A few months ago I finally implemented Stripe as donation platform for WDRL with the help of my friend Tobias Tom. This is a short story on how it turned out to be an awful experience.
However, this summer my friend Tobias helped me implement it on the wdrl.info site. It turned out that not too much people are confident using Stripe and most people still donate via PayPal. That’s why I was surprised today to see a couple of donations, like five in a couple of minutes, incoming via Stripe. I was a bit suspicious and logged in to the dashboard.
First thing I noticed were a lot of declined payments and then seeing that the suspicious transfers all have weird payment details (a gmail address with a name and a random number, not all passed CVC check, and various countries, missing bank details).
Digging into the help docs of Stripe you suddenly find out that they set you in charge for chargebacks, fraud and similar things. If a chargeback happens, you are at least charged a fee of EUR 15, probably more by other parties involved. They also state that if you refund a lot of payments this can affect your account negatively (understandably) but when you report a payment as fraud this is a legal case of which you can be held responsible if it turns out it isn’t fraudulent.
At that point I disabled the Stripe form on the website immediately. Actually, it seems you can’t even disable or delete your Stripe account without contacting them personally via email (no option in the dashboard, no article in docs/help).
- Stripe doesn’t make payments as easy as they say
- Stripe holds you responsible for payments, chargebacks, fraud
- Stripe says you need to take care of fraud prevention, otherwise they charge you at least EUR15 (plus applicable fees by credit card institute, bank, etc)
- Stripe does not provide an easy method to set your account inactive or delete your account
That’s it. No more Stripe for me, PayPal will be again the only donation platform for WDRL again.
A Call with a Stripe Person
Only a few days after I published this note, I received an email by a Stripe employee here in Germany, asking politely if we could have a talk to sort out my problems and discuss my experience. I agreed because it was great to see that they care about me as a very small customer and I also wanted to let them know where I struggled and if I could resolve some of my issues. It was indeed an interesting call. Here are some notes from it in short form:
- My points stated above are mostly correct.
- The wording used on the website, docs and dashboard can be confusing and often is written way to ‘hard’ (legal implications). I reported with which terms and descriptions I struggled most and hope the developer / writer team will take this feedback into account.
- As a merchant you are indeed responsible to detect and report fraud and if you miss, you can be charged at least EUR15 for the chargeback by the bank, often much more.
- As a result, they recommend to build an easy fraud-detection system: Require an address that fits to the country of the credit card (unreliable though if people are traveling) and collect charges on your server and add them to a queue. Then you process the payments only after a view days, reviewing them individually again for ‘fraud-behavior’ or wait if Stripe / the bank already blocked some of these cards.
- He also told me also about a few success stories where organizations similar to me (in terms of accepting donations, not in terms of the organization size) are successfully using Stripe. This was great to hear but indeed it’s all organizations that are way bigger than my small WDRL project and for them, it was worth building this server-side fraud-prevention on their own.
In summary, it came out that for me it’s not worth it to build such a complex system. The reason is mainly that in the six months of providing Stripe donations, I received roughly about 50EUR in summary. And building such a review and queue system would cost me at least some hours, not including the running review effort. I conclude that Stripe is still a great way to accept money but you should know what you’re doing and it’s not thought for very small projects.