The Pros and Cons of the 10 Biggest Digital Payment Apps

By Aja Frost August 17th, 2015

People stopped using carrier pigeons a long time ago, but for freelancers, it might make sense to bring them back. That way, at least there’d be a reason for how long it takes to receive a check from a client.

Rates can be depressing, but I think most creatives understand that the market can’t change overnight. The speed in which freelancers get paid, however, is even more ridiculous considering how much variance exists. We’re working on computers, instantly volleying drafts and emails back and forth, but then we wait weeks, months, maybe even years, in the most extreme cases, to get a check.

A number of my clients already have a payment process in place, but if any of them ask how I prefer getting paid, I always opt for an app. Sure, there are trade-offs—the speed and convenience can come with a transaction fee—but getting paid online eliminates some of the hassle of paperwork, bureaucracy, and, worst of all, waiting.

For those of you who aren’t interested in pigeons, here’s a useful breakdown of the most popular payment apps available to freelancers.

1. Google Wallet

Pros: Google Wallet looks and feels like Gmail, which means the UX is clean and user-friendly. You can receive up to $50,000 every five days—more than many of the other payment options on this list—and there’s no fee per transaction.

Cons: Not only does Wallet require a Google account, but you can only request money from people in your email or mobile contacts.

2. PayPal

Pros: I use PayPal all the time. Almost all my clients are familiar with it, and since it has a built-in invoicing feature, I don’t have to go through the hassle of finding some template, downloading, and emailing it over. There’s even a handy “reminder” option for past-due payments.

Cons: My only gripe with the service? For every transaction, you lose 2.9 percent plus a $0.30 charge per transaction. (I’ve finally started building that fee into my rates.)

3. Stripe

Pros: If you’re always doing business with clients in other countries, Stripe is a good option. It works with more than 100 currencies and all major credit cards. You can also integrate it into your website, which is convenient if that’s how clients originally discovered your services.

Cons: You have to have basic coding knowledge and a WordPress plug-in to get it started, and you’ll get hit with the 2.9-percent fee and $0.30 charge for every transaction.

4. Dwolla

Pros: Dwolla has a number of features that make it stand out: There’s no fee for sending or receiving money, no transaction limit, and no need for the payment sender (i.e., the client) to have a Dwolla account.

In addition, the service allows you to set up auto-withdrawal—so you’ll never have to remember to transfer your funds to your bank account.

Cons: Dwolla is only available for U.S. residents right now.

5. Venmo

Pros: Thanks to its simple interface and accessibility on iOS, Windows, Android, and desktop, Venmo is definitely one of the most convenient options. And with next-day transfers, it’s significantly quicker to cash out compared to most platforms.

Cons: There’s somewhat of a reputation issue. Even with all these advantages, I was taken aback when a client asked me if I accepted payment via Venmo. It feels slightly unprofessional to use for work the same service I’d use to reimburse my friend for pizza. Therefore, I’d advise only using Venmo when you’re pretty familiar with a client.

6. Braintree

Pros: Braintree is a well-designed, ultra-secure platform with great customer support. It’s primarily designed for in-app or website purchases, which makes it a good fit for people like photographers who have established websites and standard rates.

Not only does Braintree accept 130-plus currencies and all the major credit cards, it also takes PayPal, Apple Pay, and Bitcoin.

Cons: The good old 2.9-percent and $0.30 transaction fee.

7. Apple Pay

Pros: Since so many stores now accept Apple Pay, using it as a payment options probably wouldn’t necessitate transferring your funds to your bank account—when I’ve used it in the past, I’ve been able to receive a payment and spend it in-store five minutes later. Other attractive benefits include its high usability and the lack of fees.

Cons: You need an Apple 6, 6 Plus, or Apple Watch to download it, which hurts its availability.

8. Square

Pros: Square is set up for freelancers and entrepreneurs—and that shows in its “extras.” The platform, available both on mobile and desktop, offers invoicing and appointment scheduling along with the traditional payments feature.

Even cooler? The analytics dashboard, which shows your complete sales history, customer insights, buyer trends, and more. Square integrates with QuickBooks, SumAll, Xero, and TaxJar, so doing your books will be significantly easier.

Cons: The one major drawback is the 2.75-percent transaction fee for online purchases.

9. Payoneer

Pros: Payoneer is a fantastic choice for those freelancing outside the United States. It works internationally—and there are many different ways to receive your money. You can choose to be paid through a bank fund transfer, a prepaid debit card, or an international wire transfer.

Furthermore, Payoneer has partnered with freelancer sites like Fiverr and Elance, so if you use those sites, the convenience factor increases a bit.

Cons: There’s no fee for digital transactions, but if you choose to sign up for the prepaid debit card, there are a number of fees for maintaining and operating an account.

10. Amazon Payments

Pros: If you’re worried about asking your clients to use some platform they’ve never heard of, go for Amazon Payments. This application allows customers to pay with their Amazon accounts. And since they probably won’t have to fill in any extra information, the buying process becomes super easy.

Cons: Like Braintree and Stripe, you add Amazon Payments works off of website integration, so you can’t use this option if you don’t have a site or offer standardized services. Finally, note the 2.9-percent plus $0.30 transaction fee when making your decision.

Image by phoelix
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