Square vs. PayPal Here

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Square vs PayPal Here

SquareVSPaypal Here
Products and Services
Compatible Hardware
Fees and Rates
Sales and Advertising Transparency
Customer Service and Technical Support
Negative Reviews and Complaints
Positive Reviews and Testimonials
WinnerFinal Verdict
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The mobile payments space has undergone a major transformation in the past few years. Small contenders have come and gone, new names have emerged. But it feels like the big names — such as Square and PayPal Here — have gotten bigger.

Square (see our review) has been a giant in the mobile payment processing since its inception in 2009. Claiming an estimated 2 million merchants, Square has made it possible for anyone to accept credit card payments and grow their business with a dazzling and ever-growing suite of tools and apps. PayPal is a behemoth in all forms of commerce, and it’s dominated the online payments space in particular, with about 8 million PayPal for Business users. In 2012, it ventured into mobile payments with the PayPal Here app (see our review), which works with the rest of the PayPal Suite.

When you compare Square vs PayPal Here, you’ll see that have a hefty share of the mobile payment market and instant recognizability for consumers. They also have many similar offerings. To make a potentially long story short, Square has earned a 4.5-star rating for the sheer value it provides, while PayPal has earned a respectable 4 stars. However, depending on what capabilities you need, either could be a great choice.

Stick around while I briefly break down the differences between the two mPOS apps. For a more in-depth look at each, check out our full reviews of Square and PayPal Here!

Products and Services:

Winner: Square

Square and PayPal Here are both mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) services, requiring just a cell phone or tablet to accept credit cards. They’re great for merchants at conventions and trade shows, street vendors, repair businesses, professional services, restaurants and retail boutiques… Basically anywhere that you may not have an actual register, or don’t need a large, complicated POS system, either service will give you what you need.

An overview of Square’s services:

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

As far as core features are concerned, you’re going to get the same experience from both. That includes:

  • Accept all forms of credit
  • Keyed transaction support
  • Record cash transactions
  • Issue full and partial refunds
  • Apply Discounts
  • Item library with product descriptions, images, and variants
  • Barcodes and SKUs
  • Receipt printing
  • Receipts via email/SMS
  • Cash drawer support
  • Invoicing

That said, Square’s app is very nearly a full-fledged POS, and it offers several additional services free of charge — inventory management with counts and low-stock alerts and a virtual terminal for example. You can add services such as employee management and customer loyalty, to. Not only that, but everything synchronizes seamlessly in the Square Dashboard. If you want the freedom to create a register setup and use the same app for your mobile sales, you can do that with Square almost effortlessly.

There’s just one shortcoming: Square has put a lot of effort into its eCommerce offerings of late, but it’s still not the most robust option out there. If your online sales are as important to you as your mobile sales, PayPal might be the better option for you.

If you want add-ons, PayPal Here isn’t nearly as robust as Square. Its inventory features are more limited (there’s no count except with an add-on service). and most notably, PayPal Here’s item library doesn’t sync with the rest of your PayPal setup. There’s no offline mode, a fact that continues to dismay me.

However, Paypal’s eCommerce capabilities are easily the best on the market. If selling online as well as on mobile devices is a priority for you, you shouldn’t overlook the value and compatibility PayPal offers.

In the end, if you’re just looking at mobile, I think these solutions are pretty well matched, but Square can do just a bit more, and that’s why it ultimately comes out on top. If you want to take either solution to a counter top, Square still offers more functionality — but if you’re selling online as well, PayPal has a distinct advantage. I think it’s important when choosing an mPOS you look at your technical needs as well as how the app of your choosing fits into the rest of your business. Omni-channel solutions are becoming far more common and they can be a very effective way to manage payment processing and orders across all these different channels.

Compatible Hardware:

Winner: Square

For a mobile setup, really, all you need is a compatible smartphone or tablet and a credit card reader. You can send your customers digital receipts from either PayPal Here or Square. But if you want a full-fledged register, you can have that, too — that means receipt printer, cash drawer, the whole shebang.

Did you know that PayPal integrates with Vend POS?

PayPal + Vend POS
Advanced POS software
Easy credit card processing integration
Get Started For $0

Supported Phones and Tablets: 

Both PayPal Here and Square are designed to work on Android and iOS devices — tablets and smartphones. However, you’ll get maximum capabilities out of Square if you’re running an iPad. On the other hand, PayPal Here supports a small assortment of Windows devices as well. You’ve got a fairly large list of supported devices on both, and few compatibility issues on either part.

Supported Card Readers:

You can still get a free magstripe reader from PayPal Here and Square for signing up. However, at this point it’s very prudent for you to get an EMV (chip card) reader. They aren’t free, but it will remove a huge liability from your business.

PayPal’s only other carder reader option, its EMV reader, is my favorite device on the market right now: The Miura M010. It’s a Bluetooth-enabled all-in-one reader (meaning it supports EMV, NFC/contactless and magstripe). Not only that but it’s fairly comfortable to hold in your hand. you can even get a cradle with built in charger for a countertop setup. Check out all the reasons I like it in my unboxing review.

Square has a larger assortment of devices to choose from. There’s a headphone jack EMV/magstripe reader as well as its Contactless + Chip Card reader, which supports NFC and EMV but not magstripe transactions. It also has a dock but it isn’t exactly friendly to handheld use. You can also get the Miura M010 for Square. however, whereas PayPal’s version supports both Android and iOS, Square’s only works with iOS. See how Square’s hardware stacks up against other options.

As far as price, that’ll be something you’ll have to decide for yourself. PayPal’s reader retails for $79.99, while Square offers it’s contactless + chip card reader for $49.

