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Even if you don’t know them by name, you’ve probably seen someone using a Square reader or POS system to take credit cards, especially if you’re a coffee lover. In addition to becoming a staple in independent coffee shops, the company had a well-publicized relationship with Starbucks, acting as the exclusive card processor for the coffee giant. That deal didn’t work out very well for Square (who lost millions of dollars because of the way that small transactions are processed) but the company has rebounded by ending their contract with Starbucks, and going public in autumn of 2015.
That’s a lot of publicity that won’t necessarily help you figure out if you should use Square, also known as SquareUp. But we can help with that. In this Square review, we'll tell you everything you need to know about Square’s rates and fees, contract, customer reviews, instant deposit, POS systems, and other information to help you decide if it's the right fit for your business.
- Square’s History
- What services does Square offer?
- Square for Retail
- Square Instant Deposit
- Other Features
- Can Square integrate with accounting software?
- Do I need to buy equipment?
- What will Square really cost?
- Is there a contract?
- How’s customer service?
- What about security and fraud prevention?
- What do people think of Square?
Square was founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey, who is also a founder and current CEO of Twitter. Square is not strictly a payment processor, but an aggregator. This means that Square processes transactions for all its customers under one merchant account in its own name. Square offers this video about its services:
Square uses Chase Paymentech to process its transactions.
February 2016 -- Square went public in 2015, and stock prices haven't been doing as well as experts expected. In February 2016, Visa disclosed its stock ownership in Square in an SEC filing, causing Square's stock to jump and some journalists to predict that Visa would buy Square. However, Visa's stake in Square was misconstrued, and there have not been any announcements to indicate Visa will purchase Square.
April 2016 -- A professor at Washington University has filed a lawsuit against Square, alleging that he was the original and sole inventor of the infamous Square dongle. The professor, Robert Morley, claims that he was approached by the cofounders of Square for assistance creating an option for processing payments by taking a photo of the credit card. According to Morley, he instead created the headphone jack card reader that Square is known for. A judge has denied Square's motion to dismiss the case.
August 2016 -- Square has partnered with Vend and TouchBistro, offering its credit card processing services to customers who prefer to use the more robust Vend or TouchBistro POS systems.
August 2017 -- Square opened a physical store in New York to serve as a tech support center and retail store for testing and purchasing new Square products. The store is in an initial trial phase with limited hours.
October 2017 -- Adding to its equipment choices, Square announced the Square Register, an integrated POS system.
While originally only offering in-person (card-present) payment processing, in 2016 Square began offering an ecommerce payment acceptance solution as well. Square offers payment processing, invoicing, and gift card services. You can also accept tips through Square.
With Square, you can take Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. Funds are deposited to your bank account in 1-2 business days, unless you choose another option like instant deposit for an additional fee. You’ll need to download the free Square app or utilize Square's ecommerce option to use Square for payment processing. The app is available for both Android and Apple devices, so you can use whichever you prefer. The Square ecommerce option allows you to enable payments on your website. Note that Square (full name Squareup) is not affiliated with Squarespace, the website creation service.
Square also offers a virtual terminal, which allows you to handkey credit card information into a secure form on your website. The virtual terminal has higher pricing than swiping or ecommerce, and will cost you 3.5% + 15 cents per transaction.
You can choose to send invoices to your clients right from the Square app. It’s free to send invoices, and you’ll pay 2.9% + 30 cents when your client pays the bill. (There’s no charge to your clients to pay.) If you need a physical copy of the invoice, you can print them, too. Best of all, invoices sync with your Square Dashboard so you can tell at a glance which invoices have been paid and which are outstanding.
If you want to take advantage of the popularity of gift cards, Square has several choices. You can try starter packs and choose from templates, or design your own card. Different package options have different minimum quantity requirements. All gift card choices come with full reporting so you can see how effective gift cards are for your business. Cards will run you between $1.50 and $2 per card depending on your customization and other design choices.
As of autumn 2016, Square's Payroll option is only available in 12 states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. Square expects to add payroll support for more states in the future.
Square boasts a payroll option with an integrated time clock that automatically imports staff hours for online time management and tracks sick and paid vacation time. Additionally, Square handles federal and state tax requirements, including withholding and reporting, as well as generating W-2s for your team. Your employees can set up their own direct deposit for their checks and view pay stubs online.
Payroll has a separate charge of $20/month plus $5 per employee that is paid in that month.
