Should you be squaring up with Square? Find out everything you need to know about one of the world's fastest growing payment processors in this Startups Square review
Considering the payment company only launched in 2017, Square’s simple card reader, super-neat Square Terminal, and capable software have made it one of the top payment processing providers on the market.
Square’s card reader and point of sale (POS) software work in tandem, offering retail and hospitality businesses a modern way to manage how they take payments and run their wider operations.
Unlike other payment processing companies, Square’s card reader is only compatible with its own software. Because of that, it offers sophisticated paid packages, in addition to its basic free software.
In other words, Square has developed a payment processing product that’ll grow with your business, which means you avoid the rigmarole of transferring data to another system once you outgrow your existing package offerings. But let’s see if it really shapes up to the needs of growing businesses.
Square card reader review
Square’s card reader is one of the smallest on the market
Square’s pocket-sized card reader may look simpler than its counterparts from other providers, but in fact, it’s capable of exactly the same.
Although it lacks a pinpad, this clever device communicates with Square’s software, so when a customer enters their pin details, they can enter it on the mobile or tablet hosting the software.
Sound a little dodgy? Don’t worry – Square’s device meets the strictest PCI standards, so you can use it with confidence.
Square card reader: key information
Square card reader pros and cons
|Square card reader pros||Square card reader cons|
|Square deposits funds into your bank account within one to two days||Some customers may not like the chip and pin function|
|The battery is designed to last all day||The card reader isn’t as ergonomic as others|
|There are tons of integrations including a variety of ecommerce platforms||You can receive lower transaction fees with a merchant account|
|Free to deposit cash transactions||Not suitable for high risk industries (strong likelihood of refunds and returns)|
|Square charges 1.75% per transaction, no matter the transaction size|
|Take payments offline|
So what do you need to know?
Is the Square card reader easy to set up?
The Square card reader is super-easy to set up, as it connects to your device via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
How do you set up the Square card reader?
Make sure your Bluetooth is on, go onto the app, head into settings, and select the Square card reader. Hold down the power button on your card reader, wait for the orange lights to start flashing, and then the two devices will pair automatically. Easy!
How does the Square card reader work alongside the apps?
You carry out most of the transaction on the Square point of sale app – and the whole process is really slick. Select which items your customer wishes to purchase, or simply type in the sum of the transaction. Press ‘charge’, and wait for the green light to appear on your reader. Then you’re ready to take the payment.
Can I take ecommerce payments with Square?
Yes, you can. Square is actually one of the most favourable mobile payment options for ecommerce businesses, due to the sheer number of ecommerce options it has. You can opt for the Square Online ecommerce platform, choose from the likes of Wix or WooCommerce, or use a Square API to build a payment processing platform into your own website.
Square charges a slightly higher 2.5% for every transaction made through your website. You’ll be able to view these transactions alongside your shop transactions on the Square Dashboard, meaning you’ll have a complete bird’s eye view of your sales landscape.
What else do we love about the Square card reader?
Square’s card reader accepts payments from credit cards, debit cards, American Express, and mobile payment apps – all for one fixed rate. This means there are no additional hidden fees or charges.
Square also allows you to take payments without a merchant account. This means that funds are paid into your business or director’s account in one to two days, rather than several days or weeks.
It connects to your tablet or smartphone via Bluetooth or cable, so you can choose whether you prefer a fixed or mobile payment setup.
Square POS equipment review
Build your own Square POS package using a blend of branded and third party products
Square’s POS equipment consists of third party and branded equipment. Its branded equipment includes the Square card reader, iPad stand, and Square Terminal, which we’ll talk about in more detail later.
You can choose to purchase Square’s equipment separately – as and when you need it – or opt for one of Square’s hardware bundles, which offers retail and hospitality businesses all the equipment they need to get started.
So what do you need to know?
We answer some of the main concerns that people have before purchasing a Square POS system.
What POS equipment do I need?
