Square and SumUp offer similar products to small businesses, but with crucial distinctions in the UK.

American Square was the first to introduce an app-based card reader in 2009; then German SumUp launched their own in 2012. SumUp targeted European merchants who wanted to get paid simply, while Square pioneered easy access to payment tools – two sides of the same coin, but it shapes their products differently.

Both are now suited for in-person and remote payments with ecommerce options. So what are the potential deal-breakers?

SumUp Square
Products Card processing, card machines, EPOS, payment tools Card processing, card machines, EPOS, payment tools
Contract No lock-in, pay-as-you-go No lock-in, pay-as-you-go
Card rate Chip, tap: 1.69%
Online: 2.5%
Virtual terminal: 2.95% + 25p
Chip, tap, swipe: 1.75%
Online: 1.9%–2.9%
Virtual terminal: 2.5%
Card machines* £29–£149 £16–£149
POS systems SumUp App (free) Square Point of Sale (free)
Square for Restaurants
Square for Retail
Remote payments Payment links, online store, virtual terminal, invoicing, gift cards Payment links, online store, virtual terminal, invoicing, gift cards
Payouts 1-3 working days
1 day with SumUp Card
1-2 working days
0 days with Instant Transfers
Accepted cards VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressDiners ClubDiscoverJCB VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican Express
Contactless ContactlessApple PayGoogle Pay ContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

*Pricing excludes VAT.

SumUp Square
Products
Card processing, card machines, EPOS, payment tools Card processing, card machines, EPOS, payment tools
Contract
No lock-in, pay-as-you-go No lock-in, pay-as-you-go
Transaction fee
Chip, tap: 1.69%
Online: 2.5%
Virtual terminal: 2.95% + 25p
Chip, tap, swipe: 1.75%
Online: 1.9%–2.9%
Virtual terminal: 2.5%
Card machines*
£29–£149 £16–£149
POS systems
SumUp App (free) Square Point of Sale (free)
Square for Restaurants
Square for Retail
Remote payments
Payment links, online store, virtual terminal, invoicing, gift cards Payment links, online store, virtual terminal, invoicing, gift cards
Payouts
1-3 working days
1 day with SumUp Card
1-2 working days
0 days with Instant Transfers
VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressDiners ClubDiscoverJCB VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican Express
ContactlessApple PayGoogle Pay ContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

*Pricing excludes VAT.

Very different card readers

The payment platforms sell two fundamentally different card machines: one that works with an app and another that works on its own.

SumUp’s Air reader connects to an iPhone, iPad or Android tablet or smartphone with SumUp App downloaded. It uses the mobile device’s internet connection to process payments online and keep transactions synced in the cloud. SumUp Air has a keypad for PIN entry and accepts chip and contactless card payments.

Square Reader also connects to an app on a compatible mobile device, but there’s a choice of apps: the free Square Point of Sale app for iPad, iPhone or Android device, Square for Restaurants for iPad only, or Square for Retail  for iPad only.

As with SumUp Air, Square Reader uses the phone’s or tablet’s 3G, 4G or WiFi connection to process transactions from the till app. However, Square Reader does not have a physical PIN pad, so customers have to enter their PIN in the Square app on your phone or tablet.

Photo: Square

Square Reader contactless

Square Reader is very small and lightweight.

Photo: SumUp

SumUp Air has a physical PIN pad.

Then you have the standalone card terminals that are more expensive because they connect directly to the internet to process payments.

The SumUp 3G card reader does this through a built-in SIM card with unlimited data for 3G connectivity – and it connects to WiFi too. This means you can take card payments anywhere with connectivity, even if the mobile network is weak.

Its card reader functions are quite basic: you simply enter the transaction amount, tap or insert a card and send a digital receipt following a transaction. There is also a charging and printing module that can be attached to the card reader for paper receipts and keeping the terminal charged all day.

Square Terminal only works with a closed WiFi network or broadband connection through an additional adaptor and cable (extra cost). Square Terminal does not have a SIM card, so it doesn’t work with mobile networks out and about. This means it is mainly intended for portability around your business premises, not in random locations at, for example, a client’s house.

Square Terminal is a smart POS terminal with a large touchscreen. The software on the card machine is basically the same as the Square Point of Sale app, but the terminal does not connect with a till point. It is intended as a standalone, portable checkout to carry around or as a small checkout-and-payments terminal on a small countertop.

Photo: Square

Square Terminal chip card

Square Terminal works with WiFi only.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

SumUp 3G and printer cradle

SumUp 3G with printing and charging cradle.

Apart from these card payment devices, Square has a small credit card swiper that comes free with Square Reader, and there’s an iPad stand (Square Stand) with a swipe slot at the front. SumUp Air and Square Reader can be purchased with a charging dock; ideal for a fixed till layout.

