Is it hip to use Square?
- Simple, flat-rate pricing
- Pays out in as little as one day
- Electrifyingly good mobile app
- Works with Wix and Ecwid to help you build a website, then sell through it
- No credit check required
- Not suitable for larger businesses or high-risk industries
- Not as cheap as mobile card readers such as iZettle and SumUp
- Add-ons can quickly become expensive
Square is a mobile payments provider that specializes in empowering the world’s millions of small businesses to accept credit and debit card payments. Founded by Jack Dorsey (founder and CEO of Twitter), Square has seen a similar rise to prominence since it first hit the counters of small businesses in 2009. But is it right for yours?
Let’s find out.
What are Square’s Features and Benefits?
The benefits include speed, security, style, and simplicity… but we’ll let Square’s impressive range of products do the talking.
Square Card Readers
Square offers a few different types of card reader. Which one is right for you?
Square magstripe card reader
The first type is for taking swiped card transactions. The Square magstripe card reader plugs directly into your phone or tablet, either via the headphone jack or the lightning port (for the Apple lovers out there). Square’s magstripe reader costs $10 on its own, though the company is offering it for free to ‘eligible’ merchants (you'll have to get in touch with them directly to find out if that's you).
Square contactless card reader
Square’s other card reader is a terminal for accepting NFC (near-field communication) contactless and dipped card payments. It costs $49, but you’ll also receive Square’s magstripe reader included at no extra cost.
This reader is a kind of ‘all-in-one’ card machine. It comes with a touchscreen, allowing you to take payments, navigate your point of sale (POS), and access all the features of Square’s app from a single, intuitive interface. It looks amazing on your counter, too!
Benefits of a Square card reader
✔ Pairs with an app, allowing you to take payments from your own devices
✔ See funds in your account within one to two business days
✔ Swift, hassle-free setup
✔ Aesthetic appeal in spades
Square Merchant Account
As you might already know, you’ll need a merchant account to accept debit and credit card payments at your business. Merchant accounts are provided by banks and ISOs (Independent Service Organizations), who have traditionally dominated the industry with long contracts, early termination fees, and opaque, confusing pricing plans.
Square is a bit different. The company is a third-party payment processor, so not a merchant account provider in the traditional sense. That means Square is easier to apply for, and you won’t need to go through a credit check to get accepted.
Square still does everything a merchant account does… only there’s no fine print, plenty of transparent fees, and – unlike with most banks or ISOs – PCI compliance is handled for you.
Benefits of Square vs a traditional merchant account
✔ No credit check
✔ No long contract
✔ No PCI compliance fees
So, what else does Square offer?
Square Payment Gateway
A payment gateway is a piece of software that helps verify, secure, and facilitate online transactions. Like a merchant account, a payment gateway is a crucial part of the payments process – but, once again, Square bypasses the need for one.
That’s because Square utilizes its own networks of payment gateways and processors, taking care of the whole end-to-end payments process to ensure quick, secure credit card processing.
In plain English, that means you don’t need any additional hardware or software to accept payments online. Square partners with third-party ecommerce platform shopping carts such as BigCommerce and Ecwid, so most of the difficult stuff is already done. You’ll just pay a fee of 2.9% + 30 cents on any ecommerce transaction you accept.
Better still, Square works with website builders, such as Wix, that’ll help you build a sparkling, polished website in no time – then start selling through it. No coding or technical expertise is required.
▶ Read more: Do I Need a Website for My Business?
Benefits of selling online with Square
✔ Build a beautiful website, without the need for code (or even the know-how)
✔ Secure, encrypted transactions afford ultimate peace of mind
✔ You’ll pay the same rate for every card, and fees are transparent and straightforward
Square Virtual Terminal
All that said, you don’t need a website to take payments online. Instead, you can use Square’s virtual terminal. It’s a secure webpage into which you can log in, enter your customer’s card details, and take the payment. You aren’t required to buy, download, or maintain any software, either – just accept secure, speedy payments, straight from your browser.
Sure, Square’s virtual terminal costs a little more than taking payments in-person (or through a website), but it’s ideal for businesses that rely on telephone or mail order transactions. It can also be used for face-to-face payments, turning your laptop into a ready-made point of sale. Not bad, huh?
Benefits of a Square virtual terminal
✔ Take payments without your customer being present
✔ Receive funds as quickly as the next business day
✔ Bill returning customers with ease
▶ Read more: How to Accept Credit Card Payments
Square Mobile App
All of Square’s products are underpinned by Square’s clever, clean-looking mobile app, called Square Point of Sale. As well as taking (and tracking) sales and tips, the app also lets you send invoices, add and customize your products (pictured), and action refunds. You can also send receipts via email, manage your inventory, and log cash payments with ease.