As I’ve already said, I definitely prefer the Miura M010. I think it has a better design and is more versatile. But Square wins out in this category simply because it has a larger array of options at more cost-effective price points.

Other Supported Hardware:

PayPal Here and Square both accommodate a variety of receipt printers, cash drawers, even barcode scanners. And depending on what you need, you can get a pre-assembled bundle of hardware directly through Square or through POS Portal for PayPal Here. You’ll save over buying each item individually, but prices vary depending on what equipment you want. There’s no doubt in my mind that Square has the better assortment — but do you need one? If you just need mobile processing, probably not. A smart device and a card reader will be more than sufficient.

In all, I appreciate the beauty of PayPal’s simplicity, whereas you might find yourself bewildered over the Square options, but the more affordable hardware and greater selection of pre-designed bundles are nice.

Fees and Rates:

Winner: Tie

While the cost of hardware is notably different, Square and PayPal Here do offer similar prices for credit card processing. Neither service charges any regular fees beyond those incurred per transaction, though with both you can opt for add-on services. If you’re just running the app and maybe eCommerce, you might save a tiny tiny fraction with PayPal Here, but 0.05% is a very tiny amount at this scale, and you should consider other factors.

Here’s what you’ll pay:

PricePayPal HereSquare
Standard Swipe2.7%2.75%
Manual Key-In3.5% + $0.153.5% + $0.15
International CardsAdd 1% to feesKeyed Rates
Invoicing2.9% + $0.302.9% + $0.30
Virtual Terminal Rates 3.1% + $0.153.5% + $0.15
 Chargeback Fee$20None

That’s some pretty fair pricing, and the lack of a per-transaction fee for swipes makes it favorable to low-volume businesses.

If you want more from your mPOS, here are some additional options:


  • Hosted Payment Page and Virtual Terminal: $30/month
  • Recurring Billing: $10/month
  • Advanced inventory through Shopventory: $25/month


  • Appointment Booking: Starting at $30/month
  • Loyalty: $25/month/location
  • Virtual Terminal: No monthly fee
  • Recurring Billing/Card on File: 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction
  • Advanced Inventory through Shopventory: $25/month

The main advantage to PayPal is how quickly your money is available: Any mobile payments you accept are available almost instantly in your PayPal account. That means if you have the PayPal debit card, you can spend your money right away.

Square sends its payments to your bank account within 1-2 business days, depending on when the payment was processed. Payments taken before 5 p.m. Pacific time are available the next business day; payments made after 5 p.m. Pacific time are available the second business day. However, you can also initiate an Instant Deposit for 1% of the transferred sum.

However, if you don’t have the PayPal debit card, or you prefer to route all your funds to your bank account, Square has the advantage. An ACH transfer from PayPal to your bank will take 3-4 days, which could be an issue for some merchants.

I honestly feel like this is a draw, especially if you’re only interested in the mPOS.

Their pricing for their core features — the mPOS and eCommerce suites — are virtually identical. And of course, let’s not overlook how fast you have access to your funds — with PayPal it’s almost instant. You can get your funds right away with Square for a slight fee. But recurring billing or a virtual terminal will cost you significantly more with PayPal. That marginally lower rate won’t actually save you money until you start processing $10k in just virtual terminal transactions.

As always, we encourage you to do the math yourself based on your own processing history and business needs. That is the only way to see whether the costs are justifiable.

Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:

Winner: Tie

One of the advantages to both Square and PayPal Here is that there’s no contract, no monthly fees, no termination fees. If you don’t like the service, just stop using it and find another one. You can’t get a better deal than that.

Sales and Advertising Transparency:

Winner: Tie

In general, both Square and PayPal Here deliver what they offer: an effective mobile payment solution with up-front pricing and no hidden fees.

That said, both services could spell out some policies out more clearly, a topic we touched on in our reviews of Square and PayPal Here. The holds are a point of contention for merchants, who understandably want their money as soon as possible. There are no standard limits, though it seems larger than average transactions can trigger reviews of an account.

You’ll find both PayPal and Square have active social media and social media support channels too. I would expect no less from these two companies. But I think Square is putting out a lot more content to help merchants get the most from their Square accounts.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

Winner: Tie

Neither Square nor PayPal is going to be winning any major awards for the quality of its customer support. In fact, both can be quite spotty, much to the dismay of merchants. I think Square has invested a lot lately in its customer support channels and improving the overall quality. PayPal, meanwhile, focuses on being more flexible and supportive of merchants. But there’s one rather large disadvantage in choosing either company, which we’ll get to.

Square support options include:

  • Help Center: Very thorough and detailed, covering just about any topic you might need. If you’re having trouble setting up or using your Square account, start here and all your questions should be answered.
  • Social Media: Square’s support Twitter feed (@SqSupport) is active (though not as active as PayPal’s), and its YouTube channel is full of instructional videos. Square even allows you to post directly to its Facebook page, something it previously hadn’t allowed.
  • Contact Us Form: A mainstay of help desks everywhere.
  • Phone Support: The biggest flaw in Square’s phone support is that it’s only available if you have a code, which some people have reported having trouble getting. If your account is terminated, you lose all access to phone support.
  • Seller Community Forum: Get advice from other Square users as well as from Square staff on this growing forum.

