Our rating(4.2/5)
Square Payments is a complete solution for face-to-face and online transactions.
Square offers a cheap card reader with different POS apps, a touchscreen terminal, online payments, and more. There’s no contract or monthly fee, just a fixed rate per transaction.
  • Pros: No monthly fee or contract. Predictable, fixed rates. Best free POS app. Online payment tools. Cheap card reader.

  • Cons: Limited support hours. PIN entry with card reader a bit awkward. Only accepts popular card brands. Few Irish user reviews.

  • Choose if: You want the most comprehensive, but simple, all-in-one payment system with affordable hardware.

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What is Square Payments?

Square, or Squareup, is an all-in-one payments platform for small businesses. Originating in the US, it was the first company in the world to release a card reader used with a mobile app – and in 2021, Square arrived in Ireland too.

The Square Payments system is one of the few truly affordable card processing solutions for individual merchants and small companies. Not only does it offer face-to-face, remote and online payment tools, it also saves the merchant from committing to a contract or pay a monthly fixed fee, which is normal elsewhere.

These are the products and services that Square Ireland offers:

  • Card payment processing (face-to-face, online and remote)

  • Card machines (1 card reader with app, 1 freestanding terminal)

  • Point of Sale app (free), POS for retail or restaurants (free or paid)

  • Online store platform

  • Payments via links and QR codes

  • Virtual terminal for telephone payments

  • Invoicing software

It takes a few minutes to create an account on the Square website – no quote or phone call needed. You then have instant access to the browser-based Dashboard where you can accept payments remotely, or you can download one of the point of sale (POS) apps to start customising your register software.

Accepted cards

VisaMastercardV PayVisa ElectronMaestroAmerican ExpressContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

The card readers accept the most popular debit and credit cards including Visa, Visa Electron, V Pay, Mastercard, Maestro and American Express. It also accepts the mobile wallets Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. Contactless payments of up to €50 don’t require a PIN.

How we rated Square Payments

For a fair rating, we assessed the most important aspects of Square: the quality and experience of the payment products, costs, contract, pricing transparency, sign-up process, value-added features like online payments, user reviews and support options.

These rating categories get a score each, so the final star rating is reflective of its overall value for a small business.

The main thing assessed in this review is Square’s face-to-face payment products, including Square Reader, the connected Point of Sale app and the payment system (Square Payments). We have tested all these products to provide an honest account of the service.

Square fees

Square card processing fees are just a fixed rate of 1.75% + VAT per chip and PIN and contactless payment regardless of the card brand or whether it is premium or from abroad. Cash payments are free to process. No additional or monthly fees apply.

With Square, you don’t commit to a contract period, nor do you need to sell every month or have a certain sales volume.

Square Payments Fees
Monthly fee None
Chip, contactless 1.75% + VAT
Online store, payment links EU and EEA cards: 1.4% + 25¢ + VAT
UK and non-EEA cards: 2.9% + 25¢ + VAT
Manual card entry in app 2% + VAT
Invoice, virtual terminal 2.5% + VAT
Refunds Free
Chargebacks Free
Square
Payments
Fees
Monthly fee None
Chip, contactless 1.75% + VAT
Online store, payment links EU and EEA cards: 1.4% + 25¢ + VAT
UK and non-EEA cards: 2.9% + 25¢ + VAT
Manual card entry in app 2% + VAT
Invoice, virtual terminal 2.5% + VAT
Refunds Free
Chargebacks Free

Remote or online payments are charged a higher rate. Manual card entry transactions in the Point of Sale app cost 2% + VAT (applies to both when the customer is and is not present). Virtual terminal and invoice payments cost a bit more at 2.5% + VAT.

Online payments through the online store, payment links and eGift Cards are 1.4% + 25¢ + VAT for Irish, EU and EEA cards and 2.9% + 25¢ + VAT for UK and non-EEA cards.

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

If you annual card turnover is over €200,000, you can get custom rates from Square.

Payments are deposited in your bank account within 1-2 working days. This is automatic by default, but you can also set it to manual deposits if that simplifies bookkeeping.

