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- Date Established
- San Francisco, CA
- No monthly fees or early termination fee
- Simple and predictable processing rates
- Inexpensive chip card readers available
- Advanced POS features included
- Suitable for foodservice and retail
- Can’t use your own merchant account or gateway
- Not suitable for mid-to-high-risk businesses
- Withheld funds and sudden terminations are a possibility
We’ve been following Square (Square.com) since it launched in 2009, back when the idea of a swipe-based smartphone processing system with no monthly fee and no equipment cost sounded more or less like a fairy tale: too good to be true.
Square is, without a doubt, the most feature-rich and advanced mobile processing (mPOS) solution you can find without a monthly fee. To get anywhere near this kind of functionality, you would normally have to go with an advanced iPad POS and pay (at the very least) $60 per month, plus processing rates that would not necessarily be lower than Square’s, especially for lower-volume businesses. Even PayPal (and by extension, its mPOS app, PayPal Here) cannot rival the sheer number of features available.
The cost is easily Square’s biggest draw. A flat rate of 2.75% for all swiped transactions, 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed transactions, and 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions. No monthly fee. No statement fees. No monthly minimum. This is an extraordinary deal for many merchants, especially new ones without an established processing history.
So when you toss in a highly capable iPad POS (and smartphone-friendly mobile app) for free, the draw is almost irresistible.
As Billy Mays would say, BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! If you want a seamless transition between online and in-person (or in-store), Square also provides you with a sleek online store that syncs with your in-app inventory, including inventory counts. There’s a virtual terminal, stored card capability, invoicing and recurring billing, an online ordering option, customer management, advanced analytics, tons of app integrations, PLUS an API for custom solutions.
So at this point, you must be wondering, if we like Square so much (and we do!), why no five-star rating? It really boils down to two related and significant Achilles’ heels. One: Account instability/funding holds. Two: Inconsistent customer support.
If you’ve even glanced at our comments section, you know exactly what I mean. A major contributing factor to Square’s issues is the fact that it aggregates payments and accepts almost everyone who applies, which exposes the company to inherently greater risk. That, in turn, has lead to a very active risk mitigation department, which makes the final call about which accounts are terminated.
I didn’t expect to raise Square’s rating any time in the near future, but in light of its new features — especially the virtual terminal and support for recurring payments — it is becoming incredibly difficult to argue with the sheer value that Square offers.
Account stability is absolutely a concern: there will always be an inherent risk to using a third-party processor such as Square. But if you read Square’s terms, make sure your business doesn’t fall on the company’s no-fly list, and take steps to protect yourself and your business as much as possible, you’ll be OK in the vast majority of cases.
Square.com earns a 4.5-star rating for its ease of use, its astounding feature set, transparent and affordable pricing, and its overall status as a powerhouse ecosystem for merchants. If the company can work out its issues with account holds or terminations, and start delivering more consistent service, it could become a 5-star processor — but not before then.
Read on for a full breakdown of Square’s services, its advantages, and disadvantages. If you’ve worked with Square, for better or worse, please comment with your thoughts!
Square’s POS and back-office features are unmatched by any other free mobile processing system. They’re not quite up to snuff when compared to more advanced (and expensive) systems, but with no monthly fee, it’s really tough to beat the value. Here are the major features worth noting.
- Payment Processing: This is the core of what Square does. Since you can’t get any of Square’s other features without also, agreeing to process credit card transactions through them, it’s not right to just gloss over it. Square has, since its inception, grown from just a mobile POS to a payments system that also supports invoicing and e-commerce (a feature it is now improving on steadily). Check out the specifics of processing costs in the “Fees and Rates” section below.
