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  5. How Much Does Square Charge Per Transaction? [2023 Update]

How Much Does Square Charge Per Transaction? [2023 Update]

Emma Ayres Emma AyresFinance Specialist July 20, 2023
July 20, 2023
With a simple flat fee structure, no contracts, and completely optional monthly subscriptions, Square is a popular payment processing option for small businesses. When you’re starting out and taking in a low volume of payments, it makes sense to use a straightforward payment processor. Overall, I don’t think Square is a bad choice for brand-new businesses. Sure, there are better options, but if you need to start accepting payments quickly, Square’s a good place to start.

That said, Square’s pricing doesn’t quite live up to its promised benefits. The flat fees are extremely high compared to most other processors, and the subscriptions don’t offer much value for your money. You’ll also have to purchase Square’s proprietary POS hardware to accept payments in person. The hardware is fine, but you likely won’t be able to reprogram it when you move to another processor.

While Square presents itself as a payment processor for businesses of all sizes, the truth is you’ll quickly outgrow it. You’ll find a far better deal with one of our top 5 Square alternatives, including competitive per-transaction fees, affordable monthly fees, and other great benefits that help your budget go further.

Square’s Core Pricing

Square's pricing plans
Square’s pricing looks simple on the surface, but the costs add up quickly
Square’s per-transaction pricing is relatively simple. You’ll pay a flat fee depending on the payment method. This fee is the same regardless of the card type the customer uses.

Payment method Fees
Card-present (tap, swipe, or EMV) 2.6% + 10¢
Card-not-present (e-commerce or invoice payments) 2.9% + 30¢
Keyed-in and card-on-file 3.5% + 15¢
Afterpay (one-time charge) 6% + 30¢
ACH transfers 1%, minimum fee of $1
Setting up a Square account is free, and there are no mandatory monthly fees to use the service. You also won’t have to pay any chargeback or PCI compliance fees. Plenty of payment and business management tools are included with your account, such as:
  • Square’s POS software
  • Chargeback dispute management
  • Advanced fraud prevention tools
  • Reporting tools
  • CRM software
  • Team management software
  • Inventory management software
With no monthly fees, processing minimums or limits, Square effectively allows you to pay as you go. In theory, it’s an easily scalable solution. If your business has a slow month, you don’t have to worry about paying a monthly fee for a service you barely use. On the other hand, you can have a busy month without wondering if you’ll hit your plan’s limit.

It’s also worth noting that if your customers use Afterpay (a buy-now-pay-later service), some processors will charge per payment, but you’ll only pay a one-time fee with Square. In this regard, Square can save you a considerable amount in fees, especially if you’re just starting out. That said, you’ll be paying nearly twice for most transactions and approximately three times more compared to a standard interchange-plus processor.

Overall, Square’s higher-than-average per-transaction fees will not be affordable for most businesses. It’s not a terrible choice if you’re handling transactions occasionally (for example, if you sell products at craft fairs once a month). However, once you start processing multiple sales daily, you’ll save quite a bit with one of our recommended payment processors.

Square’s Additional Monthly Fees

Square's software plans
Square’s Plus plans aren’t consistent in the features they offer
If you need to use more advanced features, you’ve got two options. You can either pay monthly for various software add-ons or pay for a Square Plus or Premium plan. Depending on the features you need, you may have to do both. For example, retail businesses that require advanced team management tools will need to pay for Team Plus and the Retail Plus plan. However, restaurant businesses will get Team Plus with the Restaurant Plus plan.

Confusingly, there are several different Plus plans, and Premium can either refer to Square’s custom pricing or the most expensive plan. The most important thing to note is that unless you’ve negotiated custom pricing on one of the Premium plans, the core transaction fees remain the same across all plans.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the three main Plus plans.

