Have you been noticing Square's ubiquitous card readers yourself while out and about? They're popular for a reason. Square POS is free to install, and gives businesses smart, sleek POS software. There's no monthly fee either, since users are charged a percentage of each sale instead – typically 2.6% + 10¢ for swiped or tapped card transactions, or 3.5% + 15¢ for transactions where the card number is keyed in.
Square hardware costs extra. You can start things off with a free iPad-compatible card reader, though you'll need to pay $49 for a contactless/chip/Apple Pay version. There are further costs for stands and full Square registers.
If you need some higher-end features for your store or restaurant – such as bulk product transfers across locations, or the ability to reopen closed checks – Square does have some monthly paid-for packages. We'll explain exactly what you get with these packages, and how much you'll need to pay. However, the point remains that you can run a business without paying Square's monthly fees.
Square also has some attractive package deals. For $49/month, or a one-time fee of $999, businesses can use a register, a customer display, an accessory hub with a mounting plate, and a power adapter and cable.
Square POS software is free to set up – it charges a percentage per transaction, rather than a monthly fee, though some hardware features will cost extra.
In this guide, we'll explain all you need to know about Square POS costs, and what your business can expect to pay to get set up with Square.
Is Square POS good value?
Depending on the size of your business, Square POS can work out as great value, compared to other POS solutions.
Square's features and smart interface are made available for free. The software costs a percentage per transaction, rather than a monthly fee, though hardware will cost extra.
- For solo traders – Square POS is a great solution, with low cost card readers that make it easy to take mobile payments. The 2.6% + 10 cents transaction fee keeps costs simple.
- For small businesses – Square offers great value, with a high-quality POS for a cost-effective price. Restaurants and stores will need to factor in some extra costs for Square's hardware (see our hardware pricing breakdown).
- For large businesses – Larger businesses may not find Square quite as cost-effective, because of how added costs can mount up. We won't rule out recommending Square, but our advice is to answer a few quick questions and get a custom POS pricing quote.
Square POS Plans and Pricing
Anyone can download Square's POS software and begin selling immediately, though they'll likely need to grab a card reader as well (a single dongle comes for as little as ten dollars). However, the main cost of the POS system kicks in when its users make a sale.
- Square POS software is free to install
- You can get a free Square card reader for iPhone or Android (contactless readers aren't free)
- Square charges 2.6% of each card-based sale, plus 10 cents.
- If card payments are manually keyed in rather than processed via card reader, the charge is a little more: 3.5% of the transaction's cost, plus another 15 cents per transaction.
- Online sales are charged at $2.9% + 30 cents per transaction.
- There are additional hardware costs depending on the setup (for more, see our Square POS Hardware Costs section)
Some software add-ons also cost an additional percentage or a small monthly fee, but the core features we've listed above are available with the basic Square POS system for free.
As a result, using Square POS will mean that most businesses will see a small percentage of their total monthly revenue go towards paying their POS costs, but that's it.
For small operations, such as market stalls, food trucks, and small coffee shops, it's a great deal – and the secret to Square's market dominance. Most POS vendors bill for their service annually, which can be tough for a business on a budget.
For a huge operation or a business with many sales, the costs for using Square POS will scale up at a rate faster than most other POS services
For a huge operation or a business with many sales, the costs for using Square POS will scale up at a rate faster than most other POS services, which typically charge a set monthly fee in order to process unlimited sales.
Large businesses aren't out of options, however: Square offers custom rates to businesses with enough sales volume to qualify. If your business processes over $250,000 in card sales and sees an average ticket size over $15, it may be eligible.
Square for Retail and Restaurant Plus
Square does offer upgraded plans for retail and restaurant businesses, which can be used to augment the features you already get from your free POS software.
Square for Retail Plus costs $60 per month, per location. Transaction fees are reduced to 2.5% + 10¢ for in-person sales and 2.9% + 30¢ for online sales. You get everything from the free plan, plus product exchanges, advanced inventory tools, advanced retail reports, and Square Team Management.
Square for Restaurants Plus costs $60 per month, per location as well, but you get a 30-day free trial, and it costs just $40 per month per added POS device.
In return, you get all the features from the regular free plan, plus more advanced features including advanced discounts, cash management, and the ability to open checks. You also get extra kitchen display features, including ticket routing and real-time order updates. Support also becomes 24/7.
