Top 7 Square Alternatives

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square-alternatives

Designed by none other than Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, Square is an innovative mobile payment system that allows your business to accept credit card payments via an iPad, iPhone, or Android device. Coupled with the free Square Reader, a small plastic credit card reader that plugs into the audio jack of a supported smartphone or tablet, the Square Register app turns a mobile device into a point of sale. It’s very cool, yes, but it’s also kind of a big deal. Because of the way Square has changed how millions of people pay for things – and get paid for things – I’d argue that it’s revolutionary.

Without a doubt, Square is the biggest player in mobile payment processing. Since its 2009 founding, the company’s groundbreaking concept and elegant design have attracted more than 3 million users and $10 billion in annual payments. In other words, they’re kind of a big deal.

Some of the things you probably love about Square include its fast and free setup and its easy-to-use interface. In addition to acting as a point of sale, Square facilitates payment processing. Square has no monthly usage fees, charging only a flat 2.75% fee for magstripe card transactions, chip card transactions, and NFC payments.

Despite its immense popularity, Square is not without its downsides – in fact, Square’s flaws are no small matter. Troublingly, Square offers very little in the way of customer service, and many business owners have complained about Square withholding funds and shutting down accounts without sufficient cause. Not cool, Square. Not cool.

While Square was one of the only mobile payment games in town five years ago, this is, fortunately, no longer the case. If you want to offer customers mobile payment options using a service with a more merchant-friendly reputation, you can test out several robust Square alternatives that fit this profile. Heck, even if you’re happy with Square, you might consider offering an additional mobile payment choice to give customers more options. As follows is my breakdown of the top Square alternatives.

1. Clover Go

Clover-go-logo

Clover Go is the mobile version of the super-popular Clover suite of POS products. Clover Go is easy to use, chip card-compatible, and uses an actual merchant account. And even though it’s a mobile POS, you still get access to Clover’s back office reporting and features like customizable tax, email/SMS receipts, and basic inventory management. You can also use Clover Go as a supplemental “on-the-go” payment option in addition to your primary Clover Station.

While the other Clover POS systems (Clover Station and Clover Mini) require you to purchase proprietary hardware, Clover Go lets you use an iPhone or Android phone, just like Square. The cost of Clover Go’s EMV-compliant headphone jack card reader varies somewhat depending on the reseller, but you should be able to get it for less than $100. The cost to use and process payments with Clover Go also depends on the reseller – for instance, if you decide to go with Dharma Merchant Services for your merchant account, you can get interchange-plus pricing at 0.25% + $0.10 along with a $25 monthly fee, plus a $10 fee to use the Clover Go app.

What makes Clover Go better than Square?

The main benefit of Clover Go compared to Square is that you get a real merchant account with Clover Go, rather than the aggregate account you get with Square. This equates to better account stability and reduced risk of account freezes, withheld funds, and other such headaches. The only caveat is that your merchant account provider must use First Data as its backend processor. Businesses with higher sales volumes will also be able to save money with Clover Go.

2. iZettle

izettle-logo

iZettle is a chip card-based mobile payment service that currently serves merchants in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the UK, Germany, Spain, Mexico, and Brazil. Notably absent from this list is the US. However, with chip card usage on the rise, iZettle’s expansion into the US could be imminent. (If right now you’re thinking, “What the heck is a chip card?” check out our article Do You Really Need an EMV Chip Card Terminal?)

To process mobile payments, iZettle offers two separate mobile credit card readers, including one that works with chip and PIN cards, and another for chip and signature cards. In the UK market, card readers range from £20 to £59 – about $32 to $93 for us Yanks.

The main draw of iZettle is its low ultra-low processing fees, which start at just 1.00% for high-volume merchants. While the lowest volume merchants will pay 2.75% per transaction, once you hit £2,000 in card payments in a month, your fee starts to drop, going as low as 1.00% if you accept more than £40,000/month in payments.

