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Square Review

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

It’s important that a business invests in a payments system which enables it to take full advantage of an increasingly cashless society. That’s why we’ve taken a look at the Square card reader, carried out extensive background research on its POS system, and reached out to existing Square customers to make this Square review as helpful as possible.



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 review overview

As card readers go, Square’s offering looks fairly basic – it’s a little square gadget that connects wirelessly to your mobile phone or tablet. But paired with Square’s software, it offers a sophisticated payment solution for growing businesses. 

‘Growing’ is the key word here. Why? Square charges businesses 1.75% per transaction, which is fine for businesses that take a couple of thousand pounds a month. Once you start taking more than that, however, you may be better off approaching a bank for a merchant account, as it tends to come with lower transaction fees. 

Remember, Square’s basic point of sale software package is free. And those that do want more from their POS software can integrate additional software available from the Square App Marketplace or upgrade to Square for Restaurants for a reasonable monthly fee. 

In this Square review, we’ll make sure we cover the Square card reader, hardware (including the clever Square Terminal), software, and other relevant Square products, so you can be sure you’re making the right move for your business.

Suitable for: small businesses and sole traders

Industries catered to: retail, hospitality, health and beauty, services


Square card reader review

Square card reader

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

What do you really need to know before you commit yourself to a Square card reader?

  1. Square card readers work on a pay-as-you-go basis – that means you pay a one one-off fee for the card reader, then you’re charged 1.75% on every transaction you make
  2. Square deposits your funds into your bank account in one to two days
  3. Square doesn’t require you to have a merchant account. All you need to do is enter your bank account details on the app (must be a business or director account)
  4. Priced at £19, Square’s card reader is one of the cheapest on the market
  5. Square will perform a credit check when you sign up

Square card reader pros and cons

Square card reader prosSquare card reader cons
Square deposits funds into your bank account within one to two daysSome customers may not like the chip and pin function
The battery is designed to last all dayThe card reader isn’t as ergonomic as others
There are tons of integrations including a variety of ecommerce platformsYou can receive lower transaction fees with a merchant account
Free to deposit cash transactionsNot 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

Square POS equipment

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.

Square POS equipment: key information

What do you need to know before you invest in Square POS equipment?

  1. The Square Terminal is a nifty all-in-one device that allows you to take payments, process them, and print receipts
  2. Square has a number of hardware kits available for retail and hospitality
  3. Connect Square equipment via Bluetooth, ethernet, or cable 
  4. Square POS consists of third party printers and scanners, meaning a lot of its equipment is compatible with a range of POS software

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 point of sale software

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

What do you need to know before you download the Square Point of Sale app? 

  1. It’s one of the most sophisticated free point of sale apps on the market
  2. Integrate other software features, such as employee and inventory management
  3. There are tonnes of compatible third party apps to integrate
  4. Integrate Square Dashboard for free, digestible reports on things like payment types and top selling products
  5. Square allows you to provide physical and online gift cards
  6. Hospitality business owners will be able to send orders to a kitchen receipt printer and split bills at the table

Square Point of Sale pros and cons

Square Point of Sale prosSquare Point of Sale cons
It’s freeLimited features for restaurants
Good sales reportingLimited 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 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.



Analytics and reporting

Square point of sale analytics

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.



Staff management

Square point of sale staff management

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: the details

While the Square Point of Sale app is enough for counter-based hospitality businesses, those that offer table service may want to invest in Square for Restaurants

What do you need to know before you download the Square for Restaurants app? 

  1. It offers sophisticated menu management
  2. Manage your floor plan to maximise your covers
  3. Integrates with your website, and order systems from the likes of Deliveroo and Just Eat
  4. There are three pricing tiers to choose from, and you can upgrade or downgrade as and when you need to 
  5. The software is only compatible with iPads

Square for Restaurants prosSquare for Restaurants cons
Free version availableMost of the best features are paid-for
Sophisticated table and order management featuresBackend reporting isn’t as sophisticated as other restaurant POS systems
Integrates with takeaway service providers (additional cost)Only compatible with iPads
Includes team management tools24/7 support only available with paid package
Data is stored in the cloud, meaning you can access it on any deviceNo ingredients tracking
Multi-location management as standard

So what can its features do for your business?

Menu management

Square for restaurants menu management

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.



Table management

Square for restaurants table management

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.



Takeaway and delivery

Square for restaurants takeaway and delivery

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 pricing

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 card reader£19
Point-of-sale appFree
Customer supportFree
Invoice payments2.5% per transaction
Accounting software integration Xero integration £10-£27.50/month
Ecommerce and remote payment processing2.5% per transaction

Square for Restaurants basic package

Square card reader£19
Point-of-sale appFree, £69, or custom
Customer supportFree
Invoice paymentsFree
Accounting software integration Xero integration £10-£27.50/month
Ecommerce and remote payment processing 2.5% per transaction

Bear in mind that the pricing above represents the minimum outlay, and does not take into consideration the cost of an iPad or tablet. To give you an idea of how much a Square POS package would cost you including equipment, we’ve provided you with some scenarios below.

Square retail equipment cost

Square card reader
Square Dock
iPad stand
Receipt printer
Printer paper
Scanner
Cash drawer
Apple iPad*
Total: £649 (+VAT)

Square for Restaurants equipment cost

Square card reader
Square Dock
iPad stand
Receipt printer
Kitchen printer
Receipt paper
Cash drawer
Apple iPad*
Total: £860 (+VAT)

*iPad sold at online retailers for £279


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. 

“We chose Square because the Square Terminal provides the freedom we need to take payments on and offsite, but also because we love the elegance of the design and the promise of a system that is faster and more straightforward for the business.

Apart from the freedom it’s given us, we love the back-end reporting, and the visibility it gives us into our finances. It’s also a talking point with our browsers, who regularly comment on how snazzy it looks!”


Square alternatives

There are lots of alternative options to Square. We’ve provided you with a selection below. 

Card reader providerBest forDevice costTransaction fee (contactless and chip and pin)
Cheapest card reader£19 (+VAT)1.75%
SumUp logoCheapest transaction fee£59 (+VAT)1.69%
Lowest debit card transaction fee£69 (+VAT)Debit cards - 0.75%

Credit cards - 2.75%
PaypalBest for businesses with higher transaction volumes£45 (+VAT) 2.75% - 1% depending on volume of transactions
barclaycardLowest overall transaction fees (with Barclays merchant account)£29 (+VAT)1.6%

For more information on payment processing providers, take a look at our page on the best credit card machines for small businesses.


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.


Aimee Bradshaw
Aimee Bradshaw

Writer and researcher

Aimee recently joined Startups as resident expert in business tech, products, and services. Having ran her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she is an advocate of self starters and small businesses.

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