- POS App: The Square Register POS app is just about the most powerful app you can get for free, and it rivals many paid options, too. While the app is remarkably easy to use, it’s also incredibly feature-rich and lets you, the merchant, decide how to run things. You can set tips and discounts, record cash and check transactions, handle split tenders, and much, much more. App features include:
- Receipt printing (iPad only)
- Kitchen ticket printing (iPad only)
- Kitchen display compatibility (iPad only)
- Signature and tip on paper receipt (iPad only)
- Split tender
- Show change for cash
- Cash/check reporting
- Custom transaction amounts
- Tips by %
- Tips by $
- Discounts by %
- Discounts by $
- Full and partial refunds
- Signature off option on small tickets (under $25)
- Emailed receipts
- SMS receipts
- Customizable receipts
- Inventory management: Square’s inventory management system is the most advanced I’ve seen from any mobile processor with no monthly fee (if you need a more complex system, check out our inventory management reviews). Note that many inventory features can only be accessed in the iPad app or online, not in the basic smartphone app. Features include:
- Import inventory via CSV file
- Inventory count
- Barcode scanning
- Multiple tax rates
- Item categories/varieties
- Item add-ons/modifications
- Online and in-store inventory sync
- Item pictures/descriptions
- e-Commerce/Online ordering (To better understand Square’s eCommerce options, check out our in-depth exploration of Square’s online store and its eCommerce integrations):
- Webstore hosting: Square has seriously stepped up its online offerings recently. You can bring your own domain or purchase one through Square and get free hosting and your choice of Square Store templates. It’s mostly a plug-and-play site with no customization outside of the items and item groupings, but it has all of the core features you need and it integrates with Square Register seamlessly.
- Payment gateway for eCommerce sites: If you have a website built already, and it’s powered by BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Weebly, or Ecwid, you can integrate Square directly to process payments. The biggest limitation is that most of them don’t fully integrate with all of Square’s capabilities. I’d also like to see more names on this list, but with the API (see the next point), it’s less of a concern.
- Developer APIs: Have your own site with a different shopping cart software? Your own mobile POS app? Take advantage of Square’s Developer APIs to implement your own custom solution (at no additional charge). You can also get APIs to link your inventory, employee management, and sales analytics services with Square.
- Order pickup: Square supports online ordering where customers can pick up in person. This is a great option for restaurants in particular, but it can even be used in a retail setup.
- e-Invoicing: Manage invoices in-app or online. Invoices can be saved or sent immediately. It’s a basic system, but wholly functional and should cover most of your needs. It does not integrate with your Square inventory, however. Includes recurring invoices for subscriptions and other regular charges.
- Card on File: Safely and securely store your customers’ card information in the Square system. You are still PCI compliant and consumers can pay for orders without having to pull out their cards. This also works with Square invoicing
Other Square Features:
- Customer feedback management: Here’s a cool feature. It’s called Square Feedback, this system prompts customers to leave feedback about their experience not on social media, but directly to you. This allows you to manage your reputation, quickly identify problems, and prevent public complaints from surfacing on the web. You also get access to details like purchase history, previous feedback, and average spending…all at no extra charge (formerly $10/month for advanced customer insights). You can also issue refunds or coupons from Square Feedback. However, please note that this feature is limited to debit/credit transactions only (no cash transaction) and is really best used when you also start taking advantage of Square’s customer database feature.
- Advanced reporting: Square offers some of the best online reporting you’ll see in a pay-as-you-go provider (and even many monthly fee-based providers). You can generate real-time reports by the hour, day, week, month, or year from your online Square Dashboard, with many reports available in the iPad app. Reports can focus on specific item categories, mobile staff sales, sales by item, sales by payment method and more. Check out this page for a more detailed list of reports offered. Many of the reports are exportable by CSV. Speaking of reports and data, though, Square also offers this gem:
- Customer database: I consider this Square feature a light version of what Swipely is doing. Its customer overview is nowhere near as in-depth, but it has some cool features regardless. This page displays various customer behaviors, including sales and visits by new versus returning customers and customer visit frequency. These charts display activity over the time period indicated. You can segment guests based on the frequency of visits, and then use those segmented groups in your email marketing. The customer database also integrates with Square’s invoices and appointments. It is really an amazing feature given the price point (free).
- Customizable dashboard: Square now lets users customize the information they see in their dashboard by dragging and dropping different widgets. This is always a nice thing to see because not everyone will use every single feature Square offers — and if you aren’t using it, you might not want to see it front and center on your dashboard.
- Email marketing: I’ve said this before….Square really is an entire ecosystem for businesses. Send newsletters and special offers to your email subscriber using Square’s service, and take advantage of the data from your customer database to do so.
- Appointments: Operate a salon or an office? Integrate Square’s appointment-setting software for a low monthly cost. As we’ve said, this integrates with Square’s customer database so you can make notes and make the most of the experience for your customers.
