Shopify VS Square: Which Is Best In 2023?
Both platforms provide POS systems, but their full range of services encompasses much more. See which pricing and feature sets will fit your business better.
Shopify vs Square: it’s the battle of the merchant services providers.
These two giants of the payments industry both support online and in-person sales with payment processing, POS systems, online store builders, and more, so we’ve pitted them against each other for this in-depth comparison.
While Square and Shopify share a lot in common, they differ in terms of their respective features, pricing, ease of use, integrations, customer support, and more. These differences mean that Square will better suit some merchants, while Shopify will be a better fit for others.
Read on to see which provider is best for growing your business. Then, check out our Square review and our Shopify review for even closer examinations of these two payment processors. Finally, our list of the best credit card processors for small businesses gives you a broader look at the industry’s top players.
Table of Contents
- Shopify VS Square Comparison
- Shopify VS Square At A Glance
- What’s The Difference Between Shopify And Square?
- Shopify VS Square: FAQ
- Square VS Shopify Fees & Pricing
- Shopify VS Square: Notable Feature Differences Discussed
- Square VS Shopify Feature Drill-Down
- Square VS Shopify User Reviews & Complaints
- Which Is Best For My Business Needs: Shopify Or Square?
- Shopify VS Square: Next Steps To Create Your Business
Shopify VS Square Comparison
Regarding Square vs. Shopify, both offer similar tools for online and in-person sales. However, the differences are apparent when you look at pricing. Square charges no subscription fees and offers a (nearly) universal flat rate for all transactions. Shopify charges monthly fees, and its processing fees go down if you get a higher-tier plan.
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Shopify VS Square At A Glance
Shopify and Square both offer easy-to-use tools for merchants who sell online, in-person, or both.
They have many features in common, but they are not identical. Shopify is generally better at eCommerce, while Square is stronger for many brick-and-mortar businesses.
Pros And Cons Of Square
- Specialized POS apps for restaurants, retail, and appointment scheduling
- Can sell online without paying a monthly fee
- Free magstripe card reader
- POS systems have great offline capabilities
- Limited international reach
- Phone support is not 24/7
- Account stability issues
Square is ideal for new merchants just starting, and its POS offerings appeal to a wide range of businesses. Larger eCommerce businesses may feel confined by Square, however.
Pros And Cons Of Shopify
- Superb eCommerce features
- Great for international sales
- No fixed fee for POS transactions (just a percentage fee)
- 24/7 phone support
- 2,000+ eCommerce integrations
- All eCommerce plans carry a monthly fee
- Platform fee of 0.5%-2% if you use a payment processor other than Shopify Payments
- Account stability issues
Shopify offers an ideal platform for global sellers, with loads of international selling features and compatible currencies. It also offers savings over Shopify for brick-and-mortar merchants with average tickets on the smaller side. However, you can’t escape the monthly fees.
What’s The Difference Between Shopify And Square?
Both providers offer the tools needed for a brick-and-mortar shop and/or online store in this Square vs. Shopify showdown. The difference between the two can be boiled down to this: Shopify is generally stronger in eCommerce, while Square is typically better with in-person selling.
Further differences arise when you consider pricing, international sales, customer service, and industry-specific needs.
Both Shopify And Square Offer…
- Secure payment processing with support for numerous payment methods
- Prebuilt and customizable checkouts
- POS software and hardware (mobile card readers, all-in-one touchscreen terminals, and full-featured register kits)
- Month-to-month agreements with flat-rate per-transaction pricing
- eCommerce integrations
- Customer management, inventory management, and marketing
- Marketplace selling
- Shoppable posts on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok
- PayPal payment button support
- Developer tools and APIs
- CBD sales (though you’ll have to use a processor other than Shopify Payments to sell CBD in your Shopify store)
Only Square Offers…
- Specialized POS systems for restaurants, retailers, and businesses with appointment-scheduling needs
- A free eCommerce site (with a Square domain)
- No monthly fee for basic services
- Stronger POS software features
Only Shopify Offers…
- The ability to use either Shopify Payments (we have an article on how to set up Shopify Payments if you want to know more about it) or a different payment processor with your Shopify eCommerce site and/or POS
- The largest possible integration selection (over 2,000)
- More advanced eCommerce features
- Shopify Pay checkout buttons/accelerated checkout flow
- More advanced shipping tools
- Selling in 132 currencies (Square supports eight currencies)
- 24/7 phone support
Country Availability For Shopify And Square
Shopify touts its ability to serve merchants in 175 countries and its support for accepting payments in 132 currencies. However, Shopify Payments is available for payment processing in only 23 countries. Merchants in many countries will have to use a different processor if they want to use Shopify for eCommerce and/or in-person selling.
By contrast, Square can only be used in eight countries: the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, France, Spain, and Japan. What’s more, with Square, you can only accept the currency of the country in which your account is based. Shopify has a clear international edge here.
Do Shopify And Square Restrict What You Can Sell?
Both Shopify & Square have policies in place restricting what merchants can sell through their online stores. The important thing to know is that Shopify and Shopify Payments have different restrictions; Shopify as a whole is a bit more lenient than Shopify Payments, and Shopify Payments and Square have the most similar policies. If you want to use Shopify but don’t intend to use Shopify Payments, you have a bit more freedom in what you can sell.
