Accepting Credit Cards In Your iOS App Using Stripe

In this tutorial, you will to learn how to accept credit cards in iOS using Stripe, a pain-free, developer-centric way to handle purchases in your apps. By Lorenzo Boaro.

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Update note: This tutorial was updated to iOS 11, Xcode 9, and Swift 4 by Lorenzo Boaro. The original tutorial was written by Pietro Rea.

In this tutorial, you are going to learn how to accept credit cards in an iOS app using an amazing service called Stripe. You will walk through the whole process, from creating your Stripe account to accepting customer payments.

Stripe is an easy way to accept online and mobile app payments from both individuals and businesses.

There are two main features provided by the Stripe service. First of all, it avoids all the bureaucracy of creating a merchant account while still ensuring transaction safety. Also, it allows you to set up a developer account without verifying any business information. You can start accepting credit cards with Stripe’s API after signing up using the test environment. Moving to production is easy. All you need to do is to switch out your test API keys with live ones, and that’s it!

Getting Started: Creating Your Stripe Account

The first step is to get your API keys from Stripe. Head over to and click on the green button that says CREATE ACCOUNT. Notice the phrase The new standard in online payments is stamped right on the homepage. So far, so good!

Stripe Landing Page Credit Cards iOS Stripe

At this point, you are going to create a full-fledged Stripe account. It does not require to have your business details handy since we are going to use test data.

Create Your Stripe Account

Insert your details (don’t forget to check the Captcha box) and click Create your Stripe account. You will be greeted with a dialog to add a mobile recovery number. If you chose not to do so now, click Skip.

To find your keys, click on API on the dashboard’s left menu.

Stripe Credit Cards Menu

As shown below, Stripe generates a pair of test secret/publishable API keys for your account. You won’t be able to use your live keys until you verify your account with Stripe. For the purposes of this tutorial, and whenever you’re just developing, you want to use the test secret and test publishable keys.

Test Secret and Test Pubishable Keys

Note: Whenever you need your API keys, remember this is where you’ll find them. If your keys ever become compromised, you can reset them using the dotted icons to their right.

RWPuppies: The Stripe Sample Project

Your project for this tutorial is RWPuppies, a fully-functional mobile storefront that sells and ships puppies right to your door and accepts payments using credit cards. Full disclosure: This app will not ship puppies right to your door. Sorry if that’s a disappointment!


The app consists of the following three tabs:

  • Featured Puppy: Displays the puppy of the day. This tab contains the puppy’s detailed information like name, breed and price. There’s even an Add to Cart button right there on the view controller if you decide to buy the featured pup on a whim. :]
  • Inventory: Displays the entire list of puppies on sale in table format. Tapping on any cell takes you to that pup’s details page, which looks very similar to the featured puppy page.
  • Checkout: Shows all the puppies that are currently in your cart, along with a running total for your order. Tapping on Continue takes you to a view controller where you can enter your credit card information and complete your purchase.

You don’t want to waste your time setting up table views or dragging out buttons in Interface Builder when you’re here to learn about Stripe so you’ll be happy to hear this tutorial provides you with a starter project that has everything unrelated to Stripe already implemented for you.

You can download the starter project here.

Open RWPuppies.xcworkspace. Build and run RWPuppies to give it a whirl, and notice that the UI and most of the functionality is already in place.

Featured puppy

Real-world e-commerce apps typically get their inventory data from a remote server. For simplicity, the ten puppies on display, including the featured puppy, are all read from a local file named puppies.json. The contents look something like this:


 "id" : 12252012,
 "name" : "Penny",
 "breed" : "Dachshund",
 "photo_large" : "",
 "cuddle_factor" : 5,
 "price" : 29999


The checkout cart is implemented as a singleton called CheckoutCart. You can add and remove any number of puppies to and from your cart and all the changes will be reflected automatically in the third tab, which contains your order information.

Checkout Cart Credit Cards

Your primary task is to integrate the logic to collect and send the payment to your simple back-end app that will talk to Stripe.

“But I’m a mobile developer. I don’t do back end!” Fear not. You’ll find it’s pretty straightforward. :]

But Wait A Second, You Might Be Wondering… What About In-App Purchases?

Credit card payments are not to be confused with In-App Purchases. In-App Purchases can only be used to sell digital goods that are going to be consumed within the app. If you are dealing with a physical good or service, not only should you not try to use an In-App Purchase, you must not. Apple will reject your app!

Say you developed a game. If you want to offer more levels for 99 cents a pop, you have to use an In-App Purchase. If, on the other hand, you want to sell official t-shirts inside the app, then you have to handle your own credit card payments with a service like Stripe.

Time To Earn Your Stripes

The sequence of steps leading to a successful credit card charge looks like this:

Stripe Credit Card Transaction Sequence Diagram

Sending additional information, such as the card’s CVC number and billing address, is not required but is highly recommended. This extra information helps reduce fraudulent transactions that the merchant (that means you or your client) have to cover.

  1. The app sends your customer’s credit card information to Stripe using a secure HTTPS POST request. The only required bits of information you need to send to Stripe are the credit card number, the expiration month and the expiration year. Not even the owner’s name is required!
  2. Stripe processes the credit card information and returns a one-time token to your app. Getting this token from Stripe does not mean that your customer’s card was charged. The actual charge is initiated later from your server.
  3. Assuming the previous step was successful, your app posts the one-time token to your server for the grand finale.
  4. Server-side, you must contact Stripe again using Stripe’s API. Luckily for you, the fine folks at Stripe have provided official libraries in several popular languages that wrap around their underlying HTTP API. You’ll be using Sinatra-based web application for this tutorial.
  5. Stripe’s servers attempt to charge the credit card and send the result, success or failure, back to your server.
  6. In the last step of what seems to be an endless game of telephone, your server notifies your iOS app of the transaction’s final result.

Note: In theory, you could implement everything on the phone without a back end, but for security reasons this is not recommended. Doing so requires you to put both public and private keys in your app – a requirement to submit a charge to Stripe. This means anyone with access to your app could reverse-engineer both keys and would be able to do anything with your Stripe account – ouch!

Lorenzo Boaro


Lorenzo Boaro


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