How to take payments with WooCommerce – affordably

Written by Nicole Kohler on August 11, 2016 Blog, Taking payments.

Building a store can get costly. Even the most experienced developers can find themselves overspending — a premium theme here, a cool-sounding extension there, and suddenly you’ve blown the budget.

The ability to accept payments is one of those things you almost have to spend part of your budget on. But there’s no reason you should have to waste all your money on preparing to take credit cards online, or cash from local shoppers.

There are multiple ways to take payments from your customers without spending a fortune on setup or monthly fees. From built-in processors to optional extensions, there’s a fitting solution for every budget-conscious store builder that won’t waste your money — or your time, for that matter.

Let’s explore a few ways you can take payments with WooCommerce… and do so affordably. But first, we’ll take a closer look at what it really costs to take credit card payments, and why a “cheap” payment gateway may not be as good as it sounds.

The cost of accepting payments online

If you’re building your first online store, you might not realize that taking credit cards comes at a cost. There are fees that the payment provider may charge you, either monthly or at the time of purchase, in exchange for you using their service.

If your store is small or your products are inexpensive, it can be easy to shrug off these fees. 5% of your total purchases might not seem like much. Or you might assume it’s going to be easy to afford $100 a month in fees.

Before choosing a payment solution, you should give careful thought to what it will actually cost you to accept cards, or even other forms of payment. $100 per month is $1200 per year — what if you have to spend more than you expect on development? Or what if your store gets incredibly popular, and 5% adds up to thousands of dollars?

This is why it’s better to look for solutions that allow you to accept credit cards without up-front fees or huge monthly payments. And the beauty of open source is that our community has come together to develop them — lots of them — and we’ve collected them all here, just for you.

Let’s take a look at some of the most affordable (and hassle-free) ways you can take payments on your WooCommerce store, whether you’re selling simple products or subscriptions.

Built-in options that cost (almost) nothing: Stripe and PayPal Powered by Braintree

You can’t beat free, right? Right. So these first two payment options come at the attractive cost of zero dollars — and don’t even require you to lift a finger to install.

Stripe and PayPal Powered by Braintree come bundled into WooCommerce core, and if you’re setting up a new store, you can activate them right from the setup wizard. If you set up WooCommerce in the past and didn’t have these options, you can download the extensions for free at any time from WordPress.org.

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Just tick those boxes to activate PayPal or Stripe, plus any other payment option you’d like — then proceed with the rest of the setup wizard.

Both of these payment gateway options are integrated into your store, so they’ll appear embedded into your checkout page instead of sending shoppers off-site to complete their purchase. For example, here’s how Square looks on a sample WooCommerce checkout screen:

These are the fields a customer might see when completing a purchase on your store when Stripe is installed and in use.
These are the fields a customer might see when completing a purchase on your store when Stripe is installed and in use.

PayPal Powered by Braintree looks similar, but also adds in a “pay with PayPal” option so that a customer can use their PayPal account to complete a transaction, if they wish.

The pricing for both of these solutions is fairly straightforward:

  • PayPal Powered by Braintree: the first $50,000 in transactions are free; after that, pay 2.9% + 30 cents per successful credit card or digital wallet transaction
  • Stripe: pay 2.9% + 30 cents per successful credit card transaction, as long as your yearly charges are below $1 million

If you’re just getting started with WooCommerce, we recommend giving one of these two gateways a shot (which is why we bundled them in for you in the first place). They’re quick to set up, they look great on your store, and they allow you to take credit card or PayPal payments right away.

Free-except-for-fees payment gateways available as extensions

As we mentioned above, if you set up WooCommerce before Stripe or PayPal Powered by Braintree were built into core, you can download the extensions at any time (for free!) and get the same great processing rates as everyone else. We wouldn’t want you to miss out, after all. 🙂

Having said that, if you’re looking for something a little different, or need payment options not offered as part of WooCommerce core, there are plenty of other free-to-install WooCommerce payment gateways available.

Here are just a few of your options:

  • PayPal Express Checkoutlets customers use their PayPal account to finish their transaction off-site
  • Amazon Payadds in a “Amazon Pay” option, so customers can finish their purchase without leaving your store
  • Simplify Commerce — powered by Mastercard, this gateway supports major credit cards plus invoices and recurring payments
  • Klarna — for stores in certain countries, Klarna allows you to accept credit cards, issue invoices, or allow customers to pay for their purchase over time
Just one example of a free payment option, this one Amazon
Just one example of a free payment option, this one Amazon Pay. The best of two worlds jam-packed into one, WooCommerce and Amazon Payments. Thumbs up.

