Everything You Need To Know About Using Square Online Payment Processing For Your Business
If you need a simple and accessible way to take payments, keep orders moving, and make it easy for your customers to buy from you, then keep reading. In this post, I’m going to show you why I think Square offers one of the best ways you can experiment with online selling, and it brings along plenty of room for growth when you’re ready, too.
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Why Use Square To Accept Online Payments?
For a startup company or a small business that may only process several thousand dollars a month (or less), it can be nearly impossible to find something flexible that doesn’t require a long-term commitment. Early termination fees, monthly minimums, and other surprise fees are standard with traditional merchant accounts. While these fees may not even make a dent in a medium-sized company, it can be detrimental to the bottom line of a small business.
Not only do we like Square for its simplicity and ease of setting up, but the back-end tools offered within the platform are something you won’t find anywhere else. Square is built for small businesses but also to scale, with CRM tools that sync up with reporting and other Square tools, options to store cards on file, set up recurring billing, chargeback protection, built-in payment security, and advanced inventory management. And there’s still more, but in this post, the focus is just for those who need to start taking payments online with Square. First, let’s talk about cost.
Square Online Payment Costs & Fees
Through your Square Online Store, you can take all major credit cards, including American Express, as well as Google Pay and Apple Pay for a 2.9% plus $0.30 per-transaction fee. At your Square Dashboard, you’ll need to adjust checkout options under Settings to accept Google Pay and/or Apple Pay and to enable online orders.
So how can you get a Square site, you ask? You have several ways to get there, and I’ll walk you through your options in the next sections. If you typically don’t deal with online ordering and are just looking for a quick way to get pickup or delivery going at your restaurant or store, I’ll also show you how to quickly get that up and running, whether you have your own site or not!
Build A Free Square Store Online
Square’s free online store offers impeccable value and features if you’re willing to be okay with a subdomain that’s hosted by Square. It will look something like this: yourbusiness.square.site.
Again, there are no monthly or one-off fees to get this free Square option set up, and the company offers a nice deck of features, including:
- Local delivery and curbside pickup options
- Instagram integration for shoppable posts
- Auto syncing with Square POS inventory
- Acceptance of Square gift cards
- Accept Google and Apple Pay
- Sales coupons
- Inventory management
- Simple SEO tools
- SSL security
- PCI compliance
- Templates and design options
Not too bad for the free option, but keep in mind the processing fees for taking payments online are a bit higher than in-person transactions. However, you still don’t need to worry about separate fees for security, shopping cart software, or any other monthly software fees on top of that.
All of the Square Online Store tiers, including the free version, are powered by Square Payments and Weebly. After creating a Square account, you can go back into your dashboard and select “Online Store” in the left-hand menu. Then, Square leads you through the process of selecting the categories that most closely apply to your business. You’ll get a suggested template, but you can choose a different one if something else catches your eye. You can also add your logo, choose from limited fonts, and have some color choices, but overall, the design freedom here is limited to the template itself.
Again, for being free, there isn’t much to complain about. A free Square store is one of the simplest solutions to get your shop up and running. All you need to do is add your products — your eCommerce shop syncs with Square POS and all of the other Square software and tools. Your inventory automatically updates when you sell an item, too.
One potential drawback to the freemium option, however, is that you are bound to the Weebly logo in your domain name and the footer of your website, plus your shipping options are minimal. If you want a bit more customization and dynamic shipping calculations (among other upgrades), you can purchase a domain and upgrade to a professional or premium account through Weebly (more on that later).
In the next sections, we are going to look at the newer features that Square has released: curbside pickup and delivery functions for all merchants. Below, we’ll walk you through how to enable one (or both) of these in your Square Online Store. Whether you’re in the food industry or you are adapting to the needs of your customers, let’s see how to add these options!
Setting Up Curbside Pickup
The Square Online Store already offers online orders for in-store pickup with no monthly fee, but this new feature has more information fields specific to curbside pickup. Square is also currently developing more features within this option, so we expect to see these features change. Square Support has said some of the newer features may (or may not) end up behind a paywall. It’s all speculative at this point and entirely consistent with Square’s relentless testing and improving features. There’s always something new to explore with Square. Sometimes it adjusts prices up or down with add-on features — it’s just something I’ve come to expect. Regardless of what Square ends up rolling out, all options will be available to peruse in your dashboard as they are released, so check it out and see what’s available.
