Our rating(4/5)
Square Reader is the UK’s smallest card reader, but is the in-app PIN pad practical?
Square Reader is the first keypad-less card reader in the UK that works with a smartphone or tablet. For just a flat 1.75% rate per transaction, Square gives you more tools and features than any other free payment apps.
  • Highs: Competitive, flat rate on all cards. Best free app features. Virtual terminal and invoicing included.
  • Lows: PIN entry on mobile screen could be a hassle. Customer support could be more responsive. Only accepts most popular card brands.
  • Buy if: You want the smallest card reader and/or the most POS features for free.

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  • Square Reader price
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Lowdown

Square – or Squareup as it is sometimes called – was one of the first companies to release a card reader used in conjunction with a mobile device. In 2017, Square Reader for chip and contactless cards arrived in the UK.

Square Reader connects with a phone or tablet via Bluetooth, processing payments through an accompanying app. It works with most iOS and Android tablets and phones today.

Accepted cards

VisaMastercardV PayVisa ElectronMaestroAmerican ExpressApple PayGoogle PaySamsung PayContactless

Contactless payments just require a tap near 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 complete POS system with functions helping you run any type of business from just your tablet or phone.

The card reader accepts 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.

Charges are simple and transparent

Square card reader fees is just a fixed-rate 1.75% per chip and PIN and contactless payment 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 on top of that for the core payment features.

Card payments Fee
Chip, contactless, swipe 1.75%
Key-in, invoice, ecommerce, virtual terminal 2.5%
Instant Deposits 1% in addition to card fee
Refunds Free
Chargebacks Free
Card
payments
Fee
Chip, contactless, swipe 1.75%
Key-in, invoice, ecommerce, virtual terminal 2.5%
Instant Deposits 1% in addition to card fee
Refunds Free
Chargebacks Free

Payments where the customer is not present are charged a higher rate, i.e. every keyed-in, ecommerce and invoice payment costs 2.5% of the transaction amount. The keyed rate applies to both when the customer is and is not present.

With Square, you don’t commit to a contract period, neither do you need to sell every month or have certain sales volumes to qualify for the card rates.

Nothing is charged for refunds 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 fast as the next working day – by default automatically, but you can also set it to manual deposits if that simplifies bookkeeping.

Square also offers Instant Transfers, a setting that enables you to receive transactions within 20 minutes (may take up to 2 hours) – if your bank is a Direct Participant of Faster Payments. This costs an extra 1% of the transaction amount, i.e. a total of 2.75% for card reader payments and 3.5% for key-in payments. Note that merchants may not have access to this feature before they have a sufficient sales history in the Square account.

Hardware Price
Square Reader £19 + VAT (our offer)
Magstripe Reader Free (comes with Square Reader)
Dock for Square Reader £19 + VAT
Square Stand with Square Reader & Dock £109 + VAT (our offer)
Hardware Price
Square Reader £19 + VAT (our offer)
Magstripe Reader Free (comes with Square Reader)
Dock for Square Reader £19 + VAT
Square Stand with Square Reader & Dock £109 + VAT (our offer)

Square Reader costs £19 + VAT, and the optional Dock for charging and keeping the card reader in place costs £19 + VAT. The Square Stand, including Square Reader and Dock, is currently £109 + VAT (offer here).

As for the Point of Sale app, features are free except for additional employee permissions costing £20 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 new card machine with POS screen: Square Terminal reviewed

Taking a payment

To start a sale, you can either enter the total sales 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 payment. 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.

Photo: Emily Sorensen (ES), Mobile Transaction

Square Reader contactless card payment

Contactless payments with Square Reader are effortless – just tap and go.

Where Square differs from other card readers in the UK is that customers need to enter their PIN on the touchscreen of the phone or tablet rather than a separate keypad for PINs – this is referred to as ‘PIN on COTS’ (PIN on consumer off-the-shelf devices), sometimes called ‘PIN on glass’ even though that is different. Also, the Square card reader has no display, meaning the amount is displayed only in the app.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

PIN entry happens in the Square Reader app on the smartphone or tablet screen, as seen here.

Some have been concerned that inputting their PIN using software on a multi-use consumer device is not safe. Protecting the PIN 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.

Square Stand with customer

Square Stand swivels the iPad to face the customer when a PIN or swipe is required (there’s a magstripe slot at the front).

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, so this should not be a major issue unless you have lots of overseas customers using swipe.

Which is the best card reader in the UK? Square ranks in the top alongside iZettle and SumUp.

Compare the best card readers in 2020

Square iZettle SumUp readers

POS app features

The free Square Reader app called ‘Point of Sale’ is one of Square’s biggest draws. Out of all POS apps in the UK, it has all the widest breadth of free features for managing sales and business operations from any compatible Android or Apple device.

Apart from accepting cards through the contactless/chip Square Reader and the magnetic stripe 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 (costs 1.75%) sent via email, 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.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

Square Reader app

Add products, apply discounts, view stock levels, and distinguish between product types.

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.

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