PayPal Here support goes through the main PayPal system. Again, you can pick the option that suits your needs:

  • PayPal Hub Home: Start here to get all your questions answered. The help center is organized by topic, with FAQs you may have.
  • PayPal Community Forum: Get answers from other PayPal users.
  • Social Media: Facebook and Twitter. Specifically, tweet @AskPayPal Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. central time, and they’ll go find you an answer.
  • Phone and Email: The online consensus about PayPal’s phone support seems to be that the service is inconsistent at best. Fortunately, most of the answers you need are available through the help desk, community forum, or social media.

Both have a lot of options for support. For most technical questions (“how do I…”), you should be able to use the self-help or community options and get an answer. However, the problems usually start to arise when a merchant encounters a hold.

Both companies will typically request a variety of documents relating to your business and/or a specific transaction. You don’t have many options except to comply and provide as much information as you can to verify your processing history and transactions. Sometimes you can get the matter cleared up quickly — PayPal seems to be more forgiving in this regard.

And then of course there’s the worst-case scenario: an account termination. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do if this happens to you. Both companies’ user agreements say they can terminate an account at any time with no justification.

Most complaints about Square and its customer service actually stem from account terminations. When it happens, Square shuts merchants out of the phone support system, which is an endless source of frustration, to be sure. You’ll get an email, with no reasoning and no chance of appeal. Complaints about quality of service for active merchants who have questions are getting to be less common.

PayPal’s complaints are a bit more of a mixed bag, but spotty phone service is a key issue. Some sales reps can help. Others can’t. It does not appear that PayPal locks merchants out of phone support after a termination, though I also haven’t seen proof that calling can help get your account reinstated, either. But if you need assistance and everything else fails, you can usually get help through the BBB, which well get into in the next section.

It’s tough to call a clear winner here because each has different strengths. However, you should take heart in knowing you can get clear and fast answers to most technical issues from either company, usually without ever having to talk to anyone.

Speaking of complaints, however…

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Winner: PayPal Here

Complaints are never a good thing, but they happen. Sorting through the mess of complaints for Square and PayPal Here can be daunting. Normally we’d consult the BBB, but all complaints about PayPal Here are routed through PayPal’s main page (which has some 6,000+ complaints), which makes it a little bit challenging. Sites like RipOffReport are also full of people who have been scammed by merchants on Square or PayPal and want the companies to do something about it. (They typically won’t.)

In short, that means drawing direct, apples-to-apples comparisons about complaint volume is difficult (not to mention that we don’t have the exact size of each service’s user base.) But we can use these comments other ones around the web to get a picture of where the problems and pain points lie.

The biggest issue with both Square and PayPal Here is simply account stability. These are third-party processors, which means they aggregate accounts instead of giving you a merchant account of your own. There’s an inherent level of risk. Neither company is immune to the fallout that stems from this practice. But does one company offer greater stability than the other? Honestly, I don’t see any compelling evidence either way. I’m going to call it a draw in that regard.

If you do encounter the dreaded hold or account termination, you can expect to get your money sometime within 90 to 180 days. While that wait can be a nightmare, it’s also industry standard. Again, neither company appears to be more reliable than the other in this regard, and you’re not going to get anything better from any other companies out there. Processing companies hold these funds so they don’t find themselves out a large sum of money if a bunch of unhappy customers start filing chargebacks against a merchant whose account has been closed.

So neither account is guaranteed to be 100% stable. If you have irregular but large transactions or run a business in a high-risk industry, you probably want to think twice about using either of these services. That includes selling auctions and antiques, and even some branches of professional services. Instead, get a merchant account with a mobile option. Or open an account with Square and another with PayPal and keep one around as a backup option.

We’ve already talked about PayPal and Square and what happens when your account gets terminated. And here is where BBB complaints do start to come in handy. While there’s a lot of junk complaints to sort through, you can also tell how each company responds to issues.

And here’s probably my favorite thing about PayPal: BBB complaints are handled by the Office of Executive Escalations. And they’re pretty darn good at what they do. You can get helpful answers and a lot of the time PayPal will work with you to solve the problem. I’ve seen accounts reinstated and holds lifted. You might not get everything you wanted, but this stands in stark comparison to Square’s approach, which is to shut you out and give you templated responses with no real answers.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

Winner: Tie

You’re going to find some pretty solid supporters on both sides of the Square vs PayPal Here debate. Both apps are well designed and easy to use, with good reviews for the most part. They both make mobile payments available to people who might otherwise not be able to manage them. The apps are simple to use and compatible with a large assortment of phones and tablets.

People seem to like how affordable Square’s hardware is, and it’s hard to argue with the sheer value Square offers if you plan to use all of its features.

PayPal Here tends to draw people in because of the online sales capabilities and the centralization with the PayPal platform.

PayPal has some video testimonials on its YouTube channel. Square has even more.

What freaks a lot of people out when they start digging into either company is the large number of complaints from people who had their accounts terminated for no apparent reason. But at the same time, plenty of people use both Square and PayPal Here with no problem. They just tend to be a bit less vocal. We have some satisfied customers for both PayPal Here and Square who have posted on our reviews, and there’s good news scattered elsewhere, too.

The sheer number of disgruntled customers can seem scary, but you have to bear in mind that’s actually the minority of users. If either company was losing more customers than it gained, it wouldn’t stay afloat very long. So I encourage you, if you’ve decided that an mPOS is the best option, to focus on the good stuff (the features, being able to take cards virtually anywhere). Just be aware of the risks of using a third-party processor.

Final Verdict:

Winner: Square

In the Square vs PayPal Here debate, honestly believe that both Square and PayPal Here are excellent mPOS options — without question among the best out there. They have comparable pricing, similar feature sets, and virtually identical contract terms and customer support options. Neither one is inherently more stable than the other.