You can connect cash drawers, receipt printers and a barcode scanner to the app-based card readers, but Square is compatible with more hardware. For example, you can connect a kitchen printer to Square, enabling restaurants and quick-service ordering to run smoothly. SumUp Air only connects with a small selection of receipt printers, not kitchen printers.

Both pay-as-you-go, but costs differ slightly

Neither SumUp nor Square requires contractual commitment or monthly fees. Instead, you create a free account, purchase a card machine upfront and pay only a fixed transaction rate for successful payments.

There is no minimum monthly sales volume required or fixed monthly fees for the basic point of sale (POS) apps.

Costs SumUp Square
Card reader with app* SumUp Air: £29 Square Reader: £16
Standalone terminal* SumUp 3G: £99
3G + Printer: £149
Square Terminal: £149
Chip, tap transactions 1.69% 1.75%
Ecommerce, link transactions 2.5% European cards: 1.9%
Non-European cards: 2.9%
Invoice transactions 2.5% 2.5%
Virtual terminal transactions 2.95% + 25p 2.5%
Faster transfers Free to SumUp Card
(next day)
1% added to transactions
(instant)
Chargebacks £10 each Free
Refunds Free within 1-3 days, 1.69% after Free

*Excluding VAT.

SumUp Square
Card reader with app*
SumUp Air: £29 Square Reader: £16
Standalone terminal*
SumUp 3G: £99
SumUp 3G + Printer: £149
Square Terminal: £149
Chip, tap transactions
1.69% 1.75%
Ecommerce, link transactions
2.5% European cards: 1.9%
Non-European cards: 2.9%
Invoice transactions
2.5% 2.5%
Virtual terminal transactions
2.95% + 25p 2.5%
Faster transfers
Free to SumUp Card (next day) 1% added to transaction fee (instant)
Chargebacks
£10 each Free
Refunds
Free within 1-3 days, 1.69% after Free

*Excluding VAT.

The app-dependent card readers are the cheapest card terminals: £29 + VAT for SumUp Air and £16 + VAT for Square Reader. SumUp App and Square Point of Sale app are free to use with the readers.

Square Terminal comes in at £149 + VAT, but it does come with a built-in receipt printer and touchscreen display with POS software installed. The closest SumUp gets to that is a SumUp 3G and Printer package for £149 + VAT.

Image: SumUp

SumUp Card

Receive next-day payments with SumUp Card.

All transactions through SumUp’s card machines cost 1.69% regardless of the card brand, country of issue or type of card (e.g. premium, consumer, business). Square transactions through the card machines cost 1.75%, also regardless of card type.

Keyed-in card payments via the virtual terminal and invoices incur a fixed rate of 2.5% through Square. Online store, payment link and e-gift card transactions are 1.9% for European cards and 2.9% for non-European card payments via Square. SumUp charges 2.5% for payment links, ecommerce, invoicing and gift card payments, and 2.95% + 25p for virtual terminal payments.

Square does not charge for refunds or chargebacks, but SumUp has a £10 chargeback fee. If you refund a transaction within 1-3 days (before the payout is settled), the refund has no charge with SumUp – otherwise, it costs the original transaction fee. Square charges nothing for refunds. Neither platform charges for standard payouts to your bank account.

Square does, however, offer Instant Transfers for 1% per transaction transferred to your bank account immediately (optional setting) – otherwise, it takes 1-2 working days to settle payments in your linked bank account. With SumUp, settlement takes 1-3 working days, but with the complimentary SumUp Card (a Prepaid Mastercard), you always get access to transactions the following day (incl. weekends) in an online SumUp account.

Photo: Square

Square Point of Sale (pictured) has more till features than SumUp App.

More POS features through Square

There are enough POS features in the free apps to run a micro-business, but the most advanced of the two is Square Point of Sale.

Both have an inventory library with product variants, images and VAT rates. There are options for tipping, accepting cash and refunding payments, and transactions and payout statuses can be accessed in the apps. Staff members can have their own logins with restricted access to certain features.

On top of that, Square POS has more features for inventory, employee management, keying in card details at the till (instead of using the card reader), splitting the tender, attaching customers to bills, discounting, marking transactions for eat-in, delivery, pick-up or takeaway, and more. You can view sales reports in the Square POS app and sell or accept gift cards (physical or email gift cards) from the till. It even works offline, as long as you don’t need to accept cards or access past sales data. These functions are lacking in the SumUp App.

SumUp App is a simple checkout system without in-depth inventory features.

In the UK, SumUp App can’t be upgraded to a more advanced POS system, but you can integrate the Air reader with Goodtill, Lightspeed, Loyverse, Nobly or Vend. Square has two upgrade options: Square for Restaurants and Square for Retail. You can also connect Square Reader with Goodtill, TouchBistro and Vend POS systems.

