Square is a big name in the world of payment processing. It’s easy to sign up and begin processing payments right away. However, while Square’s simple flat-fee pricing draws many merchants in, its poor customer support often drives them away.
Free mobile reader, 4 devices available to purchase
Payments methods accepted
Credit and debit cards, digital wallets
48 hours as standard. Optional same-day payout
Monthly (no cancellation fees)
Phone and email support available Monday – Friday (24/7 on some plans)
PCI-compliant, end-to-end encryption, tokenization, two-factor authentication, handles PCI compliance for you
Square Isn’t Perfect, but It Gets Many Things Right
Square can help all kinds of businesses accept payments, from traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores to large e-commerce shops. Signing up for a new merchant account only takes about 3 minutes and is completely free.
That’s because there are no contracts or monthly subscriptions for Square. Its per transaction fees start at 2.5% + 10¢, fluctuating based on how payments are received and processed. Naturally, this pricing model is more beneficial to those with a small to medium volume of sales proceeds. If you’re making tens of thousands of dollars every month, a subscription model like the one offered by Stax will likely cost you less.
Square also offers several hardware and software solutions, ranging from card readers and registers to reporting and integrated management tools.
That said, many customer reviews raise concerns about Square’s customer support. Are the low fees worth the trouble? Read on to find out if Square is the right merchant services provider for your business.
Square’s Set of Features Is Quite Impressive
Square Payments is all about receiving and processing payments as quickly and painlessly as possible. Even on its free plan, Square includes useful features (e.g. next-day transfers, business checking accounts) that other merchant services providers charge a premium for.
Whether you’re in retail or looking to sell products online, Square’s diverse array of tools can help you succeed.
Free Mobile Reader for Your Business
Once you sign up with Square, you can have a free mobile credit card reader mailed to your business. This tiny device connects to your headphone jack (for Android devices) or your Lightning port (for Apple’s iPhones and tablets) and allows you to accept credit card payments from virtually anywhere – as long as you’ve also installed the free Square Point of Sale app on your device.
The Square Reader is small enough to fit in your pocket, doesn’t have a battery, and can process Swipe payments even when the WiFi’s down. Each additional card reader will cost you $10. That’s a great deal by any metric.
Square sells a wide variety of other hardware. This includes a compact contactless and chip reader, a fully-featured card terminal, and a dual-screen POS register with all the necessary software. If after receiving your equipment you decide you no longer need it, you can get a refund by returning all or part of your order within 30 days of shipment.
E-commerce Tools for Any Business
I have to admit I’m pretty impressed with Square’s e-commerce tools and capabilities. If you’ve ever wanted to sell your products online but didn’t know where to start, you’ll appreciate the various ways that Square simplifies the process.
Square lets you:
Create and launch an online store for free with Square Online. You can choose from a wide range of highly polished website designs that fit your business’s profile (e.g., retail, restaurant, services, non-profit).
Add payments to your existing site with easy integrations. By connecting to Square’s secure platform, you can accept online and app payments. If you need help to set up the API for your e-commerce experience, Square can connect you with a certified software agency.
Sell your products online without a website. Square creates links (or buy buttons/QR codes) that you can share through social media or email so your customers can pay with just the click of a button. This is ideal for donations, online services, memberships, and subscriptions.
There are no additional costs for any of these services, which is quite impressive. That said, Square does charge slightly more for online transactions (2.9% + 30¢).
Various Payment Methods and Instant Payout
Square works with any US-issued and most internationally-issued magstripe or chip cards bearing a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, JCB, or UnionPay logo. If you’re setting up online payments, you can also connect with PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, After Pay, and Cash App Pay.
It normally takes 1-2 business days for your daily earnings to reach your external bank account. However, you can expedite payouts with Square’s recurrent same-day service, which costs 1.5% per transfer and automatically sends your daily earnings to your connected bank account 15 minutes after your close of day.
For even faster access to your money, you can initiate instant transfers at the same rate (1.5%) up to $10,000 per transfer. Daily or weekly payouts do not have transfer limits.