If you need a LOT of features and you want to create a seamless mPOS/countertop experience, Square is the clear winner. PayPal Here lags behind Square as far as features and overall value add go. But you’re only going to benefit if you actually plan to use all those extra POS-based features, like the offline mode or virtual terminal.

If you want strong eCommerce support to go with your mPOS, PayPal is the better option. You’ll find a lot more shopping cart and software integrations. And of course, you can integrate PayPal into a lot more full-fledged POS options to go with the PayPal Here mPOS.

So yes, Square is the ultimate winner. But it’s definitely a close race and some merchants will be better served by PayPal Here — or at least, they’ll get as much value and use out of it. If you are still on the fence about which option to choose, I recommend making a list of all the features you need and what you prioritize in an mPOS. How do you want your business to grow? Which facets of the business are most important. Once you’ve identified what you need, making the decision will be a lot easier.

Want to learn more about Square vs PayPal Here? Check out our reviews of both products or give these services a try. We’d love to hear from you, too, so if you have any questions feel free to contact us!

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson has been writing about payment processing and mobile payments since 2014, and has been quoted in articles for Credit Karma and The Next Web, among others. She graduated from The University of Kansas in 2010 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism.
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    Starting a new side business where we will have sporadic transactions throughout the year however sometimes the transactions will be large orders (over 10k on one transaction for example). I’m looking for a processor, I fear our funds will be put on hold etc. since we’d be sporadic and at times, large amounts.

    Is the best I can do is contact the merchant before the transaction occurs to let them know it is a legitimate charge? I was looking into merchant accounts (not aggregators) but didn’t want a lot of fee’s but am open to one that will go smoother for us all around. Thanks.

      Melissa Johnson

      Hi, Ree!

      Based on the criteria you’ve given me, I would suggest CDGcommerce or Payline Data as a merchant account provider for you. That’s absolutely the way to go to reduce your chance of a funding hold. I would also suggest looking at invoicing for the largest transactions rather than just swiping a card. You can check what invoicing services work with CDG and Payline when you talk to the sales team. They’ll also be able to advise you on the best ways to mitigate your risk given your situation.


        I’m just starting off as a book seller and plan to sell to both individuals and schools (both on my online website store and in person). I’ve seen concerns regarding funds held by both Square & PayPal for unusual volume. Would Square or PayPal – or a merchant account be best to avoid “a hold” on my funds as a startup business?

        Also – which ecommerce tool is best for selling to nonprofits (i.e., schools)?

        Thank you for such an informative article and great comment page!

          Melissa Johnson

          Hi, Josie!

          Generally speaking, merchant account are always going to be more secure than a third-party processor such as Square or PayPal. However, it’s a matter of trade-offs: merchant accounts are more secure but they are usually only cost effective when you’re dealing with about $10k per month in credit card transactions. Below that and PayPal and Square tend to be more affordable, and some merchant accounts won’t approve you at all. You also have to jump through fewer hoops to get an account set up with PayPal or Square. And for context: PayPal has 17 million merchants and Square has well over 2 million. So the complaints about holds are valid, but I don’t think account issues happen as frequently as people imagine them to, just based on complaint volume. You have to look at the overall user base, too.

          I think that using invoices would help protect you for large orders. Square actually has some really cool tools for uploading contracts to your invoices. However, that’s not a perfect solution. One of the reasons transactions get flagged and held is a very sudden, very large sudden spike in business. Steady growth over time will actually help off set this, but if you’re selling 10 books a month and suddenly you get a single order for 1,000 books, that might signal that something is wrong and lead your processor to hold funds.

          As for ecommerce tools: it doesn’t really matter who you’re selling to. So there really aren’t any tools or services that are designed to help you sell to nonprofits and schools. Just make sure you have a well designed site with all of the relevant details and information. You might put up a notice and tell them that bulk orders are available by invoice or something. (It’s hard to be specific without any other details about your business.)

          So it really comes down to priorities. Can you afford monthly fees for a merchant account? If you can get a merchant account, are the costs comparable to Square or PayPal, or will you pay more? Is that acceptable to you? Do you want tools like Square, which offers a free website and built-in invoicing plus a mobile POS? Or would you rather pick a merchant account and then pick your website provider and your invoicing tool? (Also worth noting, some merchant accounts offer a unified platform like Square’s with all the tools built in).

          I know it’s not a definitive answer, but I do hope this helps you get started!

            Steven Berger


            I’m starting my credit repair business and I planning on having a website. I would like your input on which merchant service would be the best. I will have a monthly recurring fee. Thank you!

              Jessica Dinsmore

              Hi Steven,

              It looks like you may need a high risk merchant account, actually. Square bans credit repair businesses and Paypal bans “certain types” of credit repair businesses. Stripe isn’t an option either. I’d suggest reading through this post on high risk providers to find some suitable options. You can also give our filtering tool a try for a more tailored recommendation. I know this probably isn’t the news you were hoping for, but I hope you find it to be helpful. Best of luck to you!

                Joan Scott

                Hi Melissa
                I am a crafter and sell my wares at various craft shows. People have asked me to start taking credit cards and I would like to do that. A friend advise me that PayPal gives direct funding immediately and the square takes a couple days. I prefer the PayPal but I’m not really sure how to go about doing this. I don’t have a PayPal credit card but I do have a PayPal account with my credit card linked to it. How does this work?


                  Melissa Johnson

                  Hi, Joan!

                  Honestly, either solution will work for you, though in my experience more artists seem to prefer Square. Square also has slightly more inventory management and invoicing features that you might find useful as a crafter!