- Loyalty/rewards program: Square allows you to give your customers digital punch cards. You set how much must be spent in order to earn a punch, and how many punches to earn a reward. You set the reward in the form of either a dollars off coupon or a percentage off coupon. A nice thing about this is that it allows both cash and card transactions to count toward rewards, as long as customers use the same email or phone number for each transaction.
- Employee management and payroll: I did say Square is becoming an entire ecosystem for merchants, and that extends into more backend features. The company offers both employee management (setting roles/permissions for access to features/data, time-keeping, analytics, and more) as well as payroll (available in 16 states at the time of writing).
- Offline Mode card processing: Sometimes, you just can’t survive if the Internet goes out at your place of business. Sometimes you can’t get a cell signal on your smartphone and there isn’t even the tiniest bit of Wi-Fi to be had. That’s where Square’s Offline Mode comes in handy. No Internet? No problem. Square will let you continue to process credit cards when there is no Internet (Wi-Fi or cellular) available. The first caveat is that you are responsible for any transactions that would have been declined normally. The second is that you need to connect your smartphone or tablet to the Internet within 3 days for any of the transactions to go through. If you don’t need this feature or think the risk of processing a card that should have been declined is too high, don’t use it. If you do need it, well…there aren’t many other options out there that even allow offline processing.
- Chargeback protection: Square offers sellers up to $250 in chargeback protection per month. You upload your documentation for the dispute and Square handles the rest — and if the sale in question is eligible for protection, you don’t have to pay for anything even if the dispute isn’t decided in your favor. The question, of course, is how many transactions are actually eligible for this rather awesome feature. It’s also worth noting that this only applies to online and virtual terminal transactions, not Register ones.
- Square Capital: Need a little extra cash flow for your business? Square Capital will provide business loans as soon as the next business day. You make your payments by deducting a percentage of what you process. (While you’re at it, check out our other resources, The 10 Best Merchant Cash Advance Alternatives, and How to Get a Good Deal on a Cash Advance Loan.)
- Gift cards: Merchants can choose from a pre-designed card (sold in packs of 20 with next-day shipping), a template (minimum order of 125 cards and 3-day production times) or upload a completely custom design (500-card minimum and 15-day production time). There’s no redemption fee and the cards are even reloadable. Analytics let you track how much of the gift cards’ balances is still unspent and more.
- Instant deposits: One of the greatest advantages of using PayPal is that your funds have been available almost instantly. Now, Square offers the ability to initiate instant deposits. Most transactions appear in your bank account within 48 hours, but if you log into Square and initiate an instant deposit, the funds should appear in your bank account within a minute. Square charges you 1% of the deposit amount for this feature (and remember, you’re still paying processing fees on top of that).
Virtual terminal: Use this browser-based tool to enter in credit card payments from any internet-connected device with a web browser. No cell phone or tablet required. The fact that the virtual terminal is free beyond the processing costs is actually astounding. PayPal will charge you $30/month for the terminal, and an additional $10/month for recurring billing. Most other processing companies that offer a free virtual terminal don’t offer card storage or recurring billing — you need to get your own gateway for that (an added cost). Square charges you just 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction.
Square Events: Square has become a very popular choice for event ticket sales (and for on-site vending at those events) — but at the same time there’s still a lot of competition in this field, particularly from EventBrite. Square’s event support isn’t strictly new, but now it’s better advertising all of its services, including equipment rentals, training and deployment assistance.
Integration with TouchBistro and Vend: Square Register is, as we’ve said, the most advanced free mPOS out there. But if it’s not sufficient and you need a full-fledged iPad POS, now you can easily integrate Square with TouchBistro and Vend, both of which are leaders in their respective niches.
I continue to be surprised by what Square rolls out in terms of features. It seems to be doubling down on payments as the bulk of the business, but not by adding more monthly services. It’s all still free to use. You just pay the per-transaction fees.
I’d love to see a GPS feature that can auto-detect tax rate. As it is, Square’s tax feature is quite robust. You can choose whether to charge tax for particular items and even set different rates. You can also modify tax rates when you’re charging the purchase. All of these are good things.
Some more advanced POS options have an option for store credit — I honestly don’t know if this would ever be in Square’s wheelhouse. But Square would be the first mPOS to offer it, and would put the Register app one step closer to being a full-fledged replacement for more advanced iPad POS systems.
It also might be nice to see more advanced shipping options for Square’s online store, but with all of the eCommerce integrations available, this is less of an issue.
