Square POS VS SumUp: Which Mobile App and Card Reader Is Right For You?
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We’ve arranged a showdown between two third-party processors with stylish card readers. However, in this battle for mPOS bragging rights, it’s pretty apparent which outfit is the favorite and which the underdog.
Now, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Square. Having revolutionized the payment processing industry with its iconic square card readers a decade ago, millions of businesses now take advantage of Square’s ever-expanding ecosystem of financial services. From the free app and card reader for which Square became known to full-fledged POS systems, eCommerce, a P2P payment system, and more, it’s safe to say Square has helped disrupt the financial services industry.
SumUp, by contrast, is a much lower-profile payment processor — in the US, anyway. Based in London, SumUp serves 1.5 million businesses globally with its handy mPOS app and a card reader that supports magstripe, EMV (chip cards), and NFC (contactless) payments all in one (SumUp also offers a 3G card reader with an integrated SIM card, but only in Europe). SumUp comes across as Square’s sophisticated European cousin who has come to the US to stay. Lean, sleek, and refined, standing in contrast to Square’s large, colorful profile.
While SumUp operates in 31 countries — nearly all of Europe, the US, Brazil, and Chile — Square operates only in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the UK.
Ultimately, however, they’re related— and by that, I mean both are mobile POS apps that let almost anyone take payments anywhere they can get data or Wi-Fi. It’s fair to say that Square has much more going on than SumUp, what with its retail-focused app and several add-on services. But if you’re just looking at mobile processing — taking payments on a smartphone or a tablet — which is the better option? This is the approach this article takes — we’re comparing the two companies on the basis of their mobile processing apps, not the other services.
Square’s recent rate change for standard transactions (from 2.75% to 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction) has a lot of small businesses unhappy, as the fixed 10-cent charge means that businesses with a high transaction volume but low average transaction value stand to pay more in fees. Does this create an opening for SumUp in the US market?
Let’s compare and contrast Square vs. SumUp to see how the two mobile payment processors stack up.
Table of Contents
Products & Services
I’m not counting Square for Retail or any of Square’s add-on services in this comparison because it’s unfair given that these services cost extra. Instead, let’s do an apples-to-apples comparison of the standard Square Point of Sale app to SumUp’s app. Even with that limitation placed, Square comes out ahead of the game.
Let’s start with the mPOS apps. Having used both, I find each very easy to navigate. They are fairly intuitive from the moment you first log in. There are a couple of features you’ll need to contact SumUp to activate, because you can’t do it from within the app itself (tipping, for example), and SumUp works just slightly different from most other mPOS apps. It’s not a hindrance. I think it’s more just SumUp showing its European roots.
It’s when you start to get down to individual app features that Square shines brighter than SumUp. I don’t want to go into a whole complex comparison here. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to check out our individual Square and SumUp reviews, where we’ve detailed the features each app offers pretty well. However, I will say that both offer most of the standard features you’d expect: quick sale mode, item libraries, tips, disabling signatures for small transactions, etc.
I do want to draw attention to a couple of the core differences in the mPOS apps, though. First and foremost, Square allows inventory counts and overall its inventory management features are more advanced. It also supports discounts by percentage or dollar amount. SumUp doesn’t offer inventory counts and only offers limited discounting (a feature is available, but only in Europe and not in the US). I’m also a little bit disappointed by the lack of invoicing support from SumUp. Furthermore, you’ll notice that there’s no customer database in the SumUp app. While the lack of these features is by no means a deal-breaker, it does give the upper hand to Square.
What might be a deal-breaker is the lack of keyed entry in the SumUp app. If the card won’t swipe, the chip malfunctions, or the NFC features won’t work, there isn’t a manual override. Again, I think this mostly stems from SumUp’s roots in Europe, though I do hope that this limitation might disappear in the future. For now, the closest approximation is SumUp’s SMS payments feature. If you don’t have access to a card reader, but your customers have their phones, you can send them a link in a text message (SMS). That will direct them to a site where they can enter their payment information.
However, this feature (along with SumUp’s Virtual Terminal) is not immediately available to SumUp app users and requires additional verification to use — not all businesses using SumUp will qualify.
Both services offer a virtual terminal for no monthly fee, but with both companies, you’ll pay a bit more than you would for a transaction in the mobile app. Likewise, both do offer eCommerce capabilities, though Square’s is far more comprehensive, with a domain name, a free site, shopping cart integrations, and an API. SumUp’s is just an API.
That said, SumUp does offer one service that Square doesn’t: international processing. Granted, this is limited to the 31 countries SumUp currently operates in. But if you are heading to a trade show, convention, or another event in the UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Chile, Brazil, or one of the other nations in which SumUp already operates, you can contact the company and ask them to enable your account to process transactions abroad. Not too shabby, considering most US services don’t even come close to offering this capability.
