Updated July 30, 2019

Square Review: Pros and Cons

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Square is a mobile credit card processor for small businesses. It has no monthly fees and a low flat transaction rate. Read on for the pros and cons.

Square was one of the first mobile card readers available. With low costs, easy setup, and many features, it's ideal for small mobile businesses. Today, it has evolved to also become a powerful point of sale. Business owners can take credit cards, manage inventory, create invoices, and manage employees with one program.

It takes less than 10 minutes to sign up and start accepting credit cards. The Square card reader is free and plugs right into your phone or tablet. Square doesn't require a contract and accepts all major credit cards.

Who Is Square Best For?

  • New companies: With no monthly fee and flat rates for all credit cards processed, Square is an affordable option for new businesses.

  • Companies with small transactions: Because it's a fixed rate, small transactions remain affordable. For example, a $10 transaction would only cost you $0.27 (versus a $1,000 transaction, which would cost $27).

  • Mobile businesses: Companies on-the-go need a simple payment processor they can use anywhere. Square's card reader can be plugged right into your phone or tablet.

Square Pros & Cons

PROS:

  • Low, predictable fixed-rate at 2.75% per swipe
  • No monthly or annual fee
  • No contract
  • User friendly interface
  • Free swipe card reader
  • Free POS app
  • Feature-rich all-in-one system
  • Can accept offline payments
  • Quick deposits within 2 business days

CONS:

  • Weak customer support
  • Costly add-on services
  • Flat-rate pricing can be expensive for larger businesses
  • High-risk businesses may not be accepted

Is Square or PayPal better?
PayPal has a lower per-swipe fee (2.70% vs. Square's 2.75%), however, Square provides more features. It has a stronger POS with more advanced management features, such as scheduling, employee, and inventory management. Also, Square provides a free virtual terminal, where you can take keyed-in payments over the phone. With PayPal, you need to upgrade to PayPal Pro for $30/month for this feature.

PayPal does have an advantage if you sell online though. You can accept PayPal payments, which is popular with online shoppers. The system integrates with just about all eCommerce platforms. PayPal's mobile POS also accepts PayPal payments, which Square's does not.

Pricing & Other Fees

TRANSACTION FEES:

Square charges a fixed flat-rate fee for all credit card transactions - regardless of whether it's Visa, MasterCard, or AMEX. The fees are as follows:

  • Square reader or stand transactions (including credit cards, gift cards, and prepaid cards): 2.75%
  • Keyed-in or card-on-file transactions: 3.15% + $0.15
  • Online transactions: 2.9% + $0.30
  • Square Terminal and Register payments: $2.6% + $0.10
  • Square for Restaurants (paid plan): $2.6% + $0.10
  • Square for Retail payments (paid plan): $2.5% + $0.10
  • Square Appointment (paid plan): $2.5% + $0.10

ACCOUNT FEES:

Square waives many typical account fees. With Square you pay:

  • No monthly or annual fee
  • No PCI compliance fee
  • No startup fees
  • No payment gateway fee
  • No chargeback fees
  • No early termination fee
  • No monthly minimum requirements

HARDWARE PRICES:

Square provides your first swipe card reader free of charge. If you need other devices, the costs are as follows:

  • Additional magstripe reader: $10
  • Contactless and chip card reader: $49
  • Square Stand for iPad for contactless and chip: $199
  • Square Terminal: $399
  • Square Register: $799

Is the Square Card Reader Good?

The free Square card reader offers the ability to accept credit cards anywhere with your smart device. Here are some things to know about it:

  • You can only accept swiped credit cards. Chip and contactless payments will require the chip reader.
  • You pick the Square reader that works for you. Choose between the one with a headphone jack and one with Lightning connector.
  • You can send receipts via text or email. If you want to print receipts, you'll need to use a tablet and attach a receipt printer.
  • Offline payments only work with the swipe reader. Chip and contactless payments require internet connection.
  • No charging necessary. Just plug into your smart device.
  • The card reader works with iOS 9.0 or later and Android 4.0 or later.

If don't want to wait to get the free reader shipped to you, you can buy it at a retail store. It costs $10, but Square reimburses the $10 to your designated account after activation.

Where can I buy a Square card reader? You can find the Square reader at major retail stores, including Target, Meijer, Walmart, and Walgreens. You may also find them at your local cellphone store, including AT&T, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular.

What You Get With Square

When you sign up with Square, you get:

Free magstripe reader:
This allows you to accept swiped credit card payments. For chip and contactless payments (such as Apple Pay and Google Pay), you'll have to buy the chip reader.

Free Point-of-Sale app:
The free POS app is pretty powerful. Functions include emailing/texting receipts, setting discounts, issuing refunds, reviewing sales data reports, and managing inventory. See more details in section below.

Free Virtual Terminal:
Lets you enter card payments directly from your web browser for phone and card-not-present payments. You can also store credit card info so you can easily charge repeat customers.

