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Hackerspace Trials and Tribulations: Payment Processing

Our foray into payment processing started in early June 2012. We’d received a new corporate sponsor, who would give recurring payments through their corporate credit card.


First, we signed up with Paypal. Within days, before we could even process a payment, our account was frozen. When we called, we were told that we were deemed too big a risk for Paypal because we have the work “Hacker” on our website, that they wanted to part ways with us, and that this decision could not be appealed. After a few tries at reconciliation where we offered to provide proof of our not-for-profit incorporation, and that we were a legitimate organization, it became clear that even if they reversed their decision, being at the mercy of their ban-hammer was too much of a risk for us, so we decided to investigate other avenues.


Next up, after doing our research, we decided to go with a payment processor called Beanstream. The appeal was that we could use their hosted payment forms, and not have to worry about PCI compliance. Fees were a bit high, but still manageable for a Hackerspace our size. We started filling out the application forms (several dozen pages worth), and went through the annoying but necessary submit-feedback-resubmit process. To Beanstream’s credit, the account manager, Klaus, was very helpful. We had to do bunch a small modifications to our website to add a privacy policy, terms of use, cancellation and refund policies.

Shortly after, we got an email saying we’d been flagged by their security team as a risk because we have the word “Hacker” on our website. We crafted a reply email that explained what a hackerspace was, that we did not condone or accept illegal behavior, and why it was silly for them to flag us because of a simple word. That seemed to have worked, as they decided to go on and process our application, but they still stated they had some reservations.

Next up was the credit check. Beanstream let us know that they were unable to pull our credit information because our financial institution (TD) was blocking it. TD was adamant that there was nothing they could do about that, that it was Beanstream’s problem. We continued for a few more weeks, with Beanstream blaming TD, and TD blaming Beanstream, and the situation seemed as though it would never resolve itself…


Right at the end of the Beastream/TD saga, Stripe sent us an email, saying they were opening a public beta for Canadians. We’d known about Stripe for a while, and with them opening up to the Canadian market, it seemed like a no-brainer. Their fees are very reasonable (2.9% + 30¢ per transaction, no monthly or setup fees), and their product is top notch.

So we signed up with Stripe, and 5 minutes later, we were up and running, able to take credit card payments (and recurring subscriptions) through their management interface.

We bought a RapidSSL Certificate, and are currently in the process of integrating their API on the web so that members can setup payments themselves also.


So, in hindsight, it might have been easier to incorporate as a Makerspace or Creative Space instead of a Hackerspace. However, we feel that by staying the course, we stayed true to our convictions and integrity, instead of compromising and following the path of lease resistance.

We’ve been real happy with Stripe, and even if Paypal or Beanstream came out and activated our account for free, we would still choose Stripe.

Our members are happy that they can “set it and forget it” (recurring payments). It’s a win-win situation.

So hopefully our experience and learnings can help other Hackerspaces or not-for-profits going through the same process.


DanyO is a hacker at the HubCityLabs Hackerspace. He has been a maker with a penchant for software and electronics for two decades.

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