Square Connect: Taking Payments Online
You probably already know Square as one of the most popular choices for taking credit cards using a smartphone. The Square POS system is also an increasingly common choice for in-store payments, especially for businesses with smaller transactions, like coffee shops. But it wasn’t until recently that the company rolled out an e-commerce option, called Square Connect.
- What is Square Connect?
- What is an API and how does Square’s work?
- Why is Square offering the API?
- Who is Square’s API good for and why?
- What does it cost?
- Additional Square Services
- Other Options for Taking Online Payments
What is Square Connect?
The Square Connect API lets businesses with self-hosted e-commerce websites seamlessly integrate their site with Square to accept payments and manage business data on a web-based dashboard.
Before Square Connect, there wasn’t a way to take payments online with Square. The company’s online business customers had to use a different payment service to complete web store checkouts. Square Connects’ e-commerce API eliminates the need for a third party online payment vendor. You'll be able to handle all of your processing with Square, whether it's in-store payments or website transactions.
The current version was released in early spring 2016, and lets you:
- Accept e-commerce payments from your websites
- Manage customer data of online buyers, including cards on file
- Issue refunds
- Retrieve payment and refund information
Square boasts that you don't need a lot of technical knowledge to enable online payment capability when you choose Square Connect.
What is an API and how does Square’s work?
APIs enable different computing programs to “communicate” with each other to perform detailed and sophisticated tasks. Historically referred to as “middleware,” today’s sophisticated API’s integrate new features into existing applications (known as "plug-in API’s"). Companies that use API-enabled systems – like combined online payment and management products – usually must work with software engineers to program and manage the API.
Square says its e-commerce API all-in-one payment and data processing suite for face-to-face and online transactions allows you to accept, then monitor, all credit card payments with one simple web dashboard. According to the company, there’s no need for sophisticated software development engineers, which could be a cost savings for you. Pushing simplicity is in direct contrast to competitor Stripe, which prides itself on being a “developer’s choice.”
Why is Square offering the API?
Square is hoping to successfully compete with the leading payment web payment providers, including Stripe – an online-only service – and PayPal. Previously, Stripe and Square were not direct competitors, as one only offered online payments and one only offered in-person payments. PayPal offers both, but is much more well-known for its online payment options. (PayPal’s nearly 20 year success gives it the largest online payment share.) Moving into online payment acceptance now pits Square firmly against those two companies. Square’s new API also comes close on the heels of PayPal’s EMV card reader release, which targets Square’s large reader market share.
Square's current clients – primarily those who use the card readers and POS systems – don’t necessarily want to deal with the IT and programming set-ups that are required with most e-commerce API’s. Square is hoping that customers who already appreciate the simple mobile payment and POS options will also find the simplicity of the ecommerce option appealing.
Who is Square’s API good for, and why?
PayPal, Stripe, and many other API providers have reputations for creating “developer's platforms.” These are primarily built for clients that can afford to maintain an IT/software development staff or are very tech-savvy and can implement more complex payment solutions on their sites.
But Square markets the Connect API as a user-friendly, "you don't need to be (or hire) a developer to use our platform,” solution, which makes it a viable option for those who don’t want to bother with complicated programming or don't feel comfortable programming a payment integration.
What does it cost?
A fee of 2.9% +$0.30 is added to each payment that is processed through the Square Connect e-commerce API. This puts them at exact the same pricing as Stripe, PayPal, and Braintree.
While those four ecommerce payment providers have the same pricing, don’t make the mistake of thinking that every processor will charge that, or that online payments are a fixed cost. Depending on your volume and business specifics, you may be able to get lower pricing for online payments.
Check what pricing you're eligible for at CardFellow.
Additional Square Services
In addition to Square Connect, the company offers services like invoicing, payroll, inventory management, and more. A Square for Retail package includes advanced reporting features and allows you to take advantage of services designed specifically for small businesses in retail businesses. Square offers this video to highlight other offerings you may be interested in:
Other Options for Taking Online Payments
Although only a few names tend to get the media attention, there are actually a lot of options for taking payments online, with varying degrees of technical knowledge required. Most processors nowadays have ways to get you set up to take online payments. If you want to know exactly what pricing you’re eligible for, use our price comparison tool to see the real costs of processing with different ecommerce payment processors.
Gary Bowen is a communications consultant and occasional journalist. He periodically writes about technology, software, outsourcing, small/medium sized business, finance, sports and legal topics for a variety of publishers - since the days of the Arpanet.