Square vs. PayPal: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Square and PayPal are both well-known payment service providers, but they have distinct pros and cons.
Tina OremSep 30, 2021

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Square and PayPal are payment service providers, or PSPs, that help small businesses accept payments in person and online. PayPal may be better for small businesses with an international customer base, but if price is a priority for you, Square may be your winner.

Here's how the two companies compare.

Payment service providers give small businesses a way to accept online payments through a payment gateway and a merchant account. Here are some things to keep in mind as you shop for a PSP:

  • What kind of pricing structure do you want: interchange-plus, flat-rate or tiered. Of course, your industry, sales volume and priorities will influence your answer.

  • Whether you need an integrated POS system. If you’re selling online, this may be less important.

  • What is your industry? This may influence pricing and other options.

Square

Pros

  • Relatively flat in-person pricing. Square charges the same fee for in-person card transactions regardless of which card the customer uses, and there are no monthly fees. Some prices are findable on the website. In addition, Square has a handy calculator on its website that can help you estimate what your business will pay.

  • Customer support. Square has an online knowledge base and community. You can also get help by email (a possible two-day turnaround), chat and Twitter. There's also phone support, though the company warns on its website, "there may be a wait when you call, so feel free to use our callback option if you can't wait on the line."

Cons

  • For some businesses, there's less price transparency. Small businesses with more than $250,000 in card transactions per year don't necessarily get the same rates as everyone else. They have to call and get a quote.

  • Not very international. Square supports card payments in only a relatively few countries, which could be a problem for companies doing business overseas.

PayPal

Pros

  • Transparent pricing. PayPal's prices are findable on its website.

  • The relative ease of use. Small-business owners who want something simple to set up may prefer PayPal Payments Standard, as it's explicitly designed to make integration simple for non-programmers.

  • International. PayPal accepts about two dozen currencies.

  • Customer support. PayPal has phone support from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central time Monday through Friday. It also has text support, an online community and a resolution center for transaction or account issues.

Cons

  • Relative cost. PayPal can be more expensive than Square on a per-transaction basis.

  • Less customization. Small businesses that are keen on detailed customization might find PayPal's cut-and-paste implementation approach off-putting.

Square features

Square may be best known for its point-of-sale software and white devices plugged into checkout systems, but Square is also a payment service provider. It works with credit cards, debit cards, corporate cards, prepaid cards and reward cards.

Card payment acceptance with the Square app is available in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Irish Republic and the United Kingdom. However, it doesn't support payment card processing in other U.S. territories, nor does it support cross-border card payments (i.e., you can't receive card transactions if you're outside the country where you activated your Square account).

Square integrates with Wix, BigCommerce, GoDaddy and other e-commerce platforms. The company's application programming interface also allows for customization. Businesses can also invoice customers digitally and take card payments without using the Square POS.

In addition to using its POS hardware systems for in-person payments, Square can process payments in three ways:

Online payments

Square offers online payment services that you can integrate into your online store or mobile app. You can also get a free e-commerce website, add pickup and delivery services, or sell on social media.

Remote payments

Square lets small businesses create and send digital invoices to customers, and those customers can then pay you with a card or by ACH. You can also send customers a link to pay by text or email.

Manual payments

If you need to accept payment over the phone and key the information in, you can do that with Square by either the Square app or by using the company's Virtual Terminal feature.

PayPal features

PayPal lets small businesses accept and process payments in person and online. It offers two payment gateway services: PayPal Payments Standard and PayPal Payments Pro. PayPal's services work with major e-commerce platforms such as BigCommerce, Wix and Shopify.

PayPal Payments Standard

This product may be best if you don't have coding experience or a developer on your team, as you'll simply need to copy and paste a line of code or integrate a plug-in with your shopping cart. Either option should take only 15 minutes to implement, according to PayPal's website.

PayPal Payments Pro

This is a customizable checkout solution that also provides access to a virtual terminal so you can accept credit cards online, by mobile or with devices that don't have an external card reader. Also, you can accept payments in 25 currencies from 200 countries, accept phone payments and get simplified payment card industry security standards.

Pricing: Square vs. PayPal

Both providers have transaction and other fees. Here's how they compare.

PayPal

Square

Monthly fees

  • PayPal Payments Standard has no monthly fee.

  • PayPal Payments Pro is $30 per month.

  • Square does not charge monthly fees.

Transaction fees

  • PayPal charges 2.99% plus 49 cents per transaction if the funds are from a U.S. account. Nonprofit organizations get a discounted rate.

  • For American Express cards, the transaction fee is 3.5%. International transactions in other currencies have different fees.

  • In-person payments using the Square POS: 2.6% plus 10 cents for all card types.

  • Online or phone payments: 3.5% plus 15 cents per transaction.

  • These rates are for businesses that process less than $250,000 per year and have an average ticket size under $15. If your business is larger, Square will do custom pricing. Note that sometimes the custom rates are more than 2.6% plus 10 cents.

Other fees

  • Optional recurring billing services cost $10 per month.

  • Optional advanced Fraud Protection Services are $10 per month plus 5 cents per transaction.

  • Other fees, including chargeback fees and mobile card reader fees, are on PayPal’s merchant fees page.

  • Online invoices cost 2.75% per invoice.

  • Appointment prepayments run 2.9% plus 30 cents.

  • Manually entered transactions are 3.5% plus 15 cents per transaction.

Square vs. PayPal: Which PSP is right for your business?

Square may be your best option if you want customizable software at a relatively low price. But if a simple setup is more important, you may want to go with PayPal.