                  PayPal offers “immediate” funding in that it’s available in your PayPal balance almost right away. It’s not in your bank account. However, if you have the PayPal for Business debit card, you can spend your PayPal balance anywhere that accepts MasterCard/debit cards. In addition, you can instantly transfer your balance from your PayPal account to your bank account for $0.25 per transfer.

                  Square generally takes 1-2 business days depending on the time of day when the transaction is processed (there’s a cutoff time, which is fairly standard for most businesses). If you want your money right away, you can initiate an instant deposit for 1% of the transaction value. However, there are limits (minimum and maximum amount and more stringent limits for new sellers).

                  If you go the PayPal route, you’ll need to make sure you get a Business account to use PayPal here, not just a personal account. Upgrading is easy, but you should make sure you upgrade and get everything with PayPal Here squared away well ahead of your next show. Likewise, make sure you apply for a Square account up front and early, too!

                  Also, when you start accepting credit cards, please make sure you opt for an EMV/chip card reader! It’s really important that every merchant be able to accept chip cards to protect themselves against fraudulent transactions.

                  I hope this helps!

                    Glenda Hance

                    We are planning our 30 year class reunion this year. I would like to know which option Square or PayPal, would be best for people to pay online? I’ve researched both, and to me Square would be the BEST choice, but would love your input. Thanks in advance.

                      Melissa Johnson

                      Hi, Glenda!

                      I think in your case, both PayPal and Square would be really good options. As far as online payment options, they’re pretty evenly matched. It really depends on how you want to set things up. Do you already have a website? Do you need to build one? (Square has a free website that you could use, though the design options are pretty limited. With PayPal, you’d have to set up your own site, which is pretty easy with software like Weebly.) Would you rather direct people to something informal such as paypal.me or cash.me to send their money, or do you need something that’s a bit more structured where they purchase official tickets? Do you want people to be able to make donations in addition to buying tickets? (PayPal might be the better option for donations because creating donate buttons is very easy.) In both cases you can get a card reader to accept card payments at the door, too.

                      I know this isn’t much of an answer, but there are so many variables that it’s hard to say definitively without knowing all the details!


                        Hi there, I am starting a dress hire business and at this stage I don’t have any clue when it comes to payment processing. I’ve just download your free email course to get me started. Thank you.
                        I will have 2 options where the customer can view and try on and pay and also and an online hire service where customer will view the garment via Instagram and direct message me with their inquiries and if happy to proceed I send the garment via postage. Can you please reccomend your preference please in this situation. Also I need to take a copy of credit card details just in case the garment is late or damaged. What is the best way to do this?
                        Thank you in advance 😉

                          Melissa Johnson

                          Hi, Rachael!

                          I’m sorry to say I don’t have an easy answer for you because the type of business you’re describing faces several kinds of risks. In an ideal world, a processor that supports pre-authorization and capture would work. But most processors, including PayPal, have a limited time frame for those pre-auths and place limits on how much you can increase the transaction size beyond the initial amount. Square does offer invoicing and card on file capabilities, which could work — but generally speaking, charging customers for additional amounts without their authorization can get your account terminated. So you’d be facing possible lost income. Square doesn’t support pre-authorizations for anything except its Appointments software, either.

                          This is one of those cases where I think your best bet is to talk to a few processors directly and see what they recommend and whether they’ll support your business model. Square, obviously, would be a good start. Helcim and CDGCommerce are also worth looking into!

                          At the very least, I also recommend having an actual webstore, not just Instagram. This will help you with appearing legitimate, both to customers and to processors. There’s nothing that says you can’t also post to Instagram to attract customers! You’ll also want to make sure you have a very strong contract prepared that outlines the costs and fees and penalties, and make sure your customers read and sign it when you complete a transaction.


                            Thankyou Melissa, you have given me much to think about. ;-)))


                              Not really a review but more of questions!

                              I am in DS. Usually all of my online sales are thru PayPal by invoicing. I however have 2 customers that buy from me that don’t have an email so I take their card info and manually type it into square. I don’t mind the wait to be put into my account usually 24 hours! I just recently learned about PayPal having a free reader. Since I really don’t use it I was thinking about switching to the PayPal reader that way it is just put on my business card. But since I plan to start doing events to get my business out there now I’m not so sure if I should stay with square or go with paypal. Right now my card reader does not do even close to $500. Because like I said most of my sales are thru PayPal invoicing. So guess my question is which would be better for me?

                                Jessica Dinsmore

                                Hi there!

                                I think it would be smart to condense your payment processing into one service. Both Square and PayPal offer invoicing and a free card reader (but you should get an EMV reader; it’s worth the extra cost). The one thing to consider is that if you’re going to continue relying on a virtual terminal for customers who don’t have emails, Square is actually a better option. Its virtual terminal is free. PayPal has one, but it costs $30/month, which is absolutely not worth it for you. Square gives you Card on File and recurring invoicing options and no additional charge, which I think would be to your benefit!

                                  Bill Schmidt

                                  My wife and I own a vacation rental business in the Caribbean and we typically use Paypal for invoicing and taking credit cards for guests. Recently we started also taking reservations and transactions for cabs, cooking services, etc… a whole host of additional services which we offer as part of the whole experience. Our guests want to pay at the time the services are provided… which means on the Caribbean island while they are there. We do allow then to establish a line of credit before hand to be settled at the time of their stay, but it is more convenient to be able to take credit card transactions on the island. Getting this to work has been very problematic as the local banks in the Caribbean wont even talk to us unless we provide some minimum amount of business. Our experience is that Paypal and Square do not work outside of the USA… so where to go from here?