Square POS Hardware Costs
Free software is all well and good, but if you're a bricks and mortar store looking to use Square POS, it's inevitable you'll need to take on some Square POS hardware costs, too. You can keep these costs down by using iPad payment systems, for example – in these cases, you'll likely only need to buy Square card readers or an iPad stand. Nevertheless, let's look into the various costs of Square's hardware below:
- $10: non-contactless card reader to fit iPhone/Android (you can get your first one free)
- $49: contactless card reader for chip or Apple Pay
- $299: portable terminal
- $169: iPad stand and card reader
- $799: Square terminal and stand
- $646: register kit with stand for iPad
- $1,329: full Square register and terminal
The above list isn't exhaustive, but covers most of the main ways you can take payments on a Square POS system. See below for more on each type of Square POS hardware, and their associated costs.
Square POS card reader costs
One of the most affordable ways of getting started with Square POS is to use a portable card reader, connected to an iPhone, iPad, or Android device. There are a few to choose from, though be warned that the very cheapest ones won't work with contactless cards, or with NFC mobile phone payments such as Apple Pay.
Card reader to fit Android or iPhone (non-contactless payments)
- $10 per unit
Contactless card reader (works with chip or Apple Pay)
- $49 per unit
Square POS terminal (all major cards, contactless payments, prints receipts)
- $299 per unit
Square POS terminals and iPad stand costs
To keep your Square POS costs down, you can use the software on an iPad. This can work out cheaper than paying for a Square terminal. However, for a professional look that will impress and reassure your customers, it's a smart move to consider an iPad stand and card reader. Otherwise, a Square Stand is a neat all-in-one solution (though at a higher cost).
Square stand for iPads plus contactless card reader
- $169 per unit
Square POS Stand with contactless card reader
- $799 per unit
Square POS register costs
Here's where prices start to escalate – if you're looking for an all-singing, all-dancing Square Register (or a register for an iPad setup) then costs can get into the hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. We explain the options, below:
Square Register for iPad plus contactless card reader and receipt printer
- $646 per unit
Square POS full Register kit with Stand and receipt printer
- $1,329 per unit
Square POS Card Readers – Video Guide
Square's highly recognizable little white square of a card reader can be plugged into an iPad or iPhone headset jack for a quick and easy way to accept a credit or debit card.
Square POS Added Costs and Extras
Some of these features (such as employee management) are essential to running a mid-size business, though a small operation likely won't need them.
“If you're only interested in one or two of these add-ons, Square POS likely remains the more cost-effective option.”
- Employee Management — For $5 per employee per month, you can define roles, allow clock in/out ability, set employee-specific access restrictions, and generate timecard reports.
- Square Marketing — Starting at $15 per month, you can craft and track email marketing campaigns through the Square POS system.
- Square Loyalty — Starting at $25 per month, you can create a loyalty program. Customers can enroll at checkout to receive digital punch cards and/or tiered reward levels. Customers spend 37% more after enrolment, according to Square.
- Gift Cards — Create gift cards, tracking activations, redemptions, and refunds through your POS. Physical custom cards cost 80 cents each, while digital ones come at a 2.9% + 30 cents transaction processing rate.
- Square Payroll — For $29 per month plus $5 per employee, you can run an IRS-compliant payroll system that automatically tracks and records your employees' timecards.
Several of these features are packaged directly into other leading POS vendors' main services, so depending on how essential these features are, you may want to weigh other POS software options more highly. However, if you're only interested in one or two of these add-ons, Square POS likely remains the more cost-effective option.
As with any massive software company, “feature bloat” can be a concern with Square, as the service continues expanding with features that might overwhelm users more than is justified by the value they provide. Square's software alone offers variations for 18 different industries, including Apparel, Groceries, Leisure & Entertainment, and Spas. Still, too many features is a good problem to have, and the system's interface and abilities remain some of the best in the POS industry.
- Free to get started
- Slick and stylish hardware
- Serves businesses of all sizes and in all sectors
- Strong analytics, inventory, and third-party integrations
- Some necessary features for mid-sized businesses cost more
- 2.75% charge on non-card transactions
- Support options vary by plan
With Square POS, you can accept credit and debit, contactless, and chip payments, all within seconds. It sends a digital receipt, and prompts customers to add an optional tip. If you're on the go, Square's card reader can plug into an iPhone, iPad, and Android phone or tablet.
