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Written by Leah Messenger SaaS Specialist
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12 Aug 2021  |  SaaS

Handling online payment processing: the alternatives to PayPal

7 minute read

PayPal is one of the most popular and well-known payment methods, with a number of benefits for businesses and customers. But does it remain the best and most cost-effective option for SaaS businesses?

Since it was founded in 1998, PayPal has grown to be one of the most widely accepted online payment processors and a leading mobile payment platform on a global scale. 

As one of the first companies to simplify payments online for both customers and businesses, it’s a name that buyers and sellers trust when it comes to shopping or sending money online. 

But what is it that makes PayPal and PayPal for Business so popular? And does it remain the best and most cost-effective option for SaaS businesses?

Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the alternatives of PayPal for Business. 

The advantages of using PayPal for Business

When something is so popular and well-known, it must be doing something right.

Here are the main benefits of PayPal for Business:


Anyone can use PayPal. Its quick and easy setup and simple transaction process are very appealing for both businesses and customers. Your customers don’t even need their own account, just a working credit card or debit card will do.

PayPal’s ‘plug and play’ model means new businesses can get started in no time at all by just linking their business bank account - there’s no need to have a merchant account in place. Simple.

It’s for this reason that PayPal is used by a variety of businesses globally, from ecommerce to online stores and SaaS companies. 

Subscription payments

PayPal offers a useful feature for recurring payments, meaning you can bill your customer on a regular basis for physical and digital goods or services. This is a big plus for SaaS businesses.

B2B and B2C

PayPal provides a trustworthy payment service for both B2C and B2B businesses, but it’s most suited to B2C or low-priced B2B businesses as an alternative to credit cards.

The disadvantages of using PayPal for Business

Using PayPal isn’t a totally flawless experience, especially not for fast-growing SaaS businesses. Here’s why you should consider alternatives: 

Complex integrations

PayPal only covers one part of your revenue delivery infrastructure - the payment processing. There’s a lot more to delivering revenue, especially if you’re a SaaS business.

You’ll need additional support and integrations with other platforms to complete your revenue stack, including subscription management and financial compliance tools. You’ll probably need at least another payment processor alongside PayPal to support other payment methods.

PayPal’s complex APIs and documentation make your life more difficult. Integrations are far from straightforward, and you’ll need to create and manage a lot of them. 

On the other hand, you can go for an all-in-one revenue solution, where you'd still keep PayPal as a payment option, but you wouldn't have to manage the account yourself. More on this approach further down. 👀

No sales tax compliance

Given its accessibility and simplicity as a payment solution, your software business can get customers buying your product from pretty much anywhere in the world. This is key to your growth potential. 

But there is a downside: needing to comply with SaaS sales tax regulations, in whatever locations your customers are - or could - buy from. 

If you don’t get this right, you risk heavy penalties and maybe even prison. More on the pains of global sales tax , here. 

Risk to your payment performance

PayPal for Business isn’t set up for SaaS payment success, and this can result in poor payment performance. 

First up, at any vague sign of suspicious activity, PayPal can cancel orders and freeze your account. This can result in frozen funds for months. 

Another thing you have zero control over is the fact your customers can cancel their PayPal subscription payments from within their account. Ideally, you’d want to be involved in the cancellation process to find ways you can persuade these customers to continue their subscriptions.

On top of that, PayPal manages chargebacks, and they tend to favor the customer in this scenario.

Hello churn, churn, churn. 


PayPal takes 2.9% plus currency fees for receiving payments, along with its additional fees on payout, for cross-border transactions and chargebacks. These costs mount up quickly.

As we’ve mentioned already, PayPal needs to be supported by additional tools and platforms to complete your revenue delivery infrastructure, meaning some extra $$$ there too. 

Online payment processing alternatives

The modern world has introduced plenty of options when it comes to processing payments online, and that includes more types of payment methods.

Let’s take a look at the other solution types, and how they could help (or hinder) your business growth. 

1) E-wallets

An e-wallet, sometimes known as a digital wallet, is an online app that sits between your business and your customer, allowing you to manage money from online transactions. Much like a bank account, it can keep money stored digitally for a significant period, and it enables both businesses and customers to transfer funds to their bank accounts. 

It’s worth noting that PayPal is a popular e-wallet, but there are plenty of other e-wallet options out there, including ApplePay, Neteller, Skrill, and Ecopayz. There are also options like cryptocurrency wallets, which some online merchants accept as direct payments.

2) Payment service providers 

Unless you’re using a revenue delivery platform , you need to create a checkout process from composite parts.

You’ll need to add a Payment Service Provider (PSP) to your checkout to handle the exchange of money. A PSP acts as both a merchant account and the payment gateway, meaning that your business doesn’t need to have its own merchant account to get started. 

This might sound a lot like PayPal too. But again, there are other PSPs out there to consider, including Stripe , Adyen, and Braintree - and you will need to use one of these alongside PayPal anyway. 

Opting for a part-by-part solution is a good option for a company that only needs to focus on a checkout. But for scaling companies, especially ones that sell software, this approach doesn't offer you a comprehensive solution. You need additional features that a payment plug-in can’t provide, including reporting, subscription management, and security, amongst other things.

3) Merchant of record

A merchant of record (MoR) is a great option if you're looking for a payment processor that handles the whole checkout experience for you. 

A merchant of record acts as a reseller in any transaction. For businesses that choose to sell through one, there are two transactions that take place during a sale: the first, between the end customer and the MoR, and the other between the MoR and you. 

When the transaction is complete, the MoR’s name will show up on the customer’s credit card statement. They also become the liable party as they are technically making the sale with the end customer, meaning any kind of customer dispute will be handled by them.

Find out more in our full guide on merchants of record .

4) Revenue delivery platform 

Whilst a merchant of record covers part of your revenue delivery infrastructure , a more all-in-one solution is a revenue delivery platform. 

Not only does a revenue delivery platform handle the entire checkout experience for you, but it handles your entire payment and billing process, leaving you nothing to worry about. 

It includes:

  • Checkout : Managing the moment your users go from prospect to customer 

  • Payments : Giving both one-off and recurring payments the best chance of success, covering every aspect from banking to payment gateways, payment methods, and currency conversion 

  • Sales tax compliance : Registering, filing, and remitting sales tax in every location your customers are based

  • Subscription management : How you retain the customers you’ve acquired, including upgrading their subscriptions 

  • Financial compliance : Keeping up to date and compliant with ever-changing, local regulations 

  • Fraud prevention : Protect your business and customers from fraudsters, while making sure you don’t lose any revenue to false payment declines

  • Buyer support : Retaining more customers by providing them with best-class support if they have any queries about their order, subscriptions, or payments

  • Reporting and analytics : Visibility into your user and revenue performance so you can make data-driven decisions for your business, and respond quickly to new opportunities

Are you a SaaS company interested in an all-in-one solution of a revenue delivery platform? Book a demo right here .

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