Some features of iZettle’s mobile point-of-sale (POS) app include:

  • Inventory library
  • Cash drawer/receipt printer connectivity (receipts can also be sent by email)
  • Cash/card acceptance
  • Online reporting tools
  • Multiple staff accounts

On the customer service side, iZettle offers email support and phone support during weekday business hours. As with all of the Square competitors on this list, iZettle has fewer complaints about its customer support than does Square.

What makes iZettle better than Square?

Compared to Square, iZettle offers both superior pricing and reliability. It does not provide you with as many features, but you cannot beat iZettle’s pricing if you are a higher-volume merchant. While this Square alternative isn’t yet offered in the US, it’s a solid choice for merchants in the markets it serves and may soon be a strong domestic competitor for Square as well.

3. PayPal Here

paypal-here-logo

Everybody knows PayPal, but have you heard of PayPal Here? PayPal Here (PPH) is PayPal’s popular mobile processing service with a model similar to Square’s. It requires a PayPal Business or Premier account, but the upgrade from a personal PayPal account is free, as is the app and card reader.

In addition to accepting swiped or keyed-in credit card payments, PPH’s reader can use image capture (i.e., your smartphone’s camera) to deposit checks, and the service also accepts PayPal payments, as you might expect. It works with most Apple devices and some Android and Windows devices.

PPH comes with all the standard features (mobile card processing, mobile POS, free mobile app, free audio jack swiper), and the service also offers the advantage of immediate access to funds via your PayPal account.

Why is PayPal Here better than Square?

PPH offers more features and an overall superior user experience when compared to Square, or compared to most any standalone mobile processing service. PPH also has lower fees (2.7% per card swipe, with no monthly fee) compared to Square.

Like most other mobile payment solutions, PPH also comes with much better customer support than Square. PPH uses PayPal’s main support system, which includes many options, ranging from phone support to a Twitter account that fields service and support questions Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Central Time. (You can tweet your questions to @AskPayPal.)

4. Inner Fence

innerfence-logo

Launched in 2007, Inner Fence has the distinction of being better established than Square. Inner Fence was the first developer of the mobile processing app and virtual mobile terminal, though the company does not actually process mobile payments. Allow me to explain.

With Inner Fence, users are able set up with their own merchant account and gateway. This feature offers merchants greater stability but comes with a higher price tag. Even the basic service, which uses Stripe for the payments and gateway, costs $39 per month, plus 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. You get one free card reader and additional ones are $79.

“Honesty” and “transparency” are other words you commonly hear in association with this small but sturdy merchant services provider. “Value” might not be a word you’ll hear, but being able to link your existing merchant account can provide exceptional account stability and reliability.

What makes Inner Fence Better than Square?

Square users have an aggregate merchant account, meaning they share it with other users of the service, while Inner Fence users have the advantage of having their own dedicated merchant account. As mentioned, this translates to improved service stability for Inner Face users. Finally, though I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record, better customer service (provided over the phone and via email) is another advantage over Square. The squeaky-clean reputation Inner Fence has developed over the past seven years is another reassuring way that Square differs from its predecessor.

5. Spark Pay

Spark-pay-logo

Spark Pay, the mobile processing arm of Capital One, has received very little press since its 2013 re-launch and rebranding (Spark Pay was formerly SAIL, owned by VeriFone). Nevertheless, it is a solid, straightforward mobile payment service that could potentially save you a lot of money.

Like Square, Spark Pay offers mobile debit and credit card processing via a free magstripe card reader that plugs into your phone’s headphone jack (subsequent readers will cost you $13/reader). By adding a $250 wired payment terminal, you can also accept NFC payments and EMV chip cards.

When it comes to features, Spark Pay’s are not as robust as Square’s. However, some useful functions you’ll get with Spark Pay’s mobile app include online reporting/analytics, inventory reporting, cash drawer connectivity, and customizable electronic receipts, among others.