Better still, Square’s app can provide you with your own ready-made loyalty scheme, to help you reward your best customers. With prices starting at $45 per month, Square’s dashboard tells you exactly who’s spending the most at your business, what they’re buying, and how much cash they’re parting with each time.
With Square Loyalty, you’ll be able to cultivate better relationships with your customers. You’ll receive insights into what they like, what they love, and what could work better – and then be able to use this info to grow your business.
Square Card on File and Invoices
Did we mention you can also send and settle invoices with Square? With Square’s Card on File feature, you’ll even be able to create profiles for your customers, which store their card details for simpler recurring payments.
You can access Card on File from your online Square dashboard or Point of Sale app – basically, wherever you request and receive payments from your customers.
So, how much time could you save with Square Card on File? Click here to find out.
Benefits of Square Card on File
✔ Saves time and streamlines admin
✔ Eliminates the need for external invoice software
✔ Helps foster better customer loyalty and retention rates
Square Point of Sale (POS)
Any business owner taking payments from behind a counter knows it’s not just about the card machine. You’ll also need a way of recording sales, managing inventory, and providing your customers with receipts. Here’s where Square’s range of accessories for creating a stunning POS system comes in.
Take a look at what’s on offer below.
Square Register ($799)
Square calls it “the first fully integrated point of sale system”. We just call it convenient. With a second detachable screen, the Square Register allows your customers to view the payment amount, insert their card, and pay securely, stylishly, and with ease.
Cash drawer ($129 to 249)
You’ll be taking lots of card payments, but you’ll still need to accept cash, too. Square offers both USB and printer-driven cash drawers for even the most demanding of point of sale setups. Better still, a feature in Square’s app allows you to record cash transactions at no extra charge.
Receipt printer ($299)
Generate receipts quickly and efficiently with Square’s printer, available as an add-on. Packs of 25 rolls of the paper can also be purchased through Square for $49 (although you can probably find a cheaper deal elsewhere).
Square’s receipt printers connect to your device via USB, though a Bluetooth/Ethernet-equipped model is available for $359.
Barcode scanner ($119)
Scan barcodes, quickly find products, and streamline your whole sales process… what more is there to say?
You've got a date with accepting card payments: Just swipe right, and you'll fall in love with Square
How Much Does Square Cost?
Sign up to Square, and your brand new card reader could be in the post within a day. And the best part? It might not even cost you a cent. Let’s take a look at how much Square costs.
Square card reader fee
Square’s magstripe card reader costs $10, and is available free of charge for eligible merchants. Just provide some basic info about what you do, verify your identity, and link your bank account. Then, Square will pop your card reader in the mail, and you can be taking payments within a couple of days.
Square’s NFC contactless-equipped terminal costs $49, but for that, you get the magstripe version thrown in. Free shipping will get your card reader to you within five to seven days, or you can pay extra to have it in your hands within two.
Square card reader costs
Square magstripe card reader fee: $0 to £10
Square NFC contactless card reader fee: $49
Square processing fees
Though there are no card reader costs or ongoing monthly fees, Square does charge a processing fee: 2.6% + 10 cents of each face-to-face transaction you take through it. This applies for swiped, dipped, and contactless transactions, and to both chip and magstripe cards.
Square card-present transaction costs
Square face-to-face transaction fee: 2.6% + 10 cents
Square’s ecommerce solutions cost a little more to process. This is because they’re card-not-present transactions, meaning that the cardholder isn’t physically at the point of sale when the transaction takes place. So, any payments you take through Square’s virtual terminal, Card on File, or that are manually keyed-in will cost 3.5% + 15 cents. Invoices cost 2.9% + 30 cents, or 3.5% + 15 cents if sent using Card on File.
Square card-not-present transaction costs
Square virtual terminal transaction fee: 3.5% + 15 cents
Square invoices fee: 2.9% + 30 cents
Square invoices (with Card on File) fee: 3.5% + 15 cents
Want to know more? Find out how much your business could save by taking payments with Square.
Is Square Right For My Business?
“I run a small business in my local market, but I don’t currently accept cards.”
You’re missing out! Debit cards are officially America’s favorite way to pay, followed by credit cards (a recent survey indicated cash is preferred by just 14% of respondents). Fortunately, though, Square is an affordable solution to that issue – and one that’s tailor-made to small businesses.
There’s no contract to tie you in, and no monthly costs – you’ll pay a fee based only on what you sell. So, if your market stall or small business is seasonal (or you run it on a sporadic basis), you won’t have to worry about ongoing costs swallowing up your hard-earned profits.
