Processing Payments with Stripe

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Stripe is the payment processor used by Giving and Registrations that makes it possible to accept many types of payments or donations.

Technically, Stripe is a combination payment processor and merchant account. It takes both parts of e-commerce and bundles them into one simple service:

  • Payment processing: Stripe authorizes and processes credit card, debit card, and ACH (Giving only) transactions.
  • Merchant account: After processing a transaction, Stripe accepts and holds the funds then transfers the funds to the bank account of your choosing.

Stripe has a rolling two day transfer period by default. As transactions settle, they are bundled together into Stripe Payouts and scheduled for deposit. Then the payout is made via ACH into your church bank account.

Why is Stripe required?

Even if you don't plan on accepting any digital forms of payments, Registrations and Giving require an active Stripe account to function because credit cards and customer bank information never enter our database. Instead, they go straight to Stripe, a Level 1 PCI Service Provider.

For example, when you're using a check reader in the course of counting checks, your computer is transmitting that check information, encrypted, straight to Stripe. Stripe then returns the donor information as a token to Giving, which you've already authorized. If you ever decided to disconnect Giving from your Stripe account, this authorization would be immediately revoked. This allows security for you, for us, and especially for your donors.

If your bookkeeping process necessitates a one-to-one relationship between funds and physical bank accounts, Planning Center Giving will likely not be a good fit for your church because Stripe only supports a single bank account for transferring money to your church.

To change where your Stripe account deposits money, visit the Transfers section in your Stripe dashboard and find the Settings option.

Stripe's Fees

Every payment processor charges fees. The good news is that we've negotiated a low rate for our customers:

United States:

  • Credit & debit cards: 2.3% + $0.30 per transaction.
  • ACH (bank transfer): $0.25 per transfer.

Canada:

Send documentation of non-profit status to Stripe to be able to secure the lower rate.

  • Canadian Visa and Mastercard: 2.9% (or 2.2% for non-profits) + $0.30 per transaction
  • International Visa and MasterCard: 2.9% (or 2.7% for non-profits) + $0.30 per transaction
  • Amex: 3.5% + $0 per transaction

Stripe has no setup fees, no contracts, and no termination fees. There is a $1 fee for failed ACH transfers. In cases where a donor disputes a charge with their bank (also called a "chargeback"), losing the dispute could result in a $15 fee. If the donor contacts you first, it's easy to issue a refund right from within Giving. So, in practice, this should be a rare occurrence. Fees are in $USD.

More Information on Processing Fees

Payment processing can be one of the more complex aspects of estimating the cost of a donation management system. If you're new to accepting online payments or donations, or you're in the process of comparing donation management systems, read on for some clarity to an important but potentially confusing topic.

1. There's Always a Processing Fee

There is always a fee for processing transactions with a credit card, debit card, or ACH bank transfer, regardless of which donation management system you use.

Some donation management systems roll the cost of payment processing into the software subscription itself, and other donation management systems will show one simple rate for all payment processing, such as 2.9% for online donations.

We expose the processing fee rates for credit/debit cards and ACH because Stripe's pricing is straightforward. The rate does not fluctuate with volume; "credit cards" means all credit cards (including American Express), and ACH rates are appropriately priced lower than cards.

2. Pricing Obscurity

When we were researching payment processors, many churches told us what kind of rates they were getting. When we looked at their actual statements with them and did the math, what we found was this: their "effective rate" was almost always higher than the rate they thought they were getting.

Sometimes it was because the rate was variable and they didn't meet the tiered minimums. Sometimes their bill was offset by monthly or annual fees. Sometimes, they simply missed some small print (see the PayPal case study below).

The "effective rate" is the actual % you're paying for payment processing. It includes the % cost as well as the transaction fees. In short, it's the total amount you paid for getting money into your bank account. It's the thing you should care about most when it comes to estimating the cost of payment processing.

ACH Helps Lower Your Effective Rate

Your effective rate includes % fees as well as per-transaction fees. Credit and debit cards are processed at 2.3% + $0.30 per transaction. However, ACH fees are processed at $0.25 per transaction. More ACH donations lower your effective rate.

Example 1:
Ten $100 donations are made with credit cards. In total, $1,000 was received. The processing fees for the card donations totaled $26 ($2.30 + $0.30 x 10) making the effective rate 2.6%.

Example 2:
Five $100 donations made with credit cards and five $100 donations were made with ACH. In total, $1,000 was received. The processing fees for the card donations totaled $13 ($2.30 + $0.30 x 5). The processing fees for the ACH donations totaled $1.25 ($0.25 x 5). The grand total of processing fees was $14.25 making the effective rate 1.4%.

Where to Find Your Effective Rate

In Giving, we've made it easy to see your effective rate by calculating it each and every time Stripe deposits money into your bank account.

From the Donations page, go to the Stripe Payouts tab to view your effective rate.