When it comes to POS equipment, Square gives businesses a number of options. The one thing it has over its competitors is the Square Terminal, which for £200, gives businesses the means to process payments, manage inventory, and print receipts.
While the Square Terminal is great for bars and small retail businesses, restaurants and shops with large inventories may want to consider a more sophisticated equipment package, such as one of Square’s iPad kits. These kits include everything a retail or hospitality business will need to get going, including an iPad, stand, and receipt printers.
What about if I want to move to another provider later on?
Square’s card reader and Terminal don’t integrate with software from other providers, but because Square uses printers and scanners from a third party, you should be able to integrate them into your new system.
How does Square’s POS system work?
Square’s POS system communicates via Bluetooth, although users can choose to connect the card terminal via USB if they invest in a Square Stand. To sync your POS equipment with the app, simply head into the settings tab on the app, select the piece of equipment you want to sync, press the pair button on your equipment, and the Bluetooth will do all the hard work.
The cash drawer does work slightly differently, though. For the cash drawer to work, you need to connect it to your printer. This is because the printer triggers the cash drawer to open each time it prints a receipt. So long as the printer is connected to the Square software, your whole system will be able to communicate.
Are there any downsides to Square’s POS equipment?
While the Square Terminal is a great device to get your business going, it can be a little limiting. It works on wifi, rather than a mobile network, and the device software doesn’t offer as many features as the full version of the retail or hospitality software that you can download onto an iPad or mobile.
If you do want to integrate a cash drawer or any additional accessory with the Square Terminal, you’ll need to purchase the Square Hub separately.
Square software: what do you need to know?
Square offers two software packages – Square Point of Sale, and Square for Restaurants. Similar to other POS providers, Square’s primary point of sale software is suitable for retail businesses and simple food and drink setups, while its restaurant-specific software offers sophisticated features for restaurant owners.
Let’s have a look at both of these offerings in more detail.
Square Point of Sale review
Square has packed a lot into its Square Point of Sale software. Plus, there’s potential to integrate several free extensions – including sophisticated inventory and team management – as well as third party apps.
The software is really easy and intuitive to use, which means you don’t need to waste valuable business hours training new staff members.
You can also link your in-store software to your ecommerce store, meaning all of your sales data will appear in one place, giving you a bird’s eye view of your business performance.
Square Point of Sale app: key information
|Square Point of Sale pros||Square Point of Sale cons|
|It’s free||Limited features for restaurants|
|Good sales reporting||Limited customer relationship management|
|Separate stock control integration||It’s only compatible with the Square card reader and Square Terminal|
|Data is stored in the cloud, meaning you can access it on any device|
|Accept cash transactions|
|Compatible with Bluetooth printers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners|
|Integrates with lots of ecommerce brands|
Square Point of Sale features: the details
For free software, Square Point of Sale has some great features – most notably its reporting, inventory management, and staff management integrations.
While not as feature-rich as paid-for POS software, it does provide retail and small hospitality businesses with more than enough to get going.
Let’s have a look at some of its top features in more detail.
Adding and managing stock
Square makes it super-easy to add and manage stock. Simply head into the items tab of the app, go into items, and fill in the item details. If you’ve received more stock, you can go into the item, select ‘receive stock’, and add the number of items you’ve received.
You can split your stock into categories, as well as add modifiers, such as selecting to add milk or whether the item requires packaging.
Square Dashboard is a hub where you can view all of your sales figures in one place. Rather than existing within its POS app, the Square Dashboard is a separate, sophisticated piece of software that breaks down things like payment type, individual customer spend, and your top selling items.
You don’t have to be data-savvy to understand your figures – Square makes your reports easy to digest, allowing you to keep a close eye on company performance.
Square’s staff management is part of the Square Point of Sale app. It’s great for businesses that rely on creating rotas for part time staff.
