Edit: although to be fair, I asked them about this, and they said their processing costs vary user to user, so they don't have a simple matrix (rather, they apply discounts based on the costs associated with an account). That's probably the best possible answer short of a pricing matrix...
Perhaps we should release a matrix of what we do on average (or a set of minimum discounts) or something.
(As ever, feel free to drop me a line to discuss -- firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Can you elaborate on this? What factors influence what rates you can (and do) give? Chargeback rate? Mix of card types? Type of product or service being sold?
Perhaps we should release a matrix of what we do on average
I think that would be great -- even better if it's combined with a list of situations which would result in the rates being higher or lower than the norm.
The biggest factor in processor costs is actually the card mix, and not the volume that a business generates. To give you some sense, international, AmEx and corporate rewards cards tend to be much more expensive to process. Debit cards, on the other hand, tend to be fairly inexpensive to process for (although, despite the costs mentioned elsewhere in the thread, not all debit cards qualify for Durbin debit rates).
Balanced's pricing matrix only takes one factor (volume) into account. So, for example, if a business accepts a high percentage of debit cards, we can offer a significantly lower rate than the prices in Balanced's matrix.
There are downsides to focusing rates and adjusting them on volume alone. With the Balanced pricing matrix, if a merchant has a mediocre Q3 in volume, their pricing could increase for the highest volume quarter (Q4), even if Balanced's effective cost per transaction hasn't changed at all.
This poses an interesting optimization problem. Given that model, a customer should email you at the beginning of every month asking you to (re)evaluate their rate given whatever period (trailing month? trailing 3 months?) you use to determine the card mix.
If the card mix has changed such that Stripe's cost has decreased, the customer would get a lower rate. If the card mix has not changed or has changed such that Stripe's cost has increased, the customer would maintain the same rate.
The above process could further be improved if the customer keeps track of their own card mix and only emails when favorable to do so. This could even be automated.
> There are downsides to focusing rates and adjusting them on volume alone. With the Balanced pricing matrix, if a merchant has a mediocre Q3 in volume, their pricing could increase for the highest volume quarter (Q4), even if Balanced's effective cost per transaction hasn't changed at all.
Yes. It's certainly not perfect. We used to have a tiered model where in each month the first $x was charged at some rate, the next $y would be charged at another rate, etc. It became difficult for customers to calculate their effective rate and project into the future. We'll continue try to improve based on the feedback we get from customers on our current model. Regardless, we'll publish any improvements in our pricing model and make it available to everyone.
I don't want to make this conversation about Balanced vs. Stripe. I asked my question because I was genuinely interested and wanted to see if there was something we could learn from each other. If you do have an internal formula, I encourage you to publish it. If the model is better than the one Balanced uses, it will allow us to learn and for everyone to improve. That is the nature of openness and what we're trying to accomplish.
We've certainly thought about how we can be more open with our pricing, as Patrick mentioned, and for customers that want details about why their rate is the way it is, we'll definitely dial-in to the details. We optimize for simplicity though, as we know that many of our users don't want to read an excel spreadsheet detailing the variety of charges we incur from card networks and other parties, which factor into their overall rate. Many of our users have chosen Stripe because we abstract away all the complexity involving pricing.
To keep it simple, you could require a minimum volume to participate which may also help you get people to consolidate their merchant activity with you, similar to the way traditional tiering works.
This would be a huge win for customers if we could find a way to work together to bring prices down even further!
I can certainly steer my customers to use different cards by offering discount coupons for debit. On the internet 1% can mean a big swing in sales.
We certainly could offer cost+ pricing. In fact, that's the status quo in most of the payments industry right now. But as cristinacordova from Stripe points out above:
"We optimize for simplicity though, as we know that many of our users don't want to read an excel spreadsheet detailing the variety of charges we incur from card networks and other parties, which factor into their overall rate. Many of our users have chosen Stripe because we abstract away all the complexity involving pricing."
Balanced chooses to offer blended, simple pricing for similar reasons.
Sorry if this isn't clear. We don't have separate pricing for credit vs. debit cards. These rates are blended for all card types.
