After much research and analysis of credit card processors, we recommend Square as the best mobile credit card processor for small businesses.
Ease of use
Small businesses that use Square rave about how easy it is to use. From setup to equipment and software, Square offers one of the quickest ways to accept credit cards on mobile devices.
Straightforward pricing. Understanding pricing structures is one of the most confusing aspects of accepting credit cards. Square accepts all major credit cards — Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express — at a flat rate of 2.75 percent per swipe, or 3.5 percent plus 15 cents per transaction for manually keyed-in cards. A Square representative confirmed that these rates apply to all transactions, and that there are no monthly fees, setup fees or other, hidden fees associated with using Square.
No merchant account. Unlike many credit card processors, Square doesn't require a merchant account, so you don’t have to worry about a credit check or a lengthy application process. This means virtually anyone can use the service and you can open an account right away.
Fast deposits. Square accounts are linked to your bank account, so you avoid any delays in transferring funds that typically occur with merchant accounts. Square says deposits can be made to your bank account in one to two business days.
Simple setup and processing. Square's equipment and app are also easy to use. Depending on the type of credit card reader you choose, Square's equipment (more on this below) is a plug-and-play solution that doesn't entail a complicated setup process. The Square app also comes with a clean and intuitive interface, which we found makes it very straightforward and doesn't require any complex tech skills to use.
To illustrate, small business owners we talked to said using Square is as simple as plugging the reader into an iOS or Android device and opening the app to select purchases. Then, just swipe cards and have customers sign the device and the transaction is finished in seconds. This makes Square convenient for both businesses and customers, giving them a better experience and a fast way to complete purchases.
Dedicated solutions. Square works for all types of merchants and comes with dedicated solutions for different types of industries and businesses. Choices include retail, food and beverage businesses, service providers (professional services, beauty professionals, transportation and home and repair), health and fitness, organizations and entertainment.
One of the best things about Square is that it offers both simple and advanced ways to process credit cards on mobile devices, giving you a host of features and flexibility to cater to your needs. Whether you intend to use Square at a brick-and-mortar establishment, at trade shows and events, on the field or wherever your business goes, there's a Square solution for you.
Editor's Note: Looking for information on credit card processors for your business? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need.
Square offers three types of credit card processing systems:
Square Reader. If you're looking for a simple mobile credit card swiper, the Square Reader is a small dongle that attaches to your iPhone or Android smartphone's headset jack. Just open the app, swipe the card and have customers enter their PIN or sign for the purchase right on the phone's screen. The Square Reader is free and will be mailed out once you've opened an account. [See Related Story: Credit Card Machines: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions]
Square NFC/EMV Reader. In partnership with Apple, this wireless, pocket-sized device lets you accept Apple Pay (and other contactless mobile payments) and EMV chip payments. It can be used in place of or with the Square Reader and uses the same app to process payments. The NFC/EMV reader is free for the first unit and costs $49 per additional reader. [EMV: What It Is and Why You Need It]
Square Register. Looking for a more advanced solution? The Square Register app lets you use the Square Reader on an iPad or Android tablet for a complete POS system. In addition to processing credit cards on the go, Square Register also lets you accept cash payments and perform a bevy of other functions, such as:
- Process transactions offline.
- Send digital receipts and invoices.
- Track inventory in real-time with the ability to set customized alerts.
- View analytics and generate a wide range of reports.
- Increase sales with customer relationship management (CRM) and email marketing tools.
- Automatically set discounts, open tabs and indicate tips right on the screen.
- Offer gift cards and other add-ons.
- Allow customers to place orders for pickup and set appointments.
- Open tabs and automatically indicate tipping options on-screen.
Square Stand. In addition to the mobile credit card processing using the Square Reader and Square Register, you can use the Square Stand to turn an iPad into a stationary POS system that sits on the counter or at the checkout area. Instead of using the Square Reader to swipe credit cards, the Square Stand has a built-in reader that you can swivel to face you or your customer during a transaction. If you want to go back to mobile, just detach the iPad from the stand and attach the Square Reader to process credit cards from anywhere. The Square Stand costs $99 per terminal.
Additionally, because Square offers different types of solutions, you can start with the simplest method, then move on to a more advanced system with additional features (more on this below) as your business grows. This is the strategy some small business owners we talked to used, which allowed them to stay with one credit card processor throughout the life of their business.
In addition to processing credit cards on mobile devices, Square comes with additional benefits to help small merchants run and grow their businesses. These include a financing program and e-commerce capabilities:
Get a loan. The Square Capital program lets you borrow money when cash flow is tight or when you need a loan for new equipment, additional inventory or a new location. We asked a Square representative how this program works and we were told that the funds are paid back automatically from your credit card transactions. Payments are based on a fixed percentage of each transaction. This percentage is also flexible, meaning you can pay more when business is booming or less when sales aren't so great.
Free online storefront. Start selling online with a free mobile-ready online store. You'll get a pre-built storefront, so you won't need any Web design or coding skills to get started. The online store itself is free, then Square charges 2.75 percent per transaction, the same as in-person credit card sales.
Although Square is one of the easiest and most feature-rich mobile credit card processors, it has one major drawback: customer service.
It's not that Square doesn't offer customer support. In fact, the company offers a wide range of help resources, including phone, email and Twitter support. There is also a searchable Support Center that hosts a collection of articles, videos, frequently asked questions and how-to guides that cover everything from the basics of using Square to specific features, hardware, banking issues and more. The sales rep we spoke with added that there is a self-service portal where you can perform certain tasks by yourself, such as order equipment and handle banking issues.
What Square lacks in customer support, however, is its availability. While other mobile credit card processors have live support available 24/7, Square's phone customer service team is only accessible Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time. This means if you need help at night or on weekends, you won't be able to reach a person when you need one.
We chose Square from a pool of the dozens of credit card processors we considered. To read our full methodology and for a more comprehensive list of credit card processors, visit our best picks page here.
Ready to choose a credit card processor? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:
- How to Choose a Credit Card Processor
- Best Credit Card Processors
- Payline Review: Best Credit Card Processor for Small Business
- Flagship Review: Best High-Volume Credit Card Processor
- Paypal Review: Best Low-Volume Credit Card Processor
- Stripe Review: Best Online Credit Card Processor
- Square Review: Best Mobile Credit Card Processing Solution
- TSYS Review: Best Credit Card Processor for Medical Practices
Editor’s Note: Looking for information on credit card processors for your business? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need.