Square offers an online booking services - called Square Appointments - to let your clients conveniently book services from their computer or smartphone. You can enable prepayment, set reminders to reduce no-shows, and sync with your Google calendar for up-to-date availability and scheduling. Appointments offers unlimited bookings and an embeddable widget for booking.
Additionally, you can choose to implement a cancellation or no-show fee. Called "no-show protection," enabling the service will generate a cancellation policy that customers must agree to when booking their appointment.
However, it's worth mentioning that customers who are charged cancellation or no-show fees are often known to initiate chargebacks. On the upside, Square has confirmed to CardFellow that its policy of covering up to $250/month in chargebacks would apply to any chargebacks incurred through the no-show penalty. Businesses can also expect assistance from Square's Disputes Team as well as information in your Square dashboard to help in the event of a chargeback.
Note that Square Appointments costs extra. It will run you $30/month for a single practictioner, $50/month for businesses with 2-5 staff members, and $90/month for unlimited staff. These prices are for 1-3 locations; additional locations adds another $50/month.
In 2017, Square introduced its Square for Retail POS system, which offers more robust functionality than it’s basic register app. The basic register app (called Square Point of Sale) lets you take payments track sales, add inventory, and send invoices. At this time, Square has not announced any plans to discontinue Square Point of Sale in favor of Square for Retail. Square offers this video about the Retail option:
It offers inventory management capabilities with the option to create and submit purchase orders to vendors, as well as track or transfer items between multiple locations. You can create customer profiles to keep track of purchase history, add notes about customer preferences, group customers into categories, and create targeted marketing for different customers.
Additionally, you can use an integrated timecard system, see labor costs to create schedules that most effectively utilize your staff, and set employee permissions for accessing functions in the app.
Using Square for Retail will cost you $60 per month, per register. This cost is on top of the 2.75% fee per transaction to accept a credit or debit card payment. Square offers a free 30-day trial of the retail app, but processing fees still apply during the free trial.
If your business has annual sales of more than $250,000 and an average transaction size over $15, Square may be able to offer custom pricing.
On Square’s website, testimonials about Square for Retail praise the app as a reliable solution that makes it easy to manage sales, inventory, purchase orders, and more.
While the typical timeframe for receiving your funds is 1-2 business days, if you're willing to pay a little extra and link a debit card, you can use Square Instant Deposit and get your money immediately, even on weekends and holidays. Instant deposit costs 1% of the deposit amount. This fee is in addition to the processing fees Square charges.
The minimum deposit amount is $50 (after fees), with a maximum of $2,500 per deposit. However, there is no limit to the number of instant deposits you can make. (Note that new sellers may be limited to $500 per day in instant deposits until they've established a selling history with Square.)
Instant Deposit is not available for transactions made through the Square virtual terminal.
The Scheduled Depost option lets you choose to receive funds automatically at the end of the business day. Square Scheduled Deposit funding also incurs a 1% fee of the total transaction.
Square offers other features as well, including check splitting and tabs, refund capabilities, inventory management, and the choice to email (or text) a receipt instead of printing it. You can also keep track of customer order history and send marketing emails.
Yes. Square works with QuickBooks and Xero, so there’s no need to switch if you already use one of those programs and would prefer to continue.
Maybe. The Square app is free, and can be used on current smartphones and tablets, but if you need a mobile card reader or a want to use Square Stand POS or Square Register POS, you’ll need to pay for it. Square sells equipment for different needs.
The traditional magnetic stripe reader is one of the most well-known Square devices. The small white reader connects to smartphones through a standard headphone jack. The reader is free, and you can use it with Android and Apple devices, but remember it does NOT take contactless payments (like Apple Pay) or new EMV chip cards. Square offers a magstripe/EMV combo reader or an EMV/NFC reader (no magstripe option.) That reader currently costs $49. (Pricing subject to change.)
Another popular Square device is the Square Stand (pictured below), which holds an iPad that uses the Square app. The Square Stand doesn’t include an iPad and costs $169 for the model that includes options to take EMV chip cards and NFC (contactless) payments.
The newest Square credit card machine is the Square Register POS system (pictured below), an integrated hardware/software bundle that features 2 screens - one customer-facing and one employee-facing. The customer facing screen includes built in card readers so customers can swipe/dip their cards themselves rather than hand them over to staff.
Square charges a flat rate percentage for processing, except for businesses with average transaction totals under $10. Square’s rate is currently 2.75% on swiped transactions when you use the Square mobile readers or the Square Stand POS system. You'll pay 2.5% + 10 cents per transaction for swiped transactions when you use the Square Register POS system.