Hardware Price
Square Reader €19 + VAT (our offer)
Dock for Square Reader €29 + VAT
Square Stand with built-in tap/chip readers €119 + VAT
Square Terminal €169 + VAT (our offer)
Hardware Price
Square Reader €19 + VAT (our offer)
Dock for Square Reader €29 + VAT
Square Stand with built-in tap/chip readers €119 + VAT
Square Terminal €169 + VAT (our offer)

Square Reader costs €19 + VAT, and the optional Dock for charging and keeping the card reader in place costs €29 + VAT. The newest Square Stand (2nd generation), that accepts contactless and chip cards, is €119 + VAT. The first generation Square Stand is still sold for €79 + VAT (our offer), but it will be discontinued soon.

The general Point of Sale app is free. Additional employee permissions can be added for €25 + VAT per month per location (Team Plus subscription).

The specialised POS systems Square for Restaurants or Retail have a Free plan to get you started, but they do require a paid subscription for access to important features for retail (€49 + VAT per month per location plus a lower chip and tap rate) or hospitality (€69 + VAT per month per location).

There’s a free, basic online store plan, but you can upgrade to more features on paid ecommerce plans (€10-€60 per month on an annual plan).

Any third-party integrations are paid for separately through those other software platforms.

Square card reader

The most popular of the products is Square Reader, a pocket-sized card reader handy for contactless payments especially, though it accepts chip cards too.

It connects with a phone or tablet via Bluetooth, processing payments through an accompanying app. It works with iPad, iPhone and Android tablets or smartphones.

It is quite small at 66 x 66 x 10 mm and 56 g, but then you need the Square Point of Sale app (or the Square for Retail/Restaurants app) on a mobile device with Bluetooth activated to use it.

Photo: Emily Sorensen (ES), Mobile Transaction

Square Reader with card held in hand

Square Reader is quite small.

Square differs from other card readers in Ireland because customers need to enter their PIN on the touchscreen of the phone or tablet rather than a physical PIN pad.

This is referred to as PIN on COTS (PIN on commercial off-the-shelf devices), sometimes called PIN on glass even though that is different.

What’s more, the card reader has no display, meaning the transaction amount and tipping options are displayed only in the app.

Some don’t like inputting their PIN via software on a multi-use commercial device, but PIN on COTS is officially approved by the PCI Security Standards Council, so we do not see any cause for concern for merchants or payers.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

PIN entry happens in the connected app on the mobile device screen.

That said, we recommend positioning the mobile screen so it’s easy to shield the on-screen keypad during PIN entry, allowing customers to feel safe doing so.

Square POS app

The free POS app Point of Sale is a big draw. It has the widest breadth of free features in Ireland for managing sales and business operations from any compatible Android or Apple device.

Apart from accepting cards through the contactless and chip reader, you can manually enter card details, send invoices and accept cash as well as create custom discounts, add tips and split the tender so customers can pay some of the transaction with a card and the rest with cash. You can also sell digital gift cards to be redeemed in your store.

The product inventory is great for tablets especially, as you can view a neat table of products, the layout of 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 stock levels.

Mobile Transaction

Products in Square POS app.

Mobile Transaction

manual entry screen in Square POS app

Add a euro amount to bill.

Mobile Transaction

payment options in Square POS app

POS app’s payment options.

To get the most out of Square’s tools, we suggest adding all the items you sell to the library before using the app. This enables you to track product popularity and differentiate between items when processing a refund. And of course, it makes it easier at checkout to just tap the product rather than manually entering each item or calculating a sales total, which are both possible as well.

You can also take advantage of the customer library where customer profiles can be added. This allows you to attach people to specific transactions, get customer feedback, track product preferences and manage sales more efficiently.

Businesses can add staff accounts with limited permissions in the app. Creating a user account for each employee enables you to create time sheets in Square for tracking hours and overtime worked.

Restaurants can upgrade to Square for Restaurants and retailers to Square for Retail, with features tailored to those industries.

The highly customisable Restaurants EPOS has table plans, menu and course management options, a kitchen display system (KDS) and more. The Retail EPOS mainly offers more inventory and vendor management features and better reporting.

It’s not yet possible to integrate Square Payments with other POS systems in Ireland.

Square Reader vs Square Terminal

If a POS app on a mobile device is not for you, the card machine Square Terminal works independently. This is a touchscreen smart terminal with integrated POS features (similar to Point of Sale app) navigated directly on the card machine screen. It takes chip, contactless and swipe cards and accepts PIN codes on its touchscreen PIN pad, similar to how you would use a traditional card machine.

