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Square Payment Processing
Square is a standout app-based point-of-sale system and often a good option for new and small businesses. Its wide range of features and hardware can be tailored to fit a variety of business types. The pricing is transparent and the free plan is one of the most powerful no-cost POS systems we’ve seen. It also earned top spots in NerdWallet's best POS systems roundup and best business software lineup.
However, while Square can be an excellent choice for many retailers, restaurants and service providers, it may not be the right fit for businesses that want a highly specialized POS system loaded with advanced features. And if you’re a dedicated Windows user, the Square POS app won’t work with your device.
Payment processing fees
Accepted payment methods
Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Cash App (Cash App and Square are both owned by Block Inc.).
Email, chat and online knowledgebase. Phone support (1-855-700-6000) available Monday to Friday, 6am to 6pm, PST.
Software pricing and notable features
The standard version of Square’s software is free, which is rare among POS systems. Its retail- and restaurant-specific versions have additional, industry-specific features that are offered in a free plan or a Plus plan.
Square Premium is a paid version that's a tier above Plus, and it comes with custom pricing and more features; eligibility rules apply.
Square POS for Restaurants
Square POS for Retail
Payment processing pricing
2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions (2.5% plus 10 cents with Retail Plus plan).
2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions or invoices without a card on file (2.6% plus 30 cents with Premium plan).
3.5% plus 15 cents for manually keyed transactions or card-on-file invoices.
Square transfers funds to your bank account on the next business day or, for a 1.5% fee, instantly. If you sign up for a Square Card account — that is, a debit card with Square — instant transfers are available for free.
Hardware pricing and features
Square sells an array of mobile and stationary POS hardware as well as hardware accessories, such as barcode scanners, receipt prints and cash drawers.
Magstripe reader for iOS or Android phone: Free. Plug the reader into a phone and start swiping. (Note: A merchant who swipes a card that has a chip is probably going to be on the hook in any payment dispute.) Square also offers Tap to Pay on iPhone, which lets merchants accept card payments using only a regular iPhone with the Square POS app. Customers hold their cards or their own iPhone wallets near the merchant's phone to pay.
Contactless and chip reader: $49. Accept chip cards, contactless payment, Apple Pay and Google Pay with Square’s wireless reader. It connects to your Apple or Android device through Bluetooth LE.
Swivel iPad stand: $149 or $14 a month for 12 months. The stand has a built-in reader for contactless payments. An iPad is not included.
Terminal: $299 or $27 a month for 12 months. This all-in-one hand-held device accepts card swipes, dips and taps. It also prints receipts.
Register: $799 or $39 a month for 24 months. Square’s Register includes a built-in touch screen for you and a smaller, customer-facing touch screen.
Optional add-on services
Appointments: Free for basic features for one location, $29 per month per location for more advanced features and $69 per month per location for a complete plan. Read NerdWallet's full review.
Customer loyalty program: Starts at $45 per month per location.
Email marketing: Starts at $15 per month.
Payroll: Starts at $35 per month plus $5 per month per employee. Read NerdWallet's full review.
Square Online: Free and up.
Pros of Square
Simple, transparent prices
Square’s prices are displayed prominently on its website. Also, its payment processing fees are a flat percentage of each transaction plus a flat fee. Clear pricing makes it easier to predict costs and compare your options. Another bonus: There’s no contract or early-termination fees. If you ever feel like switching, it won’t cost you.
Diverse hardware lineup
Square offers an array of hardware options, ranging from a quarter-sized reader that plugs into your phone, to a register with two touch screens. With that flexibility, you can design a variety of checkout experiences: You can set up a register at a store, customers can pay at their table or you can swipe cards out of a truck.
Long list of features
Square’s overall lineup of features is impressive and can work for a variety of industries. In addition to the core features that come with Square POS, you have the option to add on additional features that sync, like a loyalty program or an appointment scheduler. While you might not use every feature in Square's system, having so many options in one ecosystem can be a time saver for small businesses.
Cons of Square
More specialized POS systems exist
Square offers different versions of its POS system for restaurants and retail. That said, some other POS systems designed for a specific industry might offer even more features that meet the nuanced needs of a business. If you want a POS system for a restaurant, Toast might be a better option because of features like multiple language support on its kitchen display system or its spill-proof and water-resistant hardware.
Doesn't run on Windows desktop or tablet
Square revolutionized the industry by enabling merchants to swipe cards on their smartphones. Square currently works on iOS and Android phones and tablets. It also works on Macs and Chromebooks. But if you were hoping to run Square on your Windows device, it won’t work. Consider the POS system Vend if you want to use a Windows desktop or tablet device. Vend works on a wide range of devices, including PCs, Macs, iPads and Microsoft Surface Pros.
Alternatives to Square POS
Toast offers a POS system that is built for restaurants. Like Square, it offers a free starter kit that includes a terminal or hand-held device along with core features such as order management, mobile payments, reporting and analytics. Options with additional features are offered at $69 monthly for the Point of Sale plan, $165 for the Essentials plan and quote-based pricing for custom plans. However, Toast isn’t as transparent as Square when it comes to payment processing rates; you’ll need to talk to a sales representative to get pricing.
Vend's outstanding features also make it a top POS choice for retail outlets, especially if they are growing. Vend offers a free trial, but not a free option. The Lean plan starts at $69 per month when you pay annually or $89 if you want to be billed monthly. Additional plans include Standard at a cost of $119 a month when billed annually or $149 billed monthly and Advanced at $199 a month when billed annually or $269 billed monthly. Also an Enterprise plan is offered for businesses with high volume. Vend’s free POS software works on iPad, Mac, Windows and Android devices and will even work offline when your internet connection is interrupted.