Mobile Processing Hardware
Let’s discuss the companies’ respective hardware for a bit. Square works with a huge assortment of hardware. In addition to the basic magstripe reader it’s been sending out free for years, it also offers the Contactless + Chip reader and the Square Stand. Check out our guide to Square hardware and cash register bundles for a more in-depth look at your options.
By comparison, SumUp offers just one reader (in the US, anyway): an all-in-one device called the SumUp Air. Check out our unboxing review of the reader for more, but I do like this device. I like that it supports all three forms of transactions, and I like its heft, even if I found it just a smidge too large in my hand. Again, you’ll see that the big difference here is that SumUp doesn’t even offer a free magstripe reader. Instead, the Air reader is currently being offered at $19 plus tax (with free shipping).
In 2018, SumUp released a 3G card reader in the European market. It’s a standalone device that doesn’t require tethering to a smartphone with the SumUp app, which is undeniably cool. Unfortunately, it doesn’t connect to receipt printers like the standard card reader does, nor does it support integration with POS systems. Additionally, the device cannot connect to Wi-Fi. The 3G reader has not been released in the US.
As far as other devices go, there’s no dock for the Air reader. SumUp doesn’t currently offer a stand in the US, either. The app doesn’t support scanning, so there’s no need for a Bluetooth scanner. But at least the app is compatible with multiple receipt printers, according to a help desk article.
SumUp also supports cash drawers, though it must be compatible with the receipt printer you’ve chosen if you want it to function automatically. (Otherwise, you should be able to use any old manual drawer.) But the company doesn’t sell any sort of printer or cash drawer directly. You’ll have to find them yourself from another source.
If you’re only a mobile business, you likely have no use for all the bells and whistles. If you want to run a countertop system and a mobile one at the same time, Square is the clear winner. But for merchants who just want mobile processing, I honestly think you’ll be served quite well by either of these options. However, with discounts and invoicing, Square’s mPOS app is just that little bit more robust than that of SumUp.
Please note that only in the US and UK can merchants actually choose between these two processors. If you’re in Europe (outside the UK), Brazil, or Chile, only SumUp is available to you. If you’re in Canada, Australia, or Japan, Square is an option for you, but not SumUp.
Fees & Rates
For standard transactions, Square and SumUp once had an identical rate: 2.75%. However, Square recently changed its rate for swiped, dipped, and contactless transactions to 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction. That may not seem like a big change, but for merchants with a high transaction volume but low average transaction value (coffee shops, for example), this change means more money paid in fees. Additionally, SumUp has lowered its rate to 2.65%. These changes mean SumUp gets a narrow win in this category.
On the whole, however, pricing for Square vs. SumUp is quite comparable, which is nice. Neither requires any monthly fees or minimum processing amounts. You only pay for what you use, which is why processors like this are great for new merchants, mobile businesses, and those that only process infrequently.
I’ve personally written a lot about the cost of using Square. For context into both Square and SumUp’s pricing schemes and how they compare to, say, an interchange-plus plan, I recommend checking out our analysis article: Is Square the Cheapest Processor for Your Business?
With Square, you’re going to pay one of three fees:
- 2.6% + $0.10: For all swiped, dipped, or contactless transactions in the Point of Sale app
- 2.9% + $0.30: For all eCommerce transactions and invoices
- 3.5% + $0.15: For all virtual terminal and keyed-in transactions
Square means it when the company says “No other fees” — it’s even started waiving the chargeback fee, which is unheard of in the payments industry.
SumUp has two rates depending on the type of transaction:
- 2.65%: For all swiped, dipped, or contactless transactions in the SumUp app
- 2.9% + $0.15: For all virtual terminal or SMS payments transactions
There’s also a $10 fee applied to chargebacks. However, there are no other fees.
SumUp actually offers better pricing than Square on its additional services. Unfortunately, SumUp doesn’t have an invoicing capability at all, making that a moot point, much to my dismay. However, all things considered, I’m giving SumUp a slight edge here. Of course, individual circumstances matter — a coffee shop may save on processing with SumUp, while a business with a low transaction volume but high average transaction value could save a little with Square. More businesses fit the former description than the latter.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
With both companies requiring no contract, no monthly fees, and no monthly minimum on top of their clear pricing strategy, it’s easy to say SumUp matches Square perfectly in the sales and advertising transparency. Both are third-party processors with a small inherent risk of account termination, but they overall seem to be very stable.
That said, if you want some coaching and tools to better manage your business, Square definitely outshines SumUp concerning informational resources. The Townsquare blog is a great resource for all sorts of business-related topics, from payroll to marketing. And while SumUp’s US site now features a blog, it’s a bit lighter on product information, and unlike with Square’s blog, you can’t filter the posts you see by topic or business type.