Fees and Rates:
Square’s pricing is simple. While you can’t get interchange-plus pricing and volume discounts are only available for very large companies, you also won’t have to deal with pricing tiers. Nor will you have to navigate hidden fees. In fact, you won’t have to navigate anything beyond Square’s basic processing fees whatsoever, unless you opt for add-on services.
Basic Rates and Fees:
- Monthly fee: $0
- Headphone jack reader: $0 (Note that you are liable for the costs of any fraud brought on by processing an EMV chip card using the magstripe reader.)
- Swiped transactions: 2.75%
- Keyed-in, Card on File and Virtual Terminal transactions: 3.5% + $0.15
- eCommerce transactions, Invoices: 2.9% + $0.30
- Other fees: None
- Square Stand with Contactless + Chip reader: $169 (note that you can no longer get just the Square stand on its own)
- EMV-only headphone jack card reader: $29 (no contactless payments enabled. We unboxed and review the Square EMV reader here, so be sure to check it out)
- EMV/NFC Bluetooth-powered card reader: $49 (note: a free basic magstripe reader is also included; you can also choose a $1/week payment plan that raises the final cost to $60)
- Dock for EMV/NFC reader: $29
- Gift cards: per-card cost (starting at $2 per card and dropping as you order more)
- Square Appointments: $30/month for one person, $50/month for 2-5 staff, $90/month for unlimited staff.
- Square Payroll: $20/month + $5/month per employee paid
- Employee Management: $5/month per employee
- Email marketing: $15 per month and up, depending on package
These are not bad costs. In fact, I think they’re pretty amazing and a huge mark in Square’s favor. Here’s why:
Square’s EMV readers are cheaper than any terminal and just about any other EMV reader on the market (especially EMV/NFC capable readers). The POS is free. The virtual terminal is free. The processing rates are exactly on par with the majority of pay-as-you-go mobile processors. The costs for the add-on services are absolutely competitive.
The only way you’re going to get lower processing rates and get a comparable suite of features is to open a merchant account. There are a few mobile processors that offer lower rates, but their apps aren’t even close to being as robust as Square’s and you don’t get any of the extra features. Even if you do get a merchant account, you’re going to have to begin a search for a POS that gives you all the features you need.
As you start processing higher volumes or larger transactions, a merchant account is certainly the most stable option. But for a new merchant or a low-volume business, it is hard to argue with the sheer value that Square presents.
According to the Square site, merchants start off with a per transaction limit of $50,000. While that’s the stated limit, the reality is that many merchants encounter trouble at a much lower threshold. In some of the BBB complaints we’ve read, Square has recommended keeping transactions below $3,000, although we have read of transactions in the hundreds-of-dollars range that have triggered suspensions or terminations.
This is one of the challenges of using Square. Most merchants have no idea when they will cross the invisible line and trigger an account suspension or investigation by Square. A busier-than-average month or a significantly larger-than-average ticket are good ways to attract unwanted attention from Square’s risk department, which might request additional information from you to verify.
Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:
There is no early termination fee or locked-in contracts with Square, which is true of almost all mobile-based processors. Every add-on service is month-to-month and there’s a 30-day free trial for each, which means there is essentially no risk. Be warned that you must wait the full 30 days in your trial period before canceling or renewing your subscription.
This is really what we like to see at Merchant Maverick. We just wish more companies in the payment industry would follow suit.
Sales and Advertising Transparency:
For me, Square.com does very, very well with transparency. Everything the company says in its advertising and marketing checks out, and there’s no wacky sales gimmicks or promises of unbeatable rates, free rate reviews, etc. The “free” basic magstripe reader is actually free and you can easily find the price for every aspect of Square’s service on a corresponding web page.
The company could definitely provide more information about account holds, why they happen and how to avoid them. This is the biggest complaint from merchants using Square, and surely the company is aware of this. There really isn’t anything about transaction limits or the ideal ticket size at all on the site.
Aside from that issue, however, I couldn’t ask for more from Square. All fees, rates, and important information appears in their sales copy, and just about everything else you could ever want to know about processing with Square appears in detail within the extensive Help Center.
I generally find that merchant account providers struggle with marketing in the 21st century. Many of them operate like it’s still 1995. Some are marginally better — they work like it’s 2006. But that’s still a full decade behind the times. I fully expect companies that serve small businesses to know how to market to small businesses. And that means putting information online, providing helpful content, and knowing how to use social media.
