Square: Transparent & Well-Integrated Processing
Updated: November 23rd, 2023
Square is a merchant service provider owned by Block, a financial services and technology company. They were founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey and Tristan O’Tierney, and are based in San Francisco, California. They provide credit card processing services that address all aspects of a merchant's payment processing needs.
Can this established processor adequately serve your business needs? Our review covers their features, costs, and options. We'll help you assess if they're a fit for you.
Square at a Glance
Square started out as the first payment processing company to provide a card reader for mobile devices, but has since expanded to provide many hardware options that integrate with a secure, full-featured software solution. They serve many merchant types with industry-specific tools and features, all provided in-house to ensure optimal compatibility and services. While they have a long list of business types for which they offer customized solutions, they generally serve the food and beverage, retail, beauty, and services industries, as well as large businesses and franchises.
Square strives to provide everything you need to process payments. Their Square Payments services include the merchant account, many hardware options, omnichannel processing services, and easily accessible customer service. They also promise comprehensive integrations, compliance assurance, and fast transfers. They do so while promising that you will not be tied down by long-term contracts, or be charged any hidden fees.
As a relative pioneer in their field, Square has been voted to top company, POS, and mobile app lists by the likes of the Wall Street Journal. They are accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), giving them an A+ rating.
Square Credit Card Processor Features
This company may be able to support many businesses, large and small, through its highly flexible features. Those features, in a nutshell, are as follows:
- Omnichannel payment processing: They provide unique solutions depending on the way you choose to accept payments, be it online, remotely, in-person. Square lets your customers use credit cards, debit cards, or even checks using ACH. They also allow you to offer your customers a "buy now, pay later" option, where they would pay in installments while you receive the total amount immediately. Depending on the channel you use, you would be charged different rates, and your accepted payment tools and methods would vary
- Integrations: You can integrate Square payments with your custom business software using their prebuilt integrations, or using their developer APIs, to achieve a centralized view of your data and business applications. You may integrate with such third-party applications as Wix, WooCommerce, and Quickbooks Online, among many others
- Square POS tool: Their free proprietary software, accessed through a virtual terminal and mobile app, makes it easier to sell on-the-go, accepting payments using your phone and tracking all your transactions in their dashboard
- Hardware: Square also offers many physical tools, often including one piece of equipment per location on some plans. These tools include proprietary POS, terminals, tablet stands and mounts, card readers, and so on
- Reporting and analytics: Their dashboard lets you view your transaction data in real-time, get customer insights, as well as get detailed reports on your inventory, workforce, and locations
- Compliance and security: To instill more confidence in you while operating your business, Square offers fraud protection, data security, dispute management, and support for PCI compliance. We will go into more detail about this in the Security & Compliance section
- Transfers: They allow you to automatically transfer to your own external bank account daily and receive the funds in 1-2 business days for free, or instantly receive them the same day for a 1.75% fee. There may be other fees and variations that you should discuss with your Square rep
- Customer marketing tools: Square also offers email and text message marketing tools, that can be used to send one-time or recurrent messages
- Staff payroll: If you need help automating your payroll and tax filing tasks, this company also offers full-service payroll software
Square Credit Credit Processor Top Perks
Square makes for a compellingly strong payment processing option for many merchant businesses to adopt. We think you might consider them for the following reasons:
- Free trial period: If you want to try the Plus plan, they allow you a free 30-day trial; no credit card required
- Cost transparency: Square lists many of their monthly costs and credit card processing fees on their website, as well as the costs of additional equipment, allowing you to budget for the tools and services you need pressure-free. That being said, if you process more than $250,000 per year or need truly comprehensive features, you may need to request a custom quote
- Free hardware: With many of their industry-specific plans, they include one free terminal or POS system for every location. However, any additional hardware would have to be bought
- Free software tools: Not only does their introductory plan come at no monthly charge, they also include some POS, online store, invoice, virtual terminal, mobile app, online checkout, customer directory, and checking and savings account capabilities. Of course, more advanced features may incur extra costs
- Chargeback protection: Square doesn't impose chargeback transactions. Instead, the company assists users in resolving the issue. If a customer initiates a chargeback, Square will put a hold on the disputed funds, and it can take about 90 days for your customer's bank to review the claim.
- Many payment methods: Depending on the channel you use, your accepted payments or collection methods would vary, giving your customers more flexibility. Those may involve contactless, mobile, chip and PIN, online, invoiced, API and SDK, keyed-in, and card-on-file payments, among many methods
- Extensive integrations: There is a wide range of integrations available for business management, accounting, productivity, and more. These integrations can help you streamline various aspects of managing a business, making it more efficient and effective
- Many other services: Because they offer many related products, such as those for company payroll, marketing, and online store building, you can find all your business solutions in one place— natively integrated
Disadvantages of Square
While there is much to recommend this company, it might not suit your needs for a few reasons. Among those are:
- Lack of high-risk business acceptance: Where other processors may charge higher processing fees for high-risk industries, Square simply does not accept most such businesses. That being said, they do have a special program for CBD merchants
- Expensive for high-volume businesses: Costs per location and rates, especially for some methods, may be higher than at other processors, and those costs really add up
- Account freezes: There are reports of frozen funds, account holds, or even deactivations. These may be due to irregular activity, such as accepting significantly large amounts or unusually high transaction volumes, and are often corrected by Square representatives once brought to their attention
- No "cross-border" payments: Although they offer their services in eight countries— the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Ireland, Australia, Spain, and Japan— you may only accept payments in the country where you set up your account. Also, you cannot accept transactions outside of the above countries
Square Plans & Costs
Square advertises a lot of their pricing online. They have three general plan stages, with a Free introductory option that comes with no monthly fees or setup fees. You would only pay processing fees for each successful payment you take. Those fees differ by payment channel used— in-person, online, keyed-in, or invoiced— and can be found on their website.
