Square Online Payments Guide: How To Use Square’s Online Store, Checkout, & Other Tools
Square is best known for its little white card reader and sleek countertop terminal, but you also have quite a few ways to accept online payments with Square. I’ll walk you through some of Square’s recent updates that make eight ways to use Square for online payments — whether you have an online shop or not.
Before you get too excited about Square, it’s worth making the point that there’s no one-size-fits-all payment processor. Square is best suited for US-based businesses that plan to sell to US customers, process a fairly steady volume below $8K, and have a lower chargeback risk. If you’re not too familiar with Square yet, check out our full Square review so that you can find out for yourself if Square online payments are the best option for your business.
Table of Contents
- Why Use Square To Accept Online Payments?
- 8 Square Online Payment Processing Tools To Know About
- 1. Build A Free Square Store Online
- 2. Add Payment Buttons To Your Own Site With Square Checkout
- 3. Link Square Payments With A Shopping Cart
- 4. Create QR Codes For Self-Serve Checkouts
- 5. Launch Your Own Subscription Service
- 6. Sell On Social Media With Shoppable Posts & Buy Buttons
- 7. Get Paid Quicker With Square Invoices
- 8. Create A Custom Online Payments System With Square Connect APIs
- Are Square Online Payments Right For You?
Why Use Square To Accept Online Payments?
For an eCommerce store, an entrepreneur launching their online shop, or a local business looking to adapt to present safety concerns, Square provides a lot of tools. When it comes to payment processors, it can be difficult to find something as flexible as Square without extra fees. It’s common to be hit with early termination fees, monthly minimums, and other monthly fees, but you won’t find these with Square — and that can be a deciding factor for lots of small businesses.
The biggest draw for a small business to start accepting online payment with Square is just how many free tools you’ll find. We’ll explore these tools through this post, but first, here’s an overview of Square’s pros and cons when it comes to taking online payments.
- No monthly fees
- No long-term contracts
- Payment security included
- Fraud detection included
- Very transparent pricing
- Some inherent account stability with a third-party processor
- Real-time shipping calculator available only on the higher-tiered plan
- Limited customization
8 Square Online Payment Processing Tools To Know About
The list of ways to accept payments from your customers online is growing, as Square keeps adding free tools for its users. Square does have additional monthly services that you can add on for things such as booking and employee management, but often, you’ll find that the company still offers a free version of each that might suit a small business just fine.
Other than optional add-ons, you really only need to worry about payment processing fees. Here’s what you need to know about how much Square is going to cost you:
Square Online Payment Costs & Fees
Square offers a very transparent pricing structure. The fees for Square’s online payment processing are broken down by eCommerce and card-on-file transactions. Aside from processing fees, you won’t have any other monthly fees, security fees, or any other surprises. Here is what Square costs when you accept payments online.
Square’s fees for online processing are 2.9% + $0.30 and include:
- Square payment links
- Square Online Checkout (payment buttons, links, social posts, and QR codes)
- Customer pays on your website
- Invoices (payment details entered)
For transactions using a card saved on file, Square charges 3.5% + $0.15, and this includes:
- Recurring invoice payments
- Any type of payment using a card stored on file
- Subscription/recurring payments
Square recently introduced Square Pay, which you can now offer your customers at your Square site or Square Online Checkout process (e.g., payment link or payment button). Customers can opt to save their email, phone, address, and credit card number on file during their checkout process. For future orders, Square sends the customer a secure code via SMS to populate their payment details automatically. Shoppers will see an option to save their details and can check the box before completing the order if they want this option. Making this option available can reduce abandoned carts, as your customer fills in less information and finishes through the payment screen faster.
1. Build A Free Square Store Online
You can build a free Square website to suit many types of business models, including:
- Add stock for your retail shop
- Set up a restaurant website, take orders online, and offer curbside pickup and delivery options in checkout (Square charges an additional $0.50 per delivery order)
- Service-based businesses can offer online appointment booking with Square Appointments (free for one staff person, paid monthly subscription for two or more staffers)
- Nonprofit organizations can accept donations or recurring membership fees
Anyone who already has a Square account can easily set up Square Online and start accepting orders online. After selecting Online Store at your dashboard, you’ll go through a step-by-step process of choosing your template, adding your logo, and opting for the available fonts and colors. Your online shop syncs with Square POS, so your inventory automatically updates if you add any other software or connect your social media platforms.
Keep in mind that the free Square Online shop doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles of a custom domain, and you’ll be stuck with some of Square’s branding on your site, too. Here’s a shortlist of what you will get with Square Online:
- SSL security
- SEO tools
- Inventory management
- Sales coupons
- Google Pay and Apple Pay
- Accept Square gift cards
- Local delivery
- Instagram integration for shoppable posts
- Curbside and in-store pickup
- In-house and on-demand delivery
- Email marketing (basic templates are free)
Paid website plans start at $12/month and come with a free custom domain for one year. Below is a snapshot of Square’s website pricing:
2. Add Payment Buttons To Your Own Site With Square Checkout
If a full online presence is more than you need, you’ve got plenty more options. One of the easiest is to use Square Checkout — free with all accounts — to add a payment button or send a link to collect payment through Square.
