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Square Review

Best for Mobile Credit Card Processing

A Business News Daily Review

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

For many new and small businesses, working with a mobile credit card processing company is a low-risk entry point for accepting debit and credit cards as you only pay for the processing you use, and there are no long-term commitments and no monthly fees. Additionally, the processing equipment is minimal and inexpensive – just a mobile card reader that works with a smartphone or tablet and an app.

In looking for the best mobile processor, we looked for the above qualities and considered accessibility and scalability as well. We wanted to find a mobile credit card processor that businesses of all sizes could use, including very small businesses and individuals who are freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors or sole proprietors. We also wanted to find a processing solution they could continue using as their business grows and they need additional features and services.

After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend Square as our pick for the best mobile credit card processor for small businesses in 2019. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of payment processing companies on our best picks page.

Small businesses that use Square love how easy it is to use, and a big part of that is that its processing fees are simple and transparent, since pricing can be one of the most confusing aspects of accepting credit cards. Square uses a flat-rate pricing model, which means that no matter which card brand and type your customer uses – credit or debit, regular or rewards – you pay the same rate. If your customers like to use American Express and premium rewards cards, or if you process a low volume of cards each month, this rate structure can save you money.

It's worth noting that rates vary depending on what type of processing equipment you use, the Square software (or app) you use, whether you accept cards in person or online, and whether you use a Square card reader or key in the card details. It sounds confusing, but once you figure out how you want to accept payments, the pricing is a simple, flat rate.

Here's what it costs to process credit card transactions using Square.

Accepting cards in person:

2.75%: When you use a Square Reader or the Square Stand

2.6% + $0.10: When you use Square Terminal or Square for Restaurants

2.5% + $0.10: When you use Square Register, Square for Retail or the paid version of Square Appointments (for two or more employees)

Accepting cards without a card reader:

3.5% + $0.15: When you manually key in card data using the Square Point of Sale App or Virtual Terminal; this is also the cost for stored card details using Card on File

Accepting cards online:

2.9% + $0.30: When you accept payments using Square Invoices or Square Online Store

2.6% + $0.30: When you accept payments using the Square Online Store Premium Plan

Custom rates are available. If you process more than $250,000 per year and your average sales ticket is over $15, you may be eligible for custom rates. You can call the sales team to discuss your options.

No account fees. Square charges no monthly fees, setup fees, PCI compliance fees, early termination fees or hidden fees. There's no chargeback fee either, which is rare, even among other mobile credit card processing companies that charge a flat rate.

Optional fees for add-on services. Some of Square's ancillary software applications have monthly fees, but these programs are optional. Here's a sampling of its optional services and their cost:

  • Square Appointments: Free for a single user, $50 per month for up to five employees, $90 for up to 10 employees
  • Square for Restaurants: $60 per month per location for one POS; $40 per month for each additional POS
  • Square for Retail: $$60 per month per location for one POS; $20 per month for each additional POS
  • Email marketing services: Starts at $15 per month
  • Employee payroll: $29 per month plus $5 per employee per month
  • Contractor payroll: $5 per person per month
  • Team Management: Free; Team Management Plus: $35 per month per location
  • Loyalty: Starts at $45 per month
  • Gift cards: Start at $0.80

Square is a flexible credit card processing company because it doesn't lock you into a long-term contract. It provides processing services on a pay-as-you-go basis, so you can close your account at any time without penalty. If your business is seasonal, you don't have to worry about putting your account on hold or closing it during your off months, since there are no account fees and you only pay for the processing you use.

You can choose how quickly you receive your funds. Your Square account is linked to your business bank account, and on average, the company deposits the money from your transactions within one to two business days. If you need your money faster than that, you can schedule when you want the funds deposited in your account or choose instant deposits; however, there are some limitations. For example, new Square merchants are limited to $500 per day. Also, the instant deposit service costs an additional 1% of the total amount of the deposit.

