2019 Square Review: Mobile Reader, POS, Invoicing, and Payroll
Each month, 3 million people use Square’s mobile payment app.1 But is Square the best solution for you? For small businesses that need a slew of products to accept payments and pay employees, Square is an obvious choice.
You’ve seen Square’s mobile credit card readers at farmers markets, food truck roundups, and restaurants, but Square offers more than card readers to small businesses. Between Square’s point-of-sale (POS) system, invoicing program, payment app, and chip readers, Square offers fairly comprehensive, mobile, and time-saving financial solutions for small businesses. And it can do so much for an unbeatable price—free. There are some small fees, and you would have to purchase any necessary hardware. But even with those costs, Square is rather affordable for the average small business.
While Square’s free software solutions are perfect for entrepreneurs, tradespeople, and small-business owners, what about larger and more complex operations?
Recently, Square has developed more scalable solutions for larger businesses. For example, as a more comprehensive financial solution for businesses with dozens or hundreds of employees, there’s now Square Payroll. For retailers with a more complex and high-volume inventory, there’s a more sophisticated POS solution: Square for Retail. But it’s worth noting that as Square’s products scale up for larger operations, they also scale up in pricing.
Square Point of Sale: best for startups
POS software can benefit any small business, and Square Point of Sale is no exception. Square’s integrated processing payment system centralizes your sales information and makes it available anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re accepting cash, checks, gift cards, or credit cards; all the information is recorded in one spot. The software also streamlines your operations to save you time, reduce human error, and improve the overall customer experience. And like other POS software, Square Point of Sale offers detailed sales reporting and insightful analytics. In short, what’s not to like about Square’s POS software?
Square Point of Sale
|Feature||Details||Find more info|
|Up-front price||Free||Learn More|
|Monthly Price||Free||Learn More|
|Processing fee||2.75% per swipe, dip, or tap||Learn More|
|Hardware options||- Magstripe Reader (Free)|
- Chip Card Reader ($29)
- Contactless and Chip Reader ($49)
- Stand for Contactless and Chip Reader ($169)
- Register ($999)
|Drawback||Complaints of unexpected account suspension and termination||Learn More|
To be a successful business, it’s essential to keep track of payments, and Square Point of Sale can help you do that effectively. It doesn’t matter how informal or small your operation is: whether you’re selling apples at the farmers market or opening a yoga studio, Square’s free POS software is a great solution. All you have to pay for is the hardware and a 2.75% fee for every swipe, but it’s still so reasonably priced that we recommend it for businesses that need anywhere from one to ten point-of-sale systems.
Considerations for Square Point of Sale
- No monthly service fee
- Detailed sales reports
- Quick payment processing
- High transaction fees
When comparing point-of-sale solutions for small businesses, Square Point of Sale excels. Along with being the most affordable solution out there, Square’s software empowers your business with flexibility and mobility. In fact, we picked Square as the best mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) system for small businesses. Square is also quick about transferring money into your account (one to two business days), and it offers excellent features that compete with the best POS software offerings: invoicing capabilities and tools for reporting, email marketing, and employee management.
The potential drawback with Square Point of Sale is the transaction fees. Square’s flat rate of 2.75% per swipe, dip, or tap is higher than a lot of its competitors. An Inc. article does the math, and if your business’s transactions add up to under $10,000 a month, Square Point of Sale remains a good deal. If you easily break the $10,000 watermark every month, Square Point of Sale transaction fees can start to eat away at your profit margin—at that point, it’s time to consider Square for Retail. Square for Retail is $60 a month, and the processing fee comes down considerably to 2.5% + $0.10.
Square card, chip, and contactless readers: best for secure payments
Square debuted in 2009 with a revolutionary product: a small, square attachment that transformed your smartphone or tablet into an affordable, easy-to-use, and mobile credit card processor. As you can imagine, this put a lot of bulky cash registers out of service. But now, Square offers a variety of readers that allow you to swipe credit cards the old-fashioned way, “dip” the more modern chip cards, and even accept Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Here’s a breakdown of Square’s different readers:
- Magstripe Reader (free): If you commonly swipe cards for your business, the Square Magstripe Reader will get the job done. However, you won’t be able to accept Google Pay or Apple Pay, and chip cards can only be swiped.
