In this review of Square POS, we’re going to provide an overview of the free Square point of sale with pros and cons, features, pricing, and processing fees information. If you own a small business, it’s easy to forget how critical your POS system is for your day-to-day operations. If you haven’t updated your POS system or cash register in years, you may be stuck with outdated features that are hampering your ability to process transactions smoothly. As the POS industry changes to more portable solutions, a range of new point of sale competitors and different types of POS have emerged in the industry.
Gone are the days where clunky, expensive POS systems dominated the market. There are some new players in town. Today, I’m going to take a look at one of the most extensively advertised payments and POS company in the United States — Square. Does the Square POS system provide all the benefits it promises to its merchants? Let’s find out.
Easy-to-use platform and software
Suitable for multiple industries
No upfront costs for software
Quick cash deposits to your account
Specific solutions tailored to the restaurant and retail industries
Mobile and Online capabilities
All major credit cards accepted
Limited customer service hours
Hardware can get expensive
Some customer complaints about frozen funds
Overview of Square Point of Sale
Square POS is a modern register system that’s tablet-based with the primary goal of simplifying point of sale transactions for small business owners. The company was started in 2009, and its current CEO is Jack Dorsey — the same tech titan that co-founded Twitter. At present, Square partners with retail and restaurant owners in five countries around the world.
Square’s POS platform allows you to process transactions using a range of different hardware devices. The app is designed to run on a smartphone or tablet. The company is famous for its small Square Reader ‘magstripe’ which plugs easily into a mobile device or tablet. You can use this magstripe to swipe credit card payments from customers.
Square is one of the new entrants to the market that has helped revolutionize the way that you process payments. Touch screen interfaces with secure payment options allow you to process payments efficiently. The mobile nature of the system also allows you to run its platform on your own hardware devices, as long as they’re compatible with Square’s software.
The Square app works for many business types including retail stores, restaurants, and service providers. Square also has a more advanced point of sale systems that are dedicated specifically to retail shops and restaurants; we have a review of Square for Restaurants here. These software platforms are built with these specific industries in mind. Let’s take a deeper look at the different components that make Square such a unique POS solution.
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The price of a POS system can have a severe impact on your bottom line. Is Square an affordable POS provider compared to others in the industry? Let’s take a look at the pricing structure that Square offers its customers.
As you can see, Square POS offers a competitive pricing structure that won’t take too much out of your bottom line. While some may consider the plus and premium fees high, flat-rate processing can be a great advantage if you are a high-volume merchant with an average ticket price of over $20. Regardless, you’ll find this type of monthly subscription pricing in many of the leading POS platforms. The only downside is that Square hardware can be on the pricey side, but we’ll explore that later.
The overall fees you have to pay will depend on the type of hardware and subscription that you’re using. If you experience high sales volume, and you don’t want to pay their processing fees, you can opt for the premium plan and talk to Square about a volume discount. They don’t publicly advertise the discounts that they’re willing to offer merchants, so it’s worth getting in touch with their team.
The free version of Square POS offers most of the features you need to get started. Still, it’s important to note that if you want to purchase additional functions, such as advanced employee management, payroll, marketing, and loyalty, you’ll have to pay an additional monthly charge. You should consider all of the features your business needs before running a price analysis on Square’s platform.
One of Square’s best pricing features is its no commitment policy. Many POS providers in the industry make you sign up for multi-year subscriptions that have stiff penalties for contract cancellation. If you’re a small business that requires flexibility, Square doesn’t tie you into a financial commitment that you may not be able to honor.
If you’re going to purchase a new POS solution, it’s always important to look at the features on offer through its platform. Below, we have a list of the notable features and benefits that Square offers its customers.
Free point-of-sale software – no monthly fees. Pay only for payment transactions.
Accept every payment type (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and Amex) all for the same fee.
Contactless payments with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and opt-out of signature screens.
Remote pay with invoices or accept payments on your computer.
Accept orders for in-store pickup 0r delivery with 3rd party vendors.
Offer eGift Cards when not open for business.
Process transactions even if the internet is down.
Access your POS data anywhere, from any device.
Easy-to-use interface for quick customer checkout. Train employees fast.
Easy to program your items and categories on your POS.
Access real-time sales data and compare sales over time.
Identify loyal and lapsed customers.
Create customer profiles to track individual customers’ purchase history and preferences.