Spark Pay offers merchants two different fee schemes, including the Go Plan (pay-as-you-go) and the Pro Plan (monthly fee). I would recommend the Pro Plan if you are a higher-volume merchant (processing about $2,000+ per month). The benefits of the higher-volume plan are that you pay less per each transaction – 1.99% + $0.05 per swipe for the paid plan vs. 2.65% + $0.05 for the free plan. You can use this handy calculator to determine which plan would be best for your business.

What makes Spark Pay better than Square?

Spark Pay’s Pro Plan can potentially save higher-volume merchants a lot of money over Square, given that your average sale is at least $7 or so. Even if you choose Spark Pay’s free “Go” plan (no monthly fee), the 2.65% + $0.05 per-transaction fee is still lower than Square’s for transactions $50 and larger.

Users of Spark Pay also receive solid customer support, provided over the phone during business hours. Combined with prompt email support (one-day turnaround or less) and responsive Twitter support, Spark Pay has a far better overall support experience than Square, which is crucial given the higher amount of SNAFUs that occur with mobile payments compared to traditional processing.

6. Intuit GoPayment

Intuit GoPayment

Intuit is best known for its benchmark accounting software QuickBooks, but the Intuit GoPayment mobile payment processor is nothing to shake a stick at either. In addition to providing you with the benefits of a bona fide merchant account, GoPayment is an excellent mobile POS system for businesses that use and love QuickBooks, as it offers seamless QuickBooks integration.

On top of QB features, Intuit gives you advanced functions like invoicing, camera scanning to capture card information (albeit, at a higher processing charge), recurring billing options, and the ability to process cards from a web browser via a virtual terminal.

How is Intuit GoPayment better than Square?

Unlike Square, Intuit GoPayment gives you your own dedicated merchant account, which brings with it the benefits we’ve always discussed. GoPayment’s pay-as-you-go processing rate of 2.4% + $0.25 per swipe is also cheaper for merchants, except in the case of very small transactions (and for a $19.95 monthly charge, you can get a much lower rate of 1.6% + $0.25). Finally, Intuit GoPayment has more advanced features than Square, including full-fledged QuickBooks integration. Live chat support is also a plus.

7. Vend POS

vend-logo

Though it is web-based, Vend is a powerful, full-fledged POS system, such that you can use it to replace a traditional Windows-based POS system at your brick-and-mortar store. Vend is also a viable alternative to Square if you currently use the Square Stand iPad setup. In addition to running on an iPad, you can also use Vend from a web browser, which means you can process payments from any web-connected device, wherever you are.

Processing fees with Vend depend on the payment processor you use; for example, if you use Vend with PayPal, you’ll get a rate of 2.7%. Vantiv is another payment processing option. Vend comes with a monthly service charge unless you choose its limited free plan, but the numerous advanced POS options that come with Vend make its $59/month fee well worth it – these features include advanced inventory management, 24/7 email support, offline mode, eCommerce functionality, loyalty program features, customer management, and many more.

Why use Vend over Square?

For very low-volume businesses that process all sales from a smartphone, Square might be the better option. However, iPad-based Vend is a viable Square alternative for growing businesses that want to upgrade from a casual “mobile POS” like Square. At the same time, Vend is a more affordable middle-of-the-road option compared to an even more advanced iPad POS like Revel Systems or Lightspeed Retail.

Conclusion

As a small business, it’s always good to have options when it comes to mobile payment acceptance. The variety of different mobile payment and mobile POS providers means that you don’t have to stay with Square if it’s not meeting your needs sufficiently. The best part is that you don’t have to stick with just one mobile payments processor: none of the companies discussed in this article have contracts or early termination fees, so you can test them out without any risk, or even use several of them simultaneously to see which one you like best – just note that with Intuit GoPayment, you do have to jump through a couple small hoops to cancel your account (read more about that in our Intuit GoPayment review).

If you want to do a little further comparison shopping before signing up for a mobile payment processor, you can read or comparisons of Spark Pay vs. Intuit GoPayment or Square vs. PayPal Here. Or, compare the merits of using Square vs. a merchant account.

So what’s your favorite Square alternative? Let us know in the comments!

