Square POS Review (Free Version)
- Quick set-up
- Simple processing fees
- Intuitive interface
- Loads of integrations
- Occasional fund holds
Picture a modern small business’s point of sale system in your head — the screen, the layout, the card reader. There’s a decent chance you’re thinking about Square right now. Square’s free point of sale (POS) app, rather blandly named Square Point Of Sale, or Square POS, is a household name even among consumers. Paired with a remarkably handy card reader that has spawned dozens of imitators, Square POS was (and continues to be) a complete game-changer in the industry.
In a time when assertive entrepreneurs can quickly get their business ideas off the ground from scratch, be it a food cart or niche boutique, Square has been a convenient and oft-used solution for processing and POS. It’s easy to see the appeal. For one, the word “free” is always appealing. Although many competitors have tried to beat Square POS at its own game, Square’s free app is still remarkably versatile. It can fit the needs of the vast majority of small business owners. Square is defined by elegant simplicity, with set processing rates that are both affordable and easy to comprehend. Couple that with a sleek and fully customizable interface, and it’s difficult to go wrong if you’re a small business with a limited number of users.
A few years back, a friend of mine was opening a brand new cafe and was researching point of sale companies. A slick salesman pitched his system, claiming that all of the things it offered made it superior to Square. My friend found herself locked into a contract and hit with unexpected fees and costs that handicapped her business practically before it even started. She ended up ultimately going with Square and never looked back. Of course, Square is not infallible. If you need advanced inventory or reporting mechanisms, it’s probably worth the extra money to find a highly robust system. But, especially with the advent of Square Register and Square Restaurant (along with tools, such as Square Invoices and Square Appointments), Square is almost certainly worth a look no matter your business.
Final Verdict: Square POS is the best free POS software on the market. The powerful features and affordable credit card processing rates make it ideal for small businesses. Users who need more advanced features can also take advantage of niche Square POS products, Square For Retail and Square For Restaurants.
Table of Contents
Square’s basic point of sale app is free and is truly one of the best free products on the market, even coming with a magstripe reader at no cost. Its processing fees are competitive and easy to understand, charging 2.6% plus $0.10 for basic transactions and 3.5% plus $0.15 per manually-entered transaction, and 2.9% plus $0.30 for online transactions. The free app includes basic inventory, reporting, and some employee management, while things such as payroll, marketing, and loyalty need to be purchased as add-ons.
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Square POS is entirely cloud-based, with information automatically backing up to the cloud. Square is available on all iPhones (4S on up) and also works on a number of Android devices as long as they are running Android 5.0 or higher. You can access your Square account from anywhere with an internet connection.
Square’s free version fits well in both the quick-service food industry and with retailers. Square POS is an attractive option for mobile businesses, as payments can be taken quickly and securely from practically anywhere. Thanks to a good-sized inventory management features, Square can easily handle most small businesses.
Specific Size Of Business
If you have a larger, franchised business or one with vast amounts of inventory — or if you need expanded reports — you may find Square’s basic package to be somewhat lacking. However, small to mid-sized businesses, particularly ones that only need one or two stations, should find Square to be perfectly suitable. You can import items in bulk via a CSV file, and you can easily download reports into digestible spreadsheets.
Ease Of Use
There’s a reason that Square’s interface is imitated so often by the competition. Since its inception, Square has done a great job making its product user-friendly. If you’re one of those “get off my lawn!” Luddites who just wants a product that’s easy to understand (or you’re planning on hiring a handful of those types), Square is about as intuitive as it comes. Its large, color-coded buttons and easy-to-navigate screens take minimal training to master. Setup is also a breeze. Creating your initial account should take fewer than 10 minutes, and that information is then automatically uploaded to your account. If your business happens to expand, and you want to upgrade to something such as Square Register in the future, that information and data will migrate with you.