- Chip Card Reader ($29): For a little added security, invest in the Square Chip Card Reader. With this reader, you can swipe the common magstripe cards and dip the newer and more secure chip cards. Apple Pay and Google Pay will still be unavailable.
- Contactless and Chip Reader ($49): The Square Contactless and Chip Reader can cover all three payment types: magstripe, chip, and contactless (Apple Pay and Google Pay) payments.
Any of these readers are great for food trucks, mom-and-pop shops, mobile businesses, and establishments with few cash transactions.
Considerations for Square’s card, chip, and contactless readers
- Mobile interface
- Free magstripe reader
- Apple Pay and Google Pay reader
- Extra cost for chip and contactless readers
Square vs. Shopify
|Swipe + chip reader cost||$29||$29*|
|Transaction fees||Swipe: 2.75%|
Manual entry: 3.5% + 15¢
|Swipe & Manual Entry:|
2.7% + 0¢**
|Supported devices||iOS, Android||iOS, Android|
|Shortest deposit time||1 day||1 day|
|Buy product||Square Plans||Shopify Plans|
Data effective: 06/19/2018
*First device may be free with subscription.
**Lower transaction fees for certain monthly subscription plans.
As per most Square mobile credit card processing hardware, the Square Chip Card Reader offers an excellent user experience. It’s easy to use and gets along with Android and Apple products. There’s also a simple flat fee for non-manual processing: 2.75% per swiped magstripe or dipped EMV chip card transaction. In fact, when comparing different mobile credit card readers that are available, we rated Square as the best overall—even above Shopify, which has very similar prices.
To accept credit card payments on your smartphone or tablet, we recommend the Square Chip Card Reader. This platform not only encrypts card information but also promises to transfer funds into your bank account within one or two business days.
Square Invoices: best for occasional invoicing
Do you send only a few invoices a month? Then Square Invoices may be an excellent fit for your business. It was built for occasional use, so it makes the most sense for businesses that invoice infrequently, like restaurants and brick-and-mortar stores. For businesses that send large batches of invoices on the regular, you may find invoicing software with richer features and more competitive prices elsewhere.
Considerations for Square Invoices
- Intuitive and easy interface
- No subscription fee
- Credit card payment capabilities
- Minimal features
- High transaction fee
Because of its simple setup, Square Invoices doesn’t include the detailed features, like expense tracking and fancy dashboards, that other invoicing software have. Square Invoices offers only the basics: customizable invoices, invoice tracking from any mobile device, reminders for unpaid invoices, and credit card payments. And honestly, that may be more than enough for your particular business. Plus, if you’re already relying on Square for your small-business financial needs, you can easily access more in-depth financial features in your Square online account.
But even if you’re already pairing Square Invoices with a more complete solution like Square Point of Sale, it really comes down to how often you invoice your customers—since transaction fees are even steeper with Square Invoices. The regular tap, swipe, and dip transaction fee for Square Point of Sale is 2.75%. With Square Invoices, it’s a 2.9% fee. That fee increases further to 3.5% + $0.15 if you choose to keep the customer payment information on file.
Square Payments Processing: best for e-commerce businesses
While Square has made a name for itself with its simple-to-use hardware and POS system, it’s developed software called Square Payments Processing for taking any and all payments—including e-commerce transactions. Until now, Shopify has dominated the space as the small-business solution for e-commerce, but now Square Payments Processing is catching up.
Just like other Square services, Square Payment is easy to set up and chock-full of beneficial services. Its dedicated payment accounts offer credit card transactions for in-store, online, and keyed-in transactions. Merchants can store payment details to make checkout as efficient as possible. Plus, Square’s payment processing APIs allow users to integrate with sales while tracking reporting and deposits.
But that’s not all. Square Payment makes it even easier to manage your business by keeping your inventory up-to-date. Users will receive daily emails outlining which items are low or out.
Considerations for Square Payments Processing
- Affordable pricing
- Compatibility for all major credit cards
- Inventory management
- Funding holds
- Complaints of account terminations
In terms of pricing, Square Payment charges 2.75% per swipe. For invoice and e-commerce payments, the platform charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Virtual terminal and keyed-in transactions cost 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction.
If you regularly deal with a large volume of payments and are worried about all those transaction fees adding up, don’t fret. Businesses that process more than $250,000 in credit card sales can work with Square’s sales team to create a custom pricing package.
Just like other Square services, Square Payments Processing is easy to set up and chock-full of beneficial services.
