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Square vs PayPal Card Reader Comparison 2019

The Goliath 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’ 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?

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
Square vs PayPal: Square logoSquare vs PayPal: PayPal logo
Square vs PayPal: Square card readerSquare vs PayPal: PayPal card reader
Square Chip Card Reader cost

$29.00
PayPal Here Chip Card Reader cost

$24.99
Square Reader fees
(Contactless and Chip and PIN)

2.75% per transaction
PayPal Here fees
(Contactless and Chip and PIN)

2.70% for US card payments,
4.20% for foreign card payments
Funds deposit time

Instantly to PayPal account,
two working days to bank account
Funds deposit time

Instantly to PayPal account,
two hours to bank account
Phone support

Between 6am and 6pm on weekdays;
no weekend phone support
Phone support

Between 5am and 10pm on weekdays;
and 6am and 8pm on weekends
Accepts

All major card types
Contactless
Apple Pay
Android Pay
Accepts

All major card types
Contactless
Apple Pay
Android Pay
Warranty

12 months
Warranty

12 months

Card Reader Cost

Note: We’ve only considered pricing for the chip and PIN card readers in this section. We don’t recommend magstripe readers to anyone in 2019. They might be cheaper, but they expose you to liability for fraudulent transactions. Don’t risk it.

PayPal’s chip and PIN reader ekes out the narrowest of victories, costing compared with $29 for the Square Reader. These are both one-time fees, and both come with a 12-month hardware warranty.

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

Transaction Fees

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

PayPal Here Fees

PayPal charges a flat transaction fee of 2.7% per transaction to accept payments from US cards. To accept payments from foreign cards, you'll pay significantly more - 4.2% per transaction.

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 2.75% per transaction. That said, if your annual sales exceed $250,000 (congratulations!), you can you can ask Square for a discounted rate. But if you want to match or beat PayPal Here's lower transaction fees with Square, be prepared to wear your negotiator's cap to a meeting with their sales team.

Square payments deposit into your bank account within two working days.

Verdict: PayPal Here extends its lead on Square with lower transaction fees. The difference between 2.75% and 2.7% 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 5am-10pm Monday through Friday, and 6am-8pm at weekends (Pacific Time). Square, on the other hand, only opens its phone support lines from 6am-6pm on weekdays, with no support at all on weekends.

On the plus side, both PayPal and Square let you fast track your phone calls by giving you a unique One-Time Passcode (OTP). That means hold times are generally low, even during peak hours. From a Square customer's perspective, it's just a shame that phone support isn't available outside of those hours.

Verdict: PayPal pips Square to the post again. This is getting embarrassing...

What Do Customers Say?

Both companies’ mPOS apps have good customer review scores. Square's free app is rated 3.6 out of 5 in the App Store and 4.6 in Google Play. The PayPal Here app has an average rating of 3.6 out of 5 on the iOS App Store and 4.3 out 5 on Google Play. Suffice to say, 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 8.3 out of 10 rating raises no eyebrows, but PayPal's terrible score of 1.2 out of 10 is worrying. That said, PayPal's Better Business Bureau (BBB) grade of B+ is much more in line with how small business owners percieve 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: The Expert Verdict

As you've probably guessed by now, PayPal Here wins by a mile. It costs less than Square's card reader, offers lower transaction fees, and more comprehensive customer support. For 90% of small business customers, the PayPal Here card machine is the better choice.

Don't get us wrong; there are good reasons why Square is the mobile card reader of choice for so many small businesses. 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.

Still, if you're selling products on razor-thin margins, transaction fees are going to be the deciding factor; and PayPal Here 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.