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While Square's POS system offers more features and is generally more affordable, ShopKeep offers superior access to customer service and is more customizable. If you’re less experienced in the world of merchant services, ShopKeep might be a better option for you. Here's what to know.
ShopKeep sells POS software and hardware, as well as payment processing services. The system is both locally installed and can run on the cloud. This means your information is stored on your POS device and can sync with the cloud whenever there is an internet connection (ShopKeep can also operate offline if need be).
ShopKeep is most popular in the foodservice industry, but its software can work for retail-based businesses as well. When you sign up for ShopKeep, you have the option of keeping your payment processor or integrating with ShopKeep’s in-house processor, ShopKeep Payments.
With ShopKeep Payments you can accept magstripe, chip card and contactless methods of payment. If you decide to use ShopKeep Payments, you receive a free credit card reader, and you can choose between flat-rate or interchange-plus pricing.
With flat-rate pricing, you’ll pay 2.5% plus 10 cents per transaction for in-person, card-present payments and 3.5% per transaction for card-not-present payments. With interchange-plus pricing, on the other hand, you’ll work with the ShopKeep sales team to receive customized rates based on your individual business.
In terms of hardware, ShopKeep software can operate on iPads or Clover terminals. ShopKeep sells a variety of hardware bundles for different business types, including a retail bundle, a restaurant bundle and a portable kit. You can acquire most types of POS hardware via the ShopKeep store, including cash drawers, receipt printers, barcode scanners, iPad stands and more.
ShopKeep offers three plans for its POS software:
Basic: $49 per month (billed annually); $69 per month (billed monthly).
Essential: $79 per month (billed annually); $99 per month (billed monthly).
Advanced: $179 per month (billed annually); $199 per month (billed monthly).
As you might expect, each plan has an increasing number of features. The higher-level plans, for example, include features such as custom permissions, online ordering, an e-commerce store, priority customer support and more.
Here is how ShopKeep ranks on major review platforms:
G2 Crowd: 4.2 stars out of 5.
TrustPilot: 4 stars out of 5.
Capterra: 4 stars out of 5.
Better Business Bureau: A+.
Square’s offering also comprises POS hardware and software, along with payment processing. The system is cloud-hosted, meaning your business’s information is stored on Square’s servers and transferred to your POS device via the cloud.
When you sign up for Square POS, you have to use Square as your payment processor. Square offers reasonable payment processing rates — 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions and 2.9% plus 30 cents for digital transactions. These Square fees are reduced if you use some of Square’s more advanced POS hardware.
In terms of credit card readers, you have your pick of the litter with Square. There’s the mobile magstripe reader that plugs directly into your mobile device. This comes free when you sign up for Square. Square also sells a chip card and contactless payment reader for $49.
Like ShopKeep, Square’s software is designed to run on iPads. You can purchase your iPad through Square for a price of $329. Once you have your iPad, Square provides all the additional hardware tools to build out your POS system — including an iPad stand with a built-in magstripe reader ($199), cash drawers, receipt printers, barcode scanners and more.
Square also offers two all-encompassing POS solutions — Square Register and Square Terminal. The Square Register is a fully functional countertop POS terminal with a credit card reader that accepts magstripe, chip card and contactless forms of payment. It retails for $799 and comes with a payment processing rate of 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions.
The Square Terminal is a handheld POS terminal with a built-in magstripe, chip card and contactless payment reader. It retails for $299 and comes with a payment processing rate of 2.6% plus 10 cents.
As for software, Square offers a free version of its POS software as well as two paid versions: Square for Retail and Square for Restaurants. While the free version of the software is a bit limited, it can do the job for most small businesses. The paid versions of Square’s POS software both come with industry-specific functions.
Square for Restaurants includes the ability to manage menus, floor plans, reconcile tips and oversee deliveries.
Square for Retail allows you to print barcodes, place purchase orders and put items on layaway. Both of these software products cost $0, $60 or $299 and up per month depending on the plan you choose.
Here is how Square customers rank Square POS:
G2 Crowd: 4.6 stars out of 5.
TrustPilot: 5 stars out of 5.
TrustRadius: 8.9 stars out of 10.
Capterra: 4.5 stars out of 5.
ShopKeep vs. Square: Similarities
Square offers more powerful proprietary hardware, but ShopKeep offers greater hardware variety. Therefore, they are about equal in how well they execute this service. The right option for you depends on your specific business situation.
ShopKeep’s hardware kits offer an affordable way for you to acquire the right POS hardware for your business. Plus, ShopKeep can work on an iPad or a Clover terminal.
Square, on the other hand, only works on an iPad or the Square Register. Square Register is one of the top POS systems on the market, but you may decide ShopKeep’s hardware flexibility is better for your business.
ShopKeep and Square are equal in payment processing because they can both do the same exact things: Process magstripe, chip card and contactless forms of payment. Square does offer more popular credit card readers, but ShopKeep offers a bit more variety. You can choose from an assortment of Ingenico card readers or Clover card readers. Plus, ShopKeep is willing to let you keep your current payment processor.
Note that Square offers flat payment processing rates, while ShopKeep offers both flat-rate and interchange-plus pricing. To this point, not only is ShopKeep’s flat-rate fee for in-person transactions lower than Square’s, but you might also find that you can receive a better rate with ShopKeep’s interchange-plus pricing model.
Where ShopKeep is better
If any of these criteria are among your top priorities when picking a POS system, you may want to choose ShopKeep.
The benefit of working with a smaller merchant services provider like ShopKeep is that it will take the time to tailor a solution that fits your business’s needs. Although you simply have the option of choosing from one of the three software plans that ShopKeep offers, you also can contact ShopKeep directly to create a custom package of software, hardware and payment processing specifically for your business.
You can see this same value of customization reflected in ShopKeep’s credit card processing fees. It’s extremely unusual to see a POS provider give you the option to choose between flat-rate and interchange-plus pricing. Not only does ShopKeep offer this choice, but it also provides a very affordable flat-rate in-person processing rate — 2.5% plus 10 cents — lower than Square’s.
In comparison to ShopKeep, Square is more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of service. That’s not to say that Square’s products couldn’t also fit your business’s needs — ShopKeep simply offers a more bespoke service. This type of solution might be more approachable for business owners without much experience in the merchant services space.
ShopKeep offers 24/7 customer support via phone, live chat and email. Square, on the other hand, offers support on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Any business owner who has experienced a merchant services emergency knows that it is always better to be able to get help anytime, anywhere, which is why ShopKeep is superior in this regard.
Plus, ShopKeep’s website features a support center with a robust level of documentation on how to use all the different ShopKeep products. Square offers a support center too, but ShopKeep’s is a bit more comprehensive.
Where Square is better
If these criteria are your top priorities in a POS system, go with Square:
Square offers two industry-specific software options: Square for Restaurants and Square for Retail. These software solutions offer more business-specific functionality than ShopKeep’s software. For instance, Square for Restaurants comes with more advanced floor plan management tools than ShopKeep, and Square for Retail offers more in-depth inventory management tools than ShopKeep.
Additionally, Square integrates with far more third-party applications than ShopKeep, meaning you can further extend the functionality of your system beyond what comes with your software. You do have to pay to use the restaurant and retail versions of Square’s POS software, but both exceed ShopKeep’s software in terms of capabilities.
Although ShopKeep may offer a more robust POS software than the free version of Square, when it comes down to it, its plans are not cheap. Starting at $49 per month and reaching $179 per month, these plans may not be affordable for every business owner — especially those just starting out.
In this way, Square has a huge advantage over ShopKeep — its free POS software is extremely impressive for no monthly subscription cost.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.