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Square POS Review [2024]: Popular but Does It Really Deliver?

Ivana Shteriova Ivana Shteriova Finance Specialist

Catering to restaurants, retail stores, and appointment-based businesses, Square POS is one of the most popular systems on the market – no doubt in part because of its generous free plan, packed with features that are normally found behind paywalls. While Square POS works for most businesses, online-first and omnichannel businesses might find more robust support elsewhere.

Overview

POS equipment Free mobile reader, one reader for contactless and chip, register, terminal, and stand, and additional accessories available for purchase
Payment methods accepted Credit and debit cards, digital wallets, buy now, pay later (BNPL)
Payout times Next business day
Contract length Monthly (no cancellation fees)
Customer support Free plan: Monday to Friday, 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (PST) via phone
Paid plans: 24/7 support via phone
Security Level 1 PCI compliant, end-to-end encryption, active fraud prevention, account takeover protection, dispute management, tokenization, two-factor authentication

Free POS Solutions for Small Businesses and Affordable for Everyone Else

Square POS for restaurants, retail, and appointments
Square offers a POS solution for almost every business

Square’s user-friendly POS system is a great fit for many industries, including restaurants, retail, and appointment-based businesses. Square’s hardware is just as versatile and affordable, with solutions for everything from multi-location enterprises to business owners that take the occasional in-person payment.

Square is one of few POS platforms that offers a free plan. The free plan includes a card reader for magstripe payments, meaning you can get a solid, fully functional POS system at zero cost. You’ll only pay processing fees when you take payments through your POS device or online. You can even create a free e-commerce shop. With so many freebies, Square is ideal for small businesses on a budget.

Square’s paid plan is full of advanced features that large businesses will find beneficial, like robust inventory management and reporting. That said, businesses that primarily operate online or through multiple channels may discover that other alternatives offer more comprehensive support. This includes a greater variety of POS devices, more cross-channel shopping options, and advanced multichannel inventory management tools.

While the free Square Point of Sale app is available worldwide, Square’s native payment solution only supports processing in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, the UK, Ireland, France, and Spain.

Square accepts some types of high-risk businesses – but after reading dozens of complaints about sudden account terminations during my research, I wouldn’t recommend Square to any high-risk business.

I evaluated Square on features, pricing, support, and more. Keep reading to see if it’s right for your business and how it stacks up against the competition.

4.6

Features

Many Features Available for Free and Great Premium Capabilities

Though it also offers comprehensive features for most retail stores, some large businesses might find alternative POS platforms that can provide more nuanced features. Some of these include the ability to attribute sales to employees for commission or employee review and discount reports that show you exactly how each promotion performs.

The good news is that Square does excel in other areas. For restaurants, this includes providing robust features like online ordering and kitchen management. It also streamlines operations for appointment businesses with the Square Appointments scheduling software.

Overall, Square POS presents a broad range of functionalities suitable for various business types, and it’s pretty impressive how many of those are free.

Affordable Hardware and Flexible Software for Every Business

Square POS hardware
Square offers a range of individual devices, kits, and accessories for every POS need

Square offers various POS hardware like terminals, registers, and readers, with usually one model per category. It’s not as varied as some of its competitors, but its devices are pretty versatile and can suit different needs.

The hardware is affordable, making it ideal for businesses on a budget. You’ll get a free magstripe reader for handheld devices regardless of your plan. Additionally, each extra reader costs just $10, a price unmatched in the industry. You can also rent Square’s hardware, but the minimum rental includes four iPads with Square Stands or Square Readers, which may not be suitable or required for your business.

Square’s flexible POS software is an all-in-one solution that lets you manage inventory, staff, customer engagement, and operations from one place.

The free Square Point of Sale app is compatible with iOS and Android and available in a few languages. Like other competitors, it lacks support for Windows and Mac. Still, you can wirelessly connect your PC with a Square terminal and use it as a POS. Square POS can also process offline payments if you reconnect your terminal within 24 hours of the original transaction time, although you won’t be able to recoup any payments made via debit card.