In Registrations, go to the Payments page and select Stripe Payouts.

stripe payout

This allows you to see the breakdown of each transaction once you select the date of the transactions you'd like to see.

stripe payout breakdowns

Stripe lumps ACH donations together when money is transferred to your account, which means your effective rate for some payouts will be higher than 2.3% (because of the per-transaction fees) when the payout is mostly credit cards, and much lower than 2.3% when the payout is mostly ACH donations.

Pricing case study: PayPal for Nonprofits.

PayPal has a great rate for qualified non-profits of 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction.

But, if you read closer in the "Additional Fees" section, you'll see, "American Express card usage fees: 3.5% per transaction." Since Amex cards represent a non-trivial amount of donations, that makes the overall effective rate somewhere closer to 2.5-2.6% for cards, depending on how many Amex donors you have. You'll also find there's a $30 monthly fee for the "PayPal Virtual Terminal" and a $30 monthly fee for "PayPal Payments Pro." Lastly, you'll note that there's no mentioning of ACH because ACH it's a part of that 2.2% rate.

Most donation management systems have processing fees intertwined into their price model. Planning Center Giving charges for the use of the software (the number of donations), but we make $0 from processing fees because our interests, when it comes to processing fees, are aligned with our customers' interests.

In the future, if we find that the marketplace has changed, and Stripe isn't keeping pace, we could add an alternative payment processor if we determine customers will be better served.

Where can I find a breakdown of what Stripe has transferred to us?

There are three methods for getting to your Stripe transfer data. Method 1 shows you the basic numbers in Stripe. Method 2 gives your admins basic details about recent transfers. Method 3 is the highest fidelity for Giving data.

Let's look at each:

1. Stripe Dashboard

If you log into your Stripe account, you'll see a list of scheduled transfers as well as completed transfers.

From there you can see all the raw payment data contained in each transfer. While this information is comprehensive, it's not particularly useful for bookkeeping purposes for two reasons:

  1. Donations from Giving, registration fees from Registrations, and payments for whatever else is connected to your church's Stripe account is all lumped together in a single list of payments. There's no distinguishing, in Stripe, where these funds originated.
  2. Giving-specific data isn't represented in the list. For example, there may be a $50 payment listed from Bob Johnson, but there's no way to know that this was actually represents a split donation - that $20 was to Fund A and $30 was to Fund B.

On an active account, your Stripe transfers will look like this:

  1. Scheduled transfers are still in progress. They haven't been deposited into your bank account yet.
  2. Within your list of scheduled transfers, you'll see transfers labeled estimated. These transfers are way upstream and the transactions included in them are still settling. Thus, the date and even the total of the transfer can change without warning.
  3. Transfers without a label are no longer estimated (all the transactions have settled), and the ACH payout is about to be (or has already been) initiated. It's on its way, but hasn't been confirmed as deposited to your bank yet.
  4. Recently Deposited transfers are just what they sound like. You should see these deposits in your bank statement.
2. Stripe Payouts in Accounts

In Accounts, use the Stripe Payouts to find a basic breakdown of Stripe transfers as they pertain to Planning Center applications.

From the Organization page, go to the Integrations tab and select Recent Payouts.

View a list of payouts and select one of the payouts to see details.

stripe payout breakdowns

Selecting a date will show you the report.

The Payout shows a breakdown of the Stripe Transfer by each application: Registrations is separated into events, and Giving is separated into funds. Since these reports are available to all Organization Administrators and Billing Admins, and Giving information is kept private, these numbers are generic. Individual donors and their donations are not listed in these reports.

Method 3: Stripe Payout Reports within Planning Center Giving

Giving administrators can access Stripe Payouts from the Donations page.

There's a detailed breakdown of each Stripe Payout and all the individual donations included in the payout. The list of donations here is filterable, exportable, and printable. Unlike the rest of Planning Center Giving, donations shown in the list are the net amount amount of donations (the gross amount minus the processing fees).

For Stripe Payout Reports to work, you must have automatic deposits enabled within your Stripe account.

Your Settings should be set to Automatic.

While in your Stripe account, you can customize how you would like the charges to show up on a person's bank statements using a custom Statement descriptor. We recommend using the name of your church.

To set this, log into Stripe and go to the Business Settings tab.

Need to reset, change, or remove your Stripe account?

One of the advantages of using Giving and Registrations is knowing that our system never actually stores or transmits payment data (credit card numbers, bank accounts, etc.), as outlined in our Security overview. It's all encrypted and transmitted directly to Stripe and held in your organization's Stripe account.

If your Stripe account is disconnected from Planning Center all payment methods stored in that Stripe account will be instantly disconnected as well. Planning Center has no access to them.

If your accounts are disconnected, the following will happen:

  • Recurring donations will begin to fail.
  • Donors will log into their donor interface and find no payment methods.
  • Text-to-Give will stop working.

If you think you need to reset, change, or remove your Stripe account from your Planning Center account, please contact our Support Team by selecting the ? in the top right of any app.

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