Plan name Monthly fee Additional features
Plus (Appointments) $29 per location
  • Google Calendar sync
  • Automated text/email booking confirmation
  • Daily appointment limit
Plus (Retail) $60 per location
  • Cross-location returns
  • Product exchanges
  • Profit margin reports
  • Stock forecasts
Plus (Restaurant) $60 per location
  • Team Plus for staff management
  • Unlimited KDS devices
  • Seat management
  • Custom floor plans
Square’s Plus plans aren’t bad, but they’re certainly limited. The additional features you get are undoubtedly useful. However, if you have more than one store – as most larger businesses do – then the costs quickly add up.

In particular, the Plus plan for restaurants is pretty limited. If you run a food truck or small family restaurant, the restrictions won’t be too bad, but you’ll struggle if you run a larger establishment. You can only have one countertop POS device per location and will need to pay an extra $40/month per device just to cover the software. If you want to use mobile POS devices, you’ll have to pay an extra $50/month per location.

Square also offers more expensive Premium plans only available for large businesses. To qualify for these plans, you must process over $250,000 a year and have over 10 active employees. The Retail and Restaurant Premium plans also give you access to discounted per-transaction rates, but you’ll have to negotiate these with Square’s sales representatives.

Plan name Monthly fee Additional features
Premium (Appointments) $69 per location
  • Resource management tools
  • Team Plus for staff management
Premium (Retail) Custom pricing
  • Unlimited physical gift cards
  • Discounts on other Square software plans
Premium (Restaurant) Custom pricing
  • Unlimited mobile POS devices
  • Discounts on other Square software plans
The value of these plans depends on the custom pricing aspect, so it’s hard to tell whether they offer good value. However, based on the Plus plans and the rest of Square’s pricing, I’d be hesitant to assume they do.

Overall, I don’t recommend paying for a Stripe Plus or Premium plan. These don’t offer enough additional features to make them worth the cost, and if your business is at the stage where it needs this extra software, you’ve already outgrown Square. Most of our top Square alternatives offer the same features while charging less per month and per transaction.

Square’s Hardware Costs

Square offers four hardware devices: the Reader, Stand, Terminal, and Register. You’ll get a free Square Reader for Magstripe when you sign up. If you need additional hardware, you’ll need to purchase it outright or set up a payment plan.

Device Price Description Features
Square Reader for Magstripe $10, but you’ll get one for free at sign-up Small mobile reader that attaches to your smartphone via your headphone jack or Lightning connector
  • Accept magstripe payments
  • 6-month warranty
Square Reader (wireless) $49 Palm-sized Bluetooth mobile reader
  • Accept EMV and contactless payments
  • Compatible with iOS 14 + and Android 7.0 +
  • One-year warranty
Square Stand $149 iPad dock with built-in credit card reader
  • Accept EMV, contactless, and CashApp payments
  • Accept swiped payments by connecting the Square Reader for Magstripe
  • 3-port USB hub
  • Requires Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection
  • Compatible with 10.2” and 10.5” iPads
  • One-year warranty
Square Terminal $299 Smart credit card terminal with built-in receipt printer
  • Accept EMV, swiped, and contactless payments
  • Requires Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection (offline mode available)
  • Can be used wirelessly
  • One-year warranty
Square Register $799 All-in-one POS device with large touchscreen and wired customer display with built-in credit card reader
  • Accept EMV, swiped, contactless, and Cash App payments
  • Requires Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection (offline mode available)
  • 5-port USB hub
  • Two-year warranty
In addition to these devices, Square offers a range of optional accessories. These include receipt printers, cash drawers, Square Reader cases, mounting kits, and more. You can also choose from a range of third-party accessories.

It’s worth noting that you can’t use third-party readers or terminals with Square. If you’re a brand-new business, then this likely won’t be an issue, but small businesses switching processors will have to repurchase all the devices they need.

Similarly, you can’t reprogram your Square devices to work with another processor when you outgrow the service. Truthfully, it’s a shame. Square’s hardware is a good budget-friendly alternative to Clover, offering the same sleek, modern, and user-friendly experience for less.

Top 5 Square Alternatives

Whether you’re a brand-new business or your business becomes too large to benefit from Square’s flat-rate pricing, you’ve come to the right place. Our expert team of researchers has collectively spent hundreds of hours scouring the market for the best Square alternatives. Here are a few great options for your business.