Much like Stripe and PayPal Powered by Braintree, these gateways are free to install, but you’ll typically be charged per-transaction fees based on the number of orders, how much money you make, or some other criteria. We recommend reading the docs or FAQs on each payment processor’s website prior to signing up to find out exactly what those fees are.

The transaction fees are typically pretty reasonable, though — for example, PayPal Express Checkout has the same rate as the Braintree-powered option (2.9% + 30 cents per successful charge), which really doesn’t amount to very much per month on larger purchases or for stores just starting out.

Another thing to keep in mind: with Stripe and PayPal Powered by Braintree, you don’t need a merchant account — aka a special bank account — to get up and running. With other gateways — even free ones — depending on how the payments are processed, you might need to apply for one through your bank. Read the FAQs when you sign up for a payment processor to find out what you need to take payments, and if a merchant account is a must-have.

Do your research: find out if you need a merchant account to take credit cards before you sign up for a payment gateway.
Do your research: find out if you need a merchant account to take credit cards before you sign up for a payment gateway.

There are plenty of free payment options to explore for your WooCommerce storesee them all here. Who knows, you just might find a new favorite (and save a ton of money in the process)!

Selling subscriptions or need recurring billing? Try these low-cost options

If you’re planning to offer subscriptions to the products you sell or want to set up memberships for your customers, finding a payment gateway that supports automatic recurring billing is a must. We have this list of payment options that support subscriptions, but you might find that overwhelming if you’re just getting started.

Setting up your subscription package or membership program is expensive enough, so you should aim to find a payment option that works with your store but doesn’t cost much. Here are a couple to consider:

If none of these options sound good to you, take a look at the full list here. But remember, review all the fees of the gateway (initial signup fee, extension cost, per-transaction charges, etc.) before deciding if it’s a good fit for you — those costs can add up fast, especially if you’re billing customers on a regular basis.

Non-credit card options that everyone can afford

Finally, if you don’t want to pay card processing fees, are only selling locally, or simply want to have a few alternate options for your customers, there are three options built into WooCommerce that allow you to take payments for 100% free:

  • BACS (bank transfer) — enter your bank account information, and customers can wire you a payment
  • Pay by check — have customers mail you their payment before you ship out their order
  • Cash on delivery — customers pay with cash when their order is dropped off, or when they pick it up

Let customers order online and pay when they pickup -- a timesaver for everyone. And Fluffy gets her food faster, too. (Image source: Darren Johnson / iDJ Photography [CC])
Let customers order online and pay when they pick up — a timesaver for everyone. And Fluffy gets her food faster, bonus. (Image source: Darren Johnson [CC])
Being built into WooCommerce means you’ll pay nothing to turn these options on or off. However, if you’re accepting orders with these payment options, you’ll find they’re a little more complex to process than those paid via credit card (or a method like Klarna or PayPal):

  • You’ll need to manually mark orders as paid for or shipped, which can lead to some extra time spent
  • You might encounter an occasional issue when a product goes missing in transit, a payment doesn’t take place, or a customer doesn’t have cash — it’s a lot less reliable than an online system

Having said that, if you deliver a lot of local orders or only ship products to a limited area, these are great options that will allow you to save a lot of money on processing fees. Just remember to keep your tax records in order and you’ll be all set!

Accepting payments doesn’t have to cost you a fortune

By now, you should have a better idea of how to take payments with WooCommerce without blowing your budget out of the water. Whether you’re planning to sell simple physical goods, digital items, products with recurring payments, or something else entirely, the options we’ve highlighted for you in this post should help you save money, time, and headaches.

With more money in your wallet, you now have the freedom to explore more options for your store. Thinking about trying a little marketing after you launch? Here’s how to do that on a budget, too.

If you have any questions for us about these payment gateways, or comments about taking payments with WooCommerce without spending a fortune, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and we’ll get a response back to you right away.

Header image credit: frankieleon (CC 2.0)

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25 Responses

  1. Justin
    August 12, 2016 at 1:35 am #

    “powered by Braintree”??

