Zettle vs Square: which is best for small businesses?

Although both Zettle by PayPal (formerly iZettle) and Square offer the same product, you’ll find that there are differences in the details. We uncover them in this Zettle vs Square write-up

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Over the last decade, cash transactions have dramatically declined. As more people choose to pay by card, more card payment companies have cropped up to cash in.

Founded in 2009 and 2010 respectively, Square and Zettle by PayPal pioneered the alternative card payment movement, and have since remained at the forefront of the payments industry. 

On the face of it, both Zettle and Square offer the same thing a card reader, point of sale software, and if required, point of sale equipment. And while they charge businesses the same rate to process card payments (1.75%), there are slight differences between each offering that may or may not make a difference when you decide on which one to invest in. 

In this Zettle vs Square write-up, we’ll take a look at what these differences are, and discover which one serves small businesses best.

Editorial note: iZettle has recently rebranded to Zettle by PayPal. The product offering remains the same. So, for the time being, we will continue to refer to the brand by its previous, well-established brand name “iZettle” throughout this article. You can find out more about its new branding at zettle.com

A summary

Square logo
Square
izettle logo
Zettle
Card reader cost£19£29
Transaction fee1.75%1.75%
Software feesNoneNone
Pin confirmation On tablet or phone screenOn the Zettle card reader
Deposits funds1-2 business days
(deposits instantly for an additional 1%)
1-2 business days

Features

So what do you get for your money? Let’s compare the card reader, software, point of sale, and ecommerce offerings from each of these providers.

Square logo
Square
izettle logo
Zettle
BluetoothYesYes
ConnectivityWifi/hotspot/cellularWifi/hotspot/cellular
Offline payments NoNo
Processing rate1.75%1.75%
Chip and pinYesYes
ContactlessYesYes
Virtual terminal (ecommerce)YesYes
Compatible with other softwareNoYes

As card readers go, both readers do exactly the same thing they give you the means to take contactless and chip and pin payments for a set processing fee. It’s the user experience of each card reader that makes them different. Take a look at the images below: 

 

 

Square card reader

izettle card reader

There’s no doubt that the lack of keypad makes Square’s card reader look modern and stylish, but it does mean that processing chip and pin payments is a little less conventional. 

Rather than keying in their pin number on the card reader device itself, customers will need to type their pin into the device hosting Square’s point of sale software in other words, your mobile phone or tablet. This unconventional way of doing things is completely PCI compliant, so there’s no need to worry about security; just bear in mind that it’ll be a new experience for your customers. 

The Zettle card reader is just as neat, and it certainly offers more when it comes to ergonomics. For example, there are little rubber sections on the back which make it less likely to slip off surfaces, and the green tick button makes the whole payment taking process feel seamless. 

Another difference between the two card readers is the Zettle card reader is compatible with other point of sale software. For example, if you decide that your small business has outgrown Zettle’s software, you could integrate it with the likes of Lightspeed or Vend, which offer more sophisticated paid plans to their customers. 

Square logo
Square
izettle logo
Zettle
Take payments YesYes
Payment managementYesYes (paid only)
Inventory managementYesYes
Repeat paymentsNoYes (activation required)
Team managementYes (paid plan available)Yes
Analytics Yes Yes
Integrations Yes (lots!)Yes (limited)
Paid plans availableYesYes

Both Square and Zettle offer free feature-rich, yet intuitive to use software packages, giving small businesses all the tools they need to start taking payments. But as you can see from the table, there are some slight differences. 

While both providers give businesses the means to process payments, it’s only Square’s free plan that offers payment management features, like splitting bills. This, in addition to its integrations from customer relationship management to appointment booking software means Square is best suited to businesses that are looking for a more sophisticated setup. 

That’s not to say that Zettle’s software isn’t the best option for other businesses. In fact, it’s Zettle’s simplicity that attracts a lot of small business owners to the payment provider in the first place. 

Fuss-free, Zettle’s system is perfect for small retail businesses and counter service hospitality businesses. And with the option to activate its repeat payment option, it’s not a bad choice for buskers and nightclub entry booths, either. 

