Nowadays it is hard to think an e-service that would offer traditional monthly sent paper invoice. Paypal, Verkkomaksut.fi and so many other e-commerse payment systems have made it very easy for anyone with a credit card to make recurrent purchases online. Unfortunately things haven’t been that easy for the (developers nor business) people behind the e-services, especially in Finland and Europe. Don’t get me wrong, for one-time payments we have plenty of selection and I myself have always liked the simplicity of Verkkomaksut.fi. But for the recurrent payments things are more complicated and very limited.
The whole recurrent payment system requires credit card storage, payment gateway and subscriptions systems. There are some key things you should consider in each of the components. Thanks to many rules set by credit card companies or threats from individuals who would like to financially gain from your security holes, storing credit card information into your service is always very expensive and IMO never the right choice. If you’re a startup owner, you must know how vital continuous cash flow is. Many gateway services collect your payments and payout them to your bank account weekly or even monthly. Gateways can also have quite complicated pricing models.
Paypal is probably the biggest player in the market and have been on the market for quite a long time. They offer many methods to integrate payments to a web service, but their more user-friendly solutions require quite a lot of development work and the fees are somewhat expensive. You also need an UK or US Paypal account, which leave most Finnish companies to buy the service from Luottokunta. With Luottokunta small market and monopoly position is definitely showing in a price tag.Recently we added Stripe – yet the easiest payment service to integrate, into one of our customer’s projects. Stripe is a freshly started company from Palo Alto with currently only 12 employees. It includes every component needed for the recurrent payment and they offer fully integrated, white labeled service – your customers never leave your service as they make purchases. The thing I love the most in Stripe is their developer-friendly attitude:
- Integration is done via very simple REST API
- Messages are JSON
- API docs are clear and very short
- They offer ready-made libraries and examples for languages such as Ruby, Python and PHP
- Security is left for the network layer: Messages are sent through SSL-secured connection with simple HTTP Authentication
With Paypal you need to work with certificates and log into your developer account while you do testing, etc. Stripe includes a test account aside of live account with different API public and secret key. Changing these two keys gives a developer fully production-alike testing environment. Basic integration to Rails-application can take as little as 30 minutes and whole API with webhooks can be covered in hours. You have to love it! There is a very useful Railscast for Stripe at http://railscasts.com/episodes/288-billing-with-stripe
Unfortunately Stripe requires US bank account and can handle transactions only in US Dollars, but the company is promising availability in Europe in the near future. I recommend all to check them out at http://www.stripe.com