Most Square POS features are entirely customizable, and you can design an efficient system by prominently placing top-selling items and adding product pictures to make things easier for your employees. Taking payments is also a breeze. For mobile devices, Square has its standard magstripe reader as well as an EMV chip-card reader. Tap readers allow customers to sign directly on your phone or tablet.
Hardware & Operating System Requirements
Square POS is best-suited to iOS devices but is also configured to handle a number of Android devices as long as they’re running Android 5.0 or better. Honestly, to get up and running, all you need is a phone/tablet and a card reader of some type, and you can be hawking goods and services in a matter of minutes. Square sells card readers directly as well as stands for tablets. It also offers a few start-up kits specifically created for certain businesses that feature printers, cash drawers, and other equipment you may need. Square Point of Sale also runs on Square Terminal and Square Register, products that can be purchased directly from Square’s website.
Square POS has all of the nuts and bolts you’d expect from a good POS system, but here are a few of its highlights:
- Inventory Management:
- Bulk importing allows you to download thousands of products quickly via a CSV file.
- Daily stock alerts let you know when products run low.
- Export stock levels instantly to a spreadsheet.
- Transfer inventory across multiple stores.
- Support for partial quantities and weight scale
- Upgrade to Square for Retail for bulked up inventory.
- Team Management:
- Employees can be given different permissions and access to certain functions.
- Employees can clock in and out at the register, and hours can be easily edited if necessary.
- Analytics makes it easy to see which employees are your top sellers.
- Labor vs. Sales reports make it easy to evaluate labor costs.
- Control access and protect information from the dashboard.
- Free timecards for simple payroll and integrated time clock.
Use Square's built-in timeclock system or easily integrate with a third-party timecard service.
Make payroll predictable and easy to understand for both you and your whole team.
Simple solutions for small and large businesses with W2 and/or 1099 team members.
$29/mn for W2
$5/employee or contractor
- Loyalty: Square offers loyalty plans starting at $45 a month but does offer electronic gift cards in the basic free play. Square’s loyalty comes with the ability to:
- Import large customer lists via a CSV file.
- Customers can earn loyalty rewards and discounts automatically, and that information gets stored on their profile within the system.
- Customers can also sign up to receive text messages informing them of when they’ve earned a reward.
- Easily customize spending and visit levels for rewards.
- Search customers and see what products are most likely to bring them back into your store.
- You can also quickly edit customer information manually and add personalized notes.
- Purchase histories and simple analyses of spending habits are easy to look up.
- Gift Cards:
- Physical gift cards start at $0.80 with the Square app. Create digital gift cards for free, or order physical cards with unique designs for an additional cost.
- Balances can easily be viewed in Square Dashboard.
- Customer balances and other information is simple to store and search.
- Square merchants get a basic, free online store hosted by Weebly.
- Square pairs with numerous companies, so you can pick and choose how you want to set up your online business. If you don’t have much web building experience, you can go through a company such as Wix or Weebly. If you’re far savvier, Square’s open API can let you customize and develop your online store from scratch.
- View reports on any device in real-time.
- Reports analyze which customers are new to your business and which are repeat visitors along with what they are purchasing.
- Customize sales breakdowns by days, weeks, and months to spot trends.
- Get summaries to your inbox and download CSV files.
- For businesses such as spas and salons, Square lets customers book online 24/7.
- Scheduling syncs with your calendar to ensure accuracy.
- Customer history can be easily viewed, and automatic scheduling reminders can be set up.
- Restaurant Features:
- Square sets up automatic tipping reminders, which can help servers.
- Customers can order takeout online.
- Tickets can be set up to print automatically to the kitchen, saving valuable time.
Square’s services at a glance:
|Free App & Reader||Square eCommerce||Square for Retail||Square for Restaurants|
|Get Started||Get Started||Get Started||Get Started|
|Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android||Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization||Specialized software for more complex retail stores||Specialized software for full-service restaurants|
|Always Free||Always Free||Free Trial||Free Trial|
Customer Service & Support
Square offers live support from 6 AM to 6 PM Mondays through Fridays. It claims to have 24/7 support by inputting a customer code, but these codes are not always easy to come by, particularly in an emergency. This can be an issue if you need immediate assistance outside of those hours. Fortunately, there is email support available, and Square does have an impressive customer support page where you can troubleshoot some basic questions. There are dozens of articles on various topics if you have time to do some research. Square also has one of the best community forums I’ve seen where you can look up various topics.
