What payment gateways do companies like Uber/AirBnB use

on May20
Written by
James Davis
Written by James Davis
Senior Technical Writer at United Thinkers
Author of the Paylosophy blog, a veteran writer, and a stock analyst with extensive knowledge and experience in the financial services industry that allows me to cover the latest payment industry news, developments, and insights. Read more
Reviewed by
Kathrine Pensatori
Product Specialist at United Thinkers
Product specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the Payment Processing Industry. I help payment facilitators and PSPs solve their various payment processing issues. Read more

“What payment system does Airbnb use?”, “Who is the payment gateway and processor behind Uber?”, “What payment processor/gateway do big websites use like Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc?”

These are the typical questions, which are asked by many people on a regular basis. To get accurate answers to these questions, you would likely need to consult the management of the two companies. We do not know the managers of these companies and, consequently, the exact answers to the listed questions.

According to experts, Uber and AirBnB rely on the services different gateway partners in different parts of the world. The most notable ones we can mention are Braintree and Adyen. However, it is not specific gateway solutions that matter. We feel that people, asking such questions, just want to implement payment processing logic, similar to the logic used by Airbnb and Uber, in their applications. In this article we will try to explain the essence of this logic, and provide guidelines for those, who search for similar solutions.

So, what is the common feature, which unites Airbnb, Uber, and other similar companies, emerging with every coming day?

Features and challenges of companies like AirBnB and Uber

Airbnb is a marketplace for accommodation rental, while Uber is a marketplace for transportation services. Vacation rental and online transportation networks are not the only business types. If we set company names aside, we can see that the common feature is an online marketplace business model. A marketplace is an online setting, where various small-size vendors offer their products and services to various customers. In the case of Airbnb and Uber, these vendors can be individuals or small businesses that offer services to other individuals and small businesses.

Online marketplaces, generally, face a challenge when it comes to payment processing. When a customer makes a purchase the payment amount should, generally, be split between multiple parties. For example, with Uber, a portion of the payment should be kept by the corporate office that provides the software product, and another portion goes to the driver. The case of renting an Airbnb apartment is conceptually the same. In some other cases, the number of recipients may be larger.

For example, tomorrow Airbnb rental service may allow cleaning companies to register on the web-site and provide their services to accommodation owners. As a result, during each rental, the payment will include Airbnb’s share (payment for web-site/online marketplace operation), the accommodation owner’s share, and the cleaning company’s share. Moreover, some part of the payment may represent taxes. Distribution of such payments is a serious challenge. It’s not ideal to charge the customer’s card separately for each recipient.

The challenge around payment distribution is solved through split funding (or split payment) mechanism. Different companies offer this mechanism as a service on the market. For example, PayPal is offering adaptive payments, Stripe and some new payment gateway software providers (such as United Thinkers) support split payment functionality, while Zift offers such functionality to software vendors.

Online marketplaces and payment facilitator model

In most cases a company like Uber of Airbnb follows a classical payment facilitator model. Uber drivers (or Airbnb accommodation owners) are its sub-merchants that need to be funded. Since there are many of these sub-merchants, smooth merchant on-boarding, provisioning, and remittance logic are crucial in addition to split funding.

For most present-day marketplaces the opportunity to automatically onboard and provision newly singed-up merchants (or sub-merchants) is extremely relevant. In the case of Airbnb these sub-merchants are accommodation owners, while in the case of Uber they are car owners. That is why another important technology alongside split payment mechanism is merchant on-boarding technology (otherwise provisioning of each new sub-merchant would be a laborious procedure).


If your company uses an online marketplace business model and you want to “replicate” the business operations mechanism of Uber or Airbnb, try to find a payment service provider that supports split funding mechanism, has a smooth merchant on-boarding system, and compiles clear merchant statements, that would be easily interpreted and used for reconciliation by your customers.

Learn more about online marketplace models from our specialists at UniPay Gateway. You are also welcome to take a closer look at UniPay Gateway solution and learn how it helps customers streamline payments: start with a short videoguide.

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