Zettle vs Square: Paid plans 

While both providers offer paid plans, it’s worth pointing out two things. One: the plans are solely for hospitality businesses, and two: they’re only compatible with an iPad Air 2 or a later model. 

Square charges small business owners £69/month (unlimited iPads) for its paid software (Square for Restaurants), while Zettle charges £29/month per iPad for Zettle Food and Drink. Both providers charge businesses 1.75% of every transaction made, however lower fees can be negotiated if your business takes over a certain amount per month (for Zettle Food and Drink it's £10,000/month). 

So, what do you get for your money?

Square for Restaurants is more expensive than Zettle Food and Drink as it gives restaurant owners more autonomy when it comes to building a POS system that delivers on additional business services such as customer relationship and staff management.

While Zettle does offer some of these features, Square's offerings are more sophisticated but are additional costs through third party providers, rather than being included in the base package price.

Square logo
Square
izettle logo
Zettle
All POS accessories availableYes (third party supplier)Yes (third party supplier)
Branded POS equipment YesNo
Integrates with other POS softwareNoSome
Offline modePartialPartial
Complete kits availableYesYes

Both providers use the same third party supplier for their POS accessories, which include printers, kitchen printers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners. Complete hardware kits are available for small businesses that aren’t sure on what equipment they may need. 

That said, Square one ups Zettle with a few branded products of its own these include the Square Stand, Square Hub, and Square Terminal. Having these products means Square gives its customers more flexibility when it comes to choosing how their point of sale setup will work. 

Square customers have the option to combine the Square card reader with accessories from third party providers, or they can opt for the Square Terminal, which is an all-in-one device that’s far cheaper than investing in separate hardware. 

The Square Terminal isn’t without its limitations, though. It doesn’t offer small businesses the full version of Square’s software, and it only works alongside third party products with the addition of the Square Hub.

Ecommerce

Square logo
Square Online
izettle logo
Zettle
Suitable for retail and hospitality?
YesYes
Transaction fee2.5%2.5%
Free option?YesNo (standard £29/month)
Own ecommerce softwareYesYes
Third party ecommerce integrationsYesShopify only
Accepts PayPalNoYes (2% transaction fee)

Some providers offer better online setups than others, but thankfully, both Zettle and Square have some great options. So which one do you choose? 

First of all, you need to ask yourself what you want from your online store. If it’s the absolute basics and you don’t mind having Square’s name tagged alongside yours then Square does offer a free ecommerce option. 

Even Square’s premium options are cheap you can have a domain name all to yourself for £9/month, while the maximum you’ll ever pay for your ecommerce store is £54/month. The highest rate includes the option to add customer reviews and the option to send abandoned cart reminders, plus a lower transaction fee of 2.25%.  

Zettle charges its customers a set fee of £29/month for its ecommerce store. For that, you get everything Square offers in its top package, minus the lower transaction fee. 

Just bear in mind that neither Square nor Zettle are website builders in their own right. This means you won’t get the search engine optimisation or marketing assistance that official website builders like Wix, WooCommerce, and Shopify can offer. 

So what if you’d rather use a third party to set up your ecommerce store? The good news is, both Square and Zettle can integrate with third party providers. However, this is where Zettle falls a little short. Currently, Zettle only integrates with Shopify, whereas Square integrates with 11 ecommerce website builders.

Pricing

Let’s take a look at how Zettle and Square compare when it comes to pricing.

Square logo
Square
izettle logo
Zettle
Card reader £19£29
Software FreeFree
Paid software plan£69/month for unlimited iPads (including VAT)£29/month per iPad (including VAT)
Card present fees1.75%1.75%
Card not present fees2.5%2.5%
Hospitality basic hardware kit
£189 (including VAT) – includes card reader, card reader stand, iPad stand £226 (including VAT) – includes card reader, card reader stand, iPad stand
Retail basic hardware kit£474 (including VAT) – includes card reader, receipt printer, cash drawer, receipt printer paper£502 (including VAT) – includes card reader, receipt printer, cash drawer, printer paper

Zettle’s equipment does come out a little more expensive than Square’s, which could be enough to sway some people. But, as always, there’s a little more to it. 

