We chose Square as the best credit card processing service for growing businesses because it doesn't charge any of the monthly or annual account maintenance fees that most companies charge, such as statement, payment gateway and PCI compliance fees. All you pay are its flat-rate transaction fees, which makes it affordable for even very small businesses to use. It doesn't have a chargeback fee either, which is unusual, even among mobile credit card processing companies.
We also like that even though Square's app is free, it includes a full suite of point-of-sale (POS) features and can be augmented with add-on services and integrations, allowing you to add more features as your business grows. Also, it works on both Apple and Android phones and tablets, so you can use it with the devices you already own.
Square Processing Summary
|Pricing model||Flat rate|
|Contract terms||Pay as you go|
Pricing and Terms
A big part of Square's appeal is that it makes credit card processing accessible for all businesses, even microbusinesses and individuals. It has an application that can be completed in minutes, a free app and a free credit card swiper for each account, no contract, and simple flat rates.
Although Square charges a couple of different rates, and the one you'll pay depends on how and what you use to accept payments, the flat-rate pricing makes it easy to estimate how much you'll pay the processor each month. It has transparent pricing, and you can find complete details about its processing fees on its website.
Flat-Rate Processing Fees
Square doesn't distinguish between card types; it charges the same rate for debit, credit, rewards and corporate cards. Card brands are treated likewise, so you pay the same rate whether your customer pays using Visa, Mastercard, Discover or even American Express. If your customers prefer to pay using rewards, business, international or American Express cards, you may save money by using Square. Here's how its processing fees work.
For credit cards, debit cards and contactless payments that you accept in person, you'll pay one of the following fees:
- Cards accepted using a Square Reader, Square Register, Square Stand, Square Terminal or Square for Restaurants: 2.6% + $0.10
- Cards accepted using Square for Retail Plus or Square Appointments (paid version): 2.5% + $0.10
For payments you accept without the card in hand, such as online, invoice and recurring payments, you'll pay one of the following transaction fees:
- Cards accepted using Square Invoices or the Square Online Store: 2.9% + $0.30
- Cards accepted using the Square Online Store Premium Plan: 2.6% + $0.30
- Cards you manually key in using Virtual Terminal or the Square Point of Sale App, as well as recurring payments using cards details stored in Card on File: 3.5% + $0.15
Custom Rates Available
To qualify, you must process more than $250,000 annually, and your average sales ticket must be larger than $15.
Square has a user agreement instead of a traditional payment processing contract, which means there aren't any termination fees, and you can close your account at any time without penalty if the service isn't working out for your business.
No Account Maintenance Fees
You only pay the processing costs with Square. You don't have to pay a monthly fee or a PCI compliance fee, nor must you meet any monthly minimums. If you opt to use Square's online store to create a website, you aren't responsible for payment gateway costs. Square's lack of fees makes it an attractive option if your company operates on tight margins and may not do enough in sales to justify the fees other companies charge.
Here's a list of fees you won't pay when you use Square as your processing company:
- No application or setup fee
- No monthly fee (sometimes called a statement fee)
- No monthly minimum processing requirement
- No payment gateway setup fee
- No monthly payment gateway fee
- No annual fee
- No PCI compliance fee or PCI noncompliance fee
- No early termination or account closure fees
- No chargeback fee
Although there are no additional fees for Square's regular processing plan, there are some optional services that cost extra. For example, if you choose to have funds instantly deposited into your account instead of waiting the standard one or two days, it costs an additional 1.5%. If you add extra services or third-party integrations to your system, there may be monthly subscription fees.
Even though it's primarily known as a mobile credit card processing company, Square offers processing solutions to brick-and-mortar and online businesses as well. Here are some of the features it offers.
Easy Application and Setup
It only takes a few minutes to sign up online for Square's processing services. All it requires is some basic information about you and your business. There aren't any credit checks, and you don't have to submit any documentation, such as your previous processing statements or marketing material. It approves applications quickly, and you can start processing the same day you register, sometimes in as little as five minutes.
Keep in mind that until you receive your card reader, you pay the higher, keyed-in rate. It can take up to 10 days for your free Square card reader to arrive, but if you need it in a hurry, you can purchase one at a local electronics or office supply store.