1. Leaders Merchant Services: Best Square Alternative for Brick-And-Mortar Businesses

If you’d rather upgrade to another processor that operates in a pay-as-you-go style, then Leaders Merchant Services (LMS) is a great Square alternative. Depending on the software you need, you’ll have to pay a small monthly fee, but you’ll enjoy a very low card-present transaction fee. You can negotiate and bring that fee down even further as LMS’s pricing depends on your business needs.

On top of the money you can save with this processor, LMS offers plenty of hardware devices to support your business. If you sign a long-term contract, you can get free POS hardware, so you don’t have to worry about spending hundreds or thousands of dollars replacing Square’s proprietary devices. LMS also offers Clover’s fantastic suite of smart POS devices, which are all excellent alternatives to Square’s devices.

Features and Benefits

  • Business funding. LMS offers merchant cash advances, a flexible way of accessing finance to upgrade your business. You won’t need to put up collateral for this kind of loan, either.
  • 24/7 support. Whether something’s gone wrong or you need advice, LMS’s customer support is available to help round the clock. Its representatives respond quickly and are friendly and informative.
  • 98% approval rate. Even if you’ve got limited (or no) financial history, there’s a good chance LMS will approve your application. Plus, you can get started with LMS in as little as 24 hours.
  • Great software. LMS offers the popular Authorize.net, one of the most secure payment tools on the market, as its payment gateway solution. You’ll also get fantastic pre-built shopping carts and a wide variety of integrations.
Read our comprehensive LMS review to learn more.

Pricing model Interchange-plus
Software included? Some basic software is included, the rest is available for an extra monthly fee
Additional fees
  • Chargebacks
  • PCI compliance/non-compliance
  • Authorize.net payment gateway
  • Other value-added services
  • Early termination fee
Transaction fees on cheapest plan ~2% + 0¢
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $9.00

2. PaymentCloud: Best Square Alternative for High-Risk Businesses

If your Square account was deactivated without warning, you’re not alone. Square doesn’t allow high-risk businesses on its network, and given its lack of underwriting, even mid-risk businesses can find themselves with no merchant account.

While many payment processors refuse to work with high-risk businesses, PaymentCloud welcomes them. Not only will you get a reliable merchant account, but PaymentCloud also offers tools to help you reduce your chargeback rate. It’s an invaluable feature if you work in industries where so-called “friendly” fraud is more common.

It’s worth noting that high-risk merchant accounts will likely pay higher rates than those charged by Square, while mid-risk rates are roughly equivalent. However, these elevated rates for high-risk businesses are fairly standard across the industry, and PaymentCloud’s high-risk pricing is some of the simplest I’ve come across.

Features and Benefits

  • Negotiable rates. Unlike Square, PaymentCloud encourages customers to negotiate rates when signing up. You can easily get a custom pricing plan that offers your business the best possible value.
  • Fraud prevention tools. PaymentCloud’s customizable fraud detection and prevention suite is well-suited to high-risk businesses. You’ll also get access to an account manager that can offer advice on preventing chargebacks and fraud.
  • Simple mobile payments. Not every business can afford to outfit workers in the field with mobile card readers. PaymentCloud’s solution is Paysley, which allows customers to pay using QR codes or custom links – no apps or additional hardware required.
  • Same-day onboarding. PaymentCloud aims to review all applications within one business day. Many get their new merchant account up and running on the day they apply.
Read our expert PaymentCloud review for more details.

Pricing model Interchange-plus
Software included? Some basic software is included, the rest is available for an extra monthly fee
Additional fees
  • Variable, including payment gateway fee and early termination fee
Transaction fees on cheapest plan Around 2.1% + 15¢
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $14.00

3. Stax: Best Square Alternative for Large Businesses

Although Square advertises itself as the ideal choice for all businesses, that’s far from the truth. Not only is the flat rate pricing not optimal, but Square’s per-location monthly pricing means that large businesses can end up spending more than the average for payment processing. This is where Stax comes in.