Otherwise, both Shopify & Square have restrictions on what are generally considered “high-risk products,” which is a blanket term that can describe everything from weapons and hateful and obscene products to pornography and even betting advice and other “informational products.” The best advice is to read the terms of service of both Square and Shopify Payments, specifically their Prohibited Products listings, and get to know the high-risk payments industry a bit better.
One area where both Square and Shopify carve out an exception to their no-high-risk policies: CBD. Square allows CBD merchants to do business on its platform through a special CBD program, though you’ll have to apply/be approved for the program and pay higher processing fees on all CBD products.
By contrast, Shopify lets you sell CBD through your online Shopify store without paying a special CBD rate, but you can’t use Shopify Payments to process CBD sales — instead, you’ll have to use an alternative processor that works with CBD sellers. This will entail paying an extra 0.5-2% per transaction.
If your business does fall into the high-risk category, check out our list of the best high-risk payment processors as an alternative.
Shopify VS Square: FAQ
Square VS Shopify Fees & Pricing
While Shopify and Square have similar transaction fees at the basic subscription level, Shopify doesn’t offer a plan without a monthly fee as Square does. Other pricing differences arise when you look at the higher-tier subscriptions and POS equipment these companies provide.
|Point Of Sale||
|Mobile POS||Included with the Shopify POS app||$0/month|
|Credit Card Reader||$49||$0-$59|
|In-Person (Swiped/Dipped/Tapped) Transactions||
|Chargeback Fee||$15||No chargeback fee|
|Refund Fee||Shopify keeps the transaction fee||Square keeps the transaction fee|
|Try Shopify||Try Square|
Square VS Shopify Processing Costs
In comparing pricing, there are three concerns: monthly subscription fees, rates for in-person transactions, and rates for online transactions. Both companies offer discounted processing rates with higher-tier subscriptions (particularly Shopify — high-volume merchants, take note), but the primary difference is in the monthly fees.
With a free Square subscription, you can sell online for $0/month, and you’ll get a full (albeit feature-limited and tied to a Square domain) online store. By contrast, the cheapest Shopify plan, Shopify Starter, costs $5/month, and that plan doesn’t even include a full online store. Shopify Starter offers embeddable buy buttons and links, but you’ll need at least a Basic Shopify subscription to launch your own eCommerce website, which costs $29/month. Cost advantage: Square.
Keep in mind that the monthly pricing listed in the table above applies to annual billing packages. You can pay on a month-to-month basis instead, but you’ll pay a higher monthly fee.
However, with in-person transactions, the story is more complex. With Square’s free POS and the free, single-location versions of Square’s Restaurant, Retail, and Appointments POS packages, there’s no monthly fee. However, Shopify’s in-person transaction fees (2.4%-2.7%) are purely percentage-based, whereas Square’s in-person rates (2.6% + $0.10) include a $0.10 fixed fee. For merchants with lower average tickets, that $0.10 per transaction fee can more than cancel out what a Square merchant might save over a Shopify merchant in monthly fees.
For online rates, Square and Shopify are evenly matched at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction at the base level. However, Square does not charge a fee for chargebacks, giving it a slight advantage on pesky incidental fees.
One note regarding Shopify: Unlike Square, Shopify lets you choose between its in-house payment processor (Shopify Payments) and a different processor to power your Shopify sales. In itself, that’s a point in Shopify’s column, but there’s a catch: Shopify will take an extra 0.5% to 2% of each sale you make when you use an outside payment processor.
Which is Cheaper, Square or Shopify?
In terms of pricing, Square has the edge over Shopify under most scenarios. Shopify’s monthly fees can add up over time, especially with add-ons. If Shopify’s tools help you run/expand your business, it may still be worth it. However, Square packs a lot of value in its free tools, especially for the budget-minded.
Finally, large businesses take note: With both Shopify and Square, you may qualify for custom enterprise-level feature packages, pricing for which is quote-based and must be negotiated.
Shopify VS Square: Notable Feature Differences Discussed
Square and Shopify have a lot in common, but the differences become apparent upon closer examination. On the whole, Shopify offers the stronger (albeit pricier) all-in-one eCommerce package, while Square has a more versatile POS ecosystem with packages tailored to eateries and retailers.
Square VS Shopify Feature Drill-Down
|Industry-Specific POS Apps|
|Receipts (POS)||Print, email & text||Print, email & text|
|Offline Capabilities (POS)||Limited||Strong|
|Accept All Forms Of Payments (POS)||Limited|
|Integrations With Third-Party Payment Gateways (POS)|
|Credit Card Readers|
|All-In-One Credit Card Terminals With Screens||(Shopify POS Go)||(Square Terminal)|
|Free eCommerce Website|
|Shipping Features & Discounts||Excellent||Good|
|International Sales Support||Excellent||Limited|
|Multichannel Selling||– 15 platforms||– 7 platforms|
|Integrations||– 2,000+ integrations||– 300+ integrations|
|24/7 phone support||(weekdays from 6 AM-6 PM PST only)|
Feature-wise, we’ll get deeper into the weeds below. However, there are some key takeaways here. Regarding in-person sales, Square excels, especially for restaurants, small- to mid-sized retailers, and businesses with appointment-setting needs. Square also offers a compelling eCommerce package for those who don’t want to pay a monthly fee and a decent package for those willing to pay a monthly fee.