    • Nicole Kohler
      August 12, 2016 at 5:04 pm #

      Braintree is a subsidiary of PayPal. 🙂 The difference between the options, in a nutshell:

      • PayPal Powered by Braintree = payment integration on your store (purchases completed on-site, no PayPal account required to pay with a credit card BUT PayPal can be used to pay if the customer chooses)
      • PayPal Standard = hosted payments (purchases completed off-site, PayPal account required)

      Does that make sense?

      • Justin
        August 13, 2016 at 1:43 am #

        Hi Nicole – thanks for the explanation. As long as the word “Braintree” is hidden on the checkout and customer statements then it should be fine, otherwise it’s yet another thing I need to explain to customers is safe and won’t take all their money.

        • Nicole Kohler
          August 13, 2016 at 2:58 am #

          Hey Justin! It’s set up to look like a seamless part of your store’s checkout experience. Without design modifications, updates from your theme/custom CSS, etc. it’ll look just like you see it here: https://docs.woocommerce.com/document/woocommerce-gateway-paypal-powered-by-braintree/#section-4

          Most integrated payment gateways act just like this one, they’re made to look like a built-in piece of your store. The “PayPal” part of the name in this case just shows that you can accept PayPal payments too, if the customer likes, but they’re such a trusted name that (in most countries/areas, at least!) shoppers SHOULD know what to expect when clicking that option.

          Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. Rodger
    August 12, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    my only wish is to one day find a WooCommerce payment gateway that is supported in my country.
    coz from the time I met WooCommerce, all the payment gateways I run into, including the ones you’ve just mentioned above, DO NOT SUPPORT my country, hence, sadly, cant use WooCommerce.
    Well summarized article though..

    • Nicole Kohler
      August 12, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

      Hey Rodger — care to share the country you’re in?

  3. tarnya Burge
    August 14, 2016 at 2:40 am #

    Nice, they have a New Zealand version:)
    https://www.braintreepayments.com/en-nz/products-and-features/global

  4. Gerd Neumann
    August 16, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    I think the improvements on payments are nice but very, very US centric. I cannot speak for whole Europe, but at least in Germany paying with Credit Cards is not very common. What’s very, very common (besides PayPal) is direct debit using SEPA (which is a standard supported by all European banks) and everyone has a bank account. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_debit#Europe and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_debit#Germany

    What payment options are there for Germany? As far as I can see neither Stripe nor Braintree support SEPA direct debit. Maybe a whole article on “EU issues” would make sense…

    • Nicole Kohler
      August 16, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

      Maybe a whole article on “EU issues” would make sense…

      Maybe. 🙂 Good points in your comment, we likely could do more to a) highlight non-US affordable payment options — or, if there aren’t many, b) find partners who can help our customers pay less in EU countries to take payments.

      I will say that one of our partners is working on a post about international (non-US) payment considerations, so that’s coming up before month end.

  5. Tiffany
    August 22, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

    Do I have to set up a braintree account or can I use my Paypal? Why does Braintree pull a credit check? Is it a soft or hard inquiry?

    • Nicole Kohler
      August 22, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

      Hey there Tiffany, Braintree would be the best ones to ask on the credit check question as the service is provided by them.

  6. Pete
    August 23, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

    I can see Paypal, but there is no Stripe available

    • Nicole Kohler
      August 23, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

      Are you running the most recent version of WooCommerce?

      If you still don’t see Stripe as an option, you can download it for free from WordPress.org 🙂

  7. Rob Shearer
    August 23, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    I spent almost two weeks beating my head against a brick wall trying to get Paypal Powered by Braintree to work on my site. About half the time, customers reaching checkout would be confronted with locked credit fields that would not accept any entry. Sometimes, the fields would unlock with a hard reload (ctrl+F5), but that’s NOT a solution you can pass on easily to customers. Very frustrating and embarrassing for me, as I had customers ready and willing to pay.

    I followed the debugging instructions to the letter several times, deactivating themes and all of my other plugins. The problems persisted. I opened a ticket with my hosting company and they did a thorough set of tests of all their cacheing and hosting paramaters. They reported that nothing on their end was affecting the plugin – but that they also saw the problem.

    I opened a ticket with WooThemes and was told, “I’m sorry to say that this is a widespread problem– albeit one we are actively working to correct. A new version of the plugin should be available very soon (though I can’t predict exactly when)..”

    Still haven’t heard back from them.

