Square vs. QuickBooks: Which POS System Is Right for Your Business?

Square is an excellent, low-cost POS system for most business owners. QuickBooks POS has high upfront costs.
Katherine FanOct 18, 2021

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If you're in the market for a point-of-sale system, you've almost certainly heard of Square. This affordable POS is easy to use, affordable and highly customizable for several different retailers and professional services.

You may also be familiar with QuickBooks, which offers a POS system that integrates well with QuickBooks Desktop accounts. This system may be a good choice for a specific group of business owners who prefer locally installed software on their computers instead of relying on a cloud-based system.

Here's what you should know when comparing Square to QuickBooks.

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Square vs. QuickBooks: Head-to-head comparison

Square

QuickBooks POS

Software costs

Square’s basic plan is free. Alternatively, you can upgrade to a Square Plus plan for $60 per month per location with additional fees per additional POS device. You can also opt for a custom-priced Square Premium plan.

One-time fees for the following versions:

POS Basic: $1,200. POS Pro: $1,700. POS Multi-Store: $1,900.

Transaction fees

In-person transactions: 2.6% plus 10 cents. Online transactions: 2.9% plus 30 cents. Manual transactions: 3.5% plus 15 cents.

Point-of-sale transactions: Pay-as-you-go plan — $0/month plus: Swiped transactions: 2.7%. Keyed transactions: 3.5%. PIN debit rate: 1%.

Monthly plan — $19.95/month plus: Swiped transactions: 2.3% plus 25 cents. Keyed transactions: 3.2% plus 25 cents. PIN debit rate: 1%.

Mobile transactions via GoPayment app:

Pay-as-you-go plan — $0/month plus: Swiped transactions: 2.4% plus 25 cents. Keyed transactions: 3.4% plus 25 cents. PIN debit rate: N/A.

Monthly plan — $20/month plus: Swiped transactions: 1.6% plus 25 cents. Keyed transactions: 3.2% plus 25 cents. PIN debit rate: N/A.

Hardware

- Magstripe reader: Free. - Contact-free reader: $49. - Contact-free iPad stand: $169. - Square terminal: $299. - Square register: $799.

- Hardware bundle: $900 including cash drawer, receipt printer, PIN pad and wired barcode reader. (Windows tablet sold separately.) - Mobile card reader: $49. Requires the free QuickBooks GoPayment app. - Tag printer: $329. - Universal tablet stand: $119.

Customer support

Free users: Support available between 6 a.m.-6 p.m. PT.

Paid users: 24/7 phone, email, live chat and social media support.

Online chat support available Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. Support calls require paid plans: $79 per month, $589 per year, or $59.95 for a one-time support call for a single issue.

Why Square stands out

Square is one of the most popular point-of-sale systems on the market, used by more than 2 million businesses worldwide. NerdWallet's 2021 choice for best overall POS system, this popular solution offers many valuable features, accessible customer support and a mobile-friendly interface that's easy to set up and use.

Square POS

Square
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on Square's website

Industry-specific features

Square offers a free basic plan that's robust enough to support many small businesses. Merchants looking for a little bit more functionality can upgrade to paid plans with more functionality and 24/7 customer support.

Retailers and restaurateurs will particularly appreciate some industry-specific features. For example, the retail-specific version of Square Plus lets business owners manage vendor relationships, inventory, process returns and exchanges, in addition to other features.

Restaurant owners can utilize another customized Plus plan that shows floor plans, timing for multi-course meals, alerts for open tables, kitchen reporting and several other crucial features for eateries. Square is also compatible with food delivery software that may already be in use.

All Plus plans include 24/7 phone support, which can be helpful for emergencies or general learning purposes.

Low costs upfront

Square is an excellent choice for restaurants, cafes and retail and professional services businesses that value straightforward pricing and transaction fees.

And merchants that can use Square's free magnetic stripe card reader don't have to purchase additional hardware to process customer transactions via Stripe.

In contrast, QuickBooks POS may not be the best fit for many restaurants, bars and coffee shops because the system does not offer restaurant-specific reports. Instead, business owners who want this functionality will have to research and install third-party software that integrates with QuickBooks POS to generate these reports.

Better customer support

Square offers complimentary customer support via phone, chat, email and social media for all merchants. Users on free accounts can reach out for help between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, while customers on paid plans have access to 24/7 support.

Meanwhile, QuickBooks makes it clear that customers are meant to be self-sufficient after purchasing the POS. While chat support is available for free, QuickBooks POS clients will need to pay a steep fee for phone-based customer assistance: $79 per month, or $59.95 for one-time help on a single issue.

Ease of use: Mobile-friendly, compatible with many devices

Square's multiple options for payment processing work well for various business situations. You'll get paid whether your customers swipe or dip their cards at a brick-and-mortar location, or you manually key in their card information at a food truck pop-up on the beach.

Meanwhile, the QuickBooks POS system is clunkier. The POS usually runs on tablets running on Windows 10, which you'll have to purchase separately from Intuit's hardware offerings. If you want to go mobile, you can buy a separate mobile card reader and link it to your QuickBooks POS to process transactions that sync directly into your accounting books.

Payment processing

Square and QuickBooks are relatively equal when it comes to transaction and payment processing. Both brands process their payments from end to end instead of outsourcing to a third party, and transaction fees are within the same range, although some Square rates skew slightly higher.

Why QuickBooks POS stands out

If you already use QuickBooks Desktop to manage your books, you may appreciate QuickBooks Desktop POS, which syncs your sales, inventory and customer data directly into your accounting records. (You can make the POS sync with QuickBooks Online, but it isn't a guaranteed process.)

Direct integration with QuickBooks Desktop accounting software

This feature may offer the strongest draw for current QuickBooks users. However, QuickBooks POS only links directly to the desktop version of this popular accounting software program. If you want to link your QuickBooks POS to QuickBooks Online, you'll need to use a third-party application to connect the two systems.

One-time fees instead of monthly payments

QuickBooks POS is a good option for business owners who prefer paying once instead of making monthly payments.

You'll pay a flat fee for your POS software plan, tiered depending on the functionality you need. You'll also pay for each complementary piece of equipment you need, such as a mobile card reader, cash drawer and barcode scanner for every checkout point that needs one. In this way, calculating your upfront expenses can be very straightforward.

If you choose to use QuickBooks Payments to process payments, you can select from a pay-as-you-go model or pay a low monthly fee for slightly discounted transaction rates.

Square vs. QuickBooks: Which one is right for your business?

Square is a great option for business owners who want a single solution for point-of-sale transactions and payment processing. The system allows you to try it out with no financial commitment beyond paying individual transaction fees. At the same time, the system can adapt and expand with you as your business grows.

QuickBooks can be a good fit for small businesses outside of the restaurant industry who want a POS system that integrates well with the desktop version of QuickBooks accounting software. But outside of that specific profile, most business owners would do well to consider Square over QuickBooks POS.