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

Square offers flexible options, but Shopify is geared toward e-commerce sales.
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Square and Shopify offer payment processing services that support in-person and online sales and include point-of-sale, or POS, software features. The main differences between Square and Shopify are pricing, contract requirements and features. Although Shopify might be better suited for focusing on e-commerce sales, Square offers more flexibility.

Here's how they compare.

Deciding factors

Square

Shopify

Payment processing fees

  • 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions.

  • 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.

  • 3.5% plus 15 cents for manually keyed transactions.

  • 3.3% plus 30 cents for invoices.

  • 2.5%, 2.7% or 2.9% plus 30 cents for online payments for Advanced, Shopify or Basic plan, respectively.

  • 2.4%, 2.5% or 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person payments for Advanced, Shopify or Basic plan, respectively.

Monthly fees

  • $0 for Square POS, Restaurant, Retail and Appointments Free plans.

  • $29 for Square Appointments Plus plan.

  • $60 for Square Restaurant Plus plan.

  • $69 for Square Appointments Premium plan.

  • $89 for Square Retail Plus plan.

  • Custom pricing for Square Retail and Square Restaurant Premium plans.

Shopify e-commerce plans:

  • $29 for Shopify Basic when billed annually (or $39 when paid monthly).

  • $79 for regular Shopify when billed annually (or $105 when paid monthly).

  • $299 for Shopify Advanced when billed annually (or $399 when paid monthly).

  • Custom pricing for Shopify Plus.

  • All e-commerce plans come with POS Lite for selling in-person. Upgrading to POS Pro for brick-and-mortar businesses costs an extra $89 per location.

Shopify’s alternative solutions for mainly selling in-person:

  • $5 for Starter plan, which includes one POS Lite location.

  • $79 (when billed annually) for Retail plan, or $89 when paid monthly; includes one POS Pro location.

Hardware cost

  • $0 for Square magstripe-only card reader ($10 for each additional reader) or if using Tap to Pay for iPhone (iPhone not included).

  • $49 and up for Square Reader contactless and chip card reader.

  • $149 for Square Stand iPad POS or Square Stand Mount (iPad not included; monthly financing available).

  • $299 for Square Terminal mobile card reader with built-in printer (monthly financing available).

  • $799 for Square Register two-screen system (monthly financing available).

  • $49 for Tap & Chip card reader.

  • $219 for Tap & Chip countertop kit (iPad not included).

  • $299 for Shopify POS Go mobile device.

  • $349 for Shopify POS terminal.

  • $459 and up for POS terminal countertop kits.

Contract length

None. Square doesn't require a contract.

Varies. All plans are month-to-month unless you sign up for a one-, two- or three-year agreement.

Customer service

Phone, email, live chat and social media.

Email, chat and phone (though may only be available through callback service).

Pros

Square

  • More robust POS features. Because Square doesn't determine which features you can use based on a chosen plan, it offers more robust POS features for free.

  • No monthly fee. By only charging processing fees, Square is likely cheaper for many businesses.

FEATURED

 
Square
Square

Square POS

NerdWallet Rating 
5.0
Annual Fee 

$0

Shopify

  • An online store is available in all plans. Shopify includes features for online stores in every plan, so you don't have to worry about paying extra for that option.

  • Scalable plans. With multiple plan options, owners can scale their businesses without worrying about losing the features they need. They can move up to the next plan to take advantage of more features.

  • Cheaper processing rates are available. For example, Shopify's more expensive plans come with cheaper processing rates to save businesses money if they need the full gamut of features.

FEATURED

 
Shopify
Shopify

Shopify POS

NerdWallet Rating 
4.5
Annual Fee 

$0

Cons

Square

  • Extra cost for online store features. Square requires businesses to choose a plan to use their online store options. There is a free plan, but the features are limited.

Shopify

  • Variable processing fees. Not all businesses pay the same processing fees, meaning companies that can pay for more expensive plans will pay less per transaction.

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NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5
NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5
NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5

Payment processing fees 

0.40% + 8¢

plus interchange, in-person; 0.50% + 25¢ plus interchange, online.

Payment processing fees 

2.6% + 10¢

in-person; 2.9% + 30¢ online.

Payment processing fees 

2.7% + 5¢

in-person; 2.9% + 30¢ online.

Monthly fee 

$0

Monthly fee 

$0

Starts at $0/month for unlimited devices and locations.

Monthly fee 

$0

Square features

Square POS software

Square's POS lets you accept all major credit cards and digital wallets, including Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. Moreover, there is no monthly fee or a required contract. Instead, Square charges a processing fee for every transaction, and the rate depends on the type of transaction.