Here’s how you can enable curbside pickup for your business:
- Select Online Store in your Square Dashboard
- Sync inventory
- Create categories if needed
- Set your prep time for pickup
- Set your pickup hours
- Provide instructions to customers on how your process works
- To let your customers add a tip for curbside delivery, head up to the Edit Pickup Setting button highlighted in the above image at the top right-hand corner
Remember that with your free Square site, you’ll be on a Square subdomain. If you already have an existing website you like and want to try Square’s free option just for ordering, one workaround is to add a button to your site that links to your Square Store subdomain for ordering and payments. In future sections, we will talk about more website options.
Adding Local Delivery Options For Your Square Store
Square’s new delivery feature allows your customers to select delivery at checkout and receive delivery text alerts. As with curbside pickup, you’ll first have to set up your Square Online Store. You’ll find the Online Store at your Square Dashboard and follow the prompts. Once you’re at your Square Online Store Dashboard, you’ll select Settings >> Pickup & Delivery, where you can easily set your options in the fields.
Here, you’ll also set time zones, ordering windows, delivery prep time, delivery travel time, delivery fee, and delivery minimum. Square also currently has a section to toggle and enable scheduling for future delivery. The feature isn’t fully developed yet, so don’t be frustrated if it doesn’t work for you. Square says this feature will be released soon.
Sell Gift Cards Without An Online Store
Are you interested in promoting gift cards? You can set up an order page to sell eGift cards right from your Square Dashboard without having a site set up at all. eGift cards are free to set up and send, but you’ll still pay the processing rate when your customer buys the card. You won’t be charged again when the recipient redeems the card, however. To set up your eGift card page and start selling gift cards for your business, go into your Square Dashboard and select Gift Cards at the left-hand menu from your computer and then set up eGift cards as prompted. You’ll see a link at the top of the eGift configuration page that you can then use and share via email, create a button on your site, or add in any promotional campaigns. (Square also offers email marketing tools for your contacts.) Square provides several designs for your customers to choose from, and they can enter the recipient’s name, amount, and create a personal message.
Link Square To Facebook & Instagram To Create Shoppable Posts
If you have published your Square Online Store, you can now also set up shop on Instagram and Facebook (which are free to setup). When you select either social platform from underneath the Website menu option (left-hand column) in your Square Online Store Dashboard, you’ll be walked through the process of connecting accounts. Much of the work is done directly on Facebook, as you’ll need to set up a Facebook Business Extension, connect your Facebook Business Manager Account and then connect your Instagram Business Profile (if desired). Square makes it easy by taking you where you need to go within Facebook during each step. Once you make a sale, inventory and sales information are synced up no matter where you sell your items.
Upgrading Your Square Online Store
If you end up needing more space than the free store offers, or you want your own domain name, Square offers several options for you through Weebly. Below is a screenshot of what you can get plus the costs with each tiered plan:
So what if you already have an online store that you’ve published? Below I’ll take you through some of your options in integrating Square Payments with your current eCommerce setup.
Embed Square Checkout In Your Website & Social Media
Square Online Checkout is a relatively new development — and we think it provides an excellent way to give sellers (and buyers) a lot more flexibility. That’s because, similar to a PayPal payment button, you can put Square’s checkout button anywhere online — whether or not you have your own site! You can embed the button and payment link just about anywhere you need to, including:
- Anywhere on your site
- Landing page
- Social posts
- SMS text
Square Online Checkout is free other than the standard eCommerce processing charge of 2.9% + $0.30. Buyers do not need to have an account with Square. Additionally, you can set up recurring payments with your Square Online Checkout button as well. Find out all about it and how to get started at our post: What Is Square Online Checkout? Your Guide To Using This New Square Payment Option.
Link Square Payments With Your eCommerce Store
Whether you already have your site up and running, or you are building your website from the ground up (or somewhere in between), you can probably find what you need in the Square App Marketplace. Square integrates with many eCommerce platforms, including:
On the topic of app integrations and Square, it’s worth noting that Square easily integrates with a range of different types of small business tool apps that you can shop for right from your Square Dashboard. You can find everything from accounting to invoicing, employee management, loyalty and rewards, and marketing, to name a few. Pricing depends entirely on the apps themselves, but the Square App Marketplace is set up to compare costs easily.