Square has a really solid handle on all of these issues. Its knowledge base is incredible, and you don’t even need an account to look through it. That’s great if you want to compare how specific features work before you open an account. The blog (called Townsquare) is full of content targeting merchants and businesses of all types, reflecting Square’s diverse customer base. And in terms of social media, you’ll find an active Facebook page, an even more active Twitter feed (@Square), a dedicated Twitter support feed (@SqSupport), and a LinkedIn page.
The company at least seems to be addressing complaints about customer service on its social media channels, and not just the @SqSupport Twitter channel. You can message the Facebook page directly if you need help. All of its social media channels are active, with a good mix of important news, helpful blog posts, and funny content. This is absolutely essential, and I like that Square is addressing a really broad range of merchants. I personally know lots of artists who rely on the service, and quite a few local restaurants. But there are many, many others who do, and all of them have unique needs and preferences.
It might sound like I’m nitpicking, but a company that doesn’t know how to reach small businesses to market its services has no business providing its services to those small businesses. I am thrilled about how open, transparent, and helpful Square is on the marketing side of things.
Ease of Use:
Square is very, very easy to use. If you’ve ever used any sort of mPOS app, you will grasp the basics of Square Register pretty quickly. Even getting a handle on the more advanced features won’t take you much time to get a handle on. After all, there’s a LOT of resources to walk you through how to handle all sorts of tasks. Setting up your own website using the Square online store is mostly a matter of filling in the blanks.
Creating categories, products, discounts, product modifiers, and tax brackets is simple. I am also a fan of the “favorites” category that allows you to keep up to 125 popular products on a virtual “shelf” for quick checkout access.
It is nice that Square syncs between the Register app and its dashboard. Changes made and items added to one will appear when you log into the other. The mobile app is quite functional for managing your sales if you can’t get to a computer, and that’s very important.
Just remember that many advanced features are iPad-only, because they’re meant more for merchants who want a traditional register setup. iOS devices overall seem to function well with Square, but because the Android ecosystem is so diverse, you may have different experiences using the app. Square has a list of “devices with known issues” to inform you of potential compatibility difficulties with your device.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
If you’re running Square from an Apple device, the Square Register app requires iOS 8.0 or later. It is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Remember that some features, such as receipt printing, are iPad exclusives, and you can only run a full register setup from an iPad.
As far as Android support goes, things are a bit spotty. Amazon Kindle devices aren’t compatible at all. Any other Android devices need to be running Android 4.0 or higher, with GPS and Google Play enabled.
However, just because the app works on your device doesn’t mean all of the readers will. To that end, Square has an interactive menu where you can select a device and see which hardware is actually compatible with it.
It’s also worth noting that there is a third-party bit of hardware that will work with Square on iOS devices. It’s called the Miura M010 reader, and unlike Square’s own EMV/NFC reader, it’s chip-and-pin, not just chip-and-signature. It looks, rather unsurprisingly, like PayPal’s EMV reader (which does work with Android devices). The M010 will cost you $129 through Square, with an optional $30 dock.
Please note: You are not legally obligated to accept EMV in any way, shape, or form. But you are liable for any transactions processed using a fraudulent credit card, which could easily be more than the cost of one of Square’s EMV card readers. You’ll need a 3.5 mm headphone jack for the EMV-only or basic magstripe readers, or Bluetooth enabled for the EMV/NFC readers.
If you aren’t accepting EMV yet, it’s time to upgrade as soon as you can. Square makes it very, very easy.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Square has a long list of add-ons and integrations. We’re breaking them down by type of service so you can find what you need more easily:
- Fresh KDS
- When I Work
If you’re a programmer or you have one on staff, you can also take advantage of Square’s APIs to create custom integrations as well.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
You have a few ways to reach out to Square if you have a problem. You can message the Facebook page or tweet @SqSupport on social media, or send Square an email. But if you’re in a pinch and need an answer right away, you probably want phone support, which is available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific Time. Those aren’t the best hours, but they should work for the majority of merchants. Square is quick to brag that most other departments keep in close contact with the support team, including the executives. There’s also a useful site, www.issquareup.com, which will tell you whether any of Square’s services are having technical issues.