On the other hand, Shopify isn’t quite as flexible when it comes to in-person sales, but for eCommerce businesses — particularly larger ones — Shopify’s features are stronger and more scalable than those of Square. International sellers, in particular, will find eCommerce to be much easier with Shopify than with Square.
Square VS Shopify User Reviews & Complaints
Both Square and Shopify are very widely used services, so it’s little wonder that both see a high volume of complaints. When you review complaints about these services on sites such as the BBB, one dominant theme emerges: complaints about held funds and account holds/terminations.
Shopify Complaints & Common Problems
Shopify Payments, like Square, is a payment service provider. Unlike traditional merchant account providers, PSPs don’t heavily scrutinize you and your business before you sign up. That’s one of their central appeals — a quick and easy signup process. However, that means that PSPs heavily scrutinize your transactions after you sign up with automated systems that raise red flags at the slightest hint of illegality or contravention of the terms of service.
Given that easy user access is key to the business model of PSPs, there isn’t much they can do about funding holds and account terminations that turn out to be unjust or overkill. That’s why Shopify and Square get mountains of nearly identical complaints along these lines. Just know that there are things you can do to minimize your chances of experiencing funding holds and account terminations.
Shopify also gets a fair number of complaints regarding customer service problems and billing issues. To its credit, though, Shopify makes an effort to respond to user complaints posted to popular review sites.
Square Complaints & Common Problems
Square’s user complaints tell a virtually identical story to the complaints posted about Shopify. Funding holds and account terminations abound. And as with Shopify, you’ll also see plenty of issues with billing and customer service availability and quality. However, like Shopify, Square responds to most of its users who post complaints. Honestly, the complaints (and company responses) read so similarly that it’s impossible to declare a winner in this section.
Despite the high complaint volume, Square and Shopify have millions upon millions of users who do not encounter these issues, so don’t let these complaints scare you off these services entirely. Of course, you shouldn’t discount them entirely, either, which is why you might consider switching from a PSP to a dedicated merchant account provider once your business gets big enough.
Which Is Best For My Business Needs: Shopify Or Square?
Which merchant services giant should you use to take your small business to new heights? It depends on your business and what your priorities are.
Choose Square If You Need…
- An online store, and you already use (and like) Square for payment processing. You may find it easier to stay within the Square ecosystem.
- An online store (or payment processing for your current store) and don’t want to pay a monthly fee. Shopify charges monthly fees on all its plans.
- A POS designed specifically to meet your foodservice/retail/appointment scheduling needs. Shopify doesn’t offer industry-specific POS systems.
- A POS system that has a solid inventory system, team management, and impressive offline capabilities. Shopify’s POS system isn’t quite as robust for many business types.
Choose Shopify If You Need…
- A POS app that runs on multiple devices without having to pay extra. Square will make you pay extra per location.
- A large, complex eCommerce site. Square’s online store is impressive, but Shopify better fits the needs of higher-volume online sellers. At the same time, with Shopify’s new, $5/month Starter plan that lets you sell on social media without a website, small-time sellers should consider Shopify too.
- International eCommerce capabilities. With Shopify, you can accept payment in up to 132 currencies. With Square, you can’t take payments in currencies other than that of your home country — plus, Square is only available in eight countries.
- Functionality beyond what you get with the base product. Shopify’s 2,000+ eCommerce integration collection dwarfs that of Square.
- To connect your existing payment processor to a POS and/or eCommerce website. You can’t use a different processor in your Square Online store with Square.
- 24/7 phone support. Square’s phone support is limited to weekdays during business hours.
Shopify VS Square: Next Steps To Create Your Business
We can’t declare a definitive victor in the Square vs Shopify debate. We recommend them both to merchants, as they have a lot of great features with generally fair pricing.
That said, Shopify does have a few more advantages than Square — cheaper POS processing, more extensive eCommerce features, multicurrency acceptance, and round-the-clock customer service, for starters.
However, some merchants may well prefer Square. Newer, smaller-scale, and cost-conscious sellers will find a lot to like about Square, as will restaurateurs and businesses with intensive appointment-setting needs. Plus, for those who sell on-the-go at markets and fairs, it’s hard to overstate the importance of being able to take card payments with a spotty or nonexistent internet connection. Only Square lets you do this.
Ultimately, you need to know what your budget is and what features are crucial for you to have. Shopify and Square look rather similar at first glance, but when you take a closer look, the differences become apparent. You do need to consider costs when making a decision, but keep in mind your long-term goals and the features you’ll need to reach those goals.
Thankfully, you can try either service on a trial basis to freely test the features (and Square can be used freely forever). Even if you sign up for a paid plan, you can easily cancel at any time, as their plans are month-to-month with no long-term commitments. (For example, deactivating your Square account is a quick four-step process, though you’ll need to do some prep beforehand)