Top 7 Square Alternatives
Square has made itself a giant of commerce, rising from a simple mobile point of sale (mPOS) app to a full business eco-system with an mPOS, tablet-based POS systems, ecommerce integrations, developer tools, and a lot more. It’s a favorite of cafes, quick-serve restaurants, and artists and traveling business people. So even if you haven’t investigated Square for yourself, the odds are pretty darn good you’ve at least heard about Square.
Is it worth all the fuss?
In a nutshell, yes. Square offers incredible value for small and medium-sized businesses, and even some larger companies are finding it worthwhile to switch to Square. A suite of software solutions, including niche POS systems, that address a huge assortment of business needs is nothing to sneeze at, especially once you factor in clear, transparent, predictable pricing. Affordable hardware, a pay-as-you-go pricing model, and plenty of third-party integrations are enough to seal the deal.
Square’s Services at a Glance
|Free App & Reader||Square eCommerce||Square for Retail||Square for Restaurants|
|Get Started||Get Started||Get Started||Get Started|
|Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android||Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization||Specialized software for more complex retail stores||Specialized software for full-service restaurants|
|Always Free||Always Free||Free Trial||Free Trial|
But Square isn’t right for everyone — whether you want better pricing at high volumes or better stability or an even more robust feature set, there’s plenty of reasons why merchants don’t want to choose Square. Maybe you’re just not convinced Square is the best value.
Square’s platform is complex and layered and caters to many kinds of businesses. So it’s difficult to point to just one service and say, “yes, this company has everything square offers.” Instead, if you’re looking for alternatives to Square, we’ve broken them down by different aspects that draw people to (or maybe turn people away from) Square.
Compare Square Against the Best Alternatives for 2018
|Review Visit Site||ReviewVisit Site||ReviewVisit Site||ReviewVisit Site||ReviewVisit Site|
|Key Features||All-In-One Solution, Upgrade Potential||Advanced Features||Versatile, Works With Many POS Systems||High-Volume, Large Ticket||Free Chip Reader, Integrate Online Sales|
|Pricing Model||Flat Rate||Flat Rate||Cost-Plus||Cost-Plus (Subscription)||Flat Rate|
|Entry-Level Monthly Fee||$0||$0||$10||$99||$9|
|Standard Retail Rates||2.75% total|
|0.30% + $0.10 markup||0.00% + $0.25 markup||2.70% total|
|Standard eCommerce Rates||2.90% + $0.30 total|
|0.50% + $0.10 markup||0.00% + $0.25 markup||2.90% + $0.30 total|
|Free Trial||Always Free||Up to $5K monthly||None||None||14 Days|
Wondering if Square is right for you? Check out our in-depth Square review for a closer look at the Square platform. Otherwise, read on for our favorite alternatives to Square in all its many forms. Have questions? Have you already found an alternative to Square that you love? Leave us a comment; we always want to hear from you!
Table of Contents
- 1. Best Stable High-Volume Processor: Fattmerchant
- 2. Best Stable Low-Volume Processor: Payline Mobile
- 3. Best mPOS with Online Selling: Shopify Lite
- 4. Best Standalone mPOS: SumUp
- 5. Best iPad POS: Vend POS + PayPal
- 6. Best for Quickbooks Integration: Intuit/QuickBooks GoPayment
- 7. Best Processor for Low-Volume Nonprofits: PayPal Here
- Final Thoughts
1. Best Stable High-Volume Processor: Fattmerchant
Fattmerchant Mobile (read our review) is a great mPOS option for high-volume businesses that want more account stability than Square can provide.
I don’t want to beat around the bush here: Square has a lot of complaints about account terminations. And it’s not surprising to me that it’s one of the first concerns people have when they’re looking at Square. Read enough complaints and it’s easy to convince yourself Square is a horrible idea. But here’s the thing: You have to look at the number of complaints versus the number of merchants (upwards of 2 million), which gives the volume of complaints into a better perspective.
However, Square is a third-party processor. That means merchants who sign up for accounts will always face a certain amount of account instability and risk. The best you can do as a Square merchant is educate yourself and try to minimize or eliminate behaviors that can trigger account terminations. If you’ve already been burned by Square or you’re just not willing to deal with that sort of risk, a merchant account is your best bet to reduce your risk of an account hold or termination.
Best for High-Volume/Large Ticket Businesses
✓ $99/monthly fee
✓ Interchange + $0.15 per transaction
• Chip card reader ($79 retail price)
• iOS-exclusive mobile app
• Invoicing and saved payment methods
• Inventory management
• Customer database
|Visit the Fattmerchant website|
Read our Fattmerchant review
Fattmerchant not only delivers on the stability front; it also offers great customer service and a powerful centralized web dashboard to manage inventory, manage customers, and track sales. The Fattmerchant platform includes free invoicing and inventory tracking (including barcode scanning). If you opt for add-on packages, you can get a virtual terminal. Plus, you have no PCI compliance fees, no early termination fees, or any other hidden costs. Your only costs are the $99/monthly fee, processing rates of interchange + $0.15 per transaction, and a $25 fee for any chargebacks (they’re pretty rare for in-person transactions, but worth mentioning). Fattmerchant offers a choice of magstripe/chip card reader or all-in-one card reader with prices starting at $79.
