Clover VS Square: Which POS System Is Best For Your Small Business?
If you’re a small business owner researching point of sale systems or payment processors, the chances are good that you’ve at least kicked the tires on Clover, Square, or both. The two have become behemoths in the industry as well as rivals (even if they won’t admit it), and for good reason. Both are known for their innovative hardware offerings, simple and sleek interfaces, and overall affordability. And, depending on your business needs, it might be difficult to go wrong with either choice. However, as you might expect, there are some significant differences between the two products. It can be tricky to differentiate unless you drill down into their costs and features. So let us do that work for you! In this post, we’ll pit Square against Clover, letting you know where each product excels and giving you our overall recommendation.
Table of Contents
Clover VS Square: A Quick Look
Before we get into the Clover vs. Square battle royale, let’s give a brief rundown of what these products offer. Each excels in different ways, so here’s a quick overview to understand them better.
Clover has a lot going for it. From its inception, it has boasted one of the most user-friendly interfaces around. It’s highly scalable with numerous hardware and pricing options that can make it a viable solution from the smallest of businesses to franchised restaurants or retail establishments.
It also has an impressive app store, providing customers with a bevy of programs to choose from, some of which are highly specific to certain businesses. While Clover is, overall, an affordable POS option, you may have to shop around a bit to get the best deal, as a wide variety of vendors sell its products. The good news is that its hardware is highly innovative, and the company is constantly updating and adapting to meet customer needs.
- Excellent usability
- Highly scalable
- Variety of hardware options
- App store
- Fiserv processing
- Customer service issues
- Upfront costs
Square is already a giant in the industry and continues to expand its territory in the market. While originally appealing to the smallest of small businesses with its accessibility, free card reader, and low price, Square’s hardware advances over the past few years have made it a viable option for much bigger ventures as well.
Square is extraordinarily user-friendly and strives to be an all-in-one solution, providing its own simple processor and, like Clover, an impressive app store. Square has steadily bulked up its software and has been at the forefront of POS trends, such as mobile ordering and eCommerce options.
- User-friendly interface
- Built-in processing
- App store
- Occasional fund holds
- Some customer service issues
Clover VS Square: Product Offerings
To evaluate both products, you’ll need to know a little bit about what they offer. Let’s get into a brief overview of exactly what you can expect when you opt to go with Clover or Square.
Credit Card Processing
It’s probably good to get one of the potential red flags out of the way early with Clover. You’re locked into Fiserv’s options for processing, something that we’ve dinged Clover for in our reviews. While Fiserv offers competitive rates, it continues to have a fairly abysmal reputation for customer service, something that’s clearly reflected when you look at even a smattering of online user reviews. Across the board, Clover products are always sold with a merchant account. You’ll just want to make sure you do your research to see if the processing issues are a dealbreaker for you.
Square uses its own processing service and is compatible with pretty much any type of payment you can throw at it. Square also offers reasonable rates, charging 2.6% + $0.10 for basic transactions. Like Clover, you’re locked into a single processor, but Square made its name in this industry and has a solid reputation despite some continued instances of fund holds.
Clover and Square are both on the cutting edge when it comes to point of sale offerings. Both have feature-rich software that is largely scalable and have various hardware options built to run said software that business owners can purchase.
Clover’s software is remarkably intuitive and easy to use. It’s also a very viable solution for very small businesses up to larger enterprise establishments, making it a good product to consider if you think your business is likely to grow quickly. Clover features strong inventory management, which comes standard, and a solid array of reports. It also has an excellent gift card program, and its loyalty package is included with most of its hardware offerings. Clover’s app store is also very impressive, featuring numerous programs that could potentially improve your business.
Clover also offers Clover Dining, a robust offering for restaurants with loads of useful features. Dining comes with the ability to table map and offers tableside service. For more upscale restaurants, it offers coursing and extensive menu building. Clover can also create an online ordering portal for your business even if you don’t have a website, giving you the ability to sell to-go orders and work with third-party delivery services. With Clover Dining, you can also run real-time reports and check them from anywhere with an internet connection.
Square also features one of the most intuitive interfaces in the industry and prides itself on the fact that you can unbox a piece of hardware or sign up for a new account and be ready to sell in a matter of minutes. Square might still be best known for its appeal to smaller merchants thanks to its signature free card reader and POS app that starts at no cost. Square has expanded over time and now has a full software and hardware line that makes it viable for franchise retailers and full-scale restaurants. Square holds its own with solid inventory management and a decent number of reports. It also comes with access to its expansive app store.
You can get started with Square for free, although that offering is probably only suitable for very small retailers. Still, it’s probably the best free option currently on the market. If you’re a larger merchant or looking to expand, Square has you covered. Square for Restaurants enables you to run a large, full-service restaurant with table mapping and the ability to sync to online ordering. It features real-time inventory tracking, stock alerts, and tableside ordering functionality. Square for Retail gives you everything you need to run your retail business, featuring excellent customer and employee management and a variety of pricing packages depending on the size or your business.