Shannon Vissers

Shannon Vissers

Shannon is a freelance writer and editor based in San Diego, CA. Shannon kind of wants an iPhone 7, but she's not really ready to lose the headphone jack.
Shannon Vissers

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26 Comments

    Norin

    Thanks for this great info. I run a solo law practice and typically charge around $800 – $1,000 at a time per transaction. I’ve been accepting checks only until I figure out which system is best for me. Would one POS system be best for me over the others?

    Chloe Bahal

    Hi Norin,

    Thank you for your inquiry. Based on the information provided, I would recommend Square. I would encourage you to use the green “visit site” button within the review if you would like to support our work. I hope this helps and if you have further questions please let me know.

    Amber

    Thanks for this review! I have been having a difficult time deciding on a POS system. I run a mobile recreation company that takes payment of around $400 for each event. I am looking to be able to take credit cards. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    Chloe Bahal

    Hi Amber,

    Thank you for your inquiry, I am happy to help you with this. Based on the information provided, I would recommend Square. I would encourage you to use the green “visit site” button within the review if you would like to support our work. I hope this helps and if you have further questions please let me know.

    Bill Werkheiser

    I have a few rental properties, both residential and commercial. I have a church that has been paying me with a credit card for years with no problem. It is the only transaction I do every month but it is keyed which hurts. The amount is $1,200.00. What would be the best service for this single transaction each month.

    Chloe Bahal

    Hi Bill,

    Thank you for your inquiry, I am happy to help you with this. Based on the information provided, I would recommend Square. I hope this helps and if you have further questions please let me know.

    Deb

    Can you recommend a POS and Online store for a small specialty pharmacy? Currently we have 1. a traditional website for our online store with 2. a Volusion shopping cart, 3. our in-store POS is QuickBooks, and 4. we also use Square so we can accept credit cards. We want to streamline and keep our costs down so would like to put our online store, shopping cart, and POS in one program if possible, or, at least condense it to save on hosting costs. We were debating between Square and/or Vend but not sure now after I read these Square comments. Any ideas?

    Chloe Bahal

    Hi Deb,

    I am sending you an email right now so please keep an eye out for it.

    Richard

    Thanks for a great article! I am a general contractor who is looking to accept credit cards for jobs. Usually my jobs range from $10,000 – $30,000. I usually deal in checks, but more and more clients are asking to use credit cards for rewards purposes. These payments would be very rare (maybe 5-10 a year). What would be the best option for my business?

    Chloe Bahal

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you for your inquiry, I am happy to help you with this. Based on the information provided, I would recommend CDGcommerce and Helcim. You might also want to check out Square. I hope this helps and if you have further questions please let me know.

    Art

    SQUARE suddenly deactivated my account on a Friday evening before a major selling show that begins in 12 hours!
    I need a web store, for satirical & political items, and a POS that accepts cards – and I need it fast!

    Linda Leathart

    I was excited about your information on Spark Pay but it is not quite correct. There is a monthly fee AND you pay for individual transactions so you are paying for the extra customer service which I don’t mind but it is not cheaper than Square. Unless I am mistaken?

    Shannon George

    Hi Linda, Spark Pay has a “Pro” plan that comes with a lower transaction fee (you pay $19/month for a transaction fee of 1.99% + $0.05), and they also have a free “Go” plan (no monthly fee) with a transaction fee of 2.65% + $0.05. With either plan, it will depend on your average transaction size; for a business that does a lot of smaller transactions (like a coffee cart, for example), you’re right, Square’s fee (2.75%) will be cheaper than Spark Pay’s (with either the Go or Pro plan). But if your average transaction size is more like $10+, you could potentially save a lot of money using Spark Pay’s Pro plan instead of Square, especially if you do more than a couple thousand dollars worth of sales per month. Hope that makes sense! Here’s some more info on Spark Pay’s pricing: https://www.sparkpay.com/sellinperson/pricing

    Diana

    I came to this article after Square suddenly started holding payments, even though I had immediate deposit authorized (at a higher fee). I’d had no issues with immediate deposits, regardless of size, to suddenly find out this last weekend that they had decided I didn’t have enough collective deposits to do immediate processing. This was never a requirement before. I read the full legal agreement, the deposit FAQs and tutorials THREE times. There is nothing that says there’s a hold unless it’s a certain amount.

