Our rating(4/5)
Square Reader is Australia’s smallest card reader, but is the in-app PIN pad practical?
Square Reader is a keypad-less card reader that works with a mobile phone or tablet. For a flat 1.9% per transaction, Square gives you more tools and features than any other free payment apps.
  • Highs: Fair, simple rate on all cards. Best free app features. Virtual terminal and invoicing included.
  • Lows: PIN entry on mobile screen could be a hassle. Only accepts most popular card brands.
  • Buy if: You want the smallest card reader and/or the most POS features for free.

Best card reader offer

Get started with Square for just $59 + GST. No monthly fees or commitment.

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  • Square Reader AU offer
Link to offer

Lowdown

Squareup – in short: Square – was one of the first companies to release a card reader to use with a mobile device. Their popular Square Reader connects with a phone or tablet via Bluetooth, processing payments through the Square Point of Sale app (compatible with most iOS and Android devices).

Accepted cards

VisaMastercardAmerican ExpressEFTPOSContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

For contactless payments, you tap and pay above the white, square-shaped terminal, but PINs are entered on the phone’s or tablet’s touchscreen since there is no PIN pad on the card reader.

The mobile app works as a self-sufficient POS system with functions to run any type of business from just your tablet or phone.

The card reader accepts the most popular debit and credit cards including EFTPOS, Visa, Mastercard and American Express. It also accepts the mobile wallets Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Charges are simple and transparent

Square card reader fees are actually just one fixed rate: 1.9% per chip-and-PIN and tap-and-pay transaction regardless of card brand or whether it is premium or from abroad. Cash payments are free to process through the app. No additional or monthly fees are charged for the core payment features.

Square Reader paymentsFee
Chip, contactless, swipe1.9%
Key-in, invoice, ecommerce, virtual terminal2.2%
Monthly feesNone
Next-day payoutsFree
RefundsFree
ChargebacksFree
Square
Reader
payments
Fee
Chip, contactless, swipe1.9%
Key-in, invoice, ecommerce, virtual terminal2.2%
Monthly feesNone
Next-day payoutsFree
RefundsFree
ChargebacksFree

Payments where the customer is not present are charged a higher rate, i.e. every keyed-in, virtual terminal, ecommerce and invoice payment costs 2.2% of the transaction total.

With Square, you don’t commit to a contract period, neither do you have to sell every month or have a certain sales volume.

Nothing is charged for refunds, PCI compliance or chargebacks, the latter being dealt with for free by a dedicated support team for payment disputes.

Payments are deposited in your bank account as soon as the next working day – by default automatically, but you can also set it to manual deposits if that’s simpler for bookkeeping.

HardwarePrice
Square Reader$59 + GST (our offer)
Magnetic stripe readerFree (included with Square Reader)
USB wall charger$12 + GST
Dock for Square Reader$39 + GST
Square Stand with Square Reader & Dock$299 + GST
HardwarePrice
Square Reader$59 + GST (our offer)
Magnetic stripe readerFree (included with Square Reader)
USB wall charger$12 + GST
Dock for Square Reader$39 + GST
Square Stand with Square Reader & Dock$299 + GST

Square Reader costs $59 + GST, which includes a free magstripe reader for swipe cards. The package also contains a micro USB cable for charging, but Square sells a wall charger for $12 + GST. The optional Dock for charging and keeping the card reader in place costs $39 + GST.  The Square Stand, including Square Reader and Dock, is $299 + GST.

As for the Point of Sale app, features are free except for additional employee permissions costing $35 per month per location (Team Plus subscription). Any integrated tools from other providers, e.g. for ecommerce and bookkeeping, are paid for separately through those other platforms.

Square’s EFTPOS machine with POS features: Square Terminal reviewed

Accepting cards: practicality and security

To start a sale, you can either enter an amount or pick products or services from your product library (if you’ve added items there). Tap “charge” and the customer can use their card to pay, or even add a tip before paying. After each transaction, choose to email or text the receipt, or print it from a connected Bluetooth printer.

Contactless payments by card or mobile wallet are easy – just tap over the card reader and you’re done.

With Square Reader, customers enter their PIN on the touchscreen of the phone or tablet instead of a separate PIN pad – this is referred to as ‘PIN on COTS’ (PIN on consumer off-the-shelf devices), sometimes called ‘PIN on glass’. Also, the Square card reader has no display, meaning the amount is displayed only in the app.

Photo: Emily Sorensen (ES), Mobile Transaction

Square PIN on COTS

PIN entry happens in the Square app, as seen here on iPad.