                                    Jessica Dinsmore

                                    Hi Bill,

                                    Unfortunately there is no quick and easy fix that we are aware of. We agree that the way you are currently handling payments is probably the best method for your situation. Best of luck to you!


                                      Question: we are a small company, using credit card payments from customers only 1 or 2x a month (the rest we receive by checks).

                                      I was told we could just process Square inbound payments using a computer–no other hardware needed. Is that true? I have gone directly to Square to ask but via phone their system only allows existing customers with codes!

                                        Jessica Dinsmore

                                        Hi Debbie,

                                        I think what you are looking for is Square’s virtual terminal. You may also want to check out their invoice feature as well. I hope that helps!

                                          ariella Ingraffia

                                          I’m in a service field and really there’s just a couple of people every month who forget their checkbook or cash so I wouldn’t really be using a credit card reader for much maybe 500 a month do you think Square is still the best for me

                                            Jessica Dinsmore

                                            Hi Ariella,

                                            Yes, it sounds like Square would be a great option for you!


                                              Thanks very much for sharing your time and insights!
                                              Divine Blessings,


                                                I had a Square but terrible customer support. After using Square for a year it one day would not allow me to log on. Said email address was wrong. Tried contacting customer support but support is not available without email address, which I had not changed but Square did not recognize. Tried ordering replacement but got message that my email was already linked to a device. Catch 22. There is no support!


                                                  Excellent write-up Melissa, yet I still find myself on the fence in knowing what is the “best combination” of applications to support my needs; i.e. mPOS paired with best accounting/book keeping SW plug-ins.


                                                    Thanks for the helpful and thorough review!

                                                      Brian Powers

                                                      Square’s register function does not have a calculator function, ie. I want to sell 2.5 yards of fabric at 12.99 per yard. I have to do the calculation separately then enter it. Paypal allows me to do the calculation in the register. Is there any workaround to the Square register to allow me to do this? Customer support for the last 1 1/2 years has said, “this is a good idea, and we’ll look at it,” and of course, they haven’t.

                                                        Melissa Johnson

                                                        Hi, Brian!

                                                        I’ve got a couple of suggestions. This is a topic that’s actually come up in Square’s community seller forum, and something other users suggested is price points: you can pre-program the costs for particular lengths (1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1) and then just plug in the quantities until you get the right measurement.


                                                        Square also has variable price points — which might work if you’re looking to keep sales records and don’t mind plugging in the cost manually still.


                                                        I hope that helps! IT would be nice to see Square add pricing by weight or yard in the future though, for certain.

                                                          Courtney Hulsey

                                                          I’ve been using paypal for several months and was really happy until PayPal started holding over $500 in “Rolling Reserve.” My business is small, and new. $500, right now, can make or break a month for me. Does the Square do anything like that: hold your money, that clients have already paid, in a reserve for 30, 60, or 90 days?

                                                            Jessica Dinsmore

                                                            Hi Courtney,
                                                            You might want to check out the “Account stability issues/funding holds” section in our review of Square. Unfortunately Square has been known to put holds on funds as well. If you want to shop around, we have compared a handful of top rated mobile payment companies here with links to each of their reviews for further reading.


                                                              I have the card reader from square and never got the one from paypal however is like to go through paypal. Can I use the square reader with the paypal app?

                                                                Chloe Bahal

                                                                Hi Charlie,

                                                                Unfortunately the card readers are not interchangeable, so you won’t be able to use the Square reader with Paypal Here.


                                                                  Up until today I’ve been very happy with Square. I use Square for on-site purchases when customers come to my studio and also for custom orders, I send out a Square invoice. My website uses PayPal and I have never had an issue. My biggest frustration with Square was this morning when my password didn’t work – the same password that I’ve had for three years. I finally requested a reset and the verification code they sent didn’t work. And yes, I began to freak out because there is literally NO WAY to contact Square if you can’t access your account. They require that you ‘log in’ to contact them – well how do you log in if your password isn’t working??? The fact that Square’s customer service can’t be accessed if your account goes down is just plain bad business. I spent most of the morning trying to resolve this and finally after the third verification code I was able to access my account. But this has caused me serious concern over continuing to use Square.


                                                                    I just signed up for Square, im still hesitating with Square and paypal.

                                                                    When I received Square payment does it go directly to my bank account?

                                                                    For Paypal. If I invoice my clients I can accumulate it thru paypal and transfer the balance to my bank account?

                                                                      Chloe Bahal

                                                                      Hi Ivy,

                                                                      Great questions. Yes, when you sign up with Square, you will have the opportunity to sync your bank account. For PayPal, yes, you can transfer the balance to your bank account once your clients pay you. I hope this helps.

                                                                        Michael Keller

                                                                        Hey so, with “square,” am I able to capture payment remotely? I’m working in e-commerce, and can go door to door for my marketing services today, but I would like to be able to live anywhere in the world and travel, so is it possible to type in payment through square, if they send their information?

                                                                          Chloe Bahal

                                                                          Hi Michael,

                                                                          Yes, you will be able to accept card-not-present transactions but the transaction fee is going to be higher. I hope this helps and if you have further questions please let me know.


                                                                            I was told that customers cannot securely key in their own credit card information using Square. I want to be able to email my customers an invoice and allow them to pay online….and then receive an email when the payment has been made. This can be done using PayPal but can it be done using Square?

                                                                              Chloe Bahal

                                                                              Hi Kim,

                                                                              You can send invoices with Square. Here is more information on how to do that. I hope this helps and if you have further questions please let me know.