If you need more advanced features, you can upgrade to the Plus or Premium options with industry-specific plans for restaurants, retail, and appointment businesses, each with their own pricing levels. Those plans and costs are as follows:
- Retail: If you have an expanding business, you may opt for the Plus plan and pay $89 monthly for every retail location, although the first 30 days are free. With Plus, you would receive expanded inventory and reporting services, as well as a minor discount on in-person payments, among other things. If you opt for the Premium plan, you must contact them for a unique quote that includes custom fees for processing and add-ons. Specifics surrounding the individual fees and features may be found on this retail pricing page
- Restaurants: The Plus plan costs $60 a month per location, and would include a free countertop POS solution for every site. As with retail, you would receive a free 30-day trial, and the plan includes expanded POS and operations features as well as some additional add-on tools. If you process above $250,000 a year, you would opt for the Premium plan that comes with custom pricing and processing rates. Restaurant plan details can be found here
- Square Appointments: If you run an appointments business, such as a hair salon or tattoo parlor, you can opt for a Plus plan that costs $29 a month per location. With that, you would get extra scheduling features, among other things, and a discounted in-person rate. Upgrading to a Premium plan, costing $69 a month per location, unlocks the full suite of features and integrations, although some services will still be treated as separately billed add-ons. Read more about Square Appointment plans here
Square offers many ancillary tools that may come at an added price, encompassing the categories of commerce, banking, staff management, and customer marketing and retention. If your needs only involve accepting different credit card payment methods, you may only opt for the free plan that will include most payment processing tools. However, if you desire more comprehensive features and optional services, you would have to contact Square's sales team for a quote.
Security & Compliance
Square eliminates the hassle and cost of dealing with assessors, SAQ requirements, and audits, and they do it at no extra charge. They are ISO 27001 certified, and their processing systems comply with Level 1 of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). In fact, they boast that they're on the PCI Board of Advisors and collaborate with the payments industry to develop and improve security benchmarks. They maintain that their technologies have led to the creation of new compliance standards.
They regularly issue security updates on their tools, software, and servers. When developing their software solutions, they adhere to industry-standard secure coding guidelines, as well as industry-standard cryptographic protocols and message formats such as SSL/TLS and PGP when transferring data. They state that they don't store card numbers, stripe data, or security codes on devices, and can ensure top-to-bottom security on those devices because they are involved in every step of their production and implementation. They constantly test them for threats and bugs, both internally and externally.
Square's Customer Experience
This company receives a lot of online feedback from clients, most of which is quite positive. They receive a high 4.3 out of 5-star score on Trustpilot, 4.7 out of 5 on Capterra, and 4.6 out of 5 on G2. On the other hand, they have a 1.06 out of 5 review rating on BBB, and have received many complaints against them on that forum.
Reviewers seemed happy with the overall service and the convenience of features like invoices, fund transfers, payment scheduling and automation. Some clients were especially happy with the many supported payment options, indicating that their customers like the flexibility of choices.
Customers found the platform easy to set up and use, with a relatively familiar and inviting interface for business owners and their employees. They were also complimentary of the analysis tools, which allowed them to see all transactions in one place regardless of the payment method used. Customers also liked the extent of offered integrations to other Square products and third-party software, including eCommerce and productivity platforms, as well as the free hardware included with some plans.
Some reviewers found that terminals and software may have issues staying online, which may mean time wasted inputting the same information several times. Customers have cited some minor system reliability issues, with a few also saying that outside app integration may not be as seamless as they were led to believe. One customer found the online store to be too simple and lacking the desired functionality.
Some reviewers, even those who were otherwise satisfied with Square, found their customer service somewhat unresponsive and unhelpful. Some complained that some of their subscription and processing fees were higher than those of their competitors. Some also complained about system outages that prevented them from receiving payments or accessing their funds.
A fairly common complaint is that frozen funds take many days to unfreeze and deposit in clients' accounts, an issue with which those clients say Square's customer service representatives can be unaccommodating. Also, some frozen fund claims seem to occur with reports of Square deactivating accounts without explanation.
How Square responds
Square often responds promptly to complaints, as well as to reviews on occasion, and their responses are generally brief and to the point. They often say that they will reach out privately to resolve the problem, which often leads to a successful resolution, such as the release or reimbursement of funds.
Square offers 24/7 customer support via many methods. You may reach them by calling 1-855-700-6000, or by live chat option. For quicker support, you can also contact them by signing in to their system. You may also get ahold of them via their social media channels, as linked on their website.
If you want to read more on a particular topic, you can find many helpful articles on their Square support page.
As a merchant services provider, Square Payments can be a good fit for any type of merchant business: small, medium, or large. Their solutions are rich with features, even at the free plan level, with the ability to tier up for more advanced functionalities; and they allow you to accept different types of card transactions, including keyed-in, mobile, and in-store contactless payments, among many other methods. There isn't a lengthy approval process, so you can set up your Square account and start accepting payments immediately, as well as enjoy all the added perks they offer free of charge.
Square certainly provides powerful, full-featured services, but they are not without drawbacks. Many customers have reported instances of frozen funds or deactivated accounts, which cause significant cash flow issues and require much communication with the company's support to fix. There are also reports of customer service being apathetic or not as helpful as other providers. While most customers rate Square very highly, their processing rates and pricing methodology are more suited for smaller merchants and may become too expensive for those with large transaction volumes.
If you think your needs might not match with Square's offerings, we recommend you read about other top card payment processors and compare them to Square to see how their services stack up. We are continually posting many blog articles to help you understand the specifics of credit card processing, and we invite you to peruse through them. Choosing a processing service that is compatible with your needs can be tough, and we want to help simplify matters.
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