Square vs PayPal Zettle Card Reader Comparison

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The David vs Goliath of mobile card reader battles

When Square Inc entered the payment processing field in 2009, some saw it as just another pretender to PayPal’s throne. At the time, PayPal had more than 80 million customers and a decade’s worth of brand recognition and trust going for it. Square had zero customers and a name that you’d forget by the time you finished reading this sentence.

But Square was quicker off the mark to enter one crucial market segment; mobile card readers. They released the Square Reader to roaring success in 2009, and before long, PayPal was the one playing catch up. 2012 saw the launch of the PayPal Here mobile card reader, and the two mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solutions have been butting heads ever since.

Today, ‘Square vs PayPal Zettle’ is a legitimate question. Both promise to help save you money, and they each sport similar product specs; but you only have room in your life for one mPOS solution. So how do you choose between them? We’ve compared Square vs Paypal Zettle and found out that while Paypal is an established player well-suited for small businesses, Square offers better rates and cheaper solutions.

But if you need more information, our side-by-side comparison will help you decide. Read on for a more in-depth look at pricing, user experience and customer support.

Square vs Paypal Zettle

square logo
square magstripe reader
Square Reader for magstripe


Paypal Zettle 

6 months


12 months

Square Reader for contactless

and chip + magstripe reader


Paypal Chip Card Reader
Square reader for contactless and chip
Square Reader fees

(Contactless, Chip and swiped)

2.6% + 10¢ per transaction

PayPal Zettle fees

(Contactless and Chip and PIN)

2.29% + 0.09 USD per transaction for card-present transactions

3.49% + 0.09 USD per transaction for manual card entry transactions

Funds deposit time

Within the next business day,

instant and same day transfers

available for 1.5% of fees

Funds deposit time

Instantly to PayPal account,

two hours to bank account


All major card types


Apple Pay

Android Pay


All major card types


Apple Pay

Samsung Pay

G Pay


12 months


12 months

Card Reader Cost

Square’s magstripe reader ekes out the narrowest of victories, available for free whereas Paypal’s reader costs $29. But there are two major differences between these two : Paypal’s one is a chip reader and comes with a 12-month hardware warranty. Square's free magstripe reader only comes with a 6-month warranty.

Verdict: Square wins on upfront cost, but not by a lot. Chin up Paypal Zettle, the battle’s not over…

While the initial investment with Paypal is $29 for its card reader, the initial cost when opting for Square magstripe reader is completely free. Beware of the transaction fees: Paypal charges 2.29% + $0.09 per transaction while Square’s charge per transaction is 1.75% for chip and PIN/contactless or 2.5% for virtual terminal and invoices.

SquarePayPal Zettle
Fees per transaction2.6% + 10¢2.29% +$0.09
Initial costFrom 0 to $49From $24.99 to $99.99

Some card reader companies make it difficult to discover what their transaction fees are (a red flag if ever there was one). Fortunately, PayPal Zettle and Square have nothing to hide – you can find all fee information on their respective websites.

PayPal Zettle Fees

PayPal charges a flat transaction fee of 2.29% + 0.09 USD per transaction for card-present transactions and 3.49% + 0.09 USD per transaction for manual card entry transactions.

Funds deposit into your PayPal account instantly, and you can complete a bank transfer in under two hours.

Square Fees

Square charges a flat transaction fee of 1.75% for chip and pin/contactless payments and 2.5% for virtual terminal and invoices. That said, if your annual sales exceed $250,000 (congratulations!), you can ask Square for a discounted rate.

Square payments deposit into your bank account within the next business day. Same-day transfers and instant transfers are available for a fee of 1.5%.

Verdict: Square extends its lead on PayPal Zettle with lower transaction fees. The difference might not sound like much, but it adds up over the course of a year. 2-0.


Customer Support

Online Support

When it comes to online support, Square has the edge. Both companies’ websites offer lots of useful information, but it’s much easier to find that info on Square’s website than PayPal’s, which doesn’t separate small business owner FAQs from ordinary PayPal account holders FAQs.

Phone Support

You can reach a PayPal phone support agent between the hours of 8AM – 8PmM Monday  – Friday (Central Time).  Square's phone support is lacking so you might be better off contacting them via their live chat.

hat Do Customers Say?

Both companies’ mPOS apps have good customer review scores., complaints from Android and iOS users of their mPOS card readers are few and far between.

The picture isn’t so rosy for PayPal in terms of its Trustpilot score. Square’s excellent 4.6 out of 5 rating raises no eyebrows, but PayPal’s terrible score of 3.1 out of 5 is worrying. That said, PayPal’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) grade of A is much more in line with how small business owners perceive the company. The poor Trustpilot rating is likely weighed down by customer complaints from the consumer-facing side of PayPal’s business.

Verdict: Square’s spotless reputation earns it a deserved win here

Square vs PayPal Zettle: The Expert Verdict

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Square wins by a mile. It costs less than Paypal’s card reader and offers lower transaction fees. Based on customer reviews, the mPOS app provides a smoother user experience, there’s plenty of online support for new users, and you can qualify for lower transaction fees if you take more than $250,000 per year.

Don’t get us wrong; there are really good reasons why Paypal is the mobile card reader of choice for so many small businesses. For 90% of small business owners, the PayPal Zettle card reader, offering more comprehensive customer support, is the better choice.

Still, if you’re selling products on razor-thin margins, transaction fees are going to be the deciding factor; and Square offers the better rates.

Our card reader comparison service can help you get the best deals mobile card readers. It’s free to use, quick, and can help you save money. Take a minute to fill in our short form and we’ll connect you with top suppliers for bespoke quotes.

Zara Chechi

Zara is a law grad with a penchant for wordsmithing. As Expert Market’s CRM and payroll expert, she relishes researching and writing expert content.