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- Date Established
- San Francisco, CA
- Predictable flat-rate pricing
- Ideal for low-volume merchants
- No monthly fees
- Impressive feature set
- Affordable chip card readers
- All-in-one payments system
- Free tools for selling online
- Sudden account terminations
- Funding holds common
- Not suitable for high-risk industries
We’ve been following Square (Square.com, formerly Squareup) 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. Since then, Square’s suite of products and services, including Square Register and Square Point of Sale, have established the company as more than a passing fad.
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.
The cost is easily Square’s biggest draw. A flat rate of 2.75% for 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 have said, 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. Suffice it say, Square isn’t just an mPOS more. It’s basically an entire business ecosystem.
Square has just one shortcoming: Because it’s a third-party processor, Square is prone to terminating accounts when the risk department decides a merchant has proven to be too much of a liability. While you can get set up with a Square account almost immediately, you’ll be under close scrutiny and there’s a higher chance of encountering a hold or termination than if you were to open a merchant account with a traditional processor.
If you’re willing to accept an inherent amount of account instability, Square offers merchants the kind of value that precious few other processors can provide. Businesses of all sizes — from the smallest micro-merchants to large chains — can benefit from Square’s system.
Square.com earns a perfect 5-star rating for its ease of use, its astounding feature set, transparent and affordable pricing, and its overall status as a powerhouse for merchants.
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!
Table of Contents
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 quite 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. However, there’s one payment-related feature I want to point out:
- Card on File: If you operate on iOS, you can safely and securely store your customers’ card information in the Square Point of Sale system (with their permission!). You are still PCI compliant and consumers can pay for orders without having to pull out their cards. This also works with Square Invoices and the Virtual Terminal, as well as eCommerce (using the APIs). Square will securely store the information and saves it in the customer database.
POS App: The Square Point of Sale app is just about the most powerful app you can get for free, and it rivals many subscription 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
- Offline mode card processing
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. You can even store card data in the virtual terminal to re-charge customers without making them re-submit payment information.
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. In the meantime, here’s a quick run-down:
- Webstore hosting: You can bring your own domain or purchase one through Square, and get free hosting plus 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 Point of Sale seamlessly.
- Payment gateway for ecommerce sites: If you have a website built already, and it’s powered by BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Weebly, Ecwid, Magento, or a handful of others, you can integrate Square directly to process payments.
- 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. You can even set up recurring invoices with Card on File.
Other Square Features
- Inventory management: Square’s basic inventory management system is the most advanced I’ve seen from any mobile processor with no monthly fee. However, it’s still fairly basic when you look at what actual industry-leading solutions provide. It’s also a step behind what you can get if you upgrade to Square for Retail, which is more on par with other leaders in inventory management and includes purchase order management and barcode generation. Features of the basic inventory suite include:
- Item categories/varieties
- Item add-ons/modifications
- Item pictures/descriptions
- Inventory count
- Bulk inventory import/export and management
- Multiple tax rates
- Online and in-store inventory sync
- Adjust stock levels and mark reasons
- Customer database: This database 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, feedback, and appointments. It is really an amazing feature given the price point (free).
- 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. You can also issue refunds or coupons from Square Feedback.
- 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. Many of the reports are exportable by CSV. Speaking of data, though, Square also offers another gem:
- Customizable dashboard: Square 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. 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: These are two separate services, but related. Employee management gives you timecards, user permissions and passcodes, and more. If you want just payroll, Square gives you the timecard feature for free, plus handling taxes, sick leave, and more. Payroll is available in 32 states as of November 2017, but it’s sure to keep expanding.
- 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, a template or a completely custom design. There’s no redemption fee and the cards are reloadable. Plus, you can issue online gift cards at no charge beyond the processing fee for the credit card. Analytics let you track how much of the gift cards’ balances is still unspent and more. This is a cool feature, and pretty reasonably priced.
- Developer APIs: Want to create a custom, PCI-compliant solution? Square makes it easy for you to integrate its core features with several APIs.
- Event Rentals: 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. Plus, Square makes it easy to sell tickets and admission to events through its online store and integrates with other solutions.
Square is basically the reviewer’s nightmare when it comes to new features, because Square rolls out something new and noteworthy at least every other month, along with a steady stream of improvements to all of its various apps on a monthly basis. However, there are two new and noteworthy additions to the Square lineup of products:
Square for Retail: Square for Retail is Square’s way of providing a more advanced POS for retail businesses with a large inventory. For $60 per register per month plus 2.75% per transaction, its pricing is comparable to many other iPad-based systems. You’ll need to remember that this is the cost just for the app. If you want hardware, you’ll need to purchase the iPad, the stand, the barcode reader, the cash drawer, and everything else.
Retail is designed to be a very searchable app. You can find inventory by entering a keyword or scanning a barcode. But, despite that, it also steps back from many of the features that Point of Sale, the free version, offers. I expect to see Square continuing to refine this app in the coming months. However, unless you are in desperate need of more advanced inventory and reporting, and want a searchable POS, you might want to hold off on switching over. Check out our full review of Square for Retail.