Once you do get in touch with a live person, Square’s support is friendly and very knowledgeable. They are happy to walk you through any issues you’re having and are committed to making sure that your problems are completely resolved. Square keeps up a current blog and is fairly active on its social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Its YouTube channel also has some valuable information, plus walkthroughs and tutorials.
Compatible Credit Card Processors
This is another area where Square is a trendsetter. Square acts as its own processor and is compatible with almost any form of payment available. Square accepts Apple Pay and Android Pay, plus all major credit cards. Square recently upped its rates slightly, now charging 2.6% plus $0.10 for basic transactions, which is still very competitive in the market. With the right equipment, you can accept swipe, dip, and tap payments. Square POS also has an intuitive tipping walkthrough for customers if you’re using the product in the foodservice industry.
Integrations & Add-Ons
With your free account, you get access to the Square App Marketplace, which comes with a wealth of integrations. For accounting, Square integrates with Xero and QuickBooks, plus many others. For eCommerce, you have access to Wix, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and more. It’s really worth checking out the website for a complete listing. Square also has an open API if you’re feeling enterprising and would like to create an app specifically for your business. Within Square itself, there are also plenty of areas where you can upgrade. If your business has expanded, you could check out Square for Retail or Square for Restaurants. Square Payroll is also available to help with your accounting, and you can also add loyalty and marketing for monthly fees.
|Did you know Square is for developers too? Create custom points of sale.||Go to Square Developer|
Negative Reviews & Complaints
- Fees For Larger Businesses: If you have a larger business or suddenly find yourself more successful than you had originally thought, the flat fees can add up, and you may need to look into a slightly more affordable option.
- Fund Holds: A large number of complaints to the Better Business Bureau revolve around Square placing immediate holds on funds when it deems a suspicious transaction has occurred. These holds can come without notice and can take a while to resolve, causing understandable frustration for vendors.
- Less Than Robust Feature Set: As mentioned, you can find more robust options on the market than Square. A few customers found that, once they got into Square’s offerings, they needed more advanced reporting, inventory, and employee management options.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
- Modern Design: Reviewers comment on the sleek look of Square POS and its easy-to-read display for both employees and customers.
- Feature Rich: Square has never been lacking in its breadth of features. Retailers enjoy the inventory and reporting functions along with the simple employee management offerings.
- Low Cost & Simple Pricing: Business owners appreciate how much you get from an affordable package, and a few commented on how easy it is to predict your costs.
- Integrations: Customers like having access to the impressive Square App Marketplace, and they appreciated that add-ons were at a minimum.
There are also plenty of testimonials on its website:
Square opens up a lot of doors and opportunities for small makers with lots of potential with simple fees and easy-to-use products.
Square continues to make improvements and add features I didn’t even know I needed until I used them.
For a novice business owner, particularly one without a lot of upfront capital, Square is going to be an extremely intriguing option. It still boasts one of the most user-friendly systems I’ve come across in an industry that seeks to make its products usable practically in utero.
Some POS systems offer free versions of their products that are riddled with significant feature gaps. That’s not the case with Square. Square POS has all of the basic functionality you could need, plus solid customer service and simple to understand processing fees.
If you’re a business owner looking to skimp on spending but need some advanced features, you may find Square POS somewhat lacking. Its inventory management and reporting tools aren’t extremely robust, and, if you’re making a lot of sales, the flat rate — despite its convenience — is probably going to hurt your bottom line. However, Square remains an industry leader and a trendsetter for a reason.
We've done in-depth testing of each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth testing of each and confidently recommend them.