Fattmerchant’s pricing does mean that it’s best suited to merchants with large ticket sizes and high volumes (at least $7,500/month; ideally $10,000/month). If you don’t meet those criteria, Square will likely be the more cost-effective option. However, you might decide the account stability is a worthwhile trade-off for the higher cost.
2. Best Stable Low-Volume Processor: Payline Mobile
Fattmerchant’s monthly fee makes it best suited for large businesses, but Payline Data is one of the rare merchant account providers that cater to low-volume business owners who need a mobile plan. Payline Mobile (read our review) offers the security of a merchant account with no annual contracts and no monthly or annual fees (including no PCI compliance fees), which makes it one of the few merchant accounts suitable for low-volume merchants.
✓ $10 monthly fee
✓ 0.3% + interchange + $0.10 per transaction
• All-in-one card reader ($150 retail price)
• Free virtual terminal
• Basic inventory tools
• Customer database
|Visit the Payline website|
Read our Payline review
Payline’s entry-level plan, called Payline Start, is available for no monthly fee and processes at 0.3% + $0.10 per transaction; the only stipulation (which isn’t made clear on the site) is that you need to generate $25 in monthly processing fees. For most merchants, that’s about $1,000/month, but your break-even amount may vary. If you don’t meet that minimum, Payline will charge you the difference ($25 – your processing amount = remaining fee). If you don’t plan to process all year round, talk to Payline because seasonal plans are available.
The Payline Mobile app isn’t as powerful as Square. For example, you don’t get advanced inventory tracking or invoicing, but it’s perfectly serviceable as a mobile POS solution. You get a virtual terminal, customer database, and barcode scanning included.
In addition to account stability, you’ll get great customer support from the Payline team. And if you decide you need more than just an mPOS, Payline has plans to accommodate eCommerce sales, retail setups, and even integrated approaches.
3. Best mPOS with Online Selling: Shopify Lite
The fact that an ecommerce platform like Shopify felt the need to develop its own proprietary POS software tells you just how important the ability to sell across multiple channels (brick-and-mortar stores, mobile pop-ups, online) is becoming. Shopify’s “Lite” plan (read our review) provides you with access to that mPOS and Android and iOS tablets and phones, for a very reasonable $9/month. What’s the catch, you ask? Well, you don’t get a full Shopify web store on the Lite plan. Instead, you get access to “buy” buttons (a la PayPal) and a Facebook store. That alone may be enough for some merchants if you don’t have grandiose plans for selling online.
In addition to the monthly fee, you’ll pay 2.7% for swiped, dipped or tapped transactions, and 2.9% + $0.30 for online and keyed entry transactions as long as you process through Shopify Payments. That includes transactions processed via invoicing or the virtual terminal (both included at no additional charge). It’s worth pointing out that Shopify Payments is a white-labeled Stripe service, meaning it’s another third-party processor with a certain amount of account instability.
✓ 2.7% per swiped/dipped/tapped transaction
✓ 2.9% + $0.30 per online or invoiced transaction
• Free chip card reader ($29 retail price)
• Seamless management of sales channels
• Advanced inventory tools
• Facebook store and buy buttons
• Free 14-day trial
|Visit the Shopify website|
Read our Shopify review
If you’d like to add support for receipt printers, PIN access for staff members, and a few other features, you’ll also need to add on the retail package ($49/month), which transforms Shopify POS from a handy mobile tool to a full-fledged iPad POS.
Shopify’s POS is certainly tailored primarily at retail businesses, but other merchants might find the software works for their needs. The good news is you can test-drive the Shopify platform and POS app with a free 14-day trial to make sure it’s right for you. It’s a great starter option if you’d like to test the waters for online sales, and Shopify’s platform scales so easily that when you’re ready for a full webstore, upgrading will be quick and painless. Shopify Basic and higher tiered plans all include access to the Shopify POS at no additional charge, too.
Shopify’s Services At A Glance
|Mobile App + Free Card Reader||Point of Sale||Online Store||Social Media Selling|
|Get Started||Get Started||Get Started||Get Started|
|Low-cost POS for iOS and Android with free hardware||All-purpose POS integrated with all sales channels||Build a store or integrate with your current website||Sell on Facebook and other platforms|
|Starts at $9/month||Starts at $29/month||Starts at $29/month||Starts at $9/month|
|Free Trial||Free Trial||Free Trial||Free Trial|
Plus, Shopify offers a free Bluetooth-enabled magstripe/chip card reader. It’s listed at $29 retail price, but new merchants who sign up are eligible for one free reader. It also comes with a charging dock included at no additional charge.