Save customers’ credit card details for a seamless checkout.
Track real-time inventory.
Next day funding, or immediately with a Square business debit card
Apply discounts and issue refunds.
Send and track invoices from your POS.
Connect to a receipt printer, kitchen printer, bar code scanner, and cash drawer.
Integrate with software that you already use (QuickBooks, Taxjar, and more).
Increase your repeat visits with a customizable loyalty program.
Engage customers with email marketing.
Offer gift cards to increase sales and new customers.
Sell online with Square Online Store and sync all your data.
As you can see, Square offers a pervasive feature list that is sure to impress most small business owners. While Square doesn’t have the same power as some high-powered point of sale solutions on the market, it still offers users much better capabilities than outdated retail POS systems or restaurant management systems. Plus, it’s incredibly mobile.
Cloud-Based or Locally Installed?
Like many new entrants to the POS industry, Square offers a hybrid platform that is both cloud-based and locally installed. The Square app is installed on a mobile device and payments are accepted with Square readers and terminals. The good news is you don’t need a connection to the internet to process credit card transactions and you can accept payments on your computer through the web. Reporting data is saved via the internet, so you don’t have to risk losing valuable data if there is a problem with your equipment (or it’s stolen). The Square POS mobile app is available on iOS and Android.
Industries Served & Business Size
Traditionally, Square was a platform for small to medium-sized companies. Its mobile nature makes it a perfect solution for companies that offer small storefronts or mobile business locations. But as Square expands the various hardware and software options it provides, it is now also a feasible solution for larger businesses that need robust, fixed terminals, especially if you go for the plus or premium subscription.
In terms of industries, it’s a perfect fit for restaurants, bars, and the retail sector. Here’s a list of business types mentioned on the Square website.
Bars & Lounges
Health & Fitness
Home & Repair Services
As mentioned earlier, Square offers specific software and hardware solutions for both the retail and restaurant industry. They also provide online ordering and an eCommerce platform that can prove to be beneficial during the different times we live in now.
Ease of Use
It’s safe to say that ease of use is Square’s primary advantage. You don’t need experience with a POS system to gain an understanding of Square’s platform quickly. The POS software is both easy to learn and easy to teach to employees or staff. You won’t have any problems getting your team up-to-speed with the application.
You can easily import products and menu items, and the interface allows you to find items via categories and other techniques. Overall, it’s a simple and user-friendly system — this is a primary driving factor behind the platform’s popularity.
Square also offers a ‘Get Started’ page that allows you to set up the software on your hardware quickly. This page also provides comprehensive tutorials on how to operate Square and its various features. It’s an excellent resource that can help you hit the ground running when you first purchase this new POS system.
Square has pretty basic hardware requirements to get started. You can access most of its features on touchscreen Apple and Android products: this includes the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. You can also access Square Reader on various Android devices. The software requirements for the Square platform update as the software updates, so it’s essential to keep an eye on their website for the latest specifications. For example, First Generation iPads are no longer supported.
Square Stand with additional hardware
But Square does a lot more than offer you access to its platform via your own devices. You can also purchase a range of different high-end hardware kits, tablets, and accessories that provides all the hardware components you need to improve your ability to process transactions in your small business effectively.
As you can see, some of these prices may seem a little high. While you’re receiving value for your money, it can be a significant investment if you’re running a small business. For this reason, many people choose to use their phone, iPad, or tablet. Though if you don’t have one suitable for Square, you may have to purchase a new one.
Integrations & Add-ons
There are a wide variety of integrations that can help you improve the functionality of your POS system. While many of Square’s integrations and add-ons are more relevant to its eCommerce platform, there are still some you can take advantage of for your POS software. These include payment add-ons, inventory management add-ons, employee management add-ons, reporting add-ons, and more.
Square is also continually improving its platform, so there are sure to be more add-ons in the future.
Compatible Credit Card Companies
Square offers a range of different hardware devices for credit card processing hardware. The company allows for the acceptance of all major credit cards on a computer or mobile device. Discover, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are all accepted via Square’s payment system. Contactless payment is also supported on Square – this makes it easy to accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, and chip or swipe-based payments.
Customer Service and Support
Square offers an excellent knowledge base — you can find the answers to the most common problems using this online database. But if you need to speak to someone on the phone, things can get a little more annoying. They offer customer assistance via email and telephone from 6 AM to 6 PM (PST) Monday through Friday – this may leave you a little high and dry if you run into a problem after hours.
