe Ireland had serious disadvantages over their more traditional competition.
Even allowing for the extra cost of using a payment gateway like Realex or Payment Sense, Stripe Ireland was still more expensive. I reached out to Stripe a couple of times in the course of my research but they never actually addressed this issue with me. In the end, we decided to go with Payment Sense who offered us a much more attractive deal. The acid test will be if our actual bills reflect the headline rates or whether the opaque nature of the terms disguise some hidden charges that we hadn't taken account of. I'm not convinced that will be the case but we'll watch how things unfold and will revisit this in the future.
For the moment though, we wish Stripe continued success in Ireland and worldwide but we're passing right now.