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, business account 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: 1.75%
Online: 1.9%–2.9%
Virtual terminal: 2.5%
Card machines* £39–£129 £16–£149
POS systems SumUp App (free)
SumUp Point of Sale
Square Point of Sale (free)
Square for Restaurants
Square for Retail
Square Appointments
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, business account 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: 1.75%
Online: 1.9%–2.9%
Virtual terminal: 2.5%
Card machines*
£39–£129 £16–£149
POS systems
SumUp App (free)
SumUp Point of Sale
Square Point of Sale (free)
Square for Restaurants
Square for Retail
Square Appointments
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 different card machines: some that work with an app and others that work on their 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 with any of the Square POS apps downloaded: the free Point of Sale (iPad, iPhone or Android), Square for Restaurants (iPad only), Retail (iPad or iPhone) or Appointments (iOS or Android).

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

Photo: Mobile Transaction

Square Reader held in hand

Square Reader is very small and lightweight.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

SumUp Air held in hand

SumUp Air has a flat 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 Solo card reader does this through a built-in SIM card with unlimited data for 4G connectivity – and it connects to WiFi too. This means you can take card payments anywhere with internet, even if the mobile network is weak.

Although it has a pretty touchscreen instead of physical buttons, Solo’s functions are quite basic: you simply enter the transaction amount on the screen, tap or insert a card and send a digital receipt following a transaction.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

SumUp Solo on orange background

SumUp Solo includes a small stand so it sits nicely on a flat surface.

A slightly older, mobile terminal model is the SumUp 3G and Printer bundle with a card reader and receipt printer attachment that also keeps the reader charged all day.

Square just has one standalone card machine: Square Terminal. It 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 won’t work with mobile networks out and about. In other words, it’s made 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 it does not connect to a till. Rather, it works well as a portable checkout or small POS-and-payments terminal on a countertop.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

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 an iPad stand (Square Stand) with card acceptance built in, as well as a grey Square Register with a large touchscreen so you don’t need a commercial tablet for the POS software. The mobile card readers 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.

But we should note: SumUp’s card machines accept more card brands – Diners Club, Discover and JCB on top of the other major card brands accepted by both.

Fees: pay as you go, with small differences

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: £39 Square Reader: £16
Standalone terminal* SumUp Solo: £79
SumUp 3G & Printer: £129
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 Business Account
(next day)
1% added to transactions
(instant)
Chargebacks £10 each Free
Refunds Free within 1-3 days, transaction fee retained after that Free

*Excluding VAT.

SumUp Square
Card reader with app*
SumUp Air: £39 Square Reader: £16
Standalone terminal*
SumUp Solo: £79
SumUp 3G & Printer: £129
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 Business Account (next day) 1% added to transaction fee (instant)
Chargebacks
£10 each Free
Refunds
Free within 1-3 days, transaction fee retained after that Free

*Excluding VAT.

The app-dependent card readers are the cheapest: £39 + VAT for SumUp Air and £16 + VAT for Square Reader. Both have free payment apps to go with them.

Square Terminal comes in at £149 + VAT, but it does have a built-in receipt printer and touchscreen display with POS software installed. The closest SumUp gets to that is the SumUp 3G and Printer package for £129 + VAT. SumUp Solo does not have a receipt printer, which is why it’s cheaper at £79 + VAT.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

blue 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’s chip and tap transactions cost 1.75%, also regardless of the card type.

Keyed card payments via the virtual terminal, POS app or invoices incur a fixed rate of 2.5% through Square. Online store, payment link, QR code and e-gift transactions are 1.9% for European cards and 2.9% for non-European card payments via Square.

SumUp charges 2.5% for payment link, QR code, online store, invoice and gift card payments, and 2.95% + 25p for keyed transactions.

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 Business Account that comes with a Prepaid Mastercard, you always get access to transactions the following day (incl. weekends) in an online account.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

Square POS iPad product library

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 has more features for inventory, employee management (incl. timesheets), 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 online) from the till. These functions are lacking in SumUp App.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

Air reader and SumUp App on an iPad

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

SumUp offers a more advanced POS system: SumUp Point of Sale (previously Goodtill). It has modules of specialised features to add to a ‘Core POS’ module, so the total cost per month depends on your needs. Alternatively, SumUp integrates with Lightspeed, Loyverse, Nobly or Vend.

Square has three upgrade options: Square for Restaurants, Square for Retail and Square Appointments. You can also connect the card reader with TouchBistro and Vend POS systems.

The Square platform can be extended with dozens of different third-party apps for advanced functions like inventory management, online ordering, ecommerce, accounting and marketing. But you may not be dependent on integrations since additional tools are continually being added to the platform, such as Square Marketing and Loyalty.

SumUp only connects with the above POS systems and PrestaShop as the only ecommerce platform – no accounting systems. Instead, SumUp tries to offer a broad enough toolset within the platform, like the accounting software that’s currently being rolled out among users.

Remote payments included, but more with Square

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: Links for transactions, individual products & donations (created in app or browser) to send, text or share online. Embeddable pay buttons. QR codes to share or print. Mobile Payments: Links for transactions (created in app) sent as SMS or shared via email or app. QR codes to share or print.
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, takeaway & pickup. Online Store: Create basic web store page from app or web. Basic delivery & pickup options.
Invoices
Invoices: Send email invoices from app & browser (free & paid plan). Dedicated invoice app. Invoices: Send email invoices from app & browser. Create credit notes, quotes & delivery notes in browser.
Square SumUp
Payment links
Online Checkout: Links for transactions, individual products & donations (created in app or browser) to send, text or share online. Embeddable pay buttons. QR codes to share or print. Mobile Payments: Links for transactions (created in app) sent as SMS or shared via email or app. QR codes to share or print.
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, takeaway & pickup. Online Store: Create basic web store page from app or web. Basic delivery & pickup options.
Invoices
Invoices: Send email invoices from app & browser (free & paid plan). Dedicated invoice app. Invoices: Send email invoices from app & browser. Create credit notes, quotes & delivery notes in 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 deposits, sending estimates and recurring billing. Advanced features like payment milestones, project folders and custom fields on invoices can be added for £20 per month.

SumUp also has email invoices, but not with its own app. The free invoicing software in SumUp Dashboard is, however, quite varied and complete. You can, for example, send credit notes which is not possible with Square.

Image: Mobile Transaction

Square Online website editing settings

Square Online has quite a basic website editor, but it works well for simple ecommerce sites.

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, drop-off or delivery orders, and you can sell e-gift cards online. This can be combined with QR codes printed off so customers can order from their tables.

In comparison, SumUp Online Store offers an extremely fast way to create a very basic store page with a unique URL to share online. Customers can then order items for shipping, delivery or pickup. SumUp is planning to release paid ecommerce plans for more ambitious online stores, but it is not rolled out yet.

Square Online Checkout lets you create payment links (or QR codes) for individual products, transactions, 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 are sent from its POS checkout via text, social apps or email. You can also generate QR codes to place around your premises for a fixed or open amount, or show a QR code on your checkout screen for customers to scan at the till.

Square grows with you, 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.

Square has considerably more till features and payment tools than SumUp, particularly for food and drink. Growing businesses can even connect Square with industry-specific POS systems and myriads of other software. SumUp has few integration options, so your POS system and online features are more limited.

But we did notice that SumUp includes different online features in its app than Square has in its own. Mobile SumUp merchants can access the virtual terminal and business account or create a basic online store from the SumUp app, none of which you can do in Square’s app.

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, till requirements and whether you want to use the payment system long-term. While Square is expandable but user-friendly, SumUp is slightly cheaper and better for merchants who don’t want too many bells and whistles.