To say customer support has been a problem at Square is an understatement. For a long time, Square didn’t offer phone support at all. Its email support was basically 100% cookie-cutter, and getting a personal, well-considered, account-specific reply was nearly impossible. In 2013, Square.com introduced a phone support system, which at first seemed difficult to use and was performing poorly. By late 2014, however, the phone support system seemed to have improved.
That’s not to say that Square’s system is perfect. The phone support system is still limited only to merchants who can obtain a customer code and then dial in. People whose accounts have been terminated cannot reach Square on the phone, and those who have their accounts put on hold also seem to have trouble reaching out.
With more than 2 million merchants as Square.com customers, support is incredibly difficult to execute in a cost-effective way. Add in the relative lack of processing experience these merchants tend to have, along with a lack of proper explanation of the pitfalls of third-party processing, and it’s certainly a challenging situation. We also have to acknowledge that there are shady businesses that take advantage of Square’s “come as you are” approach, which ultimately hurts everyone else — consumers, other merchants, and of course Square itself. Other well-meaning businesses sign up without doing their research, not knowing that theirs is a high-risk industry (which Square names on its Prohibited Goods and Services list), and promptly find their accounts suspended or terminated.
Even larger processors with more resources have trouble executing customer support well. But we know it can be done well. And, we have to give credit where credit is due: Square is actually putting in the effort. So I am confident that Square will continue to improve. I have heard first-hand from merchants who use Square that they have had positive experiences, so I know it’s not all doom and gloom.
Square’s shortcomings in account-specific customer support are mitigated by its industry-leading (and I do mean it; I’m not just throwing that phrase around) knowledge base for self-service customer support. The vast majority of your problems with or questions regarding the Square system will be answered in this online user manual. It is truly extensive and contains helpful screen captures and walk-through for every single feature offered. This is, in my opinion, the gold standard for merchant services support pages.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
There’s no lack of complaints against Square across the web. Most consumer advocacy outlets and review sites have multiple complaints against Square and Square Register. A quick Google search will produce way more feedback on Square then you could ever hope to read. While there’s no shortage of complaints, remember that there’s a lot of good press out there too — we’ll get to that next.
With that said, Square has an A+ rating with the BBB (improved from a B+ in early 2014) despite the overwhelmingly negative reviews. You’ll also see the company has 1,449 complaints in the past 3 years, 719 of which come from the last 12 months. That’s just barely down from our last check in. It sounds like a lot, but the complaint volume is still low when you consider that Square’s customer base is 2 million merchants.
It’s also worth noting that you’ll find 754 complaints on RipOff Report. However, a good share of these will be duplicates of other comments on the web. Others won’t relate to Square at all — such as apartment complexes with “Square” in the name, or the third-party warranty company SquareTrade. And plenty others are from consumers complaining about merchants they believe have scammed them. So the number of complaints is heavily inflated on the site.
However, there is a common theme to the complaints that actually relate to Square’s merchant services, and they boil down to two closely related issues:
- Poor customer support: This is the number one complaint lodged against Square. Some Square merchants even go so far as to suggest that Square is a scam because of their appalling track record of processing funds that have been placed on hold. Square support indicates that they will respond to email inquiries within 24 hours. The time frame is sometimes closer to 2-3 days according to a slew of frustrated merchant reports. We are also sad to see complaints about non-responsive support. Fortunately, the social media team seems to be on the ball when it comes to follow-ups. We’ll also say that Square will work with merchants who file a complaint through the BBB, based on what we’ve seen on the BBB page.
- Account stability issues/funding holds: Difficulty with inaccessible funds is a close second in the complaints department, and considering many of the support complaints are in reference to funding holds, this is probably the most important issue. Square’s aggressive fraud prevention tactics have put many small businesses in a position where they can’t access their income because their transactions have raised a general red flag for any number of reasons. Part of the problem here is that Square doesn’t properly disclose/explain the risks involved in third-party processing. If your account is suspended, you may be able to get reinstated if you provide the necessary documentation. This doesn’t always happen, however. Quite a few merchants seem to encounter holds, then provide the information Square requests for verification purposes…only to receive a termination notice.
There is also some good news. Based on BBB complaints, some merchants who submit their documentation are able to get their accounts reactivated, and others have been able to get a resolution to their problems by reaching out to the BBB as well. I’m not going to say Square is the most accommodating company as far as BBB complaints go, but there’s a definite improvement, and I have seen companies that are far more stubborn and much less apologetic.
