Square’s idea was a stroke of genius in its simplicity: use your smartphone or tablet to accept credit and debit card payments.

But in the US, businesses looking for mobile credit card processing solutions have an increasing number of alternatives to choose from. PayPal’s own card reader solution called PayPal Here might be the best-known, but other players have entered the market too. Some, like Flint and Amazon Local Register, have shut down.

Here, we list the most viable alternatives to Square in 2020.

ProviderPriceOngoing costsTo site
PayPal Here$19.99 – $99.99No monthly fees
Pay-as-you-go
SumUp$69 $19No monthly fees
Pay-as-you-go
Intuit GoPaymentFree – $49$20/mo or pay-as-you-go
PayAnywhere Free – $49.95Pay-as-you-go, but $3.99/mo after 12 months’ inactivity
Clover$69 $14-$29/mo
Cancellable contract
BrandPricingLink
PayPal HereTerminal: $19.99-$99.99
No monthly fees
Pay-as-you-go
SumUpTerminal: $69 $19
No monthly fees
Pay-as-you-go
Intuit GoPaymentTerminal: $0-$49
$20/mo or pay-as-you-go
PayAnywhereTerminal: $0-$49.95
Pay-as-you-go, but $3.99/mo after 12 months’ inactivity
CloverTerminal: $69
$14-$29/mo
Cancellable contract

PayPal Here – payouts in online account

PayPal Here has managed to stay in business, offering pay-as-you-go card readers with no monthly fees or contractual commitment.

PayPal’s combined swipe, tap and dip card readers are fairly reliable, although the Chip Card Reader (with keypad) is not the most elegant. The Chip and Tap Reader, on the other hand, looks like a black Square Reader – but accepts magnetic stripe as well as EMV and contactless cards.

Payouts automatically go to your online PayPal account. If you don’t mind manual transfers to your bank account, then PayPal Here offers a fairly competitive way to take cards in person.

Photo: PayPal

PayPal Here Chip and Tap Reader with iPad

The PayPal Here Chip and Tap Reader accepts swipe, chip dip and contactless card payments.

The small swipe card reader (called PayPal Mobile Card Reader), that connects through an audio jack, is sold for $19.99, but the all-in-one Chip and Tap Reader for $59.99 is a better investment.

The app used to be fairly basic, but has evolved, and there’s plenty of backend integrations too.

PayPal Here charges
Mobile Card Reader (swipe)$19.99
Chip & Swipe Reader (swipe, chip)$24.99
Chip & Tap Reader (swipe, chip, tap)$59.99
Chip Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap, keypad)$99.99
Swipe, dip & tap transaction rate2.7%
Cross-border fee+1.5%
Keyed-in transaction rate3.5% + 15¢
PayPal
Here
charges
Mobile Card Reader (swipe)$19.99
Chip & Swipe Reader (swipe, chip)$24.99
Chip & Tap Reader (swipe, chip, tap)$59.99
Chip Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap, keypad)$99.99
Swipe, dip & tap transaction rate2.7%
Cross-border fee+1.5%
Keyed-in transaction rate3.5% + 15¢

The standard rate for swipe and dip is 2.7%. Keep in mind that for international cards issued outside the US, you pay an additional cross-border fee of 1.5%. You can key in cards for 3.5% + $0.15.

Full review of PayPal Here

Full comparison with Square

SumUp – low cost, simple fees

German SumUp offers an all-in-one swipe, dip and tap card reader that looks very much like Square Reader. The transaction rate is 2.65% for magstripe, chip and contactless cards – a bit lower than Square’s fee. There’s no additional fee for foreign cards, no contract lock-in and no monthly fees.

You’ll be able to take Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, Discover and Diners Club, as well as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Photo: SumUp

SumUp US card reader

SumUp Card Reader appears similar to Square Reader, except it also accepts swipe without a separate swipe reader.

App features are basic compared to Square’s, but those who do not plan to run a food and beverage place – or require integrations with third-party software – will in most cases be satisfied.

SumUp is ideal for sporadic use since you’re not committing to a long-term contract and pay the same rate regardless of card type.

SumUp charges
SumUp Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap)$69 $19
Swipe & dip transaction rate2.65%
SumUp
charges
SumUp Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap)$69 $19
Swipe & dip transaction rate2.65%

Like Square, bank account deposits take 1-2 days. To get the card reader, you complete the 5-minute sign-up form online, then pay $19 (if ordered through our link).

Full review of SumUp

QuickBooks GoPayment – best accounting integration

QuickBooks GoPayment (previously called Intuit GoPayment) is the mobile payment solution from Intuit, best known for their accounting software. If you use or plan on using QuickBooks, choosing GoPayment might make sense as it integrates perfectly. You also get a full-fledged merchant account without contractual commitment.

To get GoPayment, download the free app available on both Android and iOS devices (but not Windows or Blackberry devices). You can take payments immediately by keying in card details – or even take a photo of the customer’s card – which the customer can sign for using the app.

New customers receive their cheapest card reader, accepting only chip and magstripe, for free once the account is approved, or can purchase their All-in-One reader (accepting chip, swipe and contactless) for $49.

Intuit GoPayment card reader

GoPayment’s All-in-One card reader accepts swipe, EMV chip and contactless cards and looks neat on a counter in a charging dock.

