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If you’re looking for an option to take credit cards using your smartphone or tablet, a mobile credit card reader is the way to go.
This review and profile is about the Square credit card reader for smartphones. If you’re looking for info on the Square POS (also called Square Stand) you can check it out here: Square POS review and profile.
In this Square reader review and profile, we’ll provide information about all three readers, including features, costs, and security.
The magstripe reader plugs into smartphones and tablets through a standard headphone jack. Traditional magnetic stripe cards can then be swiped through the reader to take advantage of swiped transaction rates.
The EMV reader works the same way, and can accept both chip credit cards and magnetic stripe cards. The EMV reader charges via micro USB port.
The combination NFC/EMV reader connects wirelessly, and can accept EMV chip cards and contactless (NFC) payments like Apple Pay or other digital wallets. The combo reader charges visa micro USB port. The combination reader does not accept magnetic stripe cards. However, when you order a combination NFC/EMV reader, Square will include a traditional magnetic stripe reader so you can still take traditional magstripe cards. The NFC/EMV reader may be better suited to businesses that utilize the Square stand.
The Square register app (usable with all of the Square readers) boasts helpful features for businesses taking payments away from a traditional storefront, including an offline mode, tipping capabilities, and the choice of providing receipts by email, text, or hard copy with an external printer if using your tablet. You can also capture customers’ signatures directly on the screen of compatible mobile devices. When you log in to the app, you’ll see a keypad where you can manually enter the total amount of the sale, or choose the option for ”library” to choose items from your inventory (if set up.) Once you’ve entered the amount or items, you can select the payment method.
As you can see from the second screenshot, Square gives you the option to enter details for credit cards, gift cards, cash, or other. You can also choose to send an invoice for the amount due instead. The ”split” link in the top right corner allows you to split the transaction between multiple payment methods if your customer wants to pay with several credit cards, or split it between cards and cash.
Sometimes when you’re on the go, a connection isn’t available but you still need to take a payment. For those instances, Square offers an offline mode (essentially a “store & forward”) option that allows you to take the payment without a connection and actually process it later. Note that offline mode doesn’t begin automatically; you’ll need to enable the feature from the settings menu.
If you accept tips at your business, you can enable features to allow your customers to include the gratuity on their card when they make a payment instead of hoping that they have some cash for a tip. Gratuities can be added as percentages of the total, eliminating the need for customers do calculations in their head when paying. To enable the tipping feature, you can go into the ”settings” menu and toggle the tipping option to on.
Selling in locations that charge sales tax is simple with the option to enable tax calculations automatically. Like with tipping, you can enable tax calculations by going into the settings menu and choosing the correct option.
Additional features and functions not specific to the readers are also available, including Square Capital (Square’s form of merchant cash advance), employee management, inventory management for retailers, online sales options, delivery features, and payroll capabilities (available in select states.)
With the Square readers, you’ll have the choice of how to provide receipts to your customers. You can email or text receipts to a specific address, or connect an external printer to your tablet to offer a hard copy. Since many businesses use Square for processing payments at different locations, the digital receipt option comes in handy. Additionally, Square enables you to collect customers’ signatures for transactions directly on the mobile device’s screen.
In addition to customers getting receipts, you can choose to receive one as well. The receipt will be sent via email, and include just the essential details: what the total payment was, the last 4 digits of the card you accepted, and how much of the total ends up in your account after Square takes its cut. As you can see from the screenshot below, if you need further info about the transaction, Square directs you to your dashboard for full details.
Square utilizes both encryption and tokenization technologies to help ensure secure transactions, and is PCI compliant. In addition, the company uses live fraud monitoring that analyses transactions as they’re taking place.
Square provides a few quick-access reports from the dashboard in the app. The most popular are the Activity report and the Sales summary. The Activity report is a list view of transactions that provides date, time, and total amount. You can click into any individual transaction for further info. The Sales summary gives sales totals.
You’ll need several things: The Square register app (available free of charge), a compatible smartphone or tablet, and an account with Square. You cannot use the Square reader with another credit card processor.
Square charges on a flat rate pricing model, and publishes rates of 2.75% for swiped transactions and 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed transactions. However, for businesses with average transactions under $10, Square may impose a per-transaction fee of 10-15 cents.
To use any of the Square readers, you’ll need to have an account with Square. If that pricing is too high for your business, but you still want to accept cards with your smartphone, check out other mobile credit card readers.
Traditional magnetic stripe only reader: Free
EMV capable reader: $29
EMV/NFC reader: $49
(includes free traditional magstripe reader)
Square's credit card readers are sleek and it's a pro that they're compatible with both Apple and Android devices. However, not being able to take magnetic strip cards with the combo EMV/NFC reader makes things a little clunky. Would love to see an NFC/EMV reader that can also process traditional cards. Also, credit card processing pricing is a little high, and the readers can only be used with Square's processing, so there isn't much room to save on fees.