Robust and Customizable POS Solution for All Types of Restaurants

Square POS restaurant features
Square’s restaurant POS solution offers features for all types of food service businesses

Square’s POS system caters to a variety of restaurants, including bars, breweries, and both casual and full-service establishments. Fast food restaurants, for instance, can benefit from quick order entry and QR code self-service. Full-service restaurants have access to tools for floor customization and course management, which is crucial for faster table turnover and a smooth dining experience.

You can personalize your Square POS with 100+ integrations for restaurants. This includes integrations with Uber Eats for online orders, OpenTable for reservations, and tools like Craftable for inventory and ingredient management to aid in cost control and waste reduction.

I also find Square’s built-in kitchen management tools quite impressive. You can create custom ticket names, track prep times, route orders to the right stations, and more to ensure maximum operational efficiency. In a nutshell, Square’s restaurant POS features can compete even with POS software focused exclusively on restaurants.

Standard Retail POS Features but Plenty Essentials Available for Free

Square POS retail features
Square POS unifies inventory management across sales channels and locations

You can sell in person, online, on social media, and across multiple locations, making Square ideal for budget-conscious omnichannel businesses. It’s important to note that some alternatives, like Shopify, offer more robust omnichannel features and more advanced inventory management tools. Still, Square’s free plan remains unmatched.

Square stands out by providing many inventory management features for free, something typically only available on higher-tier plans with services like Shopify. The free plan includes low-stock alerts, options for in-store pickups and delivery, and synced inventory across channels – more than enough features to run a successful retail store. You can upgrade if you need more capabilities like on-the-go inventory counting and advanced stock forecasts.

You can also track employee time directly through your Square Register or the Square Team app. Square POS simplifies staff management by allowing role assignment and passcode security. You can use these features for free if you run a small retail business with up to five staff members.

Build a Free E-commerce Store and Get Booked Online

Square stands out among POS providers with its free Square Online site builder, which is sufficient for creating a basic e-commerce website. You can also sell online without a site by using Square’s Online Checkout links. You can customize these links and send them via social media, email, and text.

You can also build custom studio-quality catalogs with the in-app Square Photo Studio tool and distribute them across all your sales channels or use them to assist customers on the sales floor. This is particularly useful for home goods and furniture stores.

For restaurants, Square Online promotes personalized ordering experiences with order history, recommendations, and easy reordering options. You can let customers order from anywhere, including social media. Customers can open your order page from a phone icon, resembling an app, for increased convenience.

Square provides free comprehensive scheduling software tailored for service and appointment-based businesses. Square Appointments allows online prepayment collection, promoting income stability and reducing the number of no-shows. The appointment software also eliminates double bookings and sets automated appointment reminders for clients.

Instant Payouts

Square Payments is Square’s proprietary payment processing solution and accepts credit and debit cards, digital wallets, gift cards, and buy-now-pay-later options. Square Payments offers next-day funding as standard, a feature that usually costs extra elsewhere.

Unlike some competitors, Square doesn’t obligate you to use its native payment solution. Even with the free plan, you can integrate third-party payment solutions without extra fees. However, you can only select a payment processor listed on the Square App Marketplace. That may prove problematic if you’re on a contract with a processor that doesn’t integrate with Square or find the options too expensive for your business.

5.0

Ease of use

Very Intuitive and User-Friendly

Square POS offers an easy and quick start. There’s no vetting process, allowing immediate setup after registration. The onboarding process is user-friendly and streamlined. This makes it a great fit for businesses seeking fast integration into daily business operations.

Getting Started With Square POS

Square POS software
Square POS is so easy to use that even beginners can start using it right away

To start using Square POS, simply sign up for a free account on Square’s website. You must provide personal and essential business information and your email address or phone number. Square will then send you a link to download the Square POS app on your smartphone or tablet.

You must also enter personal and business details to create an account and activate the app. As an iOS user, I had the Setup Guide to help me. Unfortunately, this isn’t available for Android users, but the process is straightforward even without it. More guidance is available from Square’s comprehensive Square Point of Sale Guide, accessible from its Support Center.

You can begin accepting payments right away through manual entry, Tap to Pay on iPhone, or simply by using the app. You can also visit the Square Shop to purchase additional hardware.

