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API | Plugin
API | Plugin

API Versus Plugin Integration: Differences Explained

Published on 02/22/2018 - Updated on 04/20/2022

Enabling online payments is essential for an e-commerce store. However, the integration of a payment system can be done in different ways. In many cases, such integration will be limited to what the e-commerce platform used by the merchant establishes.

In general, the most common alternatives are an API integration or the activation of a plugin (also known as an extension or module). With this in mind, we have prepared a brief list of the pros and cons of API versus plugin integrations.

Read more: The Future of the Payment Industry in Brazil is Digital


Definitions of API and Plugin

API: the initials stand for Application Programming Interface. It refers to a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software and applications. An API basically defines how a component interacts with a system, facilitating the communication between them.

Plugin: also called an extension, a plugin is a software component that makes it possible to modify an existing computer program or platform, for instance, adding new features to it. Such modification does not usually alter the design of the system, which often has a Plugin API defining how the extensions can interact with the whole system.

Read more: PagBrasil’s cutting-edge WooCommerce plugin for payments in Brazil


API Versus Plugin Integration

When talking about the pros and cons of an API versus plugin integration, it is important to highlight that there is no right or wrong. The characteristics and the needs of each business, as well as the e-commerce platform on which the online store is based, will be key to choosing the option that best suits them. Below, we list the pros and cons of both integration methods.

  • API


Pros Cons
More integration flexibility. The merchant has total control over the integration and can make the checkout page look as desired. It requires technical knowledge for the integration, as well as more time to have it ready to use.
Control over the payment flow. The business can define the steps of the checkout and how the payment options will be displayed to the buyer. Merchants must have a certification of PCI DSS Compliance in order to receive card payments.
API’s own functionalities. This is a must-have for businesses with specific needs, such as setting up recurring and 1-click payments, processing installment payments with different amounts each month, debit card failover when a credit card payment is not authorized, hiding one of the payment methods so that it is only displayed at a later stage and carrying out customized A/B tests.


  • Plugin


Pros Cons
Easy and ready-to-use integration. Within a few minutes, the payment methods can be available at the checkout. In most cases, the e-commerce platform does not allow enough room for the merchant (or even the plugin developer) to define the payment flow.
No, or little, technical knowledge needed to install the plugin. Little to no control over design.
Any corrections or improvements to the plugin are done on the plugin’s developer side. Limited functionalities. In many cases, merchants need to complement the integration with a smaller scale API integration to be able to trigger subsequent charges of recurring payments, for instance, or benefit from more personalized services.
Reduced PCI Scope. In most cases, the extensions use an iFrame and the payment information run through the secure servers of the payment provider.

Read more: PagBrasil Offers Discount per Payment Method for Shopify and New Features

Payment providers will often offer both options, allowing merchants to choose what is right for them. PagBrasil, for instance, provides integration via API, iFrame and plugins for Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, VTEX, and Salesforce. If you wish to know more about how to integrate our payment platform into your e-commerce store, contact us to learn more!

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  • Soha Zain 14 de October de 2019

    Amazingly Great job. These two points are well covered; “Definitions of API and Plugin” and “API Versus Plugin Integration”. Thanks for sharing this topic of “API Versus Plugin Integration: Pros and Cons”. The best part is the article has all the practical detailing! Keep Sharing

  • Rebecca Gardner 18 de June de 2020

    It caught my attention when you explained that API integration offers more flexibility and control to the merchant’s webpage. My sister wants to find a good payment gateway service for her new local service business to ensure she’s easily able to accept payments in any form. I’ll pass along this info so she knows about the benefits that API integration would provide!