Square Register: Square Register is the company’s newest hardware solution, and definitely the slickest. But at $999, that’s not surprising. Square Register is a customized piece of hardware designed to run Square Point of Sale, with some of the advanced back-end features of the Retail app thrown in. For example, you get employee timecards, multi-location inventory and purchase order management, plus advanced reports.
The Register setup features a 13-inch screen with a 7-inch customer-facing display. It integrates the payment hardware in the user display and supports magstripe, EMV, and NFC payments. However, all of the hardware — a receipt printer, cash drawer, etc., must be purchased separately. That’s a little steep. It’s also not an iPad device. It’s a custom Android setup.
As a result, Square Register is not fully compatible with all of Square’s features and add-ons, such as Appointments or kitchen display systems like FreshKDS. Register does work with Square Loyalty, however.
The biggest change, though, is its pricing plan: Square is offering 2.5% + $0.10 per card-present transaction. This basically means merchants with an average ticket size less than $40 will pay more with Register than they would with an iPad and card reader. (Sorry, cafes and micro-merchants.) Whether the costs justify what you get depends on perspective, though.
Fees & 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.
Square offers a standard payout of 2 business days for merchants, though you can initiate an instant deposit for 1% of the transfer volume and have your money in minutes.
Basic Rates & Fees
- Monthly fee: $0
- Standard swiped transactions: 2.75%
- Square Register swiped transactions: 2.5% + $0.10
- Keyed-in, Card on File and Virtual Terminal transactions: 3.5% + $0.15
- eCommerce transactions, Invoices: 2.9% + $0.30
- Other fees: None. This includes chargeback fees. Square even offers a chargeback protection program, which will cover the costs of eligible chargebacks, up to $250 per month, even if you don’t win the claim.
The fee for Square Register transactions is a big change from the flat percentage it charges if you’re using the Square app on another device. The major takeaway is that merchants with an average ticket less than $40 will wind up paying a little bit more on that plan, on top of the costs of the hardware.
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.
In addition to the processing fees, here’s what you’ll pay for everything else Square has to offer:
- Basic headphone jack card reader: $0 if you order online. Otherwise, you can buy them in stores and Square will reimburse you.
- Chip card reader: $29 (No contactless payments enabled. We unboxed and reviewed the Square EMV reader here, so be sure to check it out)
- Contactless + Chip reader: $49 (note: a free basic magstripe reader is also included)
- Square Stand with Contactless + Chip reader: $169 (Note: You can no longer get just the Square stand on its own, but you do save a bit of money overall because you get the stand, the reader, and the dock for this price.)
- Dock for Contactless + Chip reader: $29.
- Lightning Adapter for Square Readers: Do you have one of the latest iPhones? No worry — while the Apple-supplied adapter will work with the Square Reader, Square has its own, much slicker, adapter available for $15.
- Square Register: $999, or $49/month for 24 months (which totals out to $1,176). The payment plan is a good option, since upfront costs can be a bit much. And it’s certainly better than a leasing option. The cost difference isn’t bad, either. I’ve seen leases that will charge you three times what the equipment is worth.
In all, these are pretty amazing prices 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 app is free. The virtual terminal is free. The processing rates are exactly on par with the majority of pay-as-you-go mobile processors and can beat some interchange-plus plans. The costs for the add-on services are absolutely competitive, too.
- Square for Retail: $60/month per register
- Square Appointments: $30/month for one person, $50/month for 2-5 staff, $90/month for unlimited staff.
- Square Payroll: $25/month + $5/month per employee paid
- Employee Management: $5/month per employee
- Email marketing: starting at $15/month
- Gift cards: Per-card cost (starting at $2 per card and dropping as you order more)
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, and so on. There’s definitely appeal in a system that will work seamlessly, guaranteed, with minimal effort to set up or maintain.
As you start processing higher volumes or larger transactions, a merchant account is certainly the more stable option, and depending on your processor you might get a dedicated account rep to answer questions and resolve problems. But for a new merchant or a low-volume business, it is hard to argue with the sheer value that Square presents. And even large businesses are finding value in staying with Square.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee
There is no early termination fee or locked-in contracts with Square, which is true of almost all mobile-based processors. (Though Square can hardly be considered just a mobile processor anymore.) 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 & 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 2005. But that’s still more than 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. There are plenty of articles explaining how to use Square’s tools to better your business. 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 and their needs. 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 Point of Sale 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 from the Square Dashboard and the app. It is nice that Square syncs between the Point of Sale 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. You can control (almost) everything from both the app and the web, and that’s very important.
If you plan to use Square for Retail, you should expect a drastically different experience in the app, as the entire POS is designed for high-inventory environments. Everything is meant for searching or barcode scanning, instead of browsing through a list of items. However, you’ll get the same back-end dashboard.
Hardware & Software Requirements
If you’re running SquareUp from an Apple device, the Square Point of Sale app requires iOS 9.0 or later (9.1 or later for some of the card readers). 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.