Accounting Integrations

Square integrates seamlessly with Intuit QuickBooks and Xero, making it easy to import Square transactions into your accounting software. Although not unique to Square, this integration unifies sales and financial tracking.

You’ll be able to streamline the administrative process by automatically importing sales into your accounting software. From there, you can itemize and break down transactions by tips, sales tax, discounts, and taxes, review invoices and receipts, and reconcile your transactions with just a click.

Access Valuable Insights From Your Square Dashboard

Square POS dashboard
You can easily run your entire business and oversee your company’s performance from Square’s dashboard

The Square dashboard, also accessible via the app, offers a comprehensive, user-friendly platform to manage your business operations. Square Analytics lets you access detailed reports to track sales, view trends, and monitor customer interactions. You’ll gain real-time insights into top-selling products, sales trends, refunds, and overall financial performance.

These insights assist you in making informed decisions, identifying growth areas, and optimizing your operations without spending hours assembling data from various channels.

Square’s POS system also includes a free customer relationship management (CRM) tool, enabling customer profile creation, spending habit tracking, and email contact collection for future marketing engagements. Premium users can send promotional messages and manage loyalty programs through the Square Dashboard.

4.9

Pricing

Generous Free Plan and Affordably Priced Premium Plan

The free plan centers around transaction fees without monthly costs. The per-transaction fees are 2.6% + 10 ¢ (in-person), 2.9% + 30 ¢ (online), 3.5% + 15 ¢ (manually entered), and 3.3% + 30¢ (invoices), which are comparable to competing payment processing fees. The absence of a monthly fee makes Square attractive for businesses with unstable transaction volumes or limited budgets.

For retail businesses seeking advanced inventory tools, reporting, and more, Square offers the Retail Plus plan at $89.00/month per location. For complex restaurant businesses needing features such as course management, mobile POS, and live sales reporting, Square offers the Restaurant Plus plan for $60.00/month per location. It includes one countertop device per location with discounted rates for each additional countertop device.

Square’s restaurant and retail premium plans are competitively priced, typically coming in lower or similar to what other POS solutions charge for comparable features. Square offers custom pricing for its Premium plan, exclusive to businesses that process $250,000+ per year. Additionally, Square’s hardware is very reasonably priced, and the free reader might save you from investing in equipment altogether.

On top of the free plan, Square provides affordable subscriptions for its scheduling software, starting at $29/month. At a low cost, you can get à la carte add-ons such as Square Loyalty, Square Marketing, and Square Payroll. Uniquely, Square doesn’t charge chargeback fees – even when you lose a dispute.

With its generous free plan, Square POS stands as one of the most affordable and versatile POS systems for various business types and sizes.

5.0

Compliance & Security

Square Handles PCI Compliance For You and Offers Plenty of Security Features

Square employs robust compliance and security features, including PCI compliance, encryption, and fraud monitoring. These measures ensure a high level of security for merchants and customers.

PCI Compliance & More

Square POS PCI compliance
As the merchant of record, Square takes care of PCI compliance for you

Square handles PCI compliance for you. This means you don’t have to validate your compliance individually or pay any PCI compliance fees.

Square also meets other industry standards with certifications such as ISO 27001, an internationally recognized information security management standard.

If you collect or process the personal data of EU residents, you need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Square offers resources to help ensure you comply with these regulations.

Additional Security Features

Square employs end-to-end encryption and tokenization, among other measures. Additionally, you can set different access levels for employees, ensuring only authorized personnel access sensitive information and administrative features across your Square POS devices and software. Your account is also protected with two-step authentication.

Furthermore, Square offers free software powered by machine learning to detect and mitigate fraudulent activities related to online payments. Square Risk Manager offers risk alerts, fraud evaluations, visual analytics for detecting fraud trends, and customizable fraud management tools for personalizing payment processing rules.

4.0

Customer Support

Surprisingly Helpful Despite Past Bad Reputation

You can reach Square by phone, email, and live chat. For those on a free plan, Square’s customer support is available Monday to Friday, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Plus or Premium users receive 24/7 customer support.