Square works with many different business types and industries, and it's one of the few credit card processing services that can be used by individuals. Here are some of the features Square offers its merchants.

Nearly every type of merchant can use Square. In addition to mobile merchants that ring up sales and services on the go, online businesses and those with physical locations can use Square. It has dedicated solutions for different industries and business types, such as retail, food and beverage, service providers (professional services, beauty professionals, transportation, and home and repair), health and fitness, organizations, and entertainment. However, before signing up with Square, you'll want to check its list of prohibited goods and services to make sure your business type is supported. If it's not and you sign up anyway, the company may freeze your funds and cancel your account without notice.

Square is a merchant aggregator that sets you up as a submerchant under its master merchant account. Because of this, the application process is easier and faster than with some other companies, and it also means virtually anyone can use the service and open an account right away.

You don't have to worry about a credit check or submitting documentation; all you need to supply is basic information.

If you're using Square as an individual, you'll need to give the company your full legal name, date of birth and home address, as well as your Social Security number so Square can verify your identity and your U.S.-based bank account information so it can deposit your money once you start running transactions.

If you're using Square as a business, you'll also need to include your Employer Identification number and your business bank account information.

Square's mobile credit card readers and its payment app, called Square Point of Sale, are easy to use, and this plug-and-play solution isn't complicated to set up. The small business owners we talked to said using Square is as simple as connecting the credit card reader to a phone or tablet and opening the free Square app to select purchases. Then, your customers use the card reader to swipe, dip or tap their cards. And that's it – the transaction is finished in seconds. This ease of use makes Square convenient for businesses and customers, giving both buyer and seller a better experience and a faster way to complete purchases.

The Square Point of Sale app works on both Android and iOS devices. Even though it's free and simple to use, it includes a host of POS features and tools that can simplify running your business. In addition to processing credit and debit card payments, the Square POS app lets you accept cash, checks and gift cards. You can also perform several other functions, including the following:

  • Open tabs and split tickets
  • Prompt customers for tips right on the screen
  • Automatically set discounts
  • Process transactions offline
  • Email, text or print receipts
  • Collect and manage customer contact information
  • Securely save customer cards on file for future use
  • Set employee permissions
  • Allow customers to place orders for pickup
  • Send digital invoices from the Square Dashboard that your customers can pay online
  • Track inventory in real time, with the ability to set customized alerts
  • View analytics and generate a wide variety of reports from the dashboard
  • Integrate with accounting software and other business applications

Editor's note: Looking for information on credit card processors? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need.

Square offers several types of processing hardware to use with the Square POS, so you can start with a basic credit card reader, then add accessories and services as your business grows. This is the strategy some small business owners we talked to used, and it allowed them to keep their hardware costs low and stay with one payment processor throughout the life of their business. Square offers the following:

Square Reader for magstripe. This simple mobile credit card swiper plugs into your iPhone's Lightning connector or your Android phone's headphone jack. Just open the POS app and swipe the card. The company mails the first one to you for free after you open an account. If you need additional units, they cost $10 each. [Credit Card Machines: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions]

Square Reader for contactless and chip. This wireless, pocket-sized device lets you accept chip cards and contactless payments using mobile wallets, like Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as contactless cards. It's shipped with a free magstripe reader, so you can continue accepting magnetic stripe cards when needed. It costs $49, or $78 if you want it bundled with a charging dock. [EMV: What It Is and Why You Need It]

Square Stand for contactless and chip. You can use the Square Stand to turn an iPad into a stationary POS system that sits on the counter at the checkout area. It has a built-in magstripe card reader and comes with a contactless and chip reader and dock that you plug into the unit. If you want to go back to mobile, just detach the iPad from the stand and attach a Square Reader to process credit cards from anywhere. It costs $199.

Square Terminal. If you prefer not to use your mobile device to accept credit card payments, this is the card reader for you. It's an all-in-one credit card terminal that has a built-in screen, card reader and receipt printer. It normally costs $399, but at the time of this review, the company was running a promotion giving new Square users who purchase it a $300 credit for processing costs, bringing the effective price to $99. When you use it, your rates are discounted, costing 2.6% + $0.10.