There’s a free plan, which gives you access to time-keeping, payroll exports, and break tracking, while the paid plan allows you to track staff sales performance, as well as keep a closer eye on break times.
|Square for Restaurants pros||Square for Restaurants cons|
|Free version available||Most of the best features are paid-for|
|Sophisticated table and order management features||Backend reporting isn’t as sophisticated as other restaurant POS systems|
|Integrates with takeaway service providers (additional cost)||Only compatible with iPads|
|Includes team management tools||24/7 support only available with paid package|
|Data is stored in the cloud, meaning you can access it on any device||No ingredients tracking|
|Multi-location management as standard|
Square for Restaurants gives you the freedom to create a menu interface that works for your business. You can set up a function which allows you to easily add discounts (think happy hour), and if you want to add a bunch of new menu items, you can do so speedily with Square’s Bulk Addition feature.
Just bear in mind that the initial menu set up will be fiddly, no matter how intuitive it’s meant to be.
Create a digital version of your floor plan, and use that to manage your tables. You can assign a cheque to the table, or even to a specific seat.
If you have customers waiting for tables, you can mark on your floor plan which tables you think will finish first, so you can ensure they’re cleared as soon as possible.
Don’t rely on walk-ins alone. Take advantage of the Square Online free website tool and allow customers to order online, too.
If you don’t have delivery capacity, you can always install the Deliverect extension, which integrates your Square POS with order platforms such as Deliveroo or UberEats for £39/month (+VAT). Your POS system will process the orders as they come in, and send them straight through to the kitchen.
Square’s pricing is incredibly transparent. Its software is free – unless you opt for the paid version of Square for Restaurants – and it charges a set fee for both present and card-not-present transactions.
There’s a page dedicated to pricing on its website, but we’ve given you the lowdown on how much certain Square packages could cost your business below.
Square card reader basic package
Square customer reviews
Scoring an average of 4.6 across all major online review platforms, Square certainly knows how to please its customers.
Square’s customers are generally happy with the simplicity and intuitiveness of its products, and find that this is enough to compensate for its slightly higher transaction fees.
According to customer reviews, Square’s limitations seem to lie in its lack of built-in customer relationship management features, and the reliability of some of its integrations.
Let’s hear from a small business owner.
Startups spoke with Hugh Topping, Director of Topping and Company Booksellers, who told us why he chose to invest in Square Point of Sale.
|Card reader provider||Best for||Device cost||Transaction fee (contactless and chip and pin)|
|Cheapest card reader||£19 (+VAT)||1.75%|
|Cheapest transaction fee||£59 (+VAT)||1.69%|
|Lowest debit card transaction fee||£69 (+VAT)||Debit cards - 0.75%
Credit cards - 2.75%
|Best for businesses with higher transaction volumes||£45 (+VAT)||2.75% - 1% depending on volume of transactions|
|Lowest overall transaction fees (with Barclays merchant account)||£29 (+VAT)||1.6%|
Square review: the verdict
Thanks to its standard transaction fee, free software, and third party integrations, Square is a great option for small businesses looking for an easy and affordable way to start taking payments.
With no set-up costs and no monthly fees, Square Point of Sale is a great base package for startups or growing businesses. And with tons of management features included, Square for Restaurants offers everything hospitality business owners need to succeed.
Even if Square’s software doesn’t quite offer everything you need, there are plenty of third party integrations available. This means businesses are in complete control of their point of sale setup, and can upgrade, downgrade, or integrate additional software as and when they wish.
Here’s why we think Square is a great option.
- Transparent pricing – know exactly how much you’ll pay out at the end of the month
- Low fees – Square charges 1.75% for each transaction
- In-depth reporting – Square has developed a digestible dashboard to display your sales figures
- Solid customer support – and it’s free!
- Heaps of third party integrations – Square allows you to build your point of sale package as your business grows
That being said, there are some drawbacks.
While its transaction fee is fairly reasonable, there are some better rates out there for businesses that are taking more than £10,000 a month. You could also get in touch with Square’s customer service team to see if they could offer you a special rate.
While the base package is free, all of Square’s third party integrations come with their own pricing plan. This means the more features you need, the more expensive it becomes. In some cases, you may be better off going for a paid plan offered by a different point of sale provider.