                                                                                Jorge O

                                                                                After what I just went through in the last couple of days with Pay Pal I will forever discourage people to get PayPal and go with square. I run my own PC repair/support business…I was approved, having already been with PayPal almost ten years I thought it the best way to go…well listen up…. My first three transactions were with typing in the credit card, since I usually work from home, and of course, their cc reader hadn’t arrived… What was that for???!! , after your first $500 PayPal actually holds the amount for 30 days or more. I called the representative and I was like “well I’ve had PayPal for years so what’s the problem” they proceeded to tell me “that’s how it works until you develop better selling habits??” I run a computer help and repair, where I remote into my clients servers, or PCs and fix the problem, so accepting a credit card payment over the phone shouldn’t be a biggy?? Right?? Wring! So basically I did two days or about $1,500 worth of of work, they gave me the first $500 and the other $1,000 is in there or in my pending balance for the next 30 days, just because I typed in the credit card. Mind you I sent them the receipts for the transactions. This is incredible, and a joke. I think it’s horrible 30 days?? This day and age maybe 2 or 3 days for it to clear, I can even do seven for it to clear with the bank but really 30 days???smfh Square took me through a two day process and after sending them my ID and a copy of my receipts everything went smoothly. It goes into my bank account after a day or so, or I can choose to have it immediately sent to my account for a 1% fee. The choice is clear. Hope you don’t babe l make same mistake.


                                                                                  I just went through the same thing Jorge, and was looking for feedback about switching from PayPal to Square. Does anyone know if Square does the same thing? I had no idea PayPal would hold my funds for 30 days from a $500 transaction. The other issue I’ve had with PayPal, that I’m hoping Square doesn’t do, is the ONE time I did the manual key in, it held my funds then too.

                                                                                    Melissa Johnson

                                                                                    Keira, you’re very likely to see similar behavior from Square. They are both third-party processing services, meaning that instead of you having your own unique merchant account (which is what traditional processors used), all accounts are lumped (or aggregated) into one large account shared by everyone.

                                                                                    On the plus side, it means you don’t have to do much to create an account and start processing. However, because the fraud/underwriting departments don’t do much research or assessment if you or your business model, they’re a lot more finicky about holding funds for transactions. We unfortunately don’t have any information about exactly what criteria either company uses to identify problematic transactions, but manually entering large transactions is usually enough to create a red flag. Likewise, sudden large transactions can raise suspicions — particularly when you’ve got very little processing history or you’ve only processed small transactions until that point.

                                                                                    Depending on what industry you work in, sometimes it’s better to get a high-risk merchant account. And no matter what industry, use invoices or the virtual terminal features instead of keying transactions into the mPOS app if you can.

                                                                                    Hope this helps!

                                                                                      Ana Castillo

                                                                                      Excellent review for Square vs. Paypal! One thing u left out. U didn’t explain if the device used such as the little square reader can be used for either or. I’m looking to purchase a physical square reader but if I use the app for PayPal will it still work even if I’m using the square device and the app. Is there such a thing?


                                                                                        found your article, thanks for the info. however i don’t know when this changed but the paypal reader is no longer free. The reader is 14.99 and they also have a chip card reader for a whopping 149.00


                                                                                          NOT happy with PayPal. If I sell over $500.00 in a given week, they hold my funds for 30 days. I called and they said they couldn’t do anything about it. Has anyone else had an issue with this? I’m thinking of changing to Square.


                                                                                            I have used Paypal for years now and have been fairly happy with them until recently. Paypal does have easy to reach customer service which is nice but the problem is the person your reaching isn’t much help. The Paypal staff seems to be very clueless and confused about their own pollicies. With my experience with Paypal I’ve learned its more of a company for Buyers not Sellers. There are many strange policies Paypal go by. For instance just recently I sold an item on Etsy. It was a custom made custom ordered item specificly built just for this customer. On the Etsy listing we quote 3 weeks for delivery. We did our part we built the item, shipped it, and had good comunication with the customer all within the quoted time frame. For some reason at the very last minute as the item was still in transit the customer chose to cancel the item. Which of course we don’t offer cancelations on custom built items. The customer filed a claim on Paypal because they did not want it anymore. When the item arrived the customer refused delivery. By doing so it basicly is like the customer never recieved the item and we never shipped it in the eyes of Paypal. Even though we had proof it was there but customer said they did’nt want it. Because of that refusal to accept the package Paypal sides with the customer and refunds their money. We’re out time to build the item, money for materials, and shipping fee to ship the item…. Now stuck with a custom built sign with a long unusual last name carved into it that we will Never get rid of. Paypal customer service Rep called it a loop hole in their system. I have encountered many strange situations similar to this from Paypal. Now I dont know what Square would do in that situation but I would hope they would not allow a last second cancelation like this to happen to their seller becuase of a loop hole in the system. Paypal just is more of Buyer favored site.



                                                                                              I could not agree with you more. A customer of mine also filed a chargeback under the false claim that he never authorized my company to charge his card. I sent the proof to PayPal as requested. (Email correspondence between the client and I who give his authorization and permission) The representative at PayPal informed me that I had nothing to worry about because I had the correct documents as proof. About 3 days ago, I saw the money withdrawn from my PayPal balance! When I called customer service they informed me that the client’s bank decided to issue him a refund so they had to deduct the money from me.

                                                                                              I was so angry because I have to suffer for this. Even though I provided all documents requested – PayPal refused to cover my loss. They don’t care about small businesses! It’s such a shame that I’ve given them so much money to be treated like this! Not to mention they even threw on a $20 chargeback fee on my account as well.