Free Point-of-Sale Software
The company's payments app, Square Point of Sale (formerly Square Register), is compatible with both Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. It's free to download and includes a full suite of POS features to help you run your business.
Here are some of the things it can do:
- Accept debit and credit cards, mobile wallets, cash, paper checks, and gift cards
- Open and split tabs
- Set discounts and taxes
- Issue refunds
- Prompt customers for tips with suggested tip amounts
- Manage customer information and feedback
- Print, email or text receipts
- Send invoices and accept credit card payments online
- Use the inventory management feature to track quantities in real time
- Show sales data and create reports
- Integrate with third-party business solutions, such as your accounting software and e-commerce platform
Square recently introduced a new QR code-based feature that allows dine-in customers to order food from their phones and pay their bills when they're done. Each code is linked to a specific table in the restaurant, so employees know where to bring the food, and wait times are reduced, since there's no longer a need to wait for staff to come around and take an order. This new self-serve ordering feature is available for Square merchants in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia who use Square Online.
Processing Equipment Options
You can choose from several Square card reader models and purchase your processing hardware one piece at a time or as a bundle. At a minimum, you need a mobile device with the free Square POS app installed and the free card swiper to accept cards, but you should upgrade to an EMV-compliant reader that accepts chip cards to protect yourself from counterfeit fraud liability.
Here are the card readers Square offers:
- Square Reader for magstripe: The first one is free. Additional mobile credit card readers cost $10 each. The company mails this card reader to you when you open your account. It connects to your phone or tablet via the headphone jack or Lightning connector. With it, you can accept magstripe cards.
- Square Reader for contactless and chip: $49, or $78 with charging dock. This is a wireless device that connects via Bluetooth. With it, you can accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, contactless cards and EMV chip cards. It ships with a free magstripe reader so you can accept every type of payment.
- Square Stand for contactless and chip: $169. This stand turns your iPad into a countertop checkout station. A magstripe card reader is built into the unit, and it connects to the included contactless and chip reader and dock.
- Square Terminal: $299. Square's newest card reader is an all-in-one terminal. It has a built-in screen so you don't need to use your own smartphone or tablet. It also has a built-in card reader and a receipt printer.
- Square Register: $799. This countertop model has one touchscreen for you and one for your customer. It also has built-in card readers that accept every payment type: magstripe cards, chip cards, contactless cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. Square's POS software is preinstalled on it.
- Accessories: Pricing varies. You can connect accessories to your card reader to create a countertop POS system. Options include barcode scanners, cash drawers, receipt printers, docks, cases and stands. Square is also compatible with some third-party hardware accessories and posts a list of compatible models on its website.
Financing is available for higher-priced items. The Square Register costs $39 per month on a 24-month installment plan, and the Square Terminal costs $27 per month on a 12-month plan.
Square normally takes one or two days to transfer the money from your transactions into your bank account. However, it gives you the option of instantly depositing your funds for an additional 1.5%. Alternatively, you can schedule same-day deposits, which costs 1.5%.
Square doesn't have a chargeback fee but will assist you in resolving the issue. If a customer initiates a chargeback, you must promptly respond to Square's information request with appropriate documentation. It will put a hold on the disputed funds, and it can take 90 days for your customer's bank to review the claim and issue a verdict.
You can augment the Square Point of Sale mobile credit card processing app with additional business services. Third-party integrations are available through the App Marketplace, and the company offers several apps of its own as well.
Here are some of the ancillary services available from Square.
- Appointments: This app comes with a booking website that syncs with your personal calendar, so your customers can schedule and reschedule appointments with you online. It's free for individuals, and in-person transactions cost 2.6% + $0.10. Businesses with two to five employees pay 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction and $50 per month. Businesses with six to 10 users pay 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction and $90 per month.
- Invoices: With this app, you can digitally send invoices to your customers for free. Your customers can then pay online using a credit or debit card. It costs 2.9% + $0.30 for each payment you receive.
- Loyalty: This add-on makes it easy to enroll customers at the checkout. To apply rewards, you enter the customer's phone number when you're ringing up a sale. It then automatically texts customers to notify them about the points they earned. Pricing starts at $45 per month, per location.
- Marketing: You can promote your business by sending email marketing campaigns to your customers using this app. It also tracks your results. Costs start at $15 per month for up to 500 customers.
