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Square POS Review (Free Version)

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Looking for a free POS with a free card reader?

Try Square POS

Date Established
2009
Location
San Francisco, CA

Pros

  • Quick set-up
  • Simple processing fees
  • Intuitive interface
  • Loads of integrations

Cons

  • Occasional fund holds
  • Customer service not 24/7

Overview

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, paired with a remarkably handy card reader that has spawned dozens of imitators, 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 processing and POS solution. 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 and can fit the need of the vast majority of small business owners. Square is defined by an 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 have the need for 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 like Square Invoices and Square Appointments), Square is almost certainly worth a look no matter your business.

Square’s services at a glance

ReadereCommerceRetailFood Service
Free App & ReaderSquare eCommerceSquare for RetailSquare for Restaurants
Get StartedGet StartedGet StartedGet Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and AndroidEasy integration with popular platforms plus API for customizationSpecialized software for more complex retail storesSpecialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month$0/month$60/month$60/month
Always FreeAlways FreeFree TrialFree Trial

Price

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 2.75% for basic transactions and 3.5% plus 15 cents per manually-entered transaction.

Try Square POS now

Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed

Square POS is completely cloud-based with information automatically backing up to the cloud. Square is available on all iPhones (4S on up) and works on a number of Android devices as well, as long as they are running Android 5.0 or higher. Your Square account can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection

Specific Industry

Square’s free version fits well in both the quick-service food industry and with retailers. Square POS is obviously an attraction option for mobile businesses as payments can be taken quickly and securely from practically anywhere. But 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’re needing 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 like 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 placing top-selling items up front 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. 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 hocking 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.

Features

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.
    • Integrations with Shopventory and Stitch Labs provide additional tools.
  • Employee 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.
TimecardsTeamIRSPricing

See the free POS

Get Started

Get Started

Sign up for free

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 
$0/mn for 1099

$5/employee or contractor

  • Loyalty (This option is free for 0-10 loyalty visits a month, $25 a month for 11-50 loyalty visits per month, and $35 a month for 51-100 loyalty visits. Square can also set up a custom rate for over 100 loyalty visits per month.)
    • Import large customer lists via a CSV file.
    • Customers can earn loyalty rewards and discounts automatically and that information is 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
    • Gift cards are included 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.
  • eCommerce
    • 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 like Wix or Weebly or, if you’re far savvier, Square’s open API can let you customize and develop your online store from scratch.
  • Reporting
    • View reports on any device in real time.
    • Reports analyze what customers are new to your business and what customers are repeat visitors along with what they are purchasing.
    • Customize sales breakdowns by days, weeks, and months to spot trends.

  • Appointments
    • For businesses like spas and salons, Square lets customers book online 24/7.
    • Scheduling syncs with your own 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 automatically print to the kitchen, saving valuable time.

ReadereCommerceRetailFood Service
Free App & ReaderSquare eCommerceSquare for RetailSquare for Restaurants
Get StartedGet StartedGet StartedGet Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and AndroidEasy integration with popular platforms plus API for customizationSpecialized software for more complex retail storesSpecialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month$0/month$60/month$60/month
Always FreeAlways FreeFree TrialFree Trial

Customer Service & Support

Square offers live support from 6 AM to 6 PM (with a customer code). 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 like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Its YouTube channel also has some valuable information, plus walk-throughs and tutorials.

Compatible Credit Card Processors

This is another area where Square is a trendsetter. Square obviously 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. With the right equipment, you can accept swipe, dab, and tap payments. Square POS also has an intuitive tipping walk-through for customers if you’re using the product in the food-service 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, but 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.

TextButton
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
  • Limited Customer Service: Square only offers live customer support from 6 AM to 6 PM, Pacific Time, which can mean that important issues that crop up outside of this window are difficult to resolve.
  • 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 its inventory and reporting functions along with its 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 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.

Final Verdict

For a novice business owner, particularly one without a lot of up-front 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 their products usable practically in utero.

Some POS systems offer free versions of their products that are riddled with significant feature gaps. This isn’t 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 trend-setter for a reason.

Try Square POS now

Matt Sherman

Matt Sherman

Point of sale writer at Merchant Maverick
Matt Sherman has been immersed in point of sale systems for over a year now. Previously, he spent 14 years in the newspaper industry, the majority of which was as the sports editor for a pair of weekly newspapers in suburban Portland, Oregon. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon where he majored in English because he knows where the money is. Matt is the father to a pair of energetic boys and can easily be distracted by Netflix, Amazon and HBO Go.
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