Square live chat support conversation
Square’s live agent went straight to the point

I had a mostly positive experience getting in touch with Square’s support despite experiencing difficulties in the past. I connected with an agent via Square’s live chat within six minutes, and it took the agent five more minutes to verify my account – not spectacular, but not bad either.

Square live chat support conversation
The agent’s answers were worth the wait

The agent took some time to answer my questions, resulting in about five minutes per response for half of my inquiries, so the conversation stretched to almost an hour. In her defense, I repeated the same questions in different forms, seeking additional verification. (That’s because I know processors often have hidden fees.)

Square customer support email
I never heard from the Capital Hardware Installments team

I also emailed Square and received a response the next day that my inquiry was transferred to another team, but I never received an answer.

It’s important to note that if Square terminates your account for whatever reason, reaching support is nearly impossible. High-risk merchants are more likely to get blocked without warning, so I don’t recommend signing up for Square if you operate in a high-risk industry.

Square has one of the best knowledge bases in the industry. Its Support Center contains helpful product guides, troubleshooting tips, and how-to articles with video tutorials hosted on YouTube. Alternatively, you can go straight to the Square YouTube channel, which is among the most active in the industry and features more videos than any competitor.

Moreover, Square provides quick access to resources from the Square POS app or your terminal or register, including in-app video tutorials. As a popular POS provider, Square also has a bustling Seller Community where you can get help from fellow business owners.

Comparison

How does Square POS match up to the competition?

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Epos NowCompareOur Score4.4Compare

Square POS REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE

Square POS stands out for its generous free plan. The absence of a monthly fee and the complimentary free reader make Square an attractive option for budget-conscious small businesses with simple needs.

Square’s free plan is surprisingly suitable for businesses of all kinds, including brick-and-mortar, omnichannel, or those that rely on seasonal operations. However, online-first and multichannel sellers might find more robust support elsewhere.

 Mid-sized to large retail, restaurant, and appointment businesses will need a premium subscription. Given the value packed in Square’s premium subscription, especially in advanced reporting, you will benefit from upgrading, even as a small business.

Here’s where Square POS excels and where it lags.
Pros Cons
  • Comprehensive free plan
  • Free features including card reader, e-commerce store, and appointment scheduling software
  • Competitively priced POS devices
  • Takes care of PCI compliance for you
  • Not suitable for high-risk merchants
  • Limited third-party payment solutions

FAQ

Can Square POS work offline?

Yes, Square POS can work offline. Square POS stores offline transactions and processes them automatically when you reconnect. However, you’ll only be able to recover transactions made within 24 hours after the first offline transaction or loss of connectivity, depending on your hardware.

Does Square POS work with Shopify?

There isn’t a native way to connect Square POS and Shopify, but some third-party apps can enable you to consolidate Square and Shopify data and manage your inventory from one dashboard. This means managing your inventory from a third-party dashboard, potentially sacrificing helpful inventory and reporting features from Square. These apps can also incur additional costs, meaning they aren’t the most cost-effective solutions.

Where can I buy Square POS?

You can purchase Square POS hardware and accessories directly from Square’s site or any of its authorized resellers. Physical retail stores that carry Square devices include Best Buy, Staples, Target, Walmart, Office Depot, OfficeMax, and Sam’s Club. Additionally, online marketplaces, such as Amazon, sell Square hardware products.

Is Square POS free?

The Square Point of Sale app is free to download and use. The basic version of the app offers limited features but has no monthly fees and is ideal for small retail, restaurant, and service-based businesses. Square also mails a free card reader to your business. However, Square imposes transaction fees for payment processing. Subscribing to a premium plan or buying more hardware will also incur additional costs.
Ivana Shteriova Ivana Shteriova
Ivana is a full-time content writer and expert reviewer passionate about tech, finance, business, and too many other things to name. After getting her bachelor’s degree in Economics, she decided to ditch a career in accounting and turn her passion into a full-time writing affair. You can find her listening to finance podcasts, reading self-help books, glamming up, and rocking bold outfits. She’s also advocating for animal welfare and women’s rights.
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