No matter how you take payments, you'll pay 3.5% and $0.15 per transaction for keyed transactions. Some businesses with transactions under $10 may pay 2.75% plus a per transaction fee of 10-15 cents. Customers who sign up by requesting more info or working with a Square rep may see that additional charge.
It will cost you 2.9% and $0.30 per transaction for ecommerce payments. Depending on your transaction volume and other details, this could be a great deal or very expensive.
In our article Square: Process for Free, Just Like Starbucks, we detailed circumstances in which Square could be beneficial. Primarily, it applied to transactions under $10. However, now that Square has implemented a per-transaction fee for transactions under $10 for some customers, the competitive pricing advantage has been removed.
It’s worth your time to compare processors. You can do that quickly (in under 5 minutes) by using our quote comparison tool. The last thing you want is to be the business that’s overpaying, meaning you’re subsidizing another business’s processing.
It's also worth noting that as Square has added features, it has also begun imposing monthly fees for those features separately. For example, payroll is one monthly fee, appointments is another, instant deposit is another, etc. So what you'll actually end up paying also depends on which features (if any) you add on.
Square doesn’t require long-term contracts, but as always be sure to read anything before you sign it to make sure you know what you’re getting into.
One major caveat is that Square does not provide a customer support phone number until you sign up. I know, it’s a little weird. But the company doesn’t seem to want to encourage phone calls, and makes it very difficult to reach anyone by phone. It’s a common complaint from customers. Square says that current customers can get a code that will enable them to contact Square by phone, but the extra hoops can be annoying.
How else can you get in touch with Square? They offer email support. But remember, if you have a major problem, you probably won’t be able to pick up the phone and get a quick answer. If that’s important to you, Square may not be your best choice.
Square takes security seriously, and uses encryption and tokenization technologies to keep your customers’ data safe. Square also monitors transactions for suspicious behavior just in case, and can respond to potentially fraudulent transactions quickly. Additionally, you’ll have chargeback protection of up to $250 per month.
People that love Square really love Square. Reviews say that it’s easy to use, that equipment looks great, and that flat rate pricing offers simplicity not found with other processors. (Just remember that convenience comes at a price.)
But Square is not without its flaws, and some customers quickly fall out of love with Square when they have a problem. Negative reviews complain of accounts being closed without warning, and difficulty getting answers. Remember that part in the customer service section and Square not having a published phone number? That suddenly becomes a much bigger problem when you need to find out what’s going on with your processing account.
Square was accredited with the Better Business Bureau in September of 2015, but has had a profile with the company for much longer. The Better Business Bureau only keeps a record of complaints for the past 3 years. In that time, Square has had 1,450 complaints lodged with the BBB, which is on the higher side given how long Square has been in business. As of autumn 2016, most of those complaints are in the category “Problems with Product/Service,” while "Advertising/Sales Issues" and "Billing/Collection Issues" each have seeral hundred. The categories "Delivery Issues" and "Guarantee/Warranty Issues" each have fewer than 100 complaints.
Reviews allege that Square held funds without explanation, that Square can’t be reached to get answers to questions, and that accounts are closed with no warning or explanation.
Only 196 of the complaints have been resolved to the customer's satisfaction as of autumn 2016. The remaining complaints are listed as “answered” but aren’t considered resolved. Complaints can be listed as “answered” if Square replied to the initial complaint and then the business replied but wasn’t satisfied with Square’s reply, or the business didn’t answer once Square replied. Square does seem to regularly reply to complaints lodged on the BBB website, which likely contributes to its A+ rating despite the high number of complaints.
In addition to the formal complaints, there are 61 negative reviews for Square in the BBB’s reviews section as of autumn 2016, up from 4 when we first wrote about the complaints last year. There are also 4 positive reviews and 1 neutral review.
The 4 positive reviews express appreciation for assistance with chargebacks, no extra fees, no issues with equipment or customer service, quick availability of funds, and positive experiences with customer service.
The 1 neutral review expresses irritation that the customer can't reach Square by phone, even though the company says you can.
The 61 negative reviews complain of the same type of things that others say about Square: accounts were frozen or closed without warning, Square held funds, refused transactions, and was impossible to contact to correct problems. Some reviewers complained of rude customer service reps or even being hung up on when they did reach Square for assistance, and of hidden costs despite Square's claim of flat rate pricing.
CardFellow has written about Square several times. The company is a great option for smaller businesses that have traditionally found it too expensive to get a traditional merchant account for taking credit cards. However, we caution businesses to consider all the factors when looking for a processing solution, and not just buying into the most popular or visible company.