You can create and send custom invoices through Square POS as well. Managers can track the status of each invoice online, see when they've been read, and send reminders for those that remain unpaid. Square can forecast sales, too, helping you plan for the future and set your business up for success.
Payment processing is a piece of cake with Square's own integrated system. This means that payments won't be lost, and you won't have to pay two companies to do two essential business functions.
Square also accepts payments in its offline mode – useful if your internet drops out or you're running a mobile food truck, for example.
Analytics and Reporting
Square POS has class-leading analytics and reporting tools, with more than 20 detailed options for both business and staff performance.
Like most POS providers, Square tracks sales, but it also breaks them down item-by-item so managers can tell at a glance which products are out-performing expectations. Square can help you identify which payment methods are the most popular, and how discounts are performing.
Sales performances can be easily compared to performance over the past week, month, or six-month period. In addition, summary reports can be auto-delivered to managers' emails on a daily basis.
Customer purchase histories are also monitored. Managers can track new customers against returning ones, or see the average spend per visit and average visits per month.
Square POS throws in a CRM system free of charge. You can use it to let customers give their thoughts on their experiences, by asking them on their digital receipt.
Managers can see the feedback paired with that customer's transaction history, letting them know how highly to prioritize the information. They can also look at data visualizations showing which elements of their experience were the most or least satisfying. Plus, managers can respond to the feedback if they'd like, starting a private message chat with the customer in question.
Square POS Setup and Customer Support
Square's support is largely online. A database of explainers, FAQs, and user guides is available for free.
There's also a community forum filled with real business users asking and answering questions surrounding the daily use of a Square POS system. Categories within the forum include subforums such as “New to Square”, “Hardware”, and “Product Updates”.
Phone support is available, though only to “active Square sellers”, who can provide their 12-digit customer code in order to talk to a specialist. Specialist availability may vary, and users are encouraged to look up their issues through the support center or forum first. Email support is also available, though Square doesn't offer a live chat function.
Support & Training
Phone support for active Square sellers
Huge knowledge base
No training mode
Square POS Alternatives
Square might be our favorite POS provider on the market, but it's far from the only choice.
ShopKeep and Vend are excellent alternatives. Square is a fantastic all-rounder, but we'd recommend Vend for retail businesses – it's easy to onboard staff, has excellent CRM tools, and boasts powerful stock management.
ShopKeep, on the other hand, is an excellent choice for companies that need a strong mobile payment solution.
Square, though, does have the advantage of built-in payment processing, which will make your life easier. It's also pretty hard to argue with a completely free plan.
Tech.co's verdict to help you identify the most suitable choice for your restaurant
The typical lowest starting price. The lowest price available for your business will depend on your needs.
ShopKeep by Lightspeed
Anyone working frequently with mobile phones as well as tablets.
Smaller, quick-service businesses, due to cost-effective pricing, strong brand recognition and support.
Businesses of any size looking for a POS to integrate with any existing systems
$49 per month
Free (but transaction fees apply)
$99 per month
Offers cash drawers, card readers, printers, and more
Sold by Square, available separately or packaged with software. Works with most leading brands and has a great free trial.
Works with loads of third-party periperals
Verdict: Should You Pay for Square POS?
The software's robust features – combined with its ease of use, and a pricing plan designed to cut down on upfront costs – make it an attractive option to small businesses everywhere. Square POS support options and hardware offerings are decent as well, which doesn't hurt. There's a reason everyone uses this service, and why you keep seeing that little card reader around – we recommend getting one for yourself, too.
You also get a free iPad-compatible card reader when you get started with Square, although extra hardware will cost more. Contactless and chip readers cost $49, but for $49 per month (or a one-time fee of $999), businesses can use a register, a customer display, an accessory hub with a mounting plate, and a power adapter and cable.
However, PayPal charges extra for non-US cards, charges you the original transaction fee for refunds, and charges $20 for chargebacks.
All told, Square might just come out a little bit cheaper. Plus, Square's POS platform is stronger than PayPal Here.
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