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. Each app platform has specific features and benefits, so the finished product (and look) varies, depending on the integrated solution you choose. Check out The Best eCommerce Integrations That Work With Square Payments for our top picks!
Create A Custom Payments Setup With Square APIs
If you already have a site and you have developer expertise, then you have two more options, thanks to Square API: Square Checkout and Transactions API. The most significant difference between the two is that Square Checkout is much closer to an out-of-the-box solution. With Square Checkout, Square is actually hosting the payment form, and the UI is already done for you. If you want more freedom in the checkout and payment UI, and you want to host the payment form on your site with customized branding, you can opt for Square Transactions API.
Here is a handy side-by-side comparison chart to give you an overview of what you can expect with each solution. Note: All Square APIs and SDKs are free to use. As always, you pay only the payment processing fees.
|Square Checkout||Feature||Square Transactions API|
|Yes||Requires Developer Support||Yes|
|Yes||Square Hosted||No (you host)|
|Yes||Store Customer Data||Yes (with integration)|
|No||Card On File & Recurring Payments||Yes (with integration)|
|Yes (customer data|
|Detailed Dashboard Reports||No (transaction|
|SSL Needed||Yes, with|
|Yes||Eligible For Chargeback Protection||Yes (with conditions)|
|Yes||PCI Compliance Included||Yes|
|Yes||Itemization||Yes, with Orders API|
|No||Dynamic Shipping Calculations||No|
|Yes||Accept Google Pay||Yes|
|Yes||Accept Apple Pay||Yes|
|Yes||Accept All Major Credit Cards||Yes|
|Yes||Inventory Syncing||Yes, with Inventory API|
The choice between Square API and Transactions API largely depends on your particular needs and what you find most important in the customer journey.
Square For In-App Payments
It was only a matter of time before Square decided to support in-app purchases. That’s right; now Square offers in-app payment support with a few lines of code. You can update elements to match your app’s style and have the freedom to customize the look and feel however you want. It’s all in Square’s Transaction APIs and entirely free for you to use with your Square account.
Get Paid Quicker With Square Invoices
You don’t need an online store to send and collect payment from your customers if you use Square’s invoicing feature. Square allows you to schedule or immediately send one-off invoices for single orders or to set up recurring invoices for subscriptions or even installments. Customers can now opt to also save their card on file for future billing and one-off invoicing as well.
It’s easy to track the status of invoices and follow up right from your Square Dashboard, too. As for inventory syncing, if you sell something in your product library and you have inventory enabled, Square Invoices updates your stock count after your customer follows the payment flow through Square. Square has also recently added Square Estimates, which allows you to email your customer a form with a description and price estimate, which they can approve with a button.
Want more info on invoices? Check out How To Use Square Invoices To Ensure You Get Paid On Time so that you can leverage this option for your business.
Is Square Online Payments Right For You?
Square offers a lot of options for a small business owner who needs to set up online payments quickly. I like that costs are simplified, and there are no initial setup fees, PCI compliance fees, monthly account fees, batch fees, or higher rates for processing American Express. What really stands out is that Square starts you off with a free site and offers competitively priced monthly packages when you’re ready to grow.
All of this is a pretty big deal because Square spares business owners from the laundry list of itemized charges that can come with traditional merchant accounts. While all of this is true, keep in mind that Square is a third-party processor (such as Stripe, PayPal, and Shopify), which means you won’t have an individual merchant account. This setup makes it possible for more types of businesses, especially smaller businesses and startups, to start taking payments. Third-party processors may have account stability issues for some business types, however, so be aware of what may cause a red flag. While the overwhelming majority of businesses will never have a problem with any account holds, it can certainly be disconcerting if it happens! That’s why I encourage everyone, no matter what type of processor they go with, to check out our post on how to avoid merchant account holds, freezes, and terminations. Again, most merchants will likely never have to face this issue, but it helps to cover your bases.
For more options in taking payments online, check out How To Accept Credit Card Payments Online for more of our top picks.