“I’d like to take payments online, but don’t have a website. Can Square help?”
Of. Course. If you’d like to build a website, Square can assist. Set one up through the web design wizardry of Wix, then leverage the ecommerce excellence of BigCommerce and Ecwid to start taking payments through it.
That’s if you want a website – if you don’t, then Square’s virtual terminal is a super simple way of using the internet to accept secure payments. Alternatively, you can use Square’s app to save your customer’s card details on file, and send invoices with ease. Taking online payments has never been easier!
“I already take over $10,000 in card payments per month, and I’m looking to change provider.”
Square, in this case, is not right for your business. Square’s flat fee per transaction is well-suited to small enterprises, but larger ones are better off negotiating a more flexible deal with a merchant account provider, such as an ISO or a bank.
No contracts and more understandable fees are great. But, if you’d prefer the security of a long-term agreement with cheaper rates, we’d recommend looking at a merchant services provider such as Payline, or Digitech Payments for Canada-based retailers.
What Do Square’s Customer Reviews Say?
Square is highly rated by its customers online. It boasts an impressive Trustpilot rating of 4.7/5 (‘Excellent’), with 85% of reviewers awarding Square five stars, and a further 5% opting for four.
Here are a couple of reviews that really sum it up.
- Christian, Square customer
“Square has a great POS that is user-friendly and meets all our needs. Its customer service is really knowledgeable and friendly; I’ve never had to wait on hold long, if at all, when calling. Its back end reports are easy to run, and help me figure out my business profits and losses, right down to days and timeframes.
“I have used Square the entire time my business has been open, and am so satisfied – it’s helped me grow my business as well as pay the bills! I truly love Square.”
- Mug Shot Coffee, Square customer
That said, some customers struggled with Square. Although it wasn’t all bad…
- Babs-Phillip, Square customer
“Make sure that your tax information is filled out correctly. If there's a problem, it will more than likely take multiple attempts to get it corrected. I first reached out to Square in early September 2019, and just got all of my issues resolved on November 15. This is the reason for the low score. We (the customers) should be able to talk to the tax department on the phone instead of only via email.”
- Nate, Square customer
As with all feedback shared about any business online, Square had its fair share both of the negative (setup, integrations) and the positive (customer service and user-friendliness, among other factors, came out on top).
Hence, while we're admittedly impressed with Square's range of slick products, solid customer support, and strong features, we couldn't quite give it our hallowed five-star rating. But still… four and a half stars is pretty fine work.
What’s next? Well, read on to hear about Square’s customer support, and our recommendations for merchant account providers in the US. Or, if you’re short on time, skip to the expert verdict for our final take on Square’s payment services. And, if you’re really short on time, why not get straight to it and head to Square’s website to sign up?
What’s Square’s Customer Support Like?
If you have an issue with your terminal or need assistance, you can reach Square between 6am and 6pm Pacific Time, or send an email anytime. You can also set up a public dialog with the company via Twitter (@Square), live chat, or other social media platforms.
Alternatively, you can tap into Square’s knowledge base. This is an online library featuring a robust range of articles, guides, tutorials, and video resources to help you fully get to grips with how to make Square work for you. You’ll also have access to Square’s ‘Seller Community’, an online hub where you can connect with fellow SMB owners.
Want to be part of Square’s Seller Community? You can be.
What Other Mobile Payment Providers Could I Consider?
If you’re still not convinced that Square is right for you, don’t stress. There are a few other mobile card readers that might work better for your business – PayPal Here, for instance, offers very cheap rates (as low as 1%) if your sales volume is high.
iZettle is another popular name, while SumUp’s fee (a flat 1.69%) has seen it emerge as a major contender to knock the big names off their perches.
That said, there’s more to life than mobile card readers. Because, as your business grows and your card sales volume increases, you’ll want to start looking at the value offered by a traditional merchant account. Merchant accounts are more negotiable, and mobile card readers simply can’t match the increased security they provide in the long run.
And, while you’ll have more credit card processing fees to understand, a traditional merchant account will work out cheaper over time. Aside from many high street banks (Bank of America, for example), you can opt for a merchant account from an ISO such as Heartland Payment Systems, National Processing, or Helcim.
So, is Square the right choice? The fact is, if you’re a small business looking to dip your toe into the waters of accepting card payments, then yes – Square is perfect for you. And, really, why wouldn’t you want to dip your toe? With debit and credit card transactions growing at a rate of billions each year, the water’s just fine.
So come on in.
Click here to go to Square’s website. You can be set up with an account in minutes (sans credit check), and have a free card reader in the post within a day. What have you got to lose?