                                                                                              I have moved to Sqaure. I do hope it will be better with this Merchant.

                                                                                                Lidia Kenig-Scher

                                                                                                Indeed a great article. I have been using Paypal for years, and I find the company easy to use and available on the phone when needed. My only complaint is actually their card readers. The little triangle stinks! I have to swipe several times some times, which is useless. I usually bring 2 or 3 to my sales. I’ve seen people use the square reader and it seems like a breeze. The delay in depositing is not so good, but I plan for it.


                                                                                                  I have been using PayPal Here for several months and wanted to switch to Square for a more robust POS. I called to sign up with Square and when I said my average transaction would be less than $10, they said transaction fees would be 2.75% + $0.15 per transaction. Is this the same for every quick-serv merchant that has smaller transactions?

                                                                                                    Melissa Johnson

                                                                                                    Hi, Alex!

                                                                                                    Unfortunately, yes. as far as mobile/pay-as-you-go options are concerned, PayPal is the only one that offers a micro-transaction pricing option. 2.7%-2.9% is pretty much standard across the board. A few places might have marginally lower rates (check out Intuit GoPayment or Spark Pay, for example) but they aren’t as robust as far as the app goes.


                                                                                                      Thanks for the prompt reply. Square’s biggest draw is that 2.75% flat fee and I can’t find anywhere that outlines the additional .15 per transaction other than what the sales rep said. If you sign up online do they freeze your account or change pricing once they see what your sales transactions are?

                                                                                                        Megan Erickson

                                                                                                        My mom is going to start a website and Facebook page for her crafts. She sells homemade crafts (such as these cute trendy banners for weddings, showers, parties, home decor, etc.) mostly to local people and meets them and they pay with cash. However, she is looking to expand her business to having it online and having people purchase her products with a debit/credit card. She wants to know which is most safe for her to use? Thanks, if you can help!

                                                                                                          Chloe Bahal

                                                                                                          Hi Megan,

                                                                                                          I would recommend taking a look at Square.

                                                                                                            Denise Smith

                                                                                                            I’ve used PayPal for years and have recommended it to several entrepreneurs. Paypal does have a debit card which , merchants can use to access money immediately. The card is accepted by most companies that accept Mastercard, although I have run across some companies who don’t accept it. However I have now decided to use square for two reasons. Reason one the new Emv reader and lower cost, reason two direct deposit to my bank. Since I haven’t used square long I can’t say whether I prefer it or not.But for right now I’m going to continue to have paypal on my website and use square for in person sales.

                                                                                                              Sharon Bennett

                                                                                                              With Square can customers purchase online from my website?

                                                                                                                Chloe Bahal

                                                                                                                Hi Sharon,
                                                                                                                Yes, your customers should be able to purchase online. Here is more information on how you can integrate online purchasing with Square.


                                                                                                                  Not sure if you mentioned it, but I have the PayPal Here with the (free) debit card, and not only is their swipe rat a tiny bit lower than square’s, but they give you 1% back on what you spend each month, too. 🙂 So, in reality, your swipe rate lowers.

                                                                                                                    Billy Bob

                                                                                                                    Only Paypal has a Windows Phone app (as of early 2016). Yes, some of us still use Windows Phones. I don’t want to carry a separate phone just to swipe credit cards.

                                                                                                                    If Square had a Windows Phone app I would use them over Paypal. I don’t like having to “manually” transfer funds from Paypal to my bank. (Square deposits directly into my bank automatically). But no Windows Phone app. Nothing is ever perfect, is it?


                                                                                                                      I’m pretty sure you can link your PayPal account to your bank account and/or debit… Although, the easiest thing to do is just have PayPal send you a debit card. It is definitely worth it. 😉

                                                                                                                        Perry Strength

                                                                                                                        What about a security comparison? Square boast PCI Compliance, whereas PayPal Here is silent on the issue.


                                                                                                                          I will be moving to square. Two big points with square is the ability to track inventory with their system and the automatic transfer to your bank account. I am sure their customer support will become better as more people start using them.


                                                                                                                            Thank you so much for the comparison. It’s very helpful.


                                                                                                                              Thank you for sharing the insight! I was just wondering which credit card reader to get, to get ready for my upcoming sales events at major dance studios! The last thing I want is hearing potential customers saying ‘ oops I don’t have any cash’, and watching them walk away…
                                                                                                                              Personally I think that, if you’re just starting out, have a small transaction volume, then you really can’t lose choosing one over another.


                                                                                                                                Great article. Very helpful. So if I’m reading it write; the only real downside to Paypal is the $25 chargeback fee.


                                                                                                                                  I’ve been using PayPal for almost 10 years, and frankly I’m delighted to move to Square. PayPal is painful to deal with. They withhold funds if the wind changes direction, and are quick to take take funds from your account. The biggest drawback that hasn’t even been mentioned in this review is that PayPal is effectively its own bank. If you want to use your funds, you might have to move them to your bank, which takes up to 4 days. Square deposits money directly to your bank account, which I find way more convenient.

                                                                                                                                  I’m thrilled to have a realistic contract-free alternative to PayPal!


                                                                                                                                    This was a great article. I’m just starting my first retail business and am trying to figure out which way to go.

                                                                                                                                      Holly Le

                                                                                                                                      This is a great article and it helped me narrow down my decision of which credit card reader to use for my organic bodycare biz, small biz since we just started a couple months ago.! Thank you for posting 🙂

                                                                                                                                        Amad Ebrahimi

                                                                                                                                        Anytime Holly! Glad to help. 🙂

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