Thanks to its subscription-style pricing model, Stax offers up to 40% savings against Square’s pricing if you process $8000+ per month. While you’ll pay a larger flat monthly fee, Stax only charges the wholesale interchange fee plus a few cents per transaction. This wholesale interchange fee is set by card networks, and it’s the lowest price you’ll get from any payment processor.

You’ll also get all the software you need with your monthly fee – there’s no need to purchase additional expensive plans to cover all your business locations.

Features and Benefits

  • Custom pricing available. Every Stax plan allows you to process up to $500,000/year. If you process more than that, you can negotiate custom pricing to help you optimize your budget even more.
  • Unlimited devices. Unlike Square, Stax doesn’t limit how many devices you can use on its plans. Plus, Stax is compatible with 90% of third-party POS devices and will reprogram them for free.
  • Surcharging. This tool allows you to pass the per-transaction fee onto customers that pay by card. It’s a paid add-on, but it can save you quite a bit if you process a lot of credit card payments.
  • Quick payouts. Stax pays out in 24–72 hours as standard, but the timeframe can vary depending on the payment method. If you need your money paid out faster, Stax offers a same-day payment add-on for an extra fee.
See how you can save money in our expert Stax review.

Pricing model Subscription-style
Software included?
Additional fees
  • Chargebacks
  • Same-day funding
  • Digital gift cards
  • Two-way QuickBooks integration
  • Additional paid add-ons available
Transaction fees on cheapest plan 0% + 10¢ (in-person)
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $99.00

4. Payment Depot: Best Square Alternative for Mid-Sized Businesses

Once Square’s free features are no longer enough, it can be tempting to sign up for a Plus plan to avoid the hassle of switching. However, if you reach this point, Square has nothing left to offer you. For one dollar less per month than a Square Plus plan, you’ll get far more with Payment Depot.

Payment Depot is a subsidiary of Stax that was designed for small- to mid-sized enterprises. Its Starter plan is considerably cheaper than Stax’s Growth plan too, which makes it ideal if your budget is still limited. Like its parent company, Payment Depot doesn’t charge any interchange markups – just the wholesale rate and a few cents.

So, while you’ll be paying (roughly) the same as a Square Plus plan, you’ll be rewarded with a far lower per-transaction rate, helping you save a lot of money on your processing bill.

Features and Benefits

  • Software included. Like Stax, Payment Depot’s monthly fee includes all the software you need. On top of that, you get plenty of integrations with popular e-commerce tools like Shopify and OpenCart.
  • Free hardware. Payment Depot helps you get set up by offering a free Dejavoo terminal when you sign up. You can also use any third-party POS devices you might have with Payment Depot, too.
  • 24/7 fraud monitoring. Payment Depot’s 24/7 fraud monitoring team will protect your merchant account . This team closely monitors changes in bank policy and fraud methods to proactively implement solutions, helping keep your money and data safe.
  • Rapid onboarding. Unlike Square, you’ll need to apply and get approved to get your Payment Depot merchant account. However, this process can take as little as 24 hours, so you won’t have to wait long to switch.
See more great features in our in-depth Payment Depot review.

Pricing model Subscription-style
Software included?
Additional fees
  • Chargebacks
Transaction fees on cheapest plan 0% + 10¢ (in-person)
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $79.00

5. National Processing: Best Square Alternative for Small Businesses

One of Square’s greatest strengths is its pricing transparency, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept its expensive rates. National Processing is just as transparent, offering affordable rates perfect for small businesses. On top of clearly advertising all its rates, it offers plans tailored to specific business types, like restaurants and retail businesses. There’s even a handy calculator that’ll show you exactly how much you can expect to save by switching to National Processing.

Small businesses aren’t forced to sign a contract, giving them more freedom to find what works best for them. You can sign a long-term contract, and you’ll be rewarded with free hardware (depending on your plan) if you do. And while it comes with an early termination fee, this deal is quite flexible compared to the competition. Note you’ll only pay this fee if you don’t let National Processing try to meet or beat the competitor’s offer – and it’s completely waived if you close or sell your business.