- Payroll: Square's payroll services include time tracking, direct deposits and automatic filing. If you're only paying contractors, it costs $5 per contractor, per month. If you have employees, you pay $29 per month plus $5 per employee.
- Team Management: Square's employee management tool has a time clock that you can use for timecard reporting and break tracking. It integrates with Square POS and exports to Square Payroll. The basic tier is free, and the Team Plus tier costs $35 per month, per location.
Square has launched a pair of new features for its payroll service. The first update, Instant Payments, lets employers fund payroll nearly instantaneously with their Square Balance. This reduces the time between when the employer submits payroll and when the employee gets their paycheck. The other addition is On-Demand Pay, which lets eligible employees transfer up to $200 of their earnings to their Cash App each pay period. The funds may also be sent to a linked debit card for a 1% fee per transfer, at a maximum of $2. Payroll for the employer, however, stays the same.
For Square's retail and restaurant merchants that need advanced, industry-specific solutions, it offers the following alternatives to its point of sale app.
- Square for Retail: This app is for merchants that need retail-specific POS software with advanced management tools, such as multilocation stock management, vendor management and purchase ordering. It has three plans: Free, Plus and Premium. The Plus plan costs $60 per month, per location and 2.5% + $0.10 per in-person transaction and 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions. The Premium plan is for customers who are eligible for custom pricing.
- Square for Restaurants: This restaurant-specific POS software has advanced features for managing both the front and back of house, including table, seat, course and tab management, happy hour discounts, 86ing, staff and customer profiles, and customizable reporting. It doesn't have ingredient-level inventory management or purchase ordering tools. Three plans are available: Free, Plus and Premium. Tech support is available 24/7 for paid plans, and implementation assistance is available at an additional cost. Square offers a 30-day free trial, then the Plus plan costs $60 per month for the first register and $40 for each additional POS per location. The Premium plan is for customers who are eligible for custom pricing. You are required to use Square as your processor when you use this POS software, and transactions cost 2.6% + $0.10 each for in-person payments and 2.9% + $0.30 each for online payments.
Online Processing Solutions
If you want to accept credit cards online, Square gives you multiple options.
- You can accept payments through the Square Appointments booking website and from online invoices that you send from the dashboard of the Square POS or the Square Invoices app.
- You can create a website using Square Online Store. There are multiple service tiers, including a free tier that only requires you to use Square as your payment processor.
- You can create a payment link using Square Online Checkout. You can then text it, email it or share it on Instagram, Facebook and other social media channels.
- You can create buy buttons to add to your existing website or blog.
- You can print QR codes on signs, displays or mailers. Customers can then scan the codes and make payments from their phones.
- If you already have a website, Square has integrations for many popular e-commerce platforms and shopping carts, or you can use Square's API to connect to your account and add a Square checkout button.
Once you've established a processing history with Square, it gives you access to Square Capital, which can provide your business with a merchant cash advance and fund it as soon as the next day.
Square also offers a Mastercard business debit card called Square Card that makes it easy to access the money from your transactions. There are no signup fees, annual fees, monthly fees, minimum balance fees or overdraft fees. One nice perk is that you receive an instant discount of 2.75% when you use this card to shop with other Square sellers.
Square merchants can call the company during extended business hours, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. If you like to research solutions yourself, you'll find Square's website helpful, as it offers multiple resources. It has a searchable knowledgebase that provides detailed information with step-by-step instructions. It also has how-to guides, FAQs, articles on popular small business topics, a blog and a community forum.
Square lacks some of the customer service features we looked for. It doesn't offer a dedicated rep or 24/7 phone support. If your business keeps irregular hours and you run into an issue, you'll have to email the company instead, which may be frustrating.
Some merchants report having their funds or accounts frozen. This is a fairly common complaint for mobile credit card processors that are merchant aggregators, since they tend to be more risk-averse than the full-service processors that provide merchant accounts. If the company deems something about a transaction suspicious, such as an abnormally large sales ticket, it may hold your funds. If your business offers items on Square's list of prohibited goods and services, your account may be closed without notice, as it violates the company's user agreement.
To reduce your likelihood of experiencing these issues, read Square's terms of service before you sign up for an account to make sure the processor is a good fit for your business. Then, once you begin processing, follow its best practices for accepting credit and debit card payments.
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