The Square platform can be extended with dozens of different third-party apps for many advanced functions like inventory management, online ordering, ecommerce, scheduling software, accounting and marketing. SumUp only connects with the above POS systems – not even an accounting system – so you’re limited to e.g. the marketing and ecommerce functions on SumUp’s own platform.

Remote payments included, but Square more advanced

Square and SumUp merchants benefit from multiple ways to get paid remotely, but they have slightly different features.

The overall payment methods overlap (see table below), but Square tends to have more advanced features within each method.

Square SumUp
Payment links
Online Checkout: Fixed links for individual products & donations (created in browser) to send or publish online. Embeddable pay buttons. Mobile Payments: Links for transactions (created in app) sent as SMS or shared via email or app. QR codes for customers to scan for link.
Over-the-phone payments
Virtual Terminal: Available in web browser. Linked with product library. Set up recurring payments (card on file). Virtual Terminal: Available in app & web browser. Only basic details entered.
Ecommerce
Online: Full-fledged online store builder (free & paid plans). Free online ordering page for delivery & pickup. Online Store Starter: Create basic web store page from app. Includes ordering for delivery & pickup.
Invoices
Invoices: Send email invoices from app & browser. Dedicated invoice app available. Invoices: Send email invoices from app & browser. Create credit notes from browser.
Square SumUp
Payment links
Online Checkout: Fixed links for individual products & donations (created in browser) to send or publish online. Embeddable pay buttons. Mobile Payments: Links for transactions (created in app) sent as SMS or shared via email or app. QR codes for customers to scan for link.
Over-the-phone payments
Virtual Terminal: Available in web browser. Linked with product library. Set up recurring payments (card on file). Virtual Terminal: Available in app & web browser. Only basic details entered.
Ecommerce
Online: Full-fledged online store builder (free & paid plans). Free online ordering page for delivery & pickup. Online Store Starter: Create basic web store page from app. Includes ordering for delivery & pickup.
Invoices
Invoices: Send email invoices from app & browser. Dedicated invoice app available. Invoices: Send email invoices from app & browser. Create credit notes from browser.

Square has spent years adding remote payment options, so their functions are much more developed than SumUp’s. That said, SumUp is catching up with online payments prioritising ease of use over complexity.

For example, Square Virtual Terminal allows you to split the payment into different payment methods, itemise bills with existing products from your library, set up recurring payments associated with a customer profile (with a card on file function), and more. You can only add an amount, description and payment details in SumUp’s Virtual Terminal.

Square Invoices has its own app for managing invoices and taking deposit amounts, sending estimates and recurring billing. You can also send email invoices from the Square POS app or browser dashboard. SumUp also has email invoices, but not with its own app. In the SumUp dashboard, you can send credit notes from the invoice section, which is not possible with Square.

Square Online is a complete online store platform for any type of business.

Square Online is a website builder that can be used for free with limited features, or on paid plans for a professional-looking website. The free version lets you create an online ordering page for click and collect or delivery orders, and you can sell e-gift cards online. QR codes can be printed off for customers to scan on your premises for table-side ordering.

In the past year, SumUp Online Store Starter was added as an extremely simple way to create a basic store page in minutes. This is just a web page with a unique URL to post online. Customers can then order items for shipping, delivery or pickup. SumUp is planning to release paid ecommerce plans for professional online stores, but it is not yet rolled out.

Square Online Checkout lets you create payment links for individual products, donations (open or fixed amounts) or buy buttons to embed on your existing website. Online purchases through the links are managed in a dedicated orders section in the Dashboard. SumUp’s payment links, Mobile Payments, are sent from the SumUp App checkout via text, social apps or email. You can also generate a QR code at checkout for the customer to scan in person from your mobile screen.

Square grows with business, SumUp sticks to convenience

SumUp and Square excel at making payments extremely accessible for small businesses. It’s quick to sign up online, affordable to get a card reader, and their software is some of the most user-friendly for even non-techy merchants. You get no long-term contract, fixed monthly fee (unless subscribing to Square’s paid upgrades) or complicated fees – just a few predictable card rates.

On the whole, Square has considerably more till features and payment tools than SumUp, particularly for food and drink. Growing businesses can even connect Square with an external POS system and myriads of other software. SumUp lacks in this department, as it only integrates with certain till systems and nothing else, so you’re limited with the POS and online features on the SumUp platform.

However, we’ve noticed SumUp includes more remote payment features in SumUp App than Square has in its own. Mobile SumUp merchants can access the virtual terminal, send payment links and create a basic online store from the app, which Square can’t.

Then again, Square has its own app for invoicing and staff management, plus sales reports in the app. Square merchants also have lots of tools in the online dashboard for business owners to expand online and analyse sales from afar.

Your choice of platform depends on how you plan to use a card machine, how advanced the till should be, and whether you want to use the payment system long-term. While Square is expandable but simple, SumUp is slightly cheaper and better for merchants who don’t want too many bells and whistles.