Square offers transparent pricing and only charges your business when you make a transaction. Its rates are broken down into categories:

  • 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions.

  • 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.

  • 3.5% plus 15 cents for manually keyed transactions.

  • 3.3% plus 30 cents for invoices.

Square hosts a cloud-based POS system, which means all its features are accessible anywhere with an internet connection. You can sign into the POS system from any device, including an iOS and Android smartphone.

Many of Square's POS features are free, but the price of POS add-ons depend on the chosen feature and plan. The more a feature is used, the higher the monthly charge.

  • Loyalty rewards. Plans range from $45-$105 per month per location. Create a custom loyalty program to reward repeat customers.

  • Email marketing. Plans range from $15-$40 per month (higher if more than 2,000 customer contacts). Create custom emails and track how customers interact with them.

  • Payroll management. For the contractors-only plan, it's $5 per month per contractor. The plan for contractors and employees is $35 per month plus $5 per month for each person being paid. Payroll management allows you to track employees' hours, process payroll, file taxes and more.

Square's POS offers free features, such as reporting, team management and inventory management. Some of these features are all-inclusive, while others have paid plans that provide more flexibility. With the free features, you can:

  • Accept and track transactions.

  • Process payments in offline mode.

  • Send email or SMS receipts or print receipts with available printers.

  • Create discounts and limited-time offers.

  • Keep track of customers in a directory.

  • Accept online transactions with e-commerce stores.

  • Customize and export sales reports.

  • Manage inventory with stock alerts and integration options.

  • Utilize third-party app integrations like QuickBooks and Wix.

Square e-commerce

Square users can use an ecommerce website builder called Square Online to create an online store.

Square's website plans include a tiered pricing structure that adds features onto each tier — so the more you pay, the more you get. The Square Online plans charge a monthly fee and include a free option.

Square Online uses a website builder that doesn't require coding experience, and businesses can even connect with platforms like Instagram to sell their products on social media. It also allows customers to choose a buy-now-pay-later option when checking out on websites.

Square POS hardware

Square offers five types of hardware that vary in their capabilities and are available for all sizes of businesses and budgets, including:

  • $0 for Square magstripe-only card reader ($10 for each additional reader) or if using Tap to Pay for iPhone (iPhone not included).

  • $49 and up for Square Reader contactless and chip card reader.

  • $149 for Square Stand iPad POS or Square Stand Mount (iPad not included; monthly financing available).

  • $299 for Square Terminal mobile card reader with built-in printer (monthly financing available).

  • $799 for Square Register two-screen system (monthly financing available).

Each works with its free POS software, but they differ in which types of credit cards they accept, handheld or countertop design and which features they include:

  • Reader for magstripe. This reader only swipes magstripe credit cards and connects to a smartphone through a headphone jack or Lightning port. It requires you to use the Square App to process payments and doesn't need to be charged.

  • Reader for contactless and chip. This reader only accepts chipped credit cards, contactless payments and digital wallets. It connects to a smart device by Bluetooth and uses the Square App to run transactions. 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.

  • Square Stand. Connecting a tablet with the contactless and chip reader lets this system accept all types of credit cards along with scanning QR codes with the Square Cash App. It also swivels to allow customers to use the screen and can be mounted onto a counter.

  • Square Terminal. As a handheld design with a countertop dock, this model accepts all credit cards and digital wallets. In addition, it prints receipts and can be connected to a tablet for a second screen.

  • Square Register. This reader offers two screens so customers can see transaction details and accepts all payment types, including QR codes with the Cash App. It mounts onto a countertop for a complete register experience, but it doesn't print receipts or scan barcodes on its own.

Shopify features

Shopify software

Shopify e-commerce plans:

  • $29 for Shopify Basic when billed annually (or $39 when paid monthly).

  • $79 for regular Shopify when billed annually (or $105 when paid monthly).

  • $299 for Shopify Advanced when billed annually (or $399 when paid monthly).

  • Custom pricing for Shopify Plus.

  • All e-commerce plans come with POS Lite for selling in-person. Upgrading to POS Pro for brick-and-mortar businesses costs an extra $89 per location.

Shopify’s alternative solutions for mainly selling in-person:

  • $5 for Starter plan, which includes one POS Lite location.

  • $79 (when billed annually) for Retail plan, or $89 when paid monthly; includes one POS Pro location.

The payment processing fees depend on which Shopify plan you have.

  • 2.5%, 2.7% or 2.9% plus 30 cents for online payments for Advanced, Shopify or Basic plan, respectively.

  • 2.4%, 2.5% or 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person payments for Advanced, Shopify or Basic plan, respectively.

