Square for Retail is Square’s standard point-of-sale (POS) system with retail-specific features such as the ability to add inventory in bulk, print barcode labels and manage purchase orders and vendors. It runs on Android and iOS mobile devices and tablets, and on hardware by Square.
Square’s straightforward and transparent pricing for software and payment processing services and its easy-to-use user interface are among the reasons it’s NerdWallet’s pick for best POS system. Square is a good option for many small- and medium-size businesses; some large businesses use it, too.
Square for Retail is best for businesses that:
Value pricing transparency and freedom from contracts. These are two of Square’s many selling points and help the company stand out among much of the competition in POS systems and payment processing.
Want an intuitive system that’s quick on setup and onboarding. Square is designed for easy setup and has a wealth of resources in its online help library. It’s a strong system for newer and small to midsize businesses, but larger, more established retailers may want to look elsewhere for richer inventory management features and more specialized retail capabilities.
Already have or want to start an online presence. Both free and paid versions of Square’s retail plans allow you to create an e-commerce website with access to additional online selling features. If you already have a website for your store, you can easily integrate it with the retail POS.
Payment processing model
Payment processing fees
2.6% plus 10 cents (Free plan) or 2.5% plus 10 cents (Plus plan) for in-person transactions.
2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.
3.5% plus 15 cents for manually keyed transactions or card-on-file invoices.
$0 for Square POS, Restaurant, Retail and Appointments Free plans.
$29 for Square Appointments Plus plan.
$60 for Square Restaurant and Retail Plus plans.
$69 for Square Appointments Premium plan.
$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).
$299 for Square Terminal mobile card reader with built-in printer.
$799 for Square Register two-screen system.
No contract. Upgrade, downgrade or cancel at any time without penalty.
Phone support 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time, Monday to Friday, for the free version.
Where Square for Retail stands out
Easy-to-understand pricing and no hidden fees
Signing up with Square is fairly simple and there are no setup fees. The pricing tables are easy to understand — no opaque promises to provide pricing details only if you speak to a sales representative. Square is entirely transparent with all its fees, going so far as to publish a page in its support library that lists and explains all the fees it charges as well as the many that it doesn’t (but that many competitors do).
Deep lineup of POS features and related services
The wide range of services that build on Square’s POS system reduces the need to find, learn and navigate multiple providers. For example, the POS system includes features for inventory management and shipping, add-on services such as loyalty and marketing programs, and a payroll service that integrates directly with the Square dashboard.
Square offers two versions of its retail POS software: a free version, and a paid version called Plus for $60 per month per location. Plus plan features include:
The ability to forecast when you’ll need to reorder items.
Adding of inventory in bulk.
Access to cost-of-goods-sold and profit-margin reports.
You can add other Square services to your POS subscription at any point. They include:
Customer loyalty program management, starting at $45 per month.
Marketing services, starting at $15 per month.
Payroll services, starting at $35 per month plus $5 per person.
Advanced features for your e-commerce site, starting at $29 per month.
Built-in payment processing with competitive rates
Square processes every card transaction that’s run through its POS system. Its flat-rate fees are some of the most competitive in the space. Square reduces the transaction rate slightly if you use the paid Plus plan and offers custom (reduced) rates if you process a sales volume of $250,000 or more annually.
Where Square for Retail falls short
Doesn’t work with every business type
Square does not accept cross-border payments, meaning that you can't process card transactions outside the country in which you created your Square account. There is a workaround for this since you can have more than one Square account and select a different country for each, but identification information like email address and other details needs to be different across each account. Square also doesn't work with certain types of businesses, including high-risk merchants that sell in industries such as direct marketing and gaming businesses.
Larger retailers might outgrow Square
Square’s ability to do a lot on one platform is a selling point, but larger businesses might be able to manage more specialized services for different areas of business operations. For instance, dedicated inventory software might provide a deeper set of features. Businesses with high sales volumes are eligible for custom pricing, but a processor that offers interchange plus pricing can be more cost-effective, especially at scale.
Alternatives to Square for Retail
Lightspeed Retail POS
$89 for Lean plan ($69 if billed annually).
$149 for Standard plan ($119 if billed annually).
$269 for Advanced plan ($199 if billed annually).
Payment processing fees:
Pricing for Lightspeed's iPad and desktop hardware kits is quote-based. Individual hardware products are listed in Lightspeed's online store:
$99 for Chipper 2X BT card reader.
$199 for iPad stand or swivel stand.
$299 for WisePOS E countertop reader.
$429 for Lightspeed Lite Server for data backup and offline mode functionality.
Why we like it: Lightspeed stands out for the depth of features on its retail POS system. If you like wringing insights from data your store generates, you’ll benefit from the dozens of reports Lightspeed creates. Larger retailers that engage in wholesale buying and/or selling could benefit from Lightspeed’s B2B trade network, NuORDER. Read our full Lightspeed Retail POS review.
To use Shopify POS, you also must have a Shopify plan for e-commerce:
$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.
Once you have a Shopify plan for e-commerce, add either:
Payment processing fees:
2.4%, 2.6% or 2.9% plus 30 cents for online payments for Advanced, Shopify or Basic plan, respectively.
2.4%, 2.5% or 2.7% for in-person payments for Advanced, Shopify or Basic plan, respectively.
$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.
Why we like it: There are stores that have a website, and there are e-commerce sites that have a storefront. If you’re the latter, opting for a retail POS system that was initially built for websites could make sense. Shopify is NerdWallet’s pick for top e-commerce POS because of the online experience it provides. For example, if you plan to sell on multiple channels, from Walmart and Amazon to Facebook and Etsy, Shopify lets you manage it all from a single location. Read our full Shopify POS review.
Compare POS providers
To compare POS options, check out NerdWallet’s list of point-of-sale systems that are best for small-business owners. Our recommendations are based on the provider’s pricing and transparency, software and hardware options, system functionality, customer support, software integrations and contract requirements.