Most importantly, if low pricing for merchant accounts is important to you, don't automatically assume that flat rate is it. Simplicity is not the same thing as low cost. You can read our Square vs. PayPal Here comparison, or check out the detailed CardFellow Square Review.
Do you use Square? Leave a review!
Unlike general web reviews, verified reviews are posted by businesses that have chosen the processor's quote through CardFellow's marketplace and CardFellow has confirmed with the processor that the business is using its service. Businesses can update verified reviews at any time to ensure the review accurately reflects the processor's performance over time.
Unlike verified reviews which are validated by CardFellow, web reviews can be submitted by anyone viewing this profile. While we validate these reviews as best we can, CardFellow does not verify that a reviewer is using or has used a processor's service.
Square Web Reviews
Nothing can be worst than Square Payroll
Posted By: herman akran on 03/07/17
We have several businesses use Square platform. We decided to give it a shot to have our payroll with them, What a disappointment! There is nobody to talk to get help in this company. You are your own. Their software has a lot bugs and it doesn’t function correctly. Be smart, just stay away. Listening some else’s experience is cheaper than your own.
Posted By: Laurie B on 11/10/16
AVOID SQUARE!!!! They have the WORST customer service I have ever seen. For some reason, I was declined even though all of my information was correct. They would not give me the option to call for support, so I sent an email. They essentially told me “too bad” and that they couldn’t look up why I was denied. They also told me I should look into another company. I can’t believe how unwilling they were to help me as someone inquiring about using their services. I’d highly suggest going elsewhere with your business as I’m afraid of what support you’d get- if any- once you become a customer.
We Regret using the Square!
Posted By: Jessica on 03/31/16
Do Not Use the Square!
We had a stubborn customer who filed a dispute against our first deposit to us through the Square. The Square emailed us to inform us of this dispute and asked us to defend ourselves, but within that night they made the decision to withdraw the money from our bank account. We were in shock and because it was almost $6,000 it made our account negative and they attempted to take out the money a few different time because we didn’t have that amount in our bank account.
I attempted to contact the Square for the next week. I emailed several times and never received a response. They have one phone number to call and you have to have a code to actually speak to someone. I searched everywhere for that damn code. All I could do is sit back and wait. We are a small business so we aren’t exactly banking. We couldn’t deposit any of our checks from other projects and we couldn’t finish out our week of work.
Our customer was difficult because they made a lot of changes and upgrades that they did not want to pay for. We finally got our customer to dismiss the dispute. Even after our customer canceled the dispute they attempted to take our the money again! We are still waiting for them to place the money back into our account.
This was honestly the most frustrating situation and the Square only made things worse. Before this whole situation the Square was ok. The card ready didn’t work all the time and it charges more when you have to manually enter in the card information. All in all I will not be using the Square any longer and I have left my review for all those who are considering this nightmare of a company.
Square credit card processing
Posted By: Kathleen Cunningham on 11/29/15
I used Square as an interim credit card processor at the small cafe I owned while comparing all the companies out there.
Advantages: Easy to get (they will send one or they are available in stores) and easy to use. (plugs into your smartphone and becomes a payment screen). Funds are available the next day, and payable to either personal or business checking or savings accounts (as opposed to some who only deposit to a business checking account). You know what will be going into the acct as they notify you via email the same day thevexact amount being deposited (the sale total minus their processing fee) from each transaction. (Unlike the company I was using who would deposit total funds and then once a month take out their processing fees). Square has a very easily navigated web site, and if you can’t find an answer online, there is contact info to call or email your questions. Very easy and uncomplicated way to process credit cards, and fees seemed competitive.
Drawbacks: this may have changed, and is probably only applicable to the restaurant/hospitality industry, but there was no way to allow a customer to add on a gratuity and then finalize the total amount of the sale.
Customers also did not get a receipt right then and there for their purchase…they had the option of no receipt or one sent electronically to their email, but most people were hesitant to give email info. Signing their receipt on the phone using a stylus was also a little hard for some people to get used to. (“Does my credit card info and signature get stored on your phone? What if you lose it?” etc gave rise to a whole new set of reassurances that then had to be made!!)
Overall…four star rating. Really easy to set up and use with deposits able to go to any account in very timely manner. Competitive processing fees taken out before the deposit goes in. User friendly, and good web site support. Main drawback for my business was the inability to change the total charge to include a tip, and my older clientele leery of the technology.