Some have been concerned that inputting their PIN using software on a multi-use consumer device is not safe. Protecting PIN codes from visual skimming is another issue: if the tablet is on a stand of a certain height, PIN entry can be more difficult to hide compared to when entered on a countertop card machine.

PIN on COTS has been officially accepted by the PCI Security Standards Council, and we do not see cause for concern for merchants or payers. Still, some customers might not feel comfortable giving their PIN this way. If that worries you, you may want to consider alternative card readers.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

Square magstripe reader in iPad

Square magstripe reader plugged into an audio jack on iPad.

When you buy Square Reader, you also get a tiny, complimentary swipe reader for magnetic stripe cards. This has a standard audio jack to plug in to your mobile device. iPhone 7 and newer models require a small adaptor cord to connect the audio jack with the micro USB socket at the bottom of the phone, which makes swiping a bit awkward.

However, it should be noted that the swipe reader does not work with chip cards, only overseas cards without a chip. In other words, it should not be a major issue unless you have lots of overseas customers using swipe.

POS app features

The free Square Reader app called ‘Point of Sale’ is a big draw. Out of all POS apps in Australia, it has all the widest breadth of free features for managing sales and business operations from any compatible iPhone, iPad, or Android phone or tablet.

Apart from using the card reader, you can manually enter card details, send invoices and accept cash. Create custom discounts, add tips and split the tender so customers can pay some of the transaction total with a card and the rest with cash. You can also sell gift cards sent via email, to be redeemed in your store.

The product inventory is great for tablets with its visual layout of products, which can be customised. Each product can have a picture, description, types (e.g. red, black, pack of 2, pack of 5), different prices for each type and inventory levels.

Photo: Square

Square iPad checkout

Add products, apply discounts and distinguish between product types.

To get the most out of Square’s tools, we suggest adding your products to the library before using the app. This enables you to track product popularity and differentiate between items when processing a refund. It also makes it easier at checkout to just tap to add products to the bill, rather than manually entering each item or transaction total, which are both possible too.

Businesses with teams of staff can add employee as individual users with limited permissions in the app. Granting an account to each user also enables time sheets so you can track hours and overtime worked.

Transactions over the phone or mail order are also possible through the complimentary Square Virtual Terminal. From any desktop browser, you can log in to the Square account and go to the Virtual Terminal section where you key in a customer’s card and transaction details.

Restaurants can upgrade to Square for Restaurants, costing a monthly subscription for features tailored to this industry. It is also possible to integrate Square Reader with an entirely different POS platform such as Vend or TouchBistro.

Square Reader vs. Terminal

If a POS app on a mobile device is not for you, the latest EFTPOS machine, Square Terminal, works independently.

This is a touchscreen smart POS terminal with integrated checkout features (similar to the Square Point of Sale app) accessed directly on the terminal screen. It accepts chip and PIN, contactless and swipe, but PIN codes are entered on a touchscreen PIN pad, similar to a traditional credit card machine.

Square ReaderSquare Terminal
Square ReaderSquare Terminal
PriceAU$59 + GSTAU$439 + GST
Transaction fee1.9%1.6%
Works without phone/tablet
Built-in receipt printer
NetworkBluetooth to mobile device with 3G, 4G or WiFiWiFi, Ethernet only with Hub
Dimensions66 x 66 x 10 mm142.2 x 86.4 x 63.5 mm
Weight56 g417 g
Square
Reader
Square
Terminal
Square ReaderSquare Terminal
AU$59 + GSTAU$439 + GST
Transaction fee
1.9%1.6%
Works without phone/tablet
Built-in receipt printer
Network
Bluetooth to mobile device with 3G, 4G or WiFiWiFi, Ethernet only with Hub
Size
66 x 66 x 10 mm142.2 x 86.4 x 63.5 mm
Weight
56 g417 g

Given the large touchscreen and inbuilt software, Square Terminal is much bigger than Square Reader, like a conventional EFTPOS terminal. It also has a built-in receipt printer so you don’t need to connect to a different one.

While Square Reader works with 3G, 4G and WiFi through a connected mobile phone or tablet, Square Terminal only works with a secure WiFi connection or Ethernet cable (the latter only in conjunction with Hub for Square Terminal, available at an extra cost). This makes Reader more suitable for on-the-go payments and Terminal best for a fixed area with a secure WiFi setup.

Lastly, Square Terminal has a lower transaction fee than Reader: 1.6% instead of Square Reader’s 1.9%.

Hardware and accessories

Square Reader can connect with compatible receipt printers, kitchen printers (for restaurants and similar), cash drawers and barcode scanners.