Credit Card Machines & Hardware
As far as hardware goes, Clover has a number of interesting options:
Clover Go is $69 and runs on both iOS and Android devices, and it allows you to take multiple types of payments on the go. Go syncs with other Clover products and can be used with the Register Lite or Register plan, but by itself, the Go cannot take advantage of all features available with the Register plan.
Clover Flex accepts multiple payment types and comes with Rapid Deposit, getting you your cash quickly. It retails for $499, is an all-in-one POS system that is mobile, and can be used anywhere in your location. It features Clover’s advanced inventory, a loyalty program, and customization options. The Flex can also be used as an add-on to a Clover Station or Clover Station Pro setup.
Clover Mini is a system made to run your entire business from the front to the back of the house. It retails at $749 and can also accept all payment types while functioning as an all-in-one POS. The Mini comes with advanced inventory, a wide array of reports, excellent employee management, and many other features. It’s a small but powerful device that’s more than capable of running a small business’s entire operation.
Clover’s classic offering, the Clover Station, is designed to run larger businesses, including full-service restaurants. Clover Station is bulkier and more powerful than the Mini with a 14″ high-definition screen, a receipt printer, a cash drawer, and a simple and sleek interface. The Station starts at $1,349 and can run up to $1,649 if you go with Station Pro, which comes with a customer-facing screen. This includes table mapping and all of the front and back-end features to help you keep your business running at peak efficiency.
Not to be outdone, Square offers similar products that can suit the smallest businesses up to multi-franchise facilities.
Square traditionally functions ideally on an iPad or similar product and offers its stand for $169, which can swivel to face customers. It also pairs nicely with Square’s signature swipe reader or chip reader. The swipe reader is free for new customers and is made for mobility, as it can hook up to your phone or tablet and immediately take payments. The chip reader takes card payments, along with Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Square Terminal is one of Square’s newer hardware offerings. It functions as an all-in-one payment processor, allowing for traditional payments as well as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other NFC payments. It sells for $299 and comes with a built-in receipt printer, along with lightning-fast payments.
Square Register is perhaps the jewel in Square’s hardware offerings, particularly since it now pairs with all of Square’s POS offerings, including Square for Restaurants and Square for Retail. Square Register retails for $799 and features versatility with its customer-facing display. It syncs with all of Square’s other products, including advanced inventory, reporting, and its app store.
Clover VS Square Fees & Pricing
Square offers predictable, flat-rate processing. You know exactly how much you’ll pay for every transaction and service, with no need to worry about qualified/non-qualified transactions or interchange rates. With Clover, there’s a lot more variance. On the one hand, you could potentially get a good deal; on the other, you might be facing a lot of work and be forced to sift through many providers to find the right solution.
Since Square’s pricing is simpler, let’s look at that first. Here’s what you can expect to pay when you sign up for Square and use Square Point of Sale (the free mobile app) to process payments:
- Swiped, Dipped, Or Tapped Transactions: 2.6% + $0.10
- Keyed Transactions: 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction
- No monthly minimum or fees
- Chip-enabled card readers starting at $49
You won’t pay any monthly fees, PCI compliance fees, early termination fees, or even chargeback fees with Square. Most of the software is provided at no additional charge, though Square does offer some premium products that come with additional monthly fees. For a more detailed breakdown of Square’s pricing and all its various products, check out our complete Square review.
For Clover, pricing will depend on what company you choose to sign up with. Fiserv and all of its resellers offer very different pricing and contract terms. We recommend Dharma Merchant Services and Payment Depot because they offer clear, transparent pricing and excellent customer service. However, recently, Fiserv has begun offering its own plans with clearly disclosed fees and consistent pricing.
Dharma Merchant Services uses an interchange-plus plan, while Payment Depot uses a subscription-based plan. Fiserv’s monthly service offers flat-rate pricing. Let’s take a quick look at what these three plans offer:
|Dharma Merchant Services||Payment Depot||Clover.com|
Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10
Interchange + $0.15
2.7% + $0.10
$10 monthly fee
$49 monthly fee
$14 monthly fee
$10 monthly fee for Clover Go
$25,000 monthly processing limit
No monthly volume limits
$139 for all-in-one Bluetooth reader
Cardreader pricing not disclosed
$49 for all-in-one Bluetooth reader
These plans are all very different, so you need to make sure you’re getting the right one for your business. In general, Payment Depot and Dharma are best suited to merchants processing at least $10,000/month in credit cards. Keep in mind that both companies also offer a suite of services in addition to access to Clover Go. They also yield greater cost savings for merchants with an average transaction size of $50 or more.
Also, I want to mention that Payment Depot offers higher-tiered plans with lower markups and a free mobile card reader for higher-volume businesses.