Small Business Checking Account
Square also offers instant access to your sales proceeds through an FDIC-insured business checking account. You can sign up in just a few minutes, and there’s no tiresome paperwork or credit check to worry about.
This account doesn’t have the usual fees associated with other bank accounts – like monthly and overdraft fees – and it easily integrates with your Square account to give you instant access to your money.
Ease of use
Quick and Painless Onboarding for All Kinds of Businesses
One of the main reasons Square is so popular is its easy onboarding process. Anyone can sign up for a free Square account and start accepting payments the same day – no approval needed.
Getting Started with Square
To start selling with Square, all you have to do is create an account and provide some basic information about your business. Once you receive your free reader, you’ll be ready to accept payments immediately. The onboarding process is even quicker if you sell products and services online.
That said, being able to open an account so quickly is a double-edged sword. A few Square reviews tell horror stories about unexpected account terminations. You see, Square makes it easy for merchants to join, but it tends to freeze “suspicious” payments and hold funds just as easily. To avoid any headaches, make sure you take the time to complete your profile before you begin taking payments.
Integrations and APIs
It’s easy to connect Square with some of the biggest website builders and e-commerce platforms, including WordPress, Wix, WooCommerce, Ecwid, and Shopify. Square also integrates with accounting platforms like ZohoBooks and QuickBooks, as well as email marketing platforms like Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign.
Alternatively, you can also use one of the many payment APIs to connect Square with your current website (or you can have a software agency do it for you). Square’s API can also help you manage customer refunds, disputes, and credit card information. You can find more information about how APIs work and what they do with Square’s helpful step-by-step setup guides.
Advanced Business Software
Square offers various free business tools and services designed to help you run and grow your business:
Dashboard & reporting – Provides a quick overview of your total sales, as well as real-time data and valuable customer insights.
Team management – Free scheduling and time-tracking software that allows you to create and publish employee shifts via email or the mobile app.
App marketplace – Free plans and trials are available for many apps and integrations, such as ShipStation, Setmore, Mailchimp, and Wix.
Aside from these free tools, other paid software solutions include employee and contractor payroll apps, gift cards, a loyalty program, and an affordable email marketing platform (starting at $15/month).
Transparent Pricing That Makes Sense
Square is very transparent with its fees. Merchants only need to pay a small percentage plus a few cents for every transaction processed through Square. There are no compulsory subscriptions, monthly fees, or hidden PCI fees, and rates stay the same so you’ll always know your bottom line.
Here’s a list of Square’s processing fees:
In-person and mobile card payments:2.5% + 10¢ per transaction.
Invoiced and online payments:2.9% + 30¢ per transaction
Recurring billing and card-on-file transactions: 3.5% + 15¢ per transaction
Keyed-in payments and card-not-present: 3.5% + 15¢ per transaction
Virtual terminal transactions: 3.5% + 15¢ per transaction
ACH bank transfers: 1% ($1 minimum transaction)
Retail businesses can unlock better rates with Square’s Plus plan, which is 2.5% + 10¢ per transaction and has a $60 monthly software fee per location. It includes advanced inventory management tools (for retail) and advanced team management and reporting tools (for restaurants). It’s worth noting that the Plus plan for restaurants charges a slightly higher markup on transactions (2.6% + 30¢).
In addition to a free plan, Square also offers three different paid plans for online merchants. These plans include a custom domain, customer review integration, abandoned cart recovery, and a real-time shipping calculator.
Custom pricing packages (which include advanced software solutions) are available to businesses processing over $250,000 in credit card sales.
Square’s pricing model might not be the cheapest, but at least it’s honest and straightforward. It’s also ideal if you want to avoid paying the high monthly fees charged by many other credit card processors. Still, most businesses stand to save significantly with an affordable flat-fee subscription model like Stax’s.
Compliance & Security
Square Is PCI Compliant and Offers Plenty of Security Features
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) ensures that customer credit card information is accepted, processed, and stored in the safest way possible. Square is, of course, PCI compliant, and you can rest assured it will keep your sensitive data secure.