Contract Length & Cancellation
With both Square and SumUp, there are no contracts to sign, no monthly fees, no ETFs, no inactivity fees, and no cancellation fees. Both companies are equal in this regard.
Customer Service & Technical Support
I’ll be honest: Square does get a bad rap for customer service. Most of that, I believe, stems from the way it handles account terminations. If Square closes your account, it will shut you down via email, with no reason given, and no chance of appeal. If you are only dealing with a freeze or a hold, there’s a bit more leeway.
For a long time, Square also got a lot of grief for its lack of phone support. A couple of years ago, it finally added phone support, but with a caveat: first, you have to obtain a code to be able to call in. This continues to be a source of frustration from merchants who have account troubles, but others seem fine with it.
Square also offers Twitter support, a ticket-based system, a very thorough self-service knowledge base, and even a community forum. All of this seems pretty sufficient. Like I said just a moment ago, most of the complaints about Square’s service seem to extend specifically to account terminations and holds rather than unhelpful customer service reps or even response times.
SumUp doesn’t have a community forum, but it does have phone support, a ticket-based support system, and a fairly comprehensive knowledge base. It also has phone support and, unlike Square, you don’t need to obtain a customer code to call in. Furthermore, while SumUp does have a Twitter account for customer support (@sumup), the questions asked of it — and the answers given — seem mostly to be specific to the European market.
I haven’t found a great many complaints about SumUp’s customer service. I will say that my personal experiences with SumUp’s customer support have been good and that the chatter on Google Play is mostly positive. The company is even responding to some reviews with tech support.
I’m going to call this one a draw. Square has a wider array of support options, but SumUp has cut through some of the red tape by not requiring a customer code for its phone support.
It’s often tough to call a winner in this category. How do you really decide who comes out on top when comparing user opinion as expressed on disparate websites and comment sections throughout the internet? Who has fewer complaints? Whose complaints are less consistently awful? Who gets the most gushing praise? My approach kind of fluctuates depending on who I’m discussing because context absolutely matters.
Based on the research I’ve done, my gut says that it’s really a draw in this category.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
This comparison deals with one service that is enormous in the US and another that’s still quite small in the States but has a larger following abroad. We don’t have hard numbers for either, and judging by complaint volume, even adjusted for relative size, is difficult. Therefore, this time I’m looking more at content.
SumUp and Square complaints have many similarities: there are a handful of complaints about customer service, a handful about account terminations, an occasional complaint about glitchy hardware. Square’s biggest source of complaints is terminations, without question. People tend not to like their accounts being terminated, which is completely understandable. But I think part of the frustration comes from how the company handles terminations: a simple email, with no reason, no appeal, and no chance to reach anyone on the phone.
SumUp has far fewer complaints overall, but, again, it has a smaller customer base, especially in the US. Account terminations are a sizable chunk of them, just as with Square. I’ve also noticed a recent surge of complaints relating to Bluetooth connectivity problems with the card reader. Hopefully, this will prove to be a temporary issue — and I’ll note that SumUp has been responding to user complaints on the matter.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Square is a media darling, to be sure. And that’s not to mention its various partnerships or the implicit praise given by a merchant’s continuing use of the service. SumUp is smaller, but it’s established some partnerships across Europe already. It has a smaller customer base, but I see the same sort of positive reviews I see from Square users.
With both Square and SumUp, customers like how easy it is to get signed up. They like the easy-to-use hardware and the intuitive app. That’s all it boils down to.
I said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Square and SumUp are very similar at the heart of things. Essentially, whereas Square has a very American “let’s try a bit of everything!” mentality, SumUp is leaner and more selective. Nonetheless, in the end, the family resemblance is still strikingly clear.
There are a lot of ways in which Square and SumUp are on level footing. Ultimately though, Square stands out in terms of features as well as hardware options, and that’s why in the end I have to declare Square the winner in the Square vs. SumUp debate. Square can adapt easily to countertop and mobile environments, it has more features (especially regarding inventory), and a great assortment of compatible hardware you can purchase directly. SumUp is a very capable mobile app, but it can’t do countertop. It doesn’t support invoicing, and its eCommerce support is limited strictly to an API.
That’s not a bad thing. It just means that SumUp is really meant to be mostly a mobile processing app, whereas Square can be an entire ecosystem for your business. If you need everything, that’s great. Square will serve you well. If you just need a mobile option, either option will work just fine.
Thanks for reading! Remember to check out our full SumUp and Square reviews for more detailed examinations of each service. You may also want to look at our top Square alternatives and our mobile payments comparison chart as well!