Fiserv’s subscription plan looks competitive on the surface, but consider that the $0.10 per transaction fee will cost a lot more for businesses with a small ticket size (under $15). You also have no cost savings in the form of interchange markup (the average interchange for most merchants is somewhere around 1.54% + $0.12). Plus, there’s the software subscription fee, starting at $14/month.
The interchange-plus and subscription plans offered by Dharma and Payment Depot are really meant for businesses handling more than $10,000 per month. If your business is primarily or exclusively mobile, Clover Go could be a good choice, even with the software limitations, and the biggest advantage of going with Dharma or Payment Depot is the stability that comes with having your own merchant account.
Clover VS Square: Comparing The User Experience
Ease Of Use
Clover comes ready to go from the box. For those in the food industry, it also has a preloaded menu. The hardware syncs well with the software, and even if you’re using a large number of integrations, the interface doesn’t get overwhelming. Most training can be done for even the most technically-adverse employees in less than an hour.
Even as it has expanded its product offerings, Clover has managed to maintain its ease of use. Clover Dining’s table mapping feature is simple and stylish, and the back end, while featuring a pretty complex array of features, avoids being clunky, and the information is easily digestible. Its various hardware offerings are also sleek and modern, although Clover Flex can be a bit unwieldy if you have to carry it around for long stretches of time.
Square is equally uncomplicated, and it might be interesting to give two individuals similar Square and Clover hardware to see who can set up an account and make their first sale the fastest. Square takes a matter of minutes and features an interface so user-friendly that it has been imitated by competitors over and over. Square defines itself by its simplicity. For small businesses, it doesn’t get much simpler. Processing payments, opening tabs, splitting checks…it’s all intuitive and can probably be figured out by someone simply walking up to the system and trying it for the first time.
As you would expect, this carries over into Square’s more complex offerings, such as Square for Retail or Square or Restaurants. Scrolling through inventory and real-time reports is easy both from the POS device or remotely. Square Terminal has some of the same issues as Clover Flex in terms of its clunkiness. If you’re operating a fine dining establishment, you may want something with a few more bells and whistles than Square for Restaurants. However, Square Register is a powerhouse for the vast majority of retailers, and its ease of use is a major reason why.
Customer Service & Support
This isn’t either company’s strongest suit, but there are some marked differences in how both services handle customers and how easy they are to get in touch with.
With Clover’s technical support, you will be routed to Fiserv for assistance no matter which processing company you sign up with. (Account-specific issues will still go through your processor, however.) When a company is as large as Fiserv, it naturally has the resources to operate round-the-clock customer support, which you’ll see advertised on the Clover site. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that Clover’s support options include the following:
- Call/request a call from Clover
- Email Clover
- Self-service knowledgebase
It’s nice that phone support is available 24/7/365. However, it’s the quality that matters. Clover’s customer service, specifically when it comes to Fiserv, is the company’s biggest red flag. I should point out that Fiserv has made a modest improvement in this area. However, there are still far too many reviews complaining about a lack of help, an inability to get hooked up with the correct individual, or a lack of response when submitting an issue. This seems to be more the case when dealing with processing more than dealing with POS issues, but that’s not exactly a silver lining.
Square has invested a lot of effort into its customer support over the past couple of years, and you now have quite a few options to get hold of the company if you need assistance:
- Phone support (Available M-F, 6 AM-6 PM Pacific Time)
- Email support
- Social media support
- Seller Community
- Self-help knowledgebase
The biggest point of contention with Square is that phone support requires merchants to get a customer code before they can call in, and if they are having login troubles, that’s not an option. Email support is available at all hours, though you may not get an immediate response. Likewise, Square’s support-focused Twitter account doesn’t post its hours, but you shouldn’t expect 24/7 availability there.
I honestly feel that Square’s best resources are its self-help knowledgebase (available 24/7) and the Seller Community, its community forum. Square’s knowledgebase is the gold standard for tutorials, FAQs, and other questions merchants may have about their account, features, and pricing because it is amazingly thorough.
Reviews, Complaints & Criticisms
Reading user reviews is always an interesting experience because of how much reading between the lines is required. I recommend checking out our article on negativity bias to understand how we factor user feedback into our reviews and ratings. With Clover, ratings get bogged down by the poor reviews of Fiserv and its customer service. These aren’t trivial complaints either, as credit card processing and customer service are two major issues for small businesses. However, most of the reviews of Clover’s software and hardware are fairly positive. There are also issues with having to go through a bank or third-party to get started with Clover, so there’s little consistency with sales pitches and even pricing in some cases.