Check out our Shopify vs. Square article for a closer look at these two side-by-side.
4. Best Standalone mPOS: SumUp
SumUp (read our review) is a relatively newcomer to the US, but it’s been operating in Europe for several years now. In another article, I referred to SumUp as Square’s sophisticated, minimalist cousin. And I stand by that idea — SumUp certainly doesn’t beat Square for features, but if you want a solid mPOS, pay-as-you-go processing, and a few bonus features (a virtual terminal, for example), it might be the right solution for you.
Like most mPOS providers, SumUp is a third-party processor, which means there’s an inherent amount of account instability, and it’s not a good fit for high-risk businesses. You don’t get the kind of eCommerce support and integrations you’ll find with more comprehensive solutions, nor is there any invoicing support.
✓ No monthly fee
✓ 2.65% per transaction
• All-in-one card reader ($69 retail price)
• Good for low-volume and small-ticket merchants
• International access available
• Basic inventory management tools
• Free virtual terminal
|Visit the SumUp website|
Read our SumUp review
But if you tend to travel for business a lot, SumUp might be your new favorite tool. If you’re traveling in one of the 30+ countries that SumUp operates in, you can contact support and ask them to enable payment processing in that country. Considering that PayPal Here and Square are both very limited in the number of supported countries, this is no small consideration.
SumUp offers only one card reader, an all-in-one Bluetooth-enabled reader that will cost you $69. You can check out our unboxing review of the reader for more details on the hardware.
5. Best iPad POS: Vend POS + PayPal
One of Square’s big selling points is its free iPad POS. Technically, it’s the same app that runs on smartphones, but the iPad offers advanced features you won’t always find on an iPhone or any Android device; plus it works with the Square Stand for a countertop setup. However, Square Point of Sale still isn’t fully on par with many other iPad POS systems. So if you’re in the market for an advanced iPad POS, it’s worth looking at Vend (read our review).
Now, a quick disclosure: Square does have its own advanced POS for retailers. It’s called (wait for it) Square for Retail. But even that system doesn’t hold a candle to Vend and its features. Notably, Vend offers integrations with a wide range of payment processors. You can take your pick, but if you don’t already have a processor, we recommend going with PayPal (read our review). First, PayPal charges no monthly fee and its rates of 2.7% for in-person transaction are totally reasonable (plus, with Vend you are eligible for volume discounts through PayPal). PayPal requires no monthly minimums and is PCI compliant, which takes a major weight off your shoulders. The one shortcoming is that PayPal, like Square, is a third-party processor and so there is a certain degree of account stability that’s unavoidable.
✓ $99+ monthly fee
✓ 2.7% per transaction
• All-in-one card reader ($79 retail price; $49 with rebate)
• Advanced inventory tracking
• Layaway, on-account sales, and store credit
• eCommerce available with higher tier plans
• Customer database and integrated loyalty program
|Visit the Vend website|
Read our Vend review
Vend delivers all of your standard POS features, with unlimited products and unlimited staff accounts no matter what plan you choose. Some features (such as gift card support, eCommerce support, and more advanced analytics and reporting) are only available with the mid-tier and highest-tier plans. However, I want to draw your eyes to these features: layaway and on-account sales, refunds to gift cards, store credit, or original payment methods, advanced inventory tracking with purchase order management, a loyalty program, and customer database. And that’s just to name a few. Vend has a very comprehensive feature set that will suit small and mid-size businesses very well; though one might make a case that some of Vend’s features just aren’t at the level that the very largest businesses would expect.
Vend’s software will run you $99/month for the Lite version, if you opt for the annual plan. If you go month-to-month, you’ll pay $119/month to start. Also note that you are capped at a monthly sales volume of $20,000; go over that amount three times in a 12-month period, and Vend will upgrade you to the next plan tier. Also, the cost will increase as you add more registers and locations. For hardware, you’ll need PayPal’s Chip Card Reader, which retails for $79 but includes a $30 rebate for eligible merchants, bringing the cost to $49.
6. Best for Quickbooks Integration: Intuit/QuickBooks GoPayment
QuickBooks GoPayment, also formerly known as Intuit GoPayment (read our review), is part of Intuit’s suite of payments-related tools known as QuickBooks payments. It’s a standalone mPOS that allows you to accept payments in person. However, despite it being a mostly standalone product from QuickBooks, it still syncs all your transaction data directly to QuickBooks Online, with no manual entry required. That means — if you haven’t guessed it — that GoPayment is targeted at QuickBooks Online users.