There are two types of GoPayment accounts that can be used either with a QuickBooks Online plan or alone: pay as you go or a monthly subscription. The fees for the pay-as-you-go plan are a swipe rate of 2.4% + 25¢ and keyed rate of 3.4% + 25¢ per transaction.

For the monthly plan, you pay a fee of $20 per month, and the swipe and keyed rates drop to 1.6% and 3.2% respectively plus a 25¢ transaction fee. Note: QuickBooks Desktop users have separate transaction fees for GoPayment – a little confusing, so we haven’t included those here.

GoPayment charges
Chip & Magstripe Card Reader (swipe, chip)Free for new users, otherwise $19
All-in-One Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap)$49
Pay-as-you-go – transaction ratesCard reader: 2.4% + 25¢
Keyed: 3.4% + 25¢
Monthly plan – ongoing cost$20/mo
Monthly plan – transaction ratesCard reader: 1.6% + 25¢
Keyed: 3.2% + 25¢
GoPayment
charges
Chip & Magstripe Card Reader (swipe, chip)Free for new users, otherwise $19
All-in-One Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap)$49
Pay-as-you-go – transaction ratesCard reader: 2.4% + 25¢
Keyed: 3.4% + 25¢
Monthly plan – ongoing cost$20/mo
Monthly plan – transaction ratesCard reader: 1.6% + 25¢
Keyed: 3.2% + 25¢

The rates are pretty competitive. On the downside, the free Magstripe & Chip Card Reader only accepts swipe and EMV, so in order to accept contactless cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, you’ll need to pay for the All-in-One Card Reader.

Full review of GoPayment

PayAnywhere – free terminal on pay-as-you-go plan

The PayAnywhere website might lead you to think you are dealing with a technology startup, but the company is a subsidiary of Wells Fargo. They’ve made rates transparent and simple.

Photo: PayAnywhere

PayAnywhere 3-in-1 card reader

PayAnywhere’s 3-in-1 card reader accepts swipe, EMV chip and contactless cards.

The system works with iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

Businesses making less than $10k a month can be on the pay-as-you-go plan which comes with no monthly fee or setup cost, and you get a free 2-in-1 magstripe and EMV card reader. Make sure you get the 3-in-1 reader for $49.95 if you want to be able to accept NFC contactless payments too.

PayAnywhere charges
2-in-1 Credit Card Reader (swipe, chip)First one free, then $29.95/each
3-in-1 Credit Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap)$49.95
Card reader transaction rate2.69%
Keyed transaction rate3.49% + 19¢
Inactivity fee$3.99/mo
PayAnywhere
charges
2-in-1 Credit Card Reader (swipe, chip)First one free, then $29.95/each
3-in-1 Credit Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap)$49.95
Card reader transaction rate2.69%
Keyed transaction rate3.49% + 19¢
Inactivity fee$3.99/mo

Note: if you haven’t processed a card sale for 12 months, an “inactivity fee” of $3.99 is charged every month until you next accept a card.

On pay-as-you-go, each swipe, dip and tap transaction costs 2.69%, and keyed transactions cost 3.49% + $0.19. Those making over $10,000 a month can ask for custom pricing.

Clover Go – with merchant account

Clover Go’s card reader looks similar to Square Reader, but accepts swipe as well as EMV chip and contactless cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. It connects through Bluetooth with your cell phone’s Clover Go app.

Clover used to only offer their services through partners such as Bank of America (each with different rates), but now they sell Clover Go directly from their website for standard fees.

Photo: Clover

Clover Go card reader

Clover Go is another card reader that looks like Square Reader, but accepts swipe, contactless and EMV in the same terminal.

The card reader costs $69, and then you pay a monthly fee for the Clover Go app ($14/month for Register Lite, $29/month for Register) and card rate according to the monthly plan. Register Lite charges 2.7% + 10¢ and Register 2.3% + 10¢ for each in-person card payment.

Clover Go charges
Clover Go card reader (swipe, chip, tap)$69
Register Lite plan$14/mo
Register Lite – transaction ratesCard reader: 2.7% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢
Register plan$29/mo
Register – transaction ratesCard reader: 2.3% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢
Clover Go
charges
Clover Go card reader (swipe, chip, tap)$69
Register Lite plan$14/mo
Register Lite – transaction ratesCard reader: 2.7% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢
Register plan$29/mo
Register – transaction ratesCard reader: 2.3% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢

Alternatively, Payline offers a personalized deal with fees based on card and transaction type accepted.

This card reader is a good choice for existing Clover merchants, since more features and integrations are possible though Clover’s own system. It also comes with your own merchant account by First Data, which some businesses might prefer for account stability.

Full review of Clover Go

In summary

There’s a big difference in card fees and terminal prices, the latter sometimes provided free of charge.

Monthly costs can rack up with GoPayment and Clover Go if you don’t use them every month, making them best for committed merchants with a steady turnover (PayAnywhere is the best for low card fees).

The pay-as-you-go solutions by PayPal Here, SumUp and PayAnywhere have similar card fees, with SumUp leading as the cheapest.

It’s clear that mobile card readers are heading in the wireless direction, i.e. headphone jacks are no longer required to connect the newest card readers with a cell phone. Instead, Bluetooth connectivity is the norm. It’s also clear that manufacturers love the square-shaped card reader as much as Square.

As for Square, it still leads as the most innovative payment provider with the broadest offerings for small businesses. Square Reader is now just one of several terminals able to integrate with many more tools and features than ever.