In addition, they have a great business resource center and a community forum where you can get advice and tips from other professionals and business owners on using the product and growing your business.
In terms of customer satisfaction, you’ll find various negative reviews about Square on consumer watchdog sites. While this is true for almost any business (especially of Square’s size), let’s take a look at what some of the typical negative reviews highlighted:
Account Suspensions/Terminations — It appears a large chunk of the negative feedback that Square receives focuses around suspensions and terminations. It seems that Square periodically conducts due diligence on POS users to determine if any nefarious activity is occurring – this may result in an account suspension or termination, per the company’s Terms and Conditions.
Money Frozen — Some users report money being frozen from withdrawal. This seems to usually occur for large payments processed by Square terminals (read our complete Square Terminal review) or the eCommerce platform. In many cases, it appears that Square freezes money that it deems as suspicious.
Multiple Charges — This is a complaint that appears to come from customers processing transactions on Square. Some customers have complained about being charged multiple times. While this glitch won’t impact your end of the transaction, it may impact customer sentiment towards your business.
While there is some negative feedback on Square’s services, this can largely be attributed to strict anti-crime measures that attempt to prevent money laundering and other financial irregularities.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to like about Square’s point of sale. We especially like Square for restaurateurs starting a new restaurant or small to mid-sized businesses. The more advanced versions of their software are very affordable, and the hardware is reasonable if you’re starting a new business or replacing old technology. If you already have a device that’s compatible with its platform, you can get your new POS system set up in just a few minutes and start taking payments.
There are no upfront software costs, and you won’t have to pay any money outside of your standard transaction fees. For people who want to avoid long-term commitments, this is also a reliable option — there are no contracts for Square customers.
If you need a robust, powerful POS system, Square may not get the job done. It’s still not as extensive of a platform as some of the Titans in the industry. Still, Square has millions of users for a reason — this platform is easy to use, offers plenty of features, is compatible with your hardware, and accepts all primary forms of payment.
While its customer service options aren’t stellar, you’ll still find that Square has a much better reputation than some of the other major players in the industry.
What is Square Point of Sale? Square is a simple to use and intuitive software app designed to accept payments on your smartphone or tablet. Square is designed for small businesses with key features like online ordering, eCommerce, integrated payment processing, mobile capabilities, inventory management, curbside pickup and delivery, and social media marketing.
Square Point of Sale is available for free in most countries listed in the Apple App Store and Google Play.
How much does Square POS cost?
The entry level Square Point of Sale is free to start with no monthly fee. Hardware starts at $0 with the free Square reader. Square for Retail offers more features for retail environments and costs $60 per month with $20 per extra device. Square for Restaurants offers more features for larger bars and restaurants and costs $60 per month with $40 per extra device. Check current Square pricing.
Does Square POS have online ordering?
Yes. Square customers have online tools available for restaurants and retailers to sell and accept payments online. With Square you have the ability to sell in your store and online, with the ability to sync inventory and your sales through the POS.
Is Square a good option for restaurants? Yes. With Square you can get up and running very quickly. Square for Restaurants is integrated with many of the popular restaurant delivery services like DoorDash, Postmates, Caviar, and Chowly. You can also accept online orders that are sent directly to your POS. Square now offers curbside pickup and local delivery module that’s available through the Square Online Store. Before purchasing the restaurant app, we recommend getting a demo.
Does Square offer a free trial?
Yes. You can a free trial on their website so you can take it for a spin to see if it’s the best point of sale option for you. You will need a compatible Apple or Android device for the free app trial. There’s no commitments or long-term contracts which is a bonus. Get your free trial here.
Editor’s note: How’d we do on our Square POS review? Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns? Your feedback is important to us. Please let us know in the comments below or contact us.
Cathy Smiley is a POS specialist, former restaurant professional, and content contributor for www.posusa.com. Cathy currently works as an ISO for one of the largest POS companies. Since 2011, she has personally been involved with hundreds of point-of-sale installations. Her articles have been featured or mentioned in many of the top industry websites. She likes writing on the subject of POS systems and enjoys helping merchants find the best solutions to help grow their business.
For more information about the point of sale industry, Cathy invites you to Like Point of Sale USA on Facebook and to Follow POS USA on LinkedIn.