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Payment Architecture Overview

In this document, you’ll learn about the payment architecture in Medusa, specifically its 3 main components and the idempotency key.


The payment architecture refers to all operations in a commerce application related to processing a customer’s payment. It includes the checkout flow and order handling including refunds and swaps.

In Medusa, there are 3 main components in the payment architecture: Payment Processor, Payment Session, and Payment.


Payment Processors were previously named Payment Provider. With the roll-out of the Payment Processor API following v1.8 of the core Medusa package, Payment Provider is considered a legacy now. However, there are certain entities and services that still use the name Payment Provider as they still don't follow this change.

  1. A Payment Processor is a service or method used to capture, authorize, and refund payments, among other functionalities.
  2. A Payment Session is a session associated with a cart and created during a customer’s checkout flow. It is controlled by the Payment Processor to authorize the payment and is used eventually to create a Payment.
  3. A Payment is associated with an order and it represents the amount authorized for the purchase. It is used later for further payment operations such as capturing or refunding payments.

An important part in the Payment architecture to understand is the Idempotency Key. It’s a unique value that’s generated for a cart and is used to retry payments during checkout if they fail.

Payment Processor

A Payment Processor in Medusa is a method to handle payments in selected regions. It is not associated with a cart, customer, or order in particular. It provides the necessary implementation to create Payment Sessions and Payments, as well as authorize and capture payments, among other functionalities.

Payment Processors can be integrated with third-party services that handle payment operations such as capturing a payment. An example of a Payment Processor is Stripe.

Payment Processors can also be related to a custom way of handling payment operations. An example of that is Cash on Delivery (COD) payment methods or Medusa’s manual payment provider plugin which provides a minimal implementation of a payment provider and allows store operators to manually handle order payments.


The manual payment plugin is still considered a payment provider since it does not follow the Payment Processor API introduced in v1.8 of the core Medusa package.

How Payment Processor is Created

A Payment Processor is essentially a Medusa service with a unique identifier, and it extends the AbstractPaymentProcessor from the core Medusa package @medusajs/medusa. You can create it as part of a plugin, or just as a service file in your Medusa backend.

As a developer, you will mainly work with the Payment Processor when integrating a payment method in Medusa.

When you run your Medusa backend, the Payment Processor will be registered on your backend if it hasn’t been already.

Once the Payment Processor is added to the backend, the store operator will be able to choose using the admin dashboard the payment processors available in a region. You can alternatively do that using the admin APIs. These payment processors are shown to the customer at checkout as payment methods to choose from and use.


It’s important to enable a payment processor in a region, or else the payment processor cannot be used by customers on checkout.

PaymentProvider Entity Overview

The PaymentProvider entity only has 2 attributes: is_installed which is a boolean value indicating whether the Payment Processor is installed; and id which is the unique identifier that you define in the Payment Processor service.

Payment Session

Payment Sessions are linked to a customer’s cart. Each Payment Session is associated with a payment processor that is available in the customer cart’s region.

They hold the status of the payment flow throughout the checkout process which can be used to indicate different statuses such as an authorized payment or payment that requires more actions from the customer.

After the checkout process is completed and the Payment Session has been authorized successfully, a Payment instance will be created to be associated with the customer’s order and will be used for further actions related to that order.

How Payment Session is Created

After the customer adds products to the cart, proceeds with the checkout flow, and reaches the payment method section, Payment Sessions are created for each Payment Processor available in that region.

During the creation of the Payment Session, the Payment Processor can interact with third-party services for any initialization necessary on their side. For example, when a Payment Session for Stripe is being created, a payment intent associated with the customer is created with Stripe as well.

Payment Sessions can hold data that is necessary for the customer to complete their payment.

Among the Payment Sessions available only one will be selected based on the customer’s payment processor of choice. For example, if the customer sees that they can pay with Stripe or PayPal and chooses Stripe, Stripe’s Payment Session will be the selected Payment Session of that cart.

PaymentSession Entity Overview

The PaymentSession entity belongs to a Cart. This is the customer‘s cart that was used for checkout which lead to the creation of the Payment Session.

The PaymentSession instance also belongs to a PaymentProvider instance. This is the Payment Processor that was used to create the Payment Session and that controls it for further actions like authorizing the payment.

The data attribute is an object that holds any data required for the Payment Processor to perform payment operations like authorizing or capturing payment. For example, when a Stripe payment session is initialized, the data object will hold the payment intent among other data necessary to authorize the payment.

The is_selected attribute in the PaymentSession entity is a boolean value that indicates whether this Payment Session was selected by the customer to pay for their purchase. Going back to the previous example of having Stripe and PayPal as the available Payment Processors, when the customer chooses Stripe, Stripe’s Payment Session will have is_selected set to true whereas PayPal’s Payment Session will have is_selected set to false.

The status attributes indicates the current status of the Payment Session. It can be one of the following values:

  • authorized: The payment has been authorized which means the order can be placed successfully.
  • pending: The payment is still pending further actions. This is usually used when the payment session is initialized.
  • requires_more: The payment requires additional actions from the customer before the payment can be authorized successfully and the order can be placed. An example of this is payment methods that require 3-D Secure checks.
  • error: An error was encountered when an authorization was attempted. This status is usually used when an error has been encountered when authorizing the payment with a third-party payment processor.
  • canceled: The payment has been canceled.

These statuses are important in the checkout flow to determine the current step the customer is at and which action should come next. For example, if there is an attempt to place the order but the status of the Payment Session is not authorized, an error will be thrown.


A Payment is used to represent the amount authorized for a customer’s purchase. It is associated with the order placed by the customer and will be used after that for all operations related to the order’s payment such as capturing or refunding the payment.

Payments are generally created using data from the Payment Session and it holds any data that can be necessary to perform later payment operations.

How Payment is Created

Once the customer completes their purchase and the payment has been authorized, a Payment instance will be created from the Payment Session. The Payment is associated first with the cart and then with the order once it’s created and placed.

When the store operator then chooses to capture the order from the Medusa Admin, the Payment is used by the Payment Processor to capture the payment. This is the same case for refunding the amount, canceling the order, or creating a swap.

Payment Entity Overview

The Payment entity belongs to the Cart that it was originally created from when the customer’s payment was authorized. It also belongs to an Order once it’s placed. Additionally, it belongs to a PaymentProvider which is the payment processor that the customer chose on checkout.

In case a Swap is created for an order, Payment will be associated with that swap to handle payment operations related to it.

Similar to PaymentSession, Payment has a data attribute which is an object that holds any data required to perform further actions with the payment such as capturing the payment.

Payment also holds attributes like amount which is the amount authorized for payment, and amount_refunded which is the amount refunded from the original amount if a refund has been initiated.

Additionally, Payment has the captured_at date-time attribute which is filled when the payment has been captured, and a canceled_at date-time attribute which is filled when the order has been canceled.

Idempotency Key

An Idempotency Key is a unique key associated with a cart. It is generated at the last step of checkout before authorization of the payment is attempted and used in the request and response header.

If the request is interrupted for any reason or the payment fails, the client can retry completing the check out using the Idempotency Key, and the flow will continue from the last stored step. This prevents any payment issues from occurring with the customers and allows for secure retries of failed payments or interrupted connections.

You can learn more about idempotency keys here.

See Also

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