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With an expected $30 billion of transactions going through its Reader and Stand this year, Square has won the heart of many businesses but also generated some frustration. Read on to get the breakdown of the good and not so great of Squares features and functionality, and decide if Square is the product for your business.

When founded in 2009 by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Square challenged the point-of-sale solution systems available in the US, transforming the iPod Touch into an mPOS system. Since then, Square has aimed to be in the forefront in the mobile and cloud-based payment game.

What does Square have to offer?

With the latest technology, getting paid anytime, anywhere is no longer a question if, but how. Square is one alternative on a long list of players present in the mobile payments market, as it has both hardware and software solutions that turn your smartphone or tablet into a mobile point-of-sale system.

Its transparent fee structure is a big plus, and so is the ability to accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express both online and offline.

Hardware: Nimble Square Reader and sleek Square Stand

In terms of hardware, Square has two products: the Square Reader (card reader) and the Square Stand. The Square Reader is mailed for free for business or individuals who sign up, or they can choose to pick it up from a participating retail store. The reader plugs into a mobile device’s headset jack and allows users to accept credit card payments.

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The Square Stand, on the other hand, is the hardware that aims to transform your iPad into a point-of-sale system.

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It is compatible with the iPad 2 or later (Lightning support was added in July 2014, making it compatible with the iPad 4 and iPad Air), has a built-in card reader. It comes with a USB hardware hub that helps users connect other devices to the mPOS system, such as a receipt printer, cash drawer, or bar-code scanner.

Software: feature rich Square Register

On the software side, Square has multiple solutions: Square Register helps you transform your mobile device into an mPOS system, and beyond that there are Square Market, Square Cash, and Square Order.

Square Register allows you to keep track of your inventory, and track sales and trends. For more powerful accounting, you can sync with QuickBooks, Xero, and Snitch Labs.

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To get started, you need to create and activate a Square account (business or individual). You will be requested to provide some basic information about your business, the last four digits of your SSN number, and a valid email address.

When activation is complete, you receive your free, PCI-compliant Square reader by mail within ten business days or purchase a Square Stand for $99.

It is worth noting here that while you are creating your Square profile, you have the option to publish your profile to Square Market, an online marketplace for businesses using Square.

Compatibility: check your device

An important note, though: not all mobile devices are compatible with Square. Support is limited to the iPhone 3GS and later, iPad 2 and later running iOS 6 or higher.

As for Google Android devices, the reader is compatible with handsets and tablets running Google Android 4.0 or higher and a 3.5 mm headset jack with microphone and location service enabled. Compatible tablets include Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and 10.1, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, 3 and 4.

A simple and transparent fee structure

Like the majority of mPOS solution companies, Square doesn’t lock its clients into long-term contracts and doesn’t have early termination fees; instead, it has standard fees for every transaction.

For every enrolled user, Square applies the same standard pricing: 2.75% for every swiped transaction, paid Square invoice or Square Market order, and 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed transactions.

The fees are higher compared to other competitors such as Innerfence and PayPal Here, though the difference to PayPal Here is only 0.05%, and Innerfence would only work out cheaper with relatively high volume.

Like other players, Square accepts cards from every major card issuers: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.

Getting paid

When you activate your Square account, you also accept that for transactions greater than $15 you must offer a written receipt. The buyer can decline it, of course.  You also agree to get buyers to sign any transaction greater than $25.

Since accessing funds quickly is important for every business, speed is something you should keep in mind when choosing the right mPOS service.

As for Square, if you have taken a payment before 5 p.m., PT, the funds will be deposited on the next business day to your bank account. If the transaction took place after 5 p.m., you’d see those funds deposited on the second business day.

Security

Square’s card-processing systems comply with the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) and also use standard, well-reviewed cryptographic protocols and message formats such as SSL and PGP when transferring data.

Customer service

The company provides enough information to get started, and if you get stuck somewhere, you can browse the Help Center, which provides both videos and detailed guidelines for troubleshooting.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Feature rich cloud-based software
  • No monthly fees
  • Transparent fee structure
  • Accepts major cards: Visa, MasterCard, Discovery and American Express

Cons

  • High fees compared to some of the competition