Customizable dashboard:
On your dashboard, you can enter multiple locations, customize receipts, create custom categories, tax settings, and inventory. You can also set up a loyalty program, manage employees' hours and sales, and create custom reports. (Note that some are add-on services for an additional cost.)

Free online store:
Square comes with a free online store and eCommerce tools. You can build your own website with a variety of layouts and designs. It integrates with the Square POS so everything remains synced.

Square POS App Features & Tools

The free Square POS app has a full array of services. Features and functions include:

  • Detailed reports and insights, such as what sells best, customer spending trends, and sales comparisons.
  • Offline payments for swiped transactions.
  • Track each employee's time cards, breaks, and overtime.
  • Grant different levels of access to employees.
  • Send custom invoices (payments are considered online payments and will cost 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction).
  • Update inventory, run reports, and receive alerts when stock runs low.
  • Quick deposits within 2 business days. Instant Deposit will cost 1% per deposit.
  • Sell and accept gift cards.
  • Installment plan for customers, but you are paid upfront.
  • Create and manage up to 300 locations under one master account.
  • Integrates with many third-party apps and software.

Currently, you can only use the app on iOS and Android devices. It is not available on Windows, Blackberry, and Amazon Fire.

Keep in mind, though, that certain features in the app are only available on a tablet, such as an iPad. Most notably:

  • Printing physical receipts
  • Printing physical kitchen tickets (for a restaurant)
  • Displaying kitchen orders (for a restaurant)

Additional Add-On Services

You can also add more advanced tools for an extra fee. These include:

  • Advanced employee management: See sales reports by team member and manage multiple wage rates. $35/month per location.

  • Loyalty programs: Create loyalty programs and enroll and rewards customers directly from the POS. Starts at $45/month.

  • Marketing: Create email and social campaigns and track results, all within your POS. Starts at $15/month.

  • Payroll: Import timecards and pay employees and contractors. You can even offer benefits and 401k plans. Square takes care of tax filings. Employee payrolls are $29/month + $5/person. Contractor payrolls are $5/person/month.

Advanced Square Plans

For businesses with more specific needs, Square offers advanced industry-specific plans for extra cost. These include:

Square Appointments:
For service industries such as consultants, spas, personal trainers, etc, this advanced plan helps you manage scheduling. Includes:

  • Free booking site, or integrate with Instagram and Google
  • Allows online appointment bookings 24/7
  • Syncs with your own calendar
  • Send automated reminders
  • No-show protection by requiring pre-payment or cancellation fees

Free for individuals; Starts at $50/month for 2+ employees

Square for Restaurants:
Restaurants can benefit with Square's POS system specifically built for restaurant operations. Includes:

  • Customize your floor plan and menus
  • Add and customers items and modifiers
  • Send orders to the kitchen with just one tap
  • Online order and delivery integrations with apps like Postmates
  • Manage multiple restaurants

$60/month per location, for one POS

Square for Retail:
If you need more complex retail needs, you may find Square for Retail to be worth the cost. Includes:

  • More advanced employee management
  • More advanced inventory tools, including unlimited SKUs, item cataloguing, and real-time inventory tracking
  • Vendor and purchase order management

$60/month per location, for one POS

Reading about current marketing stats can help your business stay on top of trends. Check out this article from Robben Media for 50 digital marketing stats in the restuarant biz to learn more about how the industry operates.

Square Customer Service

You have to be an existing merchant if you want phone support. You must complete an online form after signing into your dashboard. Once you complete the form, Square will provide you with a unique customer code that you use to talk to them.

Live phone support hours are from 6 AM to 6 PM. There is also email support if you don't need an immediate response.

Square has an extensive knowledge database consisting of blogs, FAQs, videos, and community forum.

How It Compares

  • PayPal: Square and PayPal offer similar services, but Square offers more features for vendors operating mostly on a mobile device. PayPal takes the cake on eCommerce, but limits functionality for vendors needing the full gamut of services on-the-go. Most notably, their inventory capabilities are very limited, making it more of a payment processor rather than a full POS.

  • Stripe: Stripe is the chosen processor for large volume businesses, as they give a volume discount after $80,000 in monthly sales. It's also good for businesses that have a built-in developer team that can integrate the software with their eCommerce site. It's not a processor for beginners or those without a team of developers. However, the fees that Stripe and Square offer are very competitive to one another.

Bottom Line

Square offers many benefits, operating as a full point-of-sale. They have the richest history in mobile payment processing and offer many additional features via third parties. Square is simple, straightforward, and affordable. But, if you have heavy volume, could be considered "risky," or need phone support, you may want to look elsewhere.

Is Square Safe? The Square reader encrypts information as soon as it's received, and they handle all disputes or issues with any payment. They also utilize live monitoring programs, which they claim helps stop fraud before it even happens. Lastly, they require two-step authentication to prevent unauthorized personnel from hacking into your dashboard.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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