GoPayment isn’t the most feature-rich mPOS out there by any means, but it has everything most merchants need, including a basic item library, tax management settings, and tipping and discounts. You can create up to 50 sub-user accounts at no additional charge. You won’t get a virtual terminal or invoicing support unless you’re using the broader QuickBooks Payments suite, but if you are, you’ll find these tools are quite powerful and will make managing all your finances in QuickBooks even easier.
✓ No monthly fee
✓ 2.4% + $0.25 per transaction
• Free chip card reader ($19 retail price)
• Syncs with QuickBooks Online
• Basic inventory tools
• Works with larger QB Payments suite
• Ideal for professional services and large-ticket-size businesses
|Visit the QuickBooks Payments website|
Read our QuickBooks Payments review
While you’ll pay a monthly fee for a QuickBooks online subscription, GoPayment itself has no monthly fee. You’ll pay 2.4% + $0.25 per transaction. That’s not bad pricing, but it does mean that anyone with a very small ticket size should steer clear. You’ll pay more than you have to thanks to the $0.25 transaction fee. However, for professional services — any sort of business, really — with an average transaction size above $50, this could translate to savings in the long run. Plus, Intuit offers volume discounts for businesses processing more than $7,5000/month.
Intuit offers a free Bluetooth enabled chip card reader for merchants, which retails for $19. You can also get an all-in-one reader with a charging dock for $49. Both are pretty good prices for hardware.
While Intuit does issue merchant accounts for its QuickBooks users rather than relying on aggregating, some merchants report stability issues. They mostly seem to relate to suspicious transactions. The best thing you can do to mitigate your risk is to understand what red flags merchants look for and avoid circumstances that can trigger a funding hold, if possible.
7. Best Processor for Low-Volume Nonprofits: PayPal Here
First of all, if you’re processing at least $10K in monthly sales, we highly recommend that you check out Dharma Merchant Services instead of PayPal for the best rates. If you’re a lower volume nonprofit, read on. We’ve already talked about using PayPal as your payment processor for Vend, but on its own PayPal Here (read our review) offers a pretty solid mPOS with no monthly fee and a 2.7% transaction rate. While you don’t get advanced inventory tracking, you do get a solid item library, tipping and discount features, customizable tax settings, and customizable reporting. PayPal Here also includes sub-user accounts and in-app invoicing.
In addition, PayPal Here supports barcode scanners, cash drawers, and receipt printers so that you can turn PayPal Here into a countertop POS as well as a mobile one. Card readers start at just $24.99 for an EMV reader or $59.99 for an all-in-one reader (check out our full unboxing review). PayPal no longer offers a free reader; if you do spring for the $15 magstripe reader, you may be subject to a mandatory reserve for any sales over $500.
Best for Low-Volume Nonprofits
✓ No monthly fee
✓ 2.7% per in-person transaction
✓ 2.2% + $0.30 per online transaction for nonprofits
• Chip card reader ($24.99 retail price)
• Nonprofit discounts available
• Instant funding
• Easy donation tools for websites
• In-app invoicing
|Processing $10K monthly? Check out Dharma for Nonprofits|
See how PayPal card readers compare
All of that is pretty cool, but the reason we’re singling out PayPal Here is because it offers the best platform for nonprofit organizations. With PayPal Here you can accept donations in person and record both cash and card donations, as well as sell merchandise or fundraiser tickets. However, in addition to that, PayPal offers a discounted rate for online transactions (2.2% + $0.30 versus the standard 2.9% + $0.30) and tools to set up donation and buy buttons on your website. Donation buttons by default include the option for a one-time donation or recurring, which means very little work on your part to implement a donation system. The data from all the sales channels will be centralized into your PayPal dashboard, too. So if you want multiple ways to take payments or accept donations, PayPal is definitely the way to go. And don’t forget, with the PayPal for Business debit card you can actually spend the funds anywhere. Want to know more about how PayPal stacks up against Square? Check out our Square vs. PayPal Here article.
Business owners look to Square for a lot of reasons — whether they want a point-of-sale system, or flat-rate pricing, or a comprehensive, all-in-one platform. Square has a lot of advantages, but also some shortcomings. Ultimately, only you can make the call about whether Square is right for you, or whether you’re better off going with an alternative provider. But here are a few questions to consider to get you started:
- Do I want/need a more stable account provider?
- Do I process enough card transactions to benefit from high-volume savings?
- Does Square have all the features I need?
- Are the cost of any add-ons justifiable?
Obviously, there are plenty more questions to ask based on your business. But these will hopefully get you thinking. And of course, we haven’t covered all of the alternatives to Square. If you’re just looking for payment processing, you can check out our merchant account comparison chart, or if you need a mobile solution, take a look at our mobile credit card processing comparison chart. If you want to know a little bit more about mobile hardware, we have our shortlist of the best credit card readers for small businesses.
So what’s your favorite Square alternative? Why did you (or did you not) choose Square? Let us know in the comments!