Square Payroll: best for any staff setup
As an advanced payroll processing software, Square Payroll checks all the boxes for paying your staff. It not only processes payments but also offers online accounts for each team member. Whether salaried, hourly, or otherwise, employees and contractors can quickly set up direct deposit, clock in and out using Square’s POS app, and import timecards automatically.
Square Payroll aims to save business owners time with its payroll system by offering a clean and easy-to-use setup wizard. The site guides you from screen to screen, asking questions about your business and what type of payroll you require. After signing up for its services with just a few clicks, you’ll have access to an abundance of payroll services, including imported timecards, online accounts for team members, sick leave tracking, paid time off tracking, workers compensation, and more.
Perhaps its shining feature is its employee payroll compliance. It’ll handle your W-2 employee withholdings and even file your payroll taxes at no additional cost.
Considerations for Square Payroll
- Intuitive interface
- Flexible pricing
- QuickBooks and timecard integration
- Limited payroll types
- No free trial
- Complaints of slow direct deposits
Unlike competitors, Square Payroll offers flexible pricing. Its contractor-only option is priced at an affordable $5 per contractor per month. If you have full-time employees, expect to pay $29 per month plus $5 per team member or contractor per month.
|Plan||Starting price per month||Find more info|
|Contractors only||$5 per contractor||Learn More|
|Employees and contractors||$29 subscription + $5 per employee or contractor||Learn More|
Although Square makes payroll quick and easy, we did find one downside. Currently, Square’s employee and contractor online payroll service is available in only 38 states. But if you need just its contractor-only payroll service, you’re in luck. It’s available in all 50 states.
FAQs about Square
Still have questions? For more information, find the answers to frequently asked questions below.
Does Square have third-party integrations?
Square is one of the most versatile merchant services on the market. From accounting and bookkeeping to inventory management and employee schedule management, Square seamlessly integrates with a variety of third-party apps.
Is Square better than PayPal?
Square and PayPal have solutions to fit different businesses and needs. Square offers no restrictions on typical in-store transactions, which is important for high-volume merchants. However, PayPal tends to have the advantage in terms of processing rates, customer service, and payment channels. Take a closer look at the differences between Square and PayPal.
Does Square do more than POS and mobile credit card readers?
Square provides a myriad of robust tools and services for all types of businesses, both large and small. Along with the services we mentioned above, Square users have access to analytics of sales, customer spending habits, in-depth reporting, appointment setting, employee management, and more. So it’s no secret why Square has helped millions of merchants successfully run their business.
Who benefits the most from Square?
While Square benefits businesses of all sizes, it’s most beneficial for merchants who have less than $10,000 in swiped transactions per month.
What should you know about Square?
Before you sign up for the platform, take a minute to get to know the company:
- Customer service: Square’s customer support consists of live phone support during weekdays and business hours. Not a big phone talker? Send them a quick note through email or social media.
- Consumer feedback: According to BBB, customer ratings are a staggering 94% negative. The primary complaint is Square’s lack of live support and terminated accounts. In its General Terms of Service, Square states it can “suspend or terminate your Square Account or your access to any Service, at any time for any reason.”2 Keep in mind Square is continuously working to improve its customer service and policies.
- History: Square has come a long way in the past nine years. In fact, Square’s stock has more than quadrupled over the past two years.3 The dominant company revolutionized payment processing with its portable, pocket-sized credit card processing system. Previously, business owners struggled with the cost and complexities of credit card processing. Today, Square aims to solve small-business challenges while being a breeze to use.
Business owners weigh in
I chose Square because it was quick, easy, and free to start using. They have no monthly fees, PCI compliance fees, or termination fees. They offer one rate for all cards, deposit money promptly into my bank account, and are easy to use on my iPhone.
Running a business is no easy feat. If you want a simple and affordable all-in-one solution for helping your business succeed, consider the popular Square platform. But depending on your business’s needs, another popular merchant account may be the right one for you.
Have you had experience with Square? Help us improve our reviews by leaving a comment below.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don’t guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.
1. The Statistics Portal, “Number of Mobile Payment Users Accessing Selected Leading Payment Apps in the United States as of July 2017 (in Millions)”
2. Square, “General Terms of Service”
3. Nasdaq, “Square Inc Weebly Buy Could Be Red Flag on International Revenue Streams”