What other accessories are available? The Dock for Square Reader can be attached to the countertop and keeps the terminal charged all day.

Photo: Square

Dock for Square Reader

Square Dock keeps the Reader firmly attached to a countertop, and charged all day.

Square Stand for iPad enables you to swivel the tablet screen to face the customer who can then enter their PIN. In addition, the Square Stand has a swipe slot for older (or American) magnetic stripe cards. However, the tablet stand is only compatible with certain iPads. All Square-branded equipment looks very Apple-inspired – sleek and minimalistic – so perhaps not surprising.

A good selection of receipt printers work with the Square system, but some only work via Square Stand in which case you need to use iPad, not an Android device. Countertop printers that do not require Square Stand include Star Micronics TSP143 and TSP654 models and Epson TM-T88V, amongst others.

If you want a portable receipt printer, the Star Micronics SM-S230i and SM-T300i Bluetooth receipt printers will do. The compatible Star Micronics SP742ML kitchen printer can withstand heat, ideal for printing order tickets in hot restaurant kitchens.

Reports and accounting

With all sales in the cloud, you can log in to the Square account in any internet browser and export sales to Excel for local storage or accounting purposes. At the same time, your account is synced with sales activities in real time so you can always check in remotely on how you’re doing in the shop.

The app showss transactions, amount of cash in the till drawer (if cash management is switched on) and general sales reports that can be emailed directly from the app.

Image: Square

Analytics in the Square backend are quite detailed, particularly as they come free.

Square analytics are fairly extensive. Square Dashboard shows a colourful overview of key sales information, and more analytics are accessed in the Reports section. You can, among other things, analyse employee sales, taxes, product categories and which product modifiers have been applies to sales.

For more complex accounting features, integrate data with Xero, Zoho Books or QuickBooks.

Who is it best for?

Square is aimed at a broad range of small businesses. Having tested the POS app, we can verify it’s useful in the retail and hospitality – food-and-drink in particular – due to its comprehensive product library, checkout functions, tipping, analytics and staff management features.

There’s even multi-location support for those selling in more than one location. And let’s not forget: the tiny card reader makes it the handiest for on-the-go payments at, for example, market stalls, home visits and conferences.

A big advantage of Square is the many options to integrate with partner platforms covering a wide range of business tools. This means you are not stuck with the free features. Growing businesses can use Square in conjunction with partner platforms providing advanced software for e.g. inventory, scheduling, marketing and much more. Retailers can even delve into ecommerce through one of the Square’s very own Online Store subscriptions.

Photo: Square

Square point of sale setup in restaurant

Square has been particularly popular with food-and-drink establishments.

As with other payment companies, Square has a list of prohibited businesses. Some of these industries are pharmaceuticals, adult entertainment, certain marketing or financial services, and illegal or otherwise questionable services.

Customer support and reviews

Square is available to phone and email between 9 AM and 5 PM Monday-Friday Melbourne time. There is no weekend or evening support, which is fine if the system works, but not so good if you need out-of-hours support.

There’s an online Help Centre answering most questions in detail, Seller Community for peer support and advice, and the Twitter and Facebook channels responding to messages.

Particularly in the US, Square has received a significant amount of complaints, but customer reviews are generally positive in Australia. The few complaints are around account verification issues and poor customer support.

Getting started

Before purchasing the terminal, you need to sign up for a Square Reader account and register your bank account. It typically takes up to a week to have a bank account verified, but you can still accept payments before the verification is finalised. The card reader is ordered after completing the step-by-step sign-up.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

unpacking Square Reader

Box contents of the Square Reader delivery.

When the Square account is set up and connected with your bank account, download the Square Point of Sale app on your mobile phone or tablet and log into the app. Connect the card reader with your mobile device via Bluetooth and you’re ready for tap-and-pay and chip cards.

Our verdict

If the best value-for-money is key to your choice of card reader, Square is a leading option in Australia. It has the best features you can get in a free app – clearly for the budget-conscious merchant who wants the best value.

The pay-as-you-go structure with no contractual commitment makes it good place to start for a low cost, particularly as you can later expand on tools through partner apps and additional Square features.

Advantages:

  • It’s small enough for any pocket, and super-light to carry

  • It works seamlessly with tap and pay

  • Next-day, automatic payouts

  • The free app is user-friendly with features for any business

  • Complimentary invoicing and typed-in payments on the computer

Disadvantages:

  • PIN entry can be fiddly

  • Customer support could be more accessible

  • Some accessories are made for iPad only, not Android devices

  • Doesn’t accept UnionPay, JCB, Diners Club or Discover