PCI Compliance & More
If you use Square to process and store your customers’ card data, you don’t need to validate your state of compliance – Square takes care of PCI compliance for you.
That’s because Square is the merchant of record for every transaction. In other words, it deals with the banks on your behalf for all compliance, regulation, and processing matters. Best of all,Square satisfies all parts of your PCI requirements without charging a fee.
Square is also California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) compliant and has been implementing the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) since its establishment in 2018.
Additional Security Features
All of Square’s software is PCI compliant, and its devices come with end-to-end encryption out of the box – no configuration is required.
Square’s integrated payment system also provides end-to-end encryption for all transactions made at the POS terminal. Square’s servers store customer information using tokenization, a mathematically irreversible encryption system that replaces sensitive details with stand-in tokens.
To protect merchant accounts from fraud and keep hackers out, Square uses 2-step verification and even lets you control who can access your account with advanced employee permissions.
Hard to Reach as a Customer, Impossible to Reach as a Non-customer
Square can answer questions via phone or email, but its phone support team is notoriously hard to reach. Every time you call, you first need to obtain a customer code and then dial in. This means that if your account has been unexpectedly terminated, you won’t be able to reach Square.
As a potential customer, I could only contact Square through an online form. I submitted my request but never received a response. Apparently, my small business wasn’t important enough for Square’s sales team. At least it’s free to sign up for a merchant account, which seems to be a prerequisite for any kind of contact with Square.
Unfortunately, things don’t get much better once you become a member of the Square Payments family of merchants. Many unsatisfied reviews come from merchants who signed up with Square but soon found that their accounts had been terminated and funds frozen for no apparent reason. Once that happens, communicating with Square becomes a Herculean task.
It’s worth noting that customer support is only available from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. That’s unless you’re on the Plus or Premium restaurant plan, in which case you’ll get access to 24/7 customer support.
How does Square Payments match up to the competition?
Setting up a merchant account with Square is free and easy. Businesses can choose from various hardware and software solutions to simplify their payment processing and cash flow management. And as far as pricing goes, Square’s flat-fee model is a breath of fresh air in an industry filled with hidden charges and deceptive fees.
Square’s biggest drawback, however, is its lackluster customer support. Yes, there’s a huge knowledge base filled with helpful information, but reaching the support team is a lot harder than it should be. For a processor that combines an extensive knowledge base with excellent customer support channels, Stax is a great and affordable alternative.
Here’s a quick summary of Square:
Transparent pricing with optional monthly fees
Start accepting payments instantly
Handles PCI compliance for you
Higher-than-average per-transaction fees
Difficult to contact support
Does Square charge a monthly fee?
No, there are no compulsory monthly fees with Square. You also don’t have to worry about other hidden charges often associated with merchant services providers (e.g., PCI compliance fees). That said, paid plans are available, and they come with reduced processing fees and access to advanced software tools.
Is Square’s free plan any good?
Square’s free plan is convenient and completely transparent. All you have to do is sign up for a Square merchant account, and you’ll receive a free mobile card reader. If you’re running an online shop, you’ll be able to accept payments as soon as you’ve set up your account. For more great free plans, check out our list of the best credit card processors in 2023.
How much is Square’s processing fee?
Square’s default fee for brick-and-mortar businesses on its free plan is set at 2.5% + 10¢ per transaction. For online payments, it’s 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction, and for all other types of payments (e.g., recurring, keyed-in, card-on-file, card-not-present), Square charges 3.5% + 10¢ per transaction.
What payments can I take with Square?
Square works with most magstripe and chip cards bearing a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, JCB, or UnionPay logo. If you’re setting up payments for an online business, you can also connect with PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, After Pay, and Cash App Pay.
Alex is a linguistics nerd who’s got nothing against the Oxford comma. He spends most of his time writing, looking up words, and playing video games. He also enjoys testing software, often sharing his thoughts and ideas here on Website Planet.