When you invest in a point of sale system, you need to think about the long term as well as the short term. So while you may pay a little more for Zettle’s equipment initially, long term, you’re looking at potentially lower processing fees. You’re also giving yourself the option to change software providers without a complete system overhaul. 

What’s also worth bearing in mind is Zettle’s recent merger with PayPal. This merger is great news for any business owner who wants to set up an online store to supplement bricks and mortar sales. This is because the merger gives customers the option to pay with PayPal, meaning you benefit from a 2% transaction fee with every PayPal purchase, rather than 2.5%.

While Square’s equipment may be cheaper than Zettle’s equipment, Square’s integrations aren’t cheap. Once you add on the cost of a customer relationship management subscription, delivery app integration, and other additions you may want to look into, you’re quickly adding to your monthly total cost. 

That said, Square’s integrations are some of the biggest reasons why businesses choose Square over Zettle. And with behind the scenes benefits including zero chargeback fees and the option to turn on instant bank deposits (for an additional 1%), you can see why businesses have a hard time choosing between the two providers.

Setup

Zettle and Square payment systems are equally as easy to set up. All you need to do is order your point of sale products from their online stores, download the app, and follow the instructions. 

Initial setup

Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll be asked to fill in some basic information about your business. You’ll also be asked to provide your business bank details for payments. 

Both Square and Zettle will require you to have a business bank account, or a bank account in the name of the company director. They’ll also run a credit check. If you or your business is deemed high risk if you operate in an industry with a high rate of expensive refunds, for example then they may not accept you. 

Pairing your equipment

Once you’re ready to go, you’ll be able to pair your equipment. Pairing either card reader with its respective app is really intuitive. As long as you follow the simple directions on the app, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be up and running within moments of receiving your card reader in the post. 

What about if you have additional point of sale equipment? Because both systems communicate via Bluetooth, connecting receipt printers is simple too. For both Zettle and Square, simply head into the settings tab of your app and select the piece of equipment you’d like to connect. 

The compatible cash drawers are slightly different, because they’re wired up to the receipt printer. Once the receipt printer is triggered into action, it’ll automatically communicate with the cash drawer to open it.

Security

Thankfully, both Zettle and Square are at the top of their games when it comes to security. 

While some people may have reservations about Square’s pin entry (entering into a mobile phone or tablet, rather than into the card reader itself), it’s gone a long way to reassure people that its payment system is safe. Square's payment system adheres to PCI Compliance Level 1 the strictest security standards out there and all its hardwear has been installed with end to end encryption. 

Zettle’s payment system is super-secure too. It’s PCI DSS compliant, and it’s been approved by Europay, Mastercard, and Visa. Add to that end to end encryption, and a self-destructing tamper-proof card reader, and you know your customers’ card details are going to be kept safe.

Customer Support

It turns out that both Zettle and Square have sophisticated and highly rated customer support services.

Square logo
Square
izettle logo
Zettle
Customer support channels Phone, email, social mediaPhone, email, live chat
Internet support YesYes
Phone support hours Weekdays 9am-5pmWeekdays 9am-5pm
TrustPilot rating 4.64.1

Final verdict

In a game of Square vs Zettle, there’s no clear winner. The payment provider you choose will be based heavily on what you think your business’ biggest priorities are. 

Both are on an equal footing when it comes to the payment services they offer just remember that Square’s card reader is a little less conventional when it comes to inputting pin numbers. 

And while Square gives businesses true scope to expand, thanks to its third party integrations, Zettle gives businesses the flexibility to switch up their software when they feel they’ve outgrown Zettle’s offering. 

Whichever one you choose, you can be confident that you’ve invested in a secure payments system that comes with full customer support and lots of great customer credentials.

We have full reviews on both Zettle and Square if you would like more information on either payment processor.


Aimee Bradshaw Senior Writer

Aimee is Startups' resident expert in business tech, products, and services. She loves a great story and enjoys chatting to the startups and small business community. Starting her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she has a healthy respect for self-starters and local services.

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