    Stripe, on the other hand, worked immediately, out of the box and was immediately and reliably successful.

    Until they fix the issue with the Braintree plugin, Woothemes should NOT be distributing it. Webmasters beware!

  8. RaDiance Conseil
    August 23, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

    Hi Nicole,

    I’m sorry to say that, despite the fact your article is very informative and detailed, there’s nothing new, here, we still have to pay 2.9% + other fees sometimes, which is much too much when your products are sold between $ 1.000 and $ 2.000 on average. It means we have to pay between $ 30 and $ 60 just ro receive one payment! You used words like “cost (almost) nothing” or “affordable” no, it’s not.

    Best regards,
    Muriel – RaDiance Conseil.

    • Nicole Kohler
      August 23, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

      Hi there, a few thoughts — many new shop owners are used to hearing about payment gateways that have high processing fees per-order (say, 5-6%) or monthly fees or both. 2.9% or lower — and in the case of one of the processors I highlighted, actually NO fees until a certain number of transactions is reached — is good for them.

      As far as our premium extensions go, which is what I think you’re referencing, a large majority of the payment gateway extensions highlighted here are free. Stripe is free, PayPal’s many options are free, etc.

      If you do choose a premium extension, what you’re paying for is the ability to instantly hook WooCommerce into a payment gateway without manual API integration, excessive testing, etc. If you’ve ever had to integrate with a gateway on another eCommerce platform, you probably know it’s not a walk in the park. Especially if there’s no extension, plugin, existing solution, etc. available for it already. That $30, $60, $90 fee goes toward the time we spent doing the work for you, plus a year of support, plus all the updates keeping the extension current with WooCommerce and the gateway, as well as crucial data/financial information safety.

      You can certainly look at it like “you have to pay $X to receive one payment.” But I’m confused as to why you focused on our paid options when everything I laid out for you in this post was free and low-fee. 🙂

      If I’m misunderstanding, please let me know, I’d love to help set things straight!

  9. JJ
    August 23, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

    Another good plugin is PayPal for WooCommerce (https://wordpress.org/plugins/paypal-for-woocommerce/) by Angelleye (certified PayPal developer).

    It’s free (although I did choose to make a donation) and it supports the following:
    PayPal Express Checkout / PayPal Credit
    PayPal Website Payments Pro 3.0 (DoDirectPayment)
    PayPal Payments Pro 2.0 (PayPal Manager / PayFlow Gateway)
    PayPal Plus (Germany)
    PayPal Payments Advanced
    PayPal REST Credit Card Payments
    PayPal Braintree Credit Card Payments

  10. Dan Poynor
    August 23, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

    Good info – thanks Nicole!

    I’m thinking about creating a marketplace and have heard the term ‘aggregated payment processing’ used for what I’m needing – such as when someone pays for ride with Lyft (processed by Braintree I think) a percentage of the payment goes to Lyft and another percentage goes to the driver.

    Perhaps a future article could talk about how to manage payments that need to be distributed to one or more vendors.

    • Nicole Kohler
      August 23, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

      That’s a great suggestion Dan. Will consider that!

  11. Carlie
    August 23, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

    Hi Nicole,.

    Great articles.
    SSL certificate still applies correct, I don’t believe any payment terms are related to security as it s for your server.
    Also being Canadian based Braintree I don’t think it works,

    Thoughts, options, Thanks Carlie

  12. Ruth
    August 24, 2016 at 6:35 am #

    Apparently those bits you put in bold only apply to US customers.

    “the first $50,000 in transactions are free”
    “as long as your yearly charges are below $1 million”

    • Nicole Kohler
      August 24, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

      I’ll update the post Ruth, thanks for noting that.

  13. James Hoyt
    August 27, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    I feel like PayPal and Stripe are not cheap options at all. If you process $2000 in orders a month, it can add up to nearly $100 a month using PayPal. Not to mention PayPal can freeze your funds for fun as they arent an insured bank and they do not help you if the customer does a chargeback. It sucks. Youre better off going with a real business merchant using an Authorize.net gateway.

  14. Sereyboth Yorn
    August 29, 2016 at 7:05 am #

    Thank Nicole!

    Such a nice article! I’m from Cambodia, and such payment like Stripe, Paypal don’t work in our country. We used to use 2Checkout to accept and process payment, but now it also no longer support Business from Cambodia. Can you please recommend a good 2checkout alternative for me?

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