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–£169 £19–£199
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–£169 £19–£199
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: £19
Standalone terminal* SumUp 3G: £99
3G + Printer: £169 £129
Square Terminal: £199
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: £19
Standalone terminal*
SumUp 3G: £99
SumUp 3G + Printer: £169 £129
Square Terminal: £199
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 £19 + VAT for Square Reader. SumUp App and Square Point of Sale app are free to use with the readers.

Square Terminal is the priciest device at £199 + 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 £169 (£129 on offer) + VAT. Without the printer attachment, SumUp 3G costs £99 + 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.