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Square may qualify as the leader of mobile credit card readers, but that doesn’t mean it has the best deal for everyone. Originating in Germany, SumUp has been in business as long as Square and offers low-cost, app-based card readers to compete.

What about online payments? Since the start of 2020’s coronavirus pandemic, small businesses have been struggling to get by with face-to-face sales. Fortunately, Square and SumUp both have solutions for socially distanced payments.

So how do the two compare in fees, point of sale features and remote payments?

small Square logo SumUp
 Square Reader machine SumUp Air terminal
$49 $19
Chip, contactless*
*Swipe with included magstripe reader
Chip, contactless, swipe
2.6% + 10¢ transaction fee 2.75% transaction fee
No monthly fee No monthly fee
Payouts in 1-2 business days
Available within hours for 1% extra fee
Payouts in 1-2 business days
VisaMastercardDiscoverAmerican Express VisaMastercardMaestroDiscoverAmerican ExpressDiners Club
Apple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay Apple PayGoogle Pay
Phone/chat/email support
Mon-Fri, 11am-8pm (EST)
Phone/email support
Mon-Fri, 9am-7pm (EST)
With tipping feature With tipping feature
small Square logo SumUp
 Square Reader machine SumUp Air terminal
$49 $19
Chip, contactless (swipe with extra reader) Chip, swipe, contactless
2.6% + 10¢ card fee 2.75% card fee
No monthly fee No monthly fee
Payouts in 1-2 business days
Within hours for 1% extra fee
Payouts in 1-2 business days
VisaMastercardDiscoverAmerican Express VisaMastercardMaestroDiscoverAmerican ExpressDiners Club
Apple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay Apple PayGoogle Pay
Phone/chat/email support
Mon-Fri, 11am-8pm (EST)
Phone/email support
Mon-Fri, 9am-7pm (EST)
Includes tipping feature Includes tipping feature

SumUp’s card readers better value

To date, Square has launched 6+ different devices for card payments. The first ones were focused on swipe payments: the original magstripe Square Reader with an audio jack for older iPhones (there’s now a magstripe reader with a plug for newer iPhones) and Square Stand with a swipe slot.

Square’s initial response to EMV was a chip card reader for both swipe and dip, but this is now discontinued. It then launched the ever-popular Square Reader for Contactless and Chip (swipe payments require Square Reader for Magstripe).

Photo: Square

Square card readers

Square Reader for Contactless and Chip (bottom left) and Square Reader for Magstripe (in iPad).

The only portable Square device that accepts swipe, contactless and swipe in one machine is the pricier Square Terminal, but it only works with secured WiFi, not 4G. Yes, it is rather confusing.

SumUp makes things easier with the same terminal for EMV, swipe and contactless payments – at a very low price. The company has handled EMV payments for several years already, evident in the SumUp Plus reader featuring a convenient keypad for chip and PIN. The simpler SumUp Lite reader (without a PIN pad) looks a lot like Square Reader for Contactless and Chip, but accepts swipe, tap and chip in one device.

Photo: SumUp

SumUp Plus takes chip, tap and swipe cards.

Photo: SumUp

SumUp Lite

SumUp Lite also takes all cards.

Except for Square Terminal, the aforementioned SumUp and Square readers all work in conjunction with a free point of sale (POS) app. In order to take payments, you therefore need to connect the credit card reader with a compatible smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. It is the mobile phone’s cellphone network or WiFi connection that is used for credit card processing and the SumUp or Square app that controls the card reader.

Both SumUp and Square meet the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), so you can be confident transactions are processed securely.

Pricing is similar

SumUp sells two card readers – SumUp Lite and SumUp Plus – costing $19 each. Square Reader for Contactless and Chip costs $49, and it comes with a free magstripe reader. Additional magstripe readers are $10 each. There is no contractual lock-in with Square or SumUp.

Square charges 2.6% + 10¢ per swipe, chip dip or contactless tap via any of their terminals. SumUp charges a simple 2.75%. None of them have additional fees for foreign or premium cards, nor is there a monthly fee (though Square offers certain add-on features with monthly fees).

Square logo SumUp
Card reader Square Reader (EMV, tap)
$49
Square Reader (swipe)
First one free
SumUp Lite or Plus
$19
Charging dock $29
Card reader transactions 2.6% + 10¢ 2.75%
Keyed transactions 3.5% + 15¢ 3.25% + 15¢
Invoice payments 2.9% + 30¢ 2.9% + 15¢
Instant transfers 1% added to card fee n/a
Chargebacks Free Free
Refunds Free Free
Square logo SumUp
Card reader
$49 $19
Charging dock
$29
Card reader transactions
2.6% + 10¢ 2.75%
Keyed transactions
3.5% + 15¢ 3.25% + 15¢
Invoice payments
2.9% + 30¢ 2.9% + 15¢
Instant transfers
1% added to card fee n/a
Chargebacks
Free Free
Refunds
Free Free

For an additional 1% added to the card processing fee, Square can transfer transactions to your bank account the same day – this is called ‘Instant Transfers’. SumUp does not yet have an instant payout option.

Keyed-in transactions cost 3.25% + 15¢ with SumUp (payment links, QR code, virtual terminal) and 3.5% + 15¢ through Square (payment links, QR code, virtual terminal, ecommerce). You can also accept email invoices for 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction with Square and 2.9% + 15¢ with SumUp.

Square generously offers free chargeback dispute services and no fee for chargebacks, although you are still required to follow what they consider best practice at the point of payment. SumUp does not have fees for chargebacks either.

Refunding payments is free if done straight away, but beyond that, there are differences. Square allows free refunds up to 