Square Reader Square Terminal
Square Reader Square Terminal
Price €19 + VAT €169 + VAT
Works without phone/tablet
Built-in receipt printer
Network Bluetooth to mobile device with 3G, 4G or WiFi WiFi, Ethernet only with additional Hub
Dimensions 66 x 66 x 10 mm 142.2 x 86.4 x 63.5 mm
Weight 56 g 417 g
Square
Reader
Square
Terminal
Square Reader Square Terminal
€19 + VAT €169 + VAT
Works without phone/tablet
Built-in receipt printer
Network
Bluetooth to mobile device with 3G, 4G or WiFi WiFi, Ethernet only with additional Hub
Size
66 x 66 x 10 mm 142.2 x 86.4 x 63.5 mm
Weight
56 g 417 g

Given the large touchscreen and integrated software, Square Terminal is much bigger than the credit card reader. It also has a built-in receipt printer so you don’t need a separate one connected.

While the card reader works with 3G, 4G and WiFi through a connected mobile device, Terminal only works with a secured WiFi connection. If you purchase a ‘Hub for Square Terminal’, it can be connected to an Ethernet cable as well.

In other words, Reader is more suitable for on-the-go payments and Terminal best for a fixed location or area with a closed WiFi setup.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

Square Terminal next to Square Reader

Square Terminal has Point of Sale app built in, while Square Reader only reads cards.

Square alternatives

So how does Square compare to other card payment services in Ireland? Its closest competitor is SumUp that, like Square, has pay-as-you-go fees without a monthly charge or lock-in. Clover’s touchscreen terminals may look similar, but they have various monthly fees and contractual commitment.

Popular SumUp Air has a PIN pad made of flat, touch-sensitive glass that’s easy to wipe. But Square Reader is smaller and comes with more POS app features.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

Square Reader next to SumUp Air

Square Reader (left) is smaller than SumUp Air (right).

As for standalone card machines, SumUp 3G and Solo are cheaper than Square Terminal, but their software is too basic for some merchants (e.g. there is no inventory or customer library). That said, Square Terminal only works with WiFi, not the mobile network like SumUp’s card machines.

If you’re planning to sell online or over the phone without a subscription, Square trumps all the alternatives in Ireland. We have simply not seen a better virtual terminal, ecommerce or payment link features more extensive at no monthly cost.

Hardware and accessories

For a full point of sale setup. you can wirelessly connect Square Reader with compatible receipt printers, kitchen printers (for restaurants), cash drawers and barcode scanners. What other accessories are available? The card reader dock can be attached to a countertop and keeps the reader charged all day.

Square Stand for iPad enables you to swivel the tablet screen to face the customer for PIN entry. In addition, it has a contactless reader and chip card slot built in so you don’t need an additional card reader next to it. But the stand is only compatible with 10.2” or 10.5” iPads, not Android or other iPad models.

Square-branded equipment generally looks very Apple-inspired – sleek and minimalistic – so prioritising iPad compatibility is not surprising.

Quite a few receipt printers work with the system, but some only work via Square Stand in which case you need to use iPad, not Android. There is also a compatible kitchen printer that can withstand heat, which is ideal for printing order tickets in hot restaurant kitchens.


Online payment options are varied

Square is a payment platform, first and foremost. Card machines are only part of the picture. In fact, the many remote and online payment options available for free through the dashboard (browser portal) or an app are second to none.

All Square merchants have free access to:

  • Basic online store builder
  • Online ordering page
  • Payment links
  • QR code payments
  • Email invoices (with dedicated app)
  • Virtual terminal for telephone payments
  • E-gift cards

Payment links and QR codes (Online Checkout) are accessed in the Point of Sale app or the Dashboard. Invoices can be sent from and managed in the Point of Sale app or through the dedicated Invoices app.

Image: Mobile Transaction

Square Online editor

Square Online lets you build and launch an online store via a simple website editor.

An online ordering web page can be created and linked to a QR code to display in store for contact-free ordering. The ordering page is also ideal for click-and-collect, or you can create a complete online store with shipping or collection options at checkout through Square Online.

The website builder is quite basic compared to a full-fledged ecommerce platform like Wix or Shopify, but it’ll do for merchants who just need an easy website for selling online. Plus, the online store can be connected to takeaway platforms through Deliverect, and many other ecommerce integrations are available to expand your online services.