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. 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 for the basic reader, with GPS and Google Play enabled. To use the Contactless + Chip reader, you’ll need Android 4.4 or higher.
Want to know what works with your device? 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 Square Register is actually running a custom Android setup. Despite this, you can’t install any other apps or software on the system. And somewhat disappointingly, not everything in the Square ecosystem syncs perfectly with Square Register yet — Appointments, or FreshKDS, for example.
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. If you aren’t accepting EMV yet, it’s time to upgrade as soon as you can. Square makes it very, very easy, which is a major mark in its favor.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Square has a long list of add-ons and integrations in its app marketplace. They include accounting tools, ecommerce, invoicing, POS systems, inventory, and a lot more. This is great because it means if you don’t want to use Square’s tools, you don’t have to.
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:
- Payments API
- Point of Sale API
- eCommerce API
- Inventory API
- Reporting API
- Employee API
You can check out all of Square’s documentation here. You’ll have to create a Square account to access all the credentials.
I’m not convinced that Square’s quite on the level of Stripe or Braintree, but this is a major step forward from even just a couple of years ago.
Customer Service & 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.
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, as the company says they will only communicate via email once that happens. (From everything I’ve read, all indications are that you won’t hear much from Square at all once your account is terminated.)
Square’s shortcomings in phone-based 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 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.
And if that’s not enough to help you through, try Square’s Seller Community. Square reps and experienced merchants alike weigh in on questions, so it’s a good way to get an answer you can’t find elsewhere on the web.
Even larger processors with more resources have trouble executing customer support well. But we know it can be done. And, we have to give credit where credit is due: Square is actually putting in the effort to make consistent improvement. 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, and there are plenty of other testimonials around the web to the same effect.
The problem is really just merchants whose accounts are terminated — they’re (understandably) upset and wanting answers. But Square won’t give them. I’m not sure the company can; surely the customer support reps can’t. But it’s worth noting that this is definitely one of the biggest complaints about Square’s customer support.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
There’s no lack of complaints against Square across the web, which is pretty easy to confirm with a Google search. 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 despite the overwhelmingly negative reviews. You’ll also see the company has 1,513 complaints, 460 of them from the last 12 months. That’s not too different from the total at our previous check-in: 1,466 complaints total, 561 from the previous 12 months. It sounds like a lot, but the complaint volume is still low when you consider that Square’s customer base is (at least) 2 million merchants. Most of the BBB reviews are sadly negative as well.
It’s also worth noting that you’ll find 2,278 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. (This was a benefit of the old “SquareUp” and “Squareup.com” titles for the company.) 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 and not an accurate reflection of the problems.
However, there is a common theme to the complaints that actually relate to Square’s merchant services, and they boil down to one issue:
- Account stability issues/funding holds: Terminations or freezes definitely make up the bulk of the complaints against Square. The company’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 (which can happen 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. Square’s agreements with its processors (and likely policies from its own legal team) limit the company’s ability to explain why accounts are terminated. The most you’ll get it, based on BBB complaints, is a notification that a payment violated the terms of service or that your business model is unsupported or high-risk.
Based on what you’ve seen from BBB complaints, if your account is suspended, you may be able to get reinstated if you provide the necessary documentation. This doesn’t always happen, however. Some merchants encounter holds, then provide the information Square requests for verification purposes only to receive a termination notice.
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. If your account hasn’t already been terminated, there’s definitely hope.
The rest of the complaints about Square are a jumble. Some have issues with transferring funds via Square cash. Others are getting emails when they don’t want them or don’t have a Square account. The other noteworthy complaints about Square I’ve pulled from comments by merchants who do like the service:
- Lack of advanced features: This mostly comes from merchants who want to see Square features on par with other major POS systems, such as more advanced reporting, or store credit.
- Fees: I’ve seen multiple merchants expressing a wish that Square’s fees were lower — the processing fees and monthly fees. I suppose that’s only to be expected. Square does offer volume discounts, but only to businesses processing more than $250,000 per year. And it’s definitely worth taking stock of all the free features you get when you’re analyzing costs.
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 & Testimonials
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, testifying to that fact.
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: It’s really, really hard to beat the price for everything you get. And that list is growing all the time. See the Features section above for a complete list of all the cool things you can do with Square.
- Inexpensive: I know I just said some merchants are wishing the fees were lower. That’s true, but plenty of other merchants like the costs. 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. 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 and PCI compliant card vault to store card numbers.
- Easy to open accounts: The ease of obtaining an account is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means Square has to be careful once those accounts are open, and it leads to the problem of merchant terminations. 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 probably 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 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. 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.
As far as value goes, it is very hard to beat Square. Its pricing for card processing is absolutely competitive for a pay-as-you-go processor, and it can sometimes beat out or at least break even with interchange-plus plans.
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. All of the free software puts merchants in a position to save money.
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 booking system, customizable loyalty programs, and an absolutely gorgeous new register with a customer-facing display.
Square has earned its 5-star rating for these reasons. I am also excited to see where Square might go next. Because one thing is for certain: It’s not standing still!
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