Overall, users are content that the app handles their basic processing needs. A few call it out as being easy to use. The negative reviews generally fall into a few specific categories: complaints about unhelpful and unprofessional customer service, glitches, or funding problems. Several comments specifically say that Square offers a better, more intuitive design. While Clover’s customer service can be spotty, depending on whether you have a technical issue or an account issue, I haven’t seen any sort of clear, definitive information about funding holds. What’s more, not all reviews make it clear who the merchant signed with for processing, making it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions. However, you shouldn’t have trouble with Payment Depot or Dharma. (They have 5-star reviews for a reason.)
Overall, the comments about Square are quite positive. Merchants like the pricing, the simple, easy-to-use app, and the centralized control Square offers. However, there is one big, common complaint about Square: holds and account terminations. Square is a third-party processor, so there’s a certain amount of account instability and risk that merchants must contend with. Check out our article on how to avoid merchant account holds, freezes, and terminations to better understand what constitutes a suspicious transaction and minimize your risk. Complaints about customer service are also common. Most stem from merchants who are locked out of Square’s support system following an account termination, something I wish Square had a better solution for. However, the majority of Square’s users generally think its customer service is pretty good.
Both Clover and Square offer app stores, which are major selling points. They each have a broad array of apps, many of which are free. While both companies pair with some of the most common software applications (such as QuickBooks for accounting), you could spend all day discovering everything available for download. But we’ll try and narrow in on a few highlights.
- Customer Management: Factor4 Gift, Loyalzoo, Trezoro, Zenreach
- Employee Management: JazzHR, Gusto, Homebase, 7shifts
- Inventory Management: Shopventory, Avero, MarketMan Inc, Seven Spaces
- eCommerce: Zaytech, Shopify and Magento (both through JunoConnect), skuIQ
- Fundraising: Donors Choose, 360 Donations, Givepoint
- Customer Management: TapMango, Digital Loyalty, GiftUp!
- Employee Management: 7Shifts, Deputy, TSheets, ZipRecruiter, Homebase
- Inventory Management: Shopventory, Sku IQ, MarketMan, DigitalPour, Faire
- eCommerce: Wix, BigCommerce, OpenCart, Magento, Mercato, WordPress
- Delivery: GoParrot, Chowly, Orderspoon, Slice
It’s difficult to differentiate the two companies when it comes to integrations, as they each have their own niches and all sync up with most of the major companies you would expect. I would say that Square probably has a slightly better offering of truly useful apps, but both are constantly adding new integrations.
Which Is Best For My POS & Payment Processing Needs?
Be honest. Did you just skip down to this section, hoping we’d give you a definitive answer as to which company is better? Well, the truth is both companies offer a robust point of sale, competitive processing, and an array of innovative hardware products. So it depends on what you value and are looking for as a small business owner. But we’ll try and get a bit more specific to help you hone in on a decision.
Choose Clover POS If…
- Companies that need strong inventory management and an extensive collection of reports
- Upscale restaurants or full-service restaurants with more complex menus and table mapping needs
- Small businesses that may need slightly more features than Square’s free app
- Retailers who have bargain hunted and found a good deal through a third-party provider
Choose Square POS If…
- Cost-savvy small businesses that primarily need a payment processor and minimal inventory management
- Merchants looking for an all-in-one and scaleable solution who plan on potentially expanding
- Businesses looking to utilize an expansive app market
- Retailers and restaurant owners who want a simple, easy-to-use POS with affordable hardware
Comparing Clover VS Square: The Final Verdict
If you’ve tooled around our site much or even read into the copious amount of information in this article, you can probably guess that we have an affinity for Square. Is it a perfect processing and POS solution? Far from it. However, for the average small business person, it’s hard to go wrong here. The fact that it greatly minimizes the number of headaches that you might encounter along the way is often all business owners are really looking for. Square comes with transparent pricing, is an all-in-one system, and has hardware solutions that are both innovative and affordable compared with most of its competitors. But that still doesn’t mean that Clover should be completely overlooked.
Clover is similar to Square in a lot of ways. Its setup and ease of use are outstanding, as is its breadth of features, its integrations, and its versatility as a solution from the smallest retailer to franchise restaurants. However, the fact that you have to do the legwork to make sure you’re getting a good deal on both your processing and your hardware is more than a little annoying. Couple that with Fiserv’s ongoing issues with its customer service, and Clover comes with some inherent risks.
If you simply compare Square and Clover’s competing products, Square is also straight-up more affordable. Clover does boast a bit more firepower when it comes to the depth of some of its back-end features and is probably a slightly better option for large-scale or enterprise businesses. And you might find, after doing your research, that the added price is worth it. We like both of these companies, but we think that, in three areas that are crucial to the average small business owner, cost, customer service, and transparency, Square comes out ahead.
Thanks for reading! Check out our comment guidelines, then leave us your thoughts! Or, if you’re still looking for more information, check out our article on the best alternatives to Clover POS. Wondering if there are other good mPOS options out there? Look no further than our mobile payments comparison chart.