    I sent an email stating all that. I got an overly friendly reply 2 days later that simply restated what I saw on the app for the deposit ledger—immediate deposit function suspended due to low amount of pending deposits.

    I emailed back today. Restated again, AND pointed out that federal banking laws require the funds be transferred into my account within 24 hours of the payment clearing on their end. I also pointed out my uncle is a fraud agent with the IRS.

    I expect another BS answer, or none at all.

    I appreciate this article very much! For my purposes, I think I’ll go with Paypal even though it’s difficult to transfer funds to my bank (it takes 3 weeks to show up) but they now have a Paypal debit card with Visa logo and that would make it much easier.

    Tony Foti

    I just started using square and I am ver shocked that they are withholding all my money for the month. Diana did you ever get your money back?? What should I expect?? Will they give me my money or not?? I need that money to operate my business! And to find out they have no customer service number to talk to some one is so disheartening !! What the heck!!

    Bhavani

    Its nice to have all the comparables in one area. The only thing is it doesn’t take long to see that this article was written by someone that has some grief against square which I do too. I have been a loyal client for 4 years and suddenly they froze my funds because i had a processed a larger transaction today. Ofcourse there is no one to talk to. The reviews on flint are terrible. Spark pay is accused of freezing peoples money with out an explanation which would be just as annoying inspite of the fact that you can talk to a live person, then there’s the one that is not even available in the US. so outside of the ones that really dont do actual card charging for old fashioned people pay pal is what is left. I am too tired to find out the problems with paypal. anyone that has already done the research on the pros and cons of paypal?

    Michael

    Square has very poor customer support.

    Denise

    I tried to apply for Square and for some reason was denied, so when I emailed customer support all I was given was a sorry and wished me luck with my business!!! I certainly do not want to do business with any company that simply doesn’t try harder to give customer support. Thank you for this run down. I am starting my own freelance business and wasn’t sure about all the other businesses mentioned.

    Scott Lee Webb

    I’ve used Square for 3 years, it’s standard business to not do weekend deposits so these account holds do not sound legit. Weekday sales deposit the day after and all Friday Saturday Sunday sales are deposited on Monday. They have implemented an extra fee for those who don’t manage their money and are so broke that they need weekend deposits for an additional fee. Ive used others and PayPal has always been crooked holding money, their staff is foreign and coukd spit on you, Amazon closed there’s which was flawed from implementation from the i.t. design. So reliability and financial security of your funds, and client security protection is everything. Square delivers efficiently and by far has the most beautiful pos register face.

    joe

    Can you can recommend a merchant for a travel business?

    Tom DeSimone

    Hi Joe,

    Check out Payline. Travel businesses often are categorized as high-risk, and Payline works with that type of account.

    Juan Luna

    Do you think they’ll work with all high risk business or if they will at least be able to process invoice for local purchases ?

    Herand

    square has bad customer service, it’s virtually impossible to get hold of their representative on phone. Also, the hold the money for long time, before depositing into your account.

    Shannon George

    Yes, that seems to be one of the major complaints about Square. I think they are working on their customer service and account hold issues, but they are definitely not the most merchant-friendly mobile payment processor.

    Elizabeth

    We need a system which allows us to swipe in the field – but have the transactions set up in batches.

    For example:
    Invoice for $200
    Payment for $200
    Bank Deposit for $200
    Bank Fee from processer of $5.50 (Square rate).

    That way, you have the benefit of the payment being the same amount — so the client invoice shows as fully paid. And the bank deposit matching the invoice amount – good for reconciliation. And the daily bank fees can be aggregated into one lump sum.

    Do you know of any options?

    Elizabeth

    Angel Flores

    I believe square is still the standard but I do hate how long it takes to deposit fund during the weekends.

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