Here's Visa's: http://usa.visa.com/download/merchants/visa-usa-interchange-... For online the fee program is usually "e-Commerce Basic".
So here's Balanced's interchange costs, for Visa:
Major debit cards: 0.05% + $0.21
Unregulated debit cards (small banks): 1.65% + $0.15
Non-rewards credit cards: 1.8% + $0.10
Rewards credit cards: 1.95% + $0.10
Visa Signature Preferred (highest-end Visa cards): 2.4% + $0.10
Mastercard is usually similar. AmEx is usually more expensive.
 This 0.05%/$0.21 rate is super interesting to note. The Durbin amendment was recently passed and regulates most debit card interchange down to practically nothing. This basically just happened and is potentially a huge profit center for processors who haven't updated their fees to reflect it. My guess is processors are right now all looking at each other and waiting to see who breaks rank.. but for the moment, merchants are not necessarily seeing the benefit. Processors are.
1. A Durbin Regulated Debit Card include any bank that has over $10B in deposits. That's most debits cards by volume.
2. We've been lucky in being able to negotiate with our processing banks (also called acquiring bank) to receive very favorable rates to pass on those savings. You have to factor in this cost in addition to the interchange defined by the card brands.
3. Amex is more expensive than most other cards, but Amex is also the only card brand that will negotiate on their interchange based on volume and other factors.
abalone: thanks for writing this up. It's a more detailed answer to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7033534
The only issue that I see with your analysis is that you refer to Balanced as a processor. Read their commercial entity agreement here: https://www.balancedpayments.com/terms/selleragreement Correct me if I am wrong but the references to Vantiv and Wells Fargo Merchant Services in this agreement indicate that those two entities are doing the processing--although Wells Fargo Merchant Services may have First Data do the actual sending of the transaction across the VISA network. What Balanced is really doing is signing up merchants for these entities as an ISO and perhaps also a Merchant Servicer as defined by VISA.
For the purpose of the following breakdown of Balanced's charges lets exclude closed loop networks like Amex and Discover because they don't have the same structure. Balanced's VISA and Mastercard rate is really a result of the following:
-Interchange charged by VISA and Mastercard (which is what abalone just explained). This fee goes to the bank that issued the user's card. One caveat is that abalone's explanation does not include EIRFed transactions which is a ~0.50% markup ontop of interchange for transactions that are not entered properly. For some companies this is a big pain and a source of unexpected cost.
-Assessment charged by VISA and Mastercard for using their network. This fee is ~0.11% + $0.0195.
-Processor's markup from Vantiv and Wells Fargo. Given their volume, this fee is probably ~0.06% + $0.10 or whatever calculation that gets the processor around 12 basis points from an individual transaction.
-Acquiring bank's cut of about 2 basis points for providing the BIN/ICA. For the Wells Fargo Merchant Services transactions
-Everything else is Balanced's commission that they charge for the service of signing up a merchant for the acquirer (ie bringing them x amount of transactions) and a charge for the service that they provide the merchant (customer service, great API, etc).
I'm not quite sure the reason for having 2 processors though. It must be a difference in price at a certain transaction size and risk profile.
Basically, it is really all of those factors combined that make up the price to the merchant. The reason for the tiers is that processing is all about economies of scale which means that the additional cost to the processor for routing more transactions through their systems is very small. That is how they are able to provide these tiers.
In reality these companies are not that transparent.
We calculate these fees per marketplace. Usually a single marketplace has many merchants associated with it.
* https://www.braintreepayments.com/faq control-f pricing
TL;DR: Everyone has 2.9% + 30¢ on their page, Stripe mentions to email them for a discount if you're doing over $1MM/year.
$0 - $3,000/month 2.9% + $0.30
$3,000 - $10,000 2.5% + $0.30
$10,000 - $100,000 2.2% + $0.30
$100,000+ 1.9% or less, requires calling sales
Yes, this is per marketplace. We'd love to give you a discount. Our discounts are applied quarterly, so if you get to $100K+ by April 1, we'd be happy to drop your rate to 2.7% + 30¢
More here: https://www.balancedpayments.com/pricing
You can also email us at email@example.com