Square Register. This countertop model also runs independently of a smartphone or tablet. Instead, it comes with two touchscreens – one for you and one for your customer. It has built-in card readers that accept magstripe and chip cards, as well as mobile wallets such as Google Pay and Apple Pay. Square's POS software is preinstalled, and you can add accessories such as a cash drawer, receipt printer and barcode scanner. It costs $999, and when you use it, your rates are discounted, costing 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction.

In addition to processing credit cards on mobile devices, Square offers services to help merchants run and grow their businesses. These include business software, a financing program and e-commerce capabilities.

Square offers several software applications that you can add to your system. For some, the only cost is the transaction fee. Others have a monthly fee. Free options include:

  • Analytics
  • Appointments (for a single user)
  • Customer Directory
  • eGift cards
  • Invoices
  • Team Management (the basic tier)

You can start selling online with a mobile-ready online store. You get a prebuilt, customizable storefront, so you won't need any web design or coding skills to get started. It syncs with Square Point of Sale, so your inventory and orders are always up to date. It supports in-store pickup, making it useful for both stores and restaurants. Four service tiers are available for this service and the basic tier is free – all you pay are the transaction fees for your credit card sales.

Square encourages you to follow its best practices for accepting card payments, as they reduce chargebacks. But, if a customer disputes a charge, Square will work with you to resolve the issue without charging you a fee. This is unusual, as most credit card processors charge $25 per dispute, whether or not it is resolved in your favor.

The way it works is this: After a customer contacts their bank to dispute the charge, Square puts a hold on money from that transaction and sends you a form requesting information. You have seven days to reply with documentation and to decide if you want to return the customer's money or challenge the dispute. If you choose to challenge, Square sends the documentation you provided to your customer's bank, which then decides who wins the dispute. It can take up to 90 days for a decision.

If you refer your merchant friends to Square, you can receive free processing for up to $1,000 in sales over a six-month period. You also receive a one-time $20 discount on a Square contactless and chip card reader.

The Square Capital program lets eligible merchants borrow money when cash flow is tight or when you need a loan for new equipment, additional inventory or a new location. The funds are paid back automatically from your credit card transactions. Payments are based on a fixed percentage of each transaction. There's no penalty if you decide to repay the loan early.

The company offers a wide selection of customer support resources, including phone, email and Twitter support. There's also a forum and a searchable support center that hosts a collection of articles, videos, FAQs, and how-to guides that cover everything from the basics of using Square to detailed information about features, hardware and banking issues. Square's customer service team is available by phone Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.

Although Square is one of the easiest and most feature-rich mobile credit card processors, it isn't perfect. One drawback is that its customer service isn't available 24/7 like other major credit card processing companies, so if you need help at night or on weekends, you won't be able to reach a person when you need one.

An issue that recently surfaced is that its digital receipts are sometimes sent to the wrong customers. The company says this is a rare occurrence and that it is taking steps to prevent this from happening. It also notes that in some instances, the issue is a result of how your customers use the digital receipt feature.

Also, like many other mobile credit card processors, there are numerous complaints online about held funds or account closures. Remember, this type of credit card processing service is warier of risk than traditional credit card processors and it will put a hold your funds if there's something about a transaction or your account that raises a red flag, such as an abnormally high sales ticket or volume of transactions. If the company discovers that you sell goods or services that are on its prohibited list, it will close your account.

Ready to choose a credit card processing company? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's note: Looking for information on credit card processors? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need.

Lori Fairbanks

Lori Fairbanks has years of experience writing and editing for both print and online publications. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, she worked as a magazine editor and then as a freelance writer and editor for a variety of companies, including marketing firms and a medical university. She now writes for business.com and Business News Daily about financial systems and services for small businesses, such as accounting software, credit card processing and point-of-sale systems.