- Highs: No monthly fees or commitment. Can pay for terminal over several months. Very user-friendly.
- Lows: On-screen POS features not expandable. Doesn’t work with phone network. Requires additional hub to connect with cash drawer.
- Buy if: You want to save money and counter space by using one compact terminal as your main POS system.
How Square Terminal works
Square Terminal works as a standalone EFTPOS-and-POS terminal with software and receipt printer built in. It accepts mobile wallets, chip (EMV), contactless (NFC) and magnetic stripe cards, and you can key in card details manually.
Apart from credit cards, Square accepts debit, corporate, prepaid, rewards and bank-issued EFTPOS chip cards for the same transaction fee. You only pay more for keyed-in card transactions.
Contrary to traditional credit card machines, Square Terminal is more than just for card payments. You can, for example, accept gift cards and edit your product library on the terminal.
From start to finish of each transaction, the touchscreen is used to navigate POS functions, like you would in the Square Point of Sale app for Square Reader. Where relevant, customers enter a PIN code or sign to verify their card on the touchscreen.
All transactions and activities on the terminal are connected to your backend Square account where you find more features, ecommerce and additional tools.
The terminal needs to be connected to the internet via WiFi. Optionally, you can purchase a Hub for Square Terminal that allows you to connect via Ethernet cable. It does not work with 4G or other network connections the way a cell phone does.
Costs and payouts
A major upside to Square is their simple costs. You just pay for the terminal, then a fixed transaction rate for any debit and credit cards processed. There is no minimum sales volume required, no payout fees and no contractual lock-in. Unless you have opted to pay for the terminal over a number of months, there are no fixed monthly costs.
The card machine costs $439 upfront. You can also choose to pay in instalments of 3, 6 or 12 interest-free monthly payments (subject to credit check and approval). If you choose to pay over 12 months, the monthly instalment is $37. Repayments are handled internally by Square, not a third party provider, and the first instalment is taken when the order is placed.
|Square Terminal – upfront price||$439|
|Square Terminal – instalments||$37 x 12 months|
3- and 6-month plans available
|Hub for Square Terminal (optional)||$49|
|Chip, tap and swipe fee||1.6%|
|Keyed-in card fee||2.2%|
|Transfers to bank account||Free|
If you’re connecting the terminal to other hardware, you’ll need the Hub for Square Terminal costing $39.
In Square’s store, the following compatible accessories are available:
- Countertop mount: $25
- Barcode scanner: $99
- Cash drawer: $99
- 20 x receipt paper rolls: $29
Transactions cost a fixed 1.6% rate for all dip, tap and swipe payments through the terminal regardless of card brand, country of issue or whether it is premium. All key-in payments through the terminal or online via Square Invoices, Online Store or Virtual Terminal cost 2.2% per transaction.
Refunds are free to process and chargebacks incur no admin fees. You even get free payment dispute support from the Square team, in case a chargeback should incur.
Transactions are automatically transferred – for free – to your bank account within 1-2 business days.
Photo: Emily Sorensen (ES), Mobile Transaction
Using the touchscreen of an industry-approved terminal like Square’s is secure.
Physically, it’s a bit heavier than a traditional Ingenico card machine (417 g versus circa 300 g). This is due to the large screen, whereas a mainstream credit card machine with physical keypad only has a small display. Underneath are two rubber strips to keep it stable on a counter, and a hole if you need to screw the terminal on to a surface.
Square Terminal’s battery can last all day without a charge, which is impressive given the large, energy-consuming touchscreen. Still, we found that leaving it it on standby drains the battery completely by the next day.
Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction
Underneath the terminal.
Therefore, we recommend switching it off completely when you don’t plan on using it to avoid having to recharge it first the next time you need it.
Receipt rolls are changed easily at the back.
Because it runs on a local, secured WiFi connection, it can be used across your premises, for example for taking payments at the customer’s table. The Ethernet connection through the Hub could be necessary if your WiFi is unreliable, but then you have to keep the Terminal connected at a checkout counter.
|Dimensions||142.2 mm (L) x 86.4 mm (W) x 63.5 mm (H)|
|Display size||139.7 mm|
|Data||WiFi (secured network only), Ethernet via Hub|
|Card technology||EMV (chip), NFC (contactless), magnetic stripe|
|Battery life||All day from full charge|
|Built-in receipt printer||Uses 57 mm (width) x 35 mm (diameter) thermal receipt paper|
|Accessories included||Square Terminal, power adaptor, receipt paper roll, ‘accepted cards’ decals|
Software features are very similar to Square Reader’s mobile app, Square Point of Sale. For instance, the checkout screen gives you two options for adding to the shopping cart: enter transaction/price amounts manually or tap to add products from the library.
Enter an amount to add to the bill.
The product menu at checkout.
The checkout flow and products can be edited on the terminal – no need to log in on a computer to do it. Add product variants like size and colour and switch on eat-in or takeaway options if you’re a coffee shop, all of which can be selected during the checkout flow.
What about transaction options? Accept cash, payment cards and mobile wallets, ‘cards on file’ saved in the customer library, gift cards (issued from the terminal too), invoicing and manually-entered card details. Split the tender, add either custom or preset tipping amounts, and once the transaction is complete, print, email or text-message the receipt.
Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction
Square Terminal vs. Square Reader.