For sure, these are some heavy complaints, and we don’t take them lightly. But we also know there are plenty of successful merchants using Square. I encourage you to check out our article on negativity bias to understand our review process and why we’ve rated Square the way we did.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials for Square.com:
The negative chatter about Square is scary, but there is some good out there! Square has been a really good POS solution for lots of businesses. And there’s a lot of great press out there.
One place to start looking for testimonials is Square’s own website. There’s a page dedicated to reviews from Square merchants as well as the press. Most of the major tech sites have published their own reviews as well.
Here’s what happy merchants are saying:
- Features/design: Square has, far and away, the most diverse and advanced feature set of any major mobile processing service without a monthly fee. This is why people choose Square, and it’s why it’s managed to earn 4.5 stars despite the complaints. You can’t beat the price for everything you get. See the Features section above for a complete list of all the cool things you can do with Square. People especially love the inventory, reporting, and offline processing options.
- Innovative: Square was really the first to make mobile processing accessible to everyone, and while the competition has gotten tough, Square hasn’t given up or rested on its laurels. The company is constantly rolling out new features that provide EVERYTHING a merchant could ever need.
- Inexpensive: Because Square does not charge a per-transaction fee on swiped transactions, low-ticket businesses stand to save a significant percentage. This is because a $0.10 transaction fee on a $5 ticket is actually 2% added on. When you look at it that way, the 2.75% flat rate starts to look really good. Also, many American Express transactions are actually processed below cost by Square, which might not be sustainable long-term but is great for businesses that process a lot of AmEx cards. The downside is that debit transactions cost way more with Square than they ought to. Even add-on services that cost a monthly fee are comparable to third-party options. Not only that, but Square’s EMV readers are the most inexpensive options available — $29 for an EMV-only reader, and $49 for an EMV/NFC-enabled device. You pay nothing extra for a full-fledged virtual terminal, recurring billing, or a customer database.
- Easy to open accounts: The ease of obtaining an account is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it increases Square’s risk and requires a very proactive approach when it comes to fraud prevention. On the other, being able to open an account and process transactions within a few minutes is a huge draw for many businesses.
- eCommerce support: A free online store is a big advantage for new merchants, especially those who aren’t sure the cost of building their own would be justified, or those who just don’t have the upfront capital to invest. While in the long-term you are better off building your own, full-featured site, this is a great way for merchants to find their footing online. The best part is, now you can actually continue to process with Square when you move to your own website.
You’ll also find more positive reviews and testimonials on Square’s site. I like that there is a mix of short testimonials (with merchant and business names attached) as well as long-form press coverage.
Square is synonymous with mobile payments at this point. It did what no one else had managed before — to make credit card payments accessible to everyone — and has incredible name recognition even with a mess of competitors. The company has experienced growing pains and gotten a bad reputation for holding merchant funds. But now it’s clear that Square is improving and really carving out a large niche in the merchant services industry as an affordable mPOS solution that offers a wide range of tools to help merchants grow their business.
That’s not to say there aren’t issues. Square cannot offer flawless account stability as a result of its aggregating, and its customer service is by no means perfect. Please remember that Square is not for everyone, despite the company accepting virtually anyone who applies for an account. There’s a long list of prohibited businesses, including “high-risk” products and services. If you fall into this category, you are better off with a merchant account.
But if you are just starting out, your process payments infrequently, or you are still processing a low volume each month, Square could be an amazing tool. Even mid-sized to larger businesses can benefit from everything Square offers.
With features like inventory management, a free and fully functional virtual terminal, advanced reporting, offline processing, recurring billing, online sales and more — all executed very well — Square has more features than I’ve seen from any other no-monthly-fee provider. If you’re willing to pay a bit extra, there are even more great things in store for you. For instance, you’ll find a very reasonably priced gift card solution, a solid scheduling system, and an absolutely gorgeous iPad stand with a built-in card reader.
As far as value goes, it is very hard to beat Square. Its pricing is absolutely competitive for a pay-as-you-go processor, and the fact that you get an incredibly robust POS and mobile app for free just seals the deal. Square’s additional services allow business to centralize many key functions with one service, with no commitment beyond an affordable monthly fee for some — and no extra charge for others.
Square has earned its 4.5-star rating for these reasons. I hope to see account stability continue to improve in the coming months. I am also excited to see where Square might go next.
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