This option is relatively new to Square, and we think it provides a lot more flexibility. You can copy and paste code to embed the payment button just about anywhere, including:
- In an email
- On your blog
- Include on a landing page
- On your existing non-Square site
- SMS text
- Social posts
The Square Online Checkout button and payment links are a great option for nonprofits to ask for donations or for businesses to highlight merchandise for sale — the sky is the limit.
3. Link Square Payments With A Shopping Cart
Whether you already have your site up and running, you are building your website from the ground up, or you simply want a little more freedom, you can integrate Square with a variety of shopping carts and eCommerce apps (without coding):
- Drupal Commerce
- Zen Cart
All of Square’s basic eCommerce features integrate with these apps, so you’ll be able to enjoy the same payment processing rates, security protection, and inventory updates as you sell. Of course, any platform you choose has its own specific feature-set and benefits, so you’ll probably want to check out reviews or try before you buy. Check out our post, The Best eCommerce Integrations That Work With Square Payments.
4. Create QR Codes For Self-Serve Checkouts
Recently, Square added a new function that you can start using with Square Online Checkout — QR codes for self-service ordering and checkouts. These unique QR codes were developed to help businesses set up self-serve options to reduce customer contact with your staff during social-distancing protocols. Instead of a QR code that just brings your shoppers to your order site, you can set up QR codes and tie them to tables, sections of your shop, zones outside for curbside delivery, a counter area, or any other way you think up.
Customers scan the QR code on a card you place at a specific station, then they can open up a menu or your inventory to place their order. The order ticket your team receives after it’s placed also displays the station ID so that your staff knows the difference between a true outbound delivery order and an order that needs to be delivered to a customer waiting in-house at a table, kiosk, or curbside.
5. Launch Your Own Subscription Service
Whether you’ve launched your subscription box or you have another type of product or service, all of you entrepreneurs with subscription-based businesses can now accept automatic recurring payments from your shoppers. You can access this feature from the Online Checkout menu. Here, you can set up your checkout link to accept payments (or donations for nonprofits), and you’ll click the toggle to allow customers to subscribe.
You can edit the billing cycle for weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual billing for your subscription payments. Once you create your unique checkout link, you simply copy and paste or post the link to your social networks. Customers can cancel their subscription easily at any time — but they’ll need to access their original confirmation email.
6. Sell On Social Media With Shoppable Posts & Buy Buttons
You can create shoppable posts on Instagram and other social platforms with Square in two different ways. If you have a Square Online site set up already, you can connect your product library to your Instagram account, which syncs your inventory and makes your posts shoppable.
However, if you don’t have a website with Square Online, you can still create shoppable posts with your product inventory with Square Online Checkout. You’ll use the same process outlined in the previous section when it comes to setting up your payment link. You’ll create the link where customers can pay for your item and then share it in your bio or a shoppable Instagram post. Keep in mind that you’ll need to set up an Instagram Business account to make your individual posts shoppable, however. We walk you through the process of selling on Instagram in our post, How To Sell On Instagram With Shoppable Posts.
7. Get Paid Quicker With Square Invoices
If you are looking for something more traditional in terms of collecting payments for services rendered, Square Invoices is accessible right from your dashboard, and it doesn’t cost extra to send. Here are a few quick facts about Square Invoices:
- Send immediately or schedule for a specific day (can also set an invoice to repeat)
- Take a one-time payment, or your customer can approve automatic recurring billing
- Inventory automatically syncs for updated stock counts
- Square Estimates lets your customer approve pricing and description of services
- Track invoices from your dashboard
- Set up and send payment reminders
To find out about more features with this service, check out How To Use Square Invoices To Ensure You Get Paid On Time.
8. Create A Custom Online Payments System With Square Connect APIs
If you already have a site and want to start taking payments through Square, you could opt for Square’s hosted checkout option. Right before payment, your customers will get redirected to finish making their purchase on a page hosted by Square.
If you want more control over branding and don’t want your customers clicking off your site or you need in-app payments, however, you can use Square’s free developer platform:
- Interactive API Explorer
- Full sandbox environment
- Live event monitoring
- Back-end SDKs (PHP, Ruby, Java, .Net, Python, Node)
- Secure payment SDKs (iOS, Android, React Native, Flutter)
- End-to-end encryption
- Dispute management included
- Fraud detection
If you’re just interested in perusing what platforms work best with Square, check out The Best eCommerce Integrations That Work With Square Payments.
Are Square Online Payments Right For You?
For a business owner who wants to take more contactless payments and let their customers shop and purchase with their phones, Square online payments offer many ways to do it. Setting up an account is very easy, and approval is nearly immediate. There’s a lot to like about Square: costs are easy to understand and competitive, you won’t have set-up fees or security fees — and you can take American Express and contactless payments without paying more.
Being free of all of these additional fees is a big deal because it helps a business owner lower payment processing costs and quickly set up an account, but Square is not without risks. Square is a third-party processor, just like Stripe, PayPal, and Shopify, which means you won’t have an individual merchant account like you would with a traditional payment processor. This type of model could lead to some account stability problems for certain types of businesses. However, the truth is that anyone who processes payments has these risks and can learn how to protect their business from them for more peace of mind — see our post on how to avoid account holds, freezes, and terminations.
To learn more about Square and why we rate them highly, check out our full Square review. For those who are starting an online shop, you also might want to check out Shopify VS Square: Which Is Better?