Our rating(4.3/5)
Square Reader is the UK’s smallest card reader that works with an app.
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 card reader apps.
  • Highs: No monthly fee, competitive fixed transaction rate. Best free POS features. Online payments included.
  • Lows: Customer support could be more responsive. PIN entry on mobile screen could be a hassle. Only accepts most popular card brands.
  • Buy if: You want the smallest card reader and most comprehensive, free all-in-one payment system.

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  • Square Reader UK offer
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Lowdown

Square – sometimes called Squareup – was the first company in the world to release a card reader used in conjunction with a mobile app. 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 iPad, iPhone and Android tablets and smartphones.

Accepted cards

VisaMastercardV PayVisa ElectronMaestroAmerican ExpressApple PayGoogle PaySamsung PayContactless

Contactless payments of up to £100 just require a tap against the square-shaped terminal. As for chip and PIN cards, the PIN is entered on the phone’s or tablet’s touchscreen since there is no keypad 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 mobile device.

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 are just a fixed rate of 1.75% 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 through the app. No additional or monthly fees are charged on top of that.

Card payments Fee
Monthly fee None
Chip, contactless, swipe 1.75%
Ecommerce, payment links European cards: 1.9%
Non-European cards: 2.9%
Key-in, invoice, virtual terminal 2.5%
Instant Transfers 1% in addition to card fee
Refunds Free
Chargebacks Free
Card
payments
Fee
Monthly fee None
Chip, contactless, swipe 1.75%
Ecommerce, payment links European cards: 1.9%
Non-European cards: 2.9%
Key-in, invoice, virtual terminal 2.5%
Instant Transfers 1% in addition to card fee
Refunds Free
Chargebacks Free

All non-card reader payments are charged a higher rate. That is, keyed, virtual terminal and invoice payments cost 2.5% of the transaction amount (the keyed rate applies to both when the customer is and is not present).

Online payments through the online store, payment links and eGift Cards are 1.9% for European cards and 2.9% for non-European cards.

With Square, you don’t commit to a contract period, nor 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 soon as the next working day. This is automatic by default, 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 two 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. 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 £16 + VAT (our offer)
Magstripe Reader Free (comes with Square Reader)
Dock for Square Reader £25 + VAT
Square Stand with Square Reader & Dock £89 + VAT (our offer)
Square Register £599 + VAT (our offer)
Hardware Price
Square Reader £16 + VAT (our offer)
Magstripe Reader Free (comes with Square Reader)
Dock for Square Reader £25 + VAT
Square Stand with Square Reader & Dock £89 + VAT (our offer)
Square Register £599 + VAT (our offer)

Square Reader costs £16 + VAT, and the optional Dock for charging and keeping the card reader in place costs £25 + VAT. The Square Stand, including Square Reader and Dock, is currently £89 + VAT (offer here). The latest all-in-one touchscreen terminal with attached card machine, Square Register, costs a total of £599 + 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) and most of the online store plans. Any third-party integrations are paid for separately through those other software platforms.

Square’s card machine with POS screen: Square Terminal reviewed

Square card reader specs

The crown jewel of Square’s offering is Square Reader, the pocketable card reader ideal for contactless payments especially, though it accepts chip cards too.

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

Photo: Emily Sorensen (ES), Mobile Transaction

Square Reader size

Square Reader is quite small.

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. It only works with overseas cards without a chip, so the swipe reader is more of a backup solution for American tourists mostly.

Square differs from other card readers in the UK 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 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 transaction amount and tipping options are displayed only in the app.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

PIN entry happens in the Square Reader app on the smartphone or tablet screen.

Some have been concerned that inputting their PIN using software on a multi-use consumer device is not safe, but PIN on COTS is officially approved by the PCI Security Standards Council, so we do not see cause for concern for merchants or payers.

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.

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Compare the best card readers in 2021

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 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 1.9%–2.9%) 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.

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 time sheets so you can track hours and overtime worked.

Restaurants can upgrade to Square for Restaurants and retailers to Square for Retail, both with free and monthly subscriptions for features tailored to those industries. The Square Appointments scheduling system is also available for hairdressers, personal trainers and other professionals who need a booking system connected to payments.

Alternatively, Square Reader can integrate with an entirely different POS platform like Vend, Goodtill or TouchBistro.

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 Square 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 £16 + VAT £149 + VAT
Works without a smartphone/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
£16 + VAT £149 + VAT
Works without a smartphone/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 Square Reader, like a conventional card machine. It also has a built-in receipt printer so you don’t need a separate one.

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

In other words, Square 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 and Reader with pound coin

Square Terminal and Square Reader next to a pound coin.

Hardware and accessories

You can wirelessly connect Square Reader 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 a countertop and keeps the terminal charged all day.

Photo: Square

Square Reader on a counter

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 magnetic stripe cards. However, the stand is only compatible with certain iPads. Square-branded equipment generally looks very Apple-inspired – sleek and minimalistic – so prioritising iPad compatibility is not so surprising.

Quite a few receipt printers work with the Square system, but some only work via Square Stand in which case you need to use iPad, not Android. Countertop printers that do not need Square Stand include Star Micronics TSP143 and TSP654 models and Epson TM-T88V, among 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.

Alternatively, you can bypass Square Reader or Terminal entirely and get the all-in-one POS device called Square Register. This comes with a purpose-built tablet screen where you can use Square’s POS software only, without the need for an Android tablet or iPad. A small touchscreen card machine is attached to it as well.


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 Square Dashboard (browser portal) or an app is second to none.

All Square merchants have free access to:

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

Payment links and QR codes (Square 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 Square Invoices app.

A free 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.

Image: Mobile Transaction

QR code/payment link in Point of Sale app.

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

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

Square Dashboard home

Square Dashboard analytics give you an overview of sales from any web browser.

Square 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, Square can integrate with Xero, Zoho Books or other supported software.

Planning to sell online? Learn more about Square Online

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: Square

Square cafe counter

Square has been particularly popular with cafés and eateries.

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.

The majority of Square reviews are positive, but there is also a thread of negative user reviews in the UK. The main complaints are about unresponsive customer service, account verification issues and in some rare cases, withheld payments.

It appears that if you do get an issue to resolve, it can be difficult to get through to customer support on the phone and even online. Email replies are slow, and urgent issues are not always dealt with promptly.

Some users report having their account rejected out of the blue (even after they’ve started selling), but it appears many of them are types of businesses that Square deems 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 the terminal, 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 the card reader.

We used 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 GBP.

Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction

Square Reader unpacking

Our card reader arrived two days after ordering it online.

Ordering the Square Reader went smoothly and postage was free. We received it two days after purchase via DPD. Prior to delivery, we received text notifications stating when it’ll arrive, to pick a specific time (from a selection of hours) with the option to request leaving it at the neighbour’s if needed. The parcel was wrapped up well – all in all a positive experience.

When the Square 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 the UK. 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).

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

Moreover, growing businesses can use Square in conjunction with external software for e.g. inventory, scheduling, marketing and much 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

  • Fast payouts

  • Superb, versatile free POS app

  • Great for contactless payments

  • Discreet card reader

  • Many online payment tools

Cons

  • Customer support could be better

  • Some accessories only for iPad

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

  • PIN entry may be fiddly