Features and Benefits

  • Pricing options. On top of great interchange-plus plans, National Processing also offers subscription-style pricing and a cash discount plan. You’ve got plenty of options to find the pricing that saves your business the most money.
  • Software included. All the software you need is included with your subscription. While you can add other software tools (such as Clover), you don’t need to in order to support your business.
  • Fraud prevention. To protect against fraud, you can customize National Processing’s payment gateway to use AVS, CVV2, and specific restrictions like transaction thresholds and location monitoring.
  • 24/7 support. If you’ve been frustrated by your provider’s lack of support, National Processing offers a refreshing change. It offers 24/7 support via phone and email, and live chat during US business hours.
See more features in our comprehensive National Processing review.

Pricing model Interchange-plus, subscription-style, or cash discount
Software included?
Additional fees
  • Chargebacks
  • PCI compliance/non-compliance
  • Optional software upgrades
  • Early termination fee
Transaction fees on cheapest plan 0.14% + 7¢
Monthly fee on cheapest plan $9.95

Is Square a Budget-Friendly Option in 2023?

I can’t recommend Square for any business except brand-new or small enterprises. Its flat fee structure, while simple and affordable for the occasional transaction, becomes increasingly unaffordable as you start processing multiple transactions daily. Sure, you’ll receive a large assortment of software options on the “free” plan, but the monthly plans don’t offer enough additional features to make them worth the cost.

So, what are your alternatives?

If you have a small brick-and-mortar business, consider Leaders Merchant Services. LMS’s interchange-plus plan is cheaper than Square’s high flat fees. Plus it’s highly likely to approve your business, even if you’ve got limited to no financial history.

If your business is in a mid- to high-risk industry and you’re worried about your payment processor spontaneously canceling your account, PaymentCloud may be the solution. Not only does this processor welcome high-risk merchants, but it also has tools in place to help you reduce chargebacks and fraud.

For larger businesses, I recommend Stax. Stax’s simple subscription-style pricing with no interchange markups can save you a lot of money in the long run, particularly if you’re a high-volume merchant.

Here’s what you need to know about our top Square alternatives:

Pricing model Main advantage over Square Per transaction fee Monthly fee
Leaders Merchant Services Interchange-plus Negotiable interchange-plus pricing to suit your business ~2% + 0¢ $9.00
PaymentCloud Interchange-plus Reliable accounts for mid- and high-risk merchants that include advanced fraud and chargeback prevention tools Around 2.1% + 15¢ $14.00
Stax Subscription-style High-volume businesses can save up to 40% against Stripe’s pricing 0% + 10¢ (in-person) $99.00
Payment Depot Subscription-style Significantly lower per-transaction fees starting at the same monthly cost as Stripe Plus 0% + 10¢ (in-person) $79.00
National Processing Interchange-plus, subscription-style, and cash discount Flexible pricing plans and contract lengths to help small business find the best solution for them 0.14% + 7¢ $9.95


What percentage does Square take?

Square’s per-transaction fees start at 2.6% + 10¢ for card-present transactions, with higher rates for card-not-present and keyed-in transactions. Square’s per-transaction pricing is uncomfortably high due to its flat fee structure and lack of compulsory monthly fees.

Does Square have high fees?

Yes. Square charges more than most of our recommended payment processors. As simple as its flat fee structure is, it’s not a viable option for businesses that need to take payments regularly. Because of this, I recommend taking a look at our suggested Square alternatives instead. You’ll get a lot more for your money with another processor, regardless of your business type or size.

How much do you pay for Square POS?

Square’s POS software is free. However, some features (such as cross-location returns and product exchanges) are only available with Square’s Plus plans.

How do I accept payments on Square?

Square allows you to accept payments in-person, online, over the phone, and on your smartphone. Online and mobile payments are arguably the cheapest way to accept payments on Square, as you’ll get a mobile reader for free. You’ll need to pay for Square’s POS hardware to accept payments in person.

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