Like Square's POS, Shopify's cloud-based POS system lets businesses access their dashboard via smart devices as well as a desktop computer. You can sign in to the POS system on iOS and Android smartphones.

Its base plan, called Shopify POS Lite, provides the following features:

  • Add the "Buy" button to your website to sell through your Shopify Payments plan.

  • Accept credit card and digital wallet payments on the go and in person.

  • Create invoices to send to customers and get paid by email.

  • See financial reports.

  • Create customer profiles

  • Manage orders and products for limited inventory.

  • QR code details for products.

  • Issue gift cards.

  • Split customer bills.

  • Create customer discounts.

Among Shopify's other paid plans, additional features include capabilities to:

  • Schedule local pickup and delivery.

  • Create purchase orders.

  • Receive low stock alerts.

  • Run an analysis of inventory and create detailed inventory reports.

  • Require manager approvals and create staff permissions depending on their roles.

  • Create custom-printed receipts.

  • Run daily sales reports.

Shopify e-commerce

Shopify includes e-commerce features in every plan, so there is no additional cost for an online store. Shopify Online Store lets you build a customized website. Like Square, it uses a simple builder that doesn't require coding. Customers can pay online, and transactions are processed through Shopify Payments. And businesses can integrate their online store with over 6,000 apps, including social media platforms, to boost their sales.

Shopify POS hardware

  • Chipper 2X BT Reader. This reader is compact and lets you tap, insert and swipe credit or debit cards. It also accepts Apple Pay and Google Pay. Because it connects to a smart device through Bluetooth, you'll need a compatible iPhone or iPad to run transactions. You also need Shopify Payments enabled to accept payment cards with this device.

  • Retail Kit. This iPad stand and card reader combo accepts chip and contactless payments is a countertop system.

  • POS Go. This handheld mobile device has a card reader and barcode scanner. The case provides protection and a hand strap.

  • Tap to pay on iPhone. This is a payment acceptance capability that allows businesses on Shopify POS to accept contactless payments directly on an iPhone. This is currently built into Shopify POS software. It does not work on iPads.

Is Square or Shopify right for you?

If you want more POS features and credit card reader options and aren't concerned about having a lot of flexibility to build an online store, Square might be the best option for you. But if you want to focus on e-commerce sales and add more features as your business grows, you might want to go with Shopify.

Other POS systems to consider

Clover

Payment processing:

  • 2.3% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions for most plans, though rates may also vary by hardware type.

  • 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions on Retail Starter, Personal Services Starter and Professional Services Standard plans, as well as Home & Field Services Standard and Advanced plans.

  • 3.5% plus 10 cents for online or keyed-in transactions.

Why we like it: Clover accepts credit cards and contactless payments; it lalso offers small businesses a variety of card reader options for every budget, including the handheld Clover Go and the countertop Clover Station Duo with two screens. You can integrate Clover into your existing website or work with Clover to build a new one for online sales. Its POS includes business-driven features, such as sales tracking and reporting, inventory and order management and a web-based dashboard.

Stripe

Payment processing:

  • 2.7% plus 5 cents for in-person transactions.

  • 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.

  • 3.4% plus 30 cents for manually keyed transactions.

  • 4.4% plus 30 cents for international card transactions.

Why we like it: Stripe offers online and in-person payment processing and has hosted checkout to make the e-commerce experience more flexible. It also lets you set up recurring billing and send invoices. It has one proprietary card reader but works with four other models to give you flexibility, with prices starting at $59. Stripe's POS is limited compared to competitors, but it offers small businesses reporting features, QuickBooks integration, 24/7 support and a Developers Dashboard for customizations.

Best Payment Processing Companies
ProductPayment processing feesMonthly feeLearn more
Helcim

Helcim

NerdWallet Rating 
5.0
Learn more

on Helcim's website

0.40% + 8¢ 

plus interchange, in-person; 0.50% + 25¢ plus interchange, online.

$0 
Learn more

on Helcim's website

Square

Square

NerdWallet Rating 
5.0
Learn more

on Square's website

2.6% + 10¢ 

in-person; 2.9% + 30¢ online.

$0 

Starts at $0/month for unlimited devices and locations.

Learn more

on Square's website

Stripe

Stripe Payments

NerdWallet Rating 
5.0
Learn more

on Stripe's website

2.7% + 5¢ 

in-person; 2.9% + 30¢ online.

$0 
Learn more

on Stripe's website

Shopify

Shopify POS

NerdWallet Rating 
4.5
Learn more

on Shopify's website

2.70% 

in-person; 2.9% + 30¢ online (Basic plan).

$39 

and up for e-commerce plans with POS Lite; Can upgrade to POS Pro for an extra $89.

Learn more

on Shopify's website