Transactions over the phone or by mail order can be completed in the 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.

Reports and accounting

In any supported internet browser, you can log into your Square account and export data to Excel for accounting purposes. Because the system is cloud-based, the account is synced with shop activities in real time so you can always check in on how sales are going.

The POS app also shows transactions, payouts, amount of cash in the till drawer (if cash management is on) and sales reports you can email from the app.

Image: Mobile Transaction

Dashboard gives you an overview of sales from any web browser.

The analytics are in-depth compared to similar card reader services. Square Dashboard provides an overview of key sales data, but many more analytics are accessed in the reports section. You can, among other things, analyse employee sales, taxes, product categories and product modifiers applied to sales.

For more complex accounting features, the system integrates with Xero, FreshBooks and other supported software.

Who is it best for?

Square aims to suit every business type. Having tested the POS app, we can verify it’s especially useful in the retail and hospitality sectors – food-and-drink in particular – due to its comprehensive product library, checkout functions, tipping, analytics and staff management features.

Those selling at multiple locations can distinguish between sales at different locations. And let’s not forget the very small size of the card reader, which makes it the handiest for mobile payments at, for example, market stalls, home visits and conferences.

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

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

Square blends in completely with white surroundings.

Customer support, reviews and complaints

Square is available to phone or email between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. There is no weekend or evening support, which is fine if the system works, but not so good if you need support at night in a bar, for example.

Since Square only recently arrived in Ireland, very few Irish users have left a review of it. We can therefore not give an account of domestic user experiences, but UK and US reviews are largely positive. There have been complaints are about unresponsive customer service, account verification issues and in some rare cases, withheld payments, but Square Ireland may have a different standard.

What we can say is: the online resource section is comprehensive, with guides and articles covering many aspects of the products and features. Most merchants will be able to find an answer there, so you may not need to contact support.

Some users in other countries report having their account rejected out of the blue, but it appears many of them are types of businesses deemed as high risk. We strongly recommend reading the fine print of what trades Square does not allow to avoid having payments suddenly rejected.

Getting started

Before purchasing a card machine, you need to sign up for a Square account and connect your bank account. It typically takes four days to have a bank account verified, but you can still take payments before the verification is finalised. After completing the straightforward sign-up form, you can order a card reader.

It is not currently possible in Ireland to buy the products anywhere else than on Square’s website. Other countries sell the card reader on Amazon or local stores.

We connected a personal bank account with a history of receiving sole trader income, and this was verified after four days. To be accepted, Square requires that the bank account allows for both deposits and withdrawals to support the refund and chargeback system. Online-only accounts like PayPal are not supported, nor are prepaid card accounts. Furthermore, your bank account must operate in euros.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

Square Reader unboxing on a table

Our card reader arrived two days after ordering it online.

Our Square Reader order was a positive experience. We received the securely-packaged parcel two days after purchase. Prior to the free delivery, we got text notifications saying when it’ll arrive, with options to pick a specific time or request leaving it at a neighbour’s address.

When the account is set up, it’s time to download the Square Point of Sale app on your smartphone or tablet and log in. The card reader can then be connected to your mobile device via Bluetooth – and you’re ready to take your first payment.

Our verdict

If value for money is key to your choice of card reader, Square is one of the leading options in Ireland. It has the most free features for the price of a cheap card reader and fixed transaction rate (or you can even just use the app or online payment features without buying a card reader).

Square rating breakdown

Product: 4

Costs and fees: 4.2

Transparency and sign-up: 4.8

Value-added services: 4

Service and reviews: 3.5

Contract: 5

= 4.2 stars

A big advantage of Square is the many online payment tools available without a monthly fee, which makes you more resilient in the face of lockdowns and unpredictable business conditions.

Moreover, growing businesses can use Square with external software for e.g. inventory, scheduling, marketing and more, so you are never really limited if more advanced functions are required.

The pay-as-you-go structure with no contractual commitment makes it a good place to start at a low startup cost.

Pros

  • No monthly fee or contract

  • Superb, versatile free POS app

  • Great for contactless payments

  • Discreet card reader

  • Many online payment tools

Cons

  • Not yet enough Irish reviews to judge service

  • Some accessories only for iPad

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

  • Reader’s PIN entry may be awkward