The customer library enables you to add a person to invoices instead of entering personal details manually. You can create and send Square Invoices directly on the terminal, accessed from the side menu. Over-the-phone payments are also possible – just add products or enter an amount on the regular checkout screen and choose manual card payment as payment method.
Transactions, sales history and reports can be viewed on the terminal. In fact, you go to Transactions to process a refund (itemised or custom amount) or resend a receipt via email or SMS. Receipts can be customised in Settings, and food-and-drink merchants can set the Terminal to print order tickets.
Paper receipts are printed above the touchscreen display.
Significant things you cannot do on the Terminal, which the mobile app can do, include:
- Access team management features
- Do more complicated product library edits
The software is updated automatically daily when the Terminal is connected to the internet. Just be prepared to wait for the update to process when you switch on the terminal every day (it took minutes on most days we tested it). For increased security, set the terminal to require password login every time it’s used. You can reset the password on the terminal if needed.
Accessories and POS hardware
If you wonder “how does this work with the rest of the POS system”, we should emphasise the terminal IS the POS system. That said, you can still connect it to hardware through the optional Hub for Square Terminal (purchased separately for $49). The Hub connects to the terminal via cable, has three USB ports for POS hardware and one Ethernet socket for a wired internet connection.
Square Terminal Hub has three USB ports for optional POS accessories.
Compatible POS equipment is plugged into the Hub’s USB ports (Bluetooth is not accepted) and includes:
- Receipt printers
- Kitchen ticket printers
- Kitchen display
- Cash drawers
- Barcode scanners
You cannot connect the terminal to a tablet or computer since the built-in app has all the register features, and transactions happen directly in the cloud. But it is perfectly possible to run the full-fledged Square Point of Sale system on a tablet at the point of sale simultaneously to the independent Terminal connected to the Square account.
On the Terminal, you can view sales history, generate custom reports and track sales by team members. You can’t view cash drawer session history like Square Point of Sale allows on a tablet.
All users have backend access to sales reports sorted by date, location, time period and more. These can be viewed in any internet browser logged into Square. Generated reports can be exported to Excel. There are lots of other free analytics on gift cards, popular sales categories, sales trends, transaction status, discounts, employee sales, etc. Custom reports can also be created.
If all this is not enough, Square sales can be synced with the accounting platforms QuickBooks, Xero and Zoho Books.
Square Terminal works as a standalone checkout solution, cash drawer aside.
Who is Square best for?
If you’re a small shop, café, hairdresser or any other type of merchant who doesn’t require a complicated checkout, Square Terminal will save you counter space and money because you don’t need to buy a receipt printer, tablet or touchscreen monitor.
If you’re cashless, it’s perfect since there is no cash drawer to connect to. Vice versa, an existing cash register without an EFTPOS machine could do well with a supplementary Square Terminal for card payments on the side.
If you sell primarily online, but have a brick-and-mortar store, the simple Square Terminal checkout could be what you need to connect those sales without superfluous equipment to fill your face-to-face shop.
It works best in locations with a fixed WiFi connection or countertop where an Ethernet cable can be hooked up. For this reason, we would not recommend it for use on the go where WiFi networks can’t be relied on.
Of course, if you’re already using a Square card reader, there’s no fuss changing over to a different system by going for Terminal. It is only if you require more custom features that we recommend looking elsewhere for card machines connected to advanced POS software specifically for your industry.
Square Terminal is good for table-side payments, accepting tips from the screen.
Customer service and user reviews
Customer support is available by phone round-the-clock exclusively for Square Terminal users. If it were Square’s other products, you would only have support on weekdays during the day. The online Support Centre answers most questions, though.
Square Terminal has a year’s warranty. If required, a next-business-day hardware replacement is available in metro areas. Furthermore, you’re free to change your mind and get a full refund within the 30-day cooling-off period.
Customer reviews are mixed. Many users complain about poor service, account verification issues and funds being held. That said, such complaints are typical of payment companies. Many more users are positive about the ease of use, affordability and next-day transfers.
It’s very easy to get started with Square Terminal. Just fill in an online sign-up form, submitting business, personal and bank account details to be verified by Square. The following business entities are usually accepted:
- Sole traders/individuals
It’s also necessary to have a government-issued ID (driver’s licence, Medicare card or passport) handy. You need an Australian-based bank account so you can receive transfers from Square.
The information will be assessed and verified by Square within days. Some trading areas are restricted, like multi-level marketing, escort services or harmful products, but such restrictions are typical of payment companies.
Accepting remote or keyed-in payments is possible before Square’s verification, in which case transactions are held by Square until your bank account is ready to receive money.
You can order the terminal straight after sign-up. Delivery takes 2-7 business days.
Square Terminal is so intuitive you can use it within minutes of opening the box – just make sure your WiFi is accessible so it can update the software.
Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction
Square Terminal is handy for carrying around in your work area.
Square Terminal is a great all-round POS terminal for a good price. A big advantage is the lack of contract, while still including PCI compliance and ongoing customer service.
The POS software is basically the same as the Point of Sale app, but the lack of direct integration with Square’s iOS or Android app means the terminal is specifically suited as a separate checkout terminal or table-side payments in, say, a restaurant.
Square Terminal excels at usability over complicated features, so it’s a very user-friendly EFTPOS machine that’s not cluttered with irrelevant checkout features. The size is compact, style sleek, yet allows for plenty of extra business tools without breaking the bank.
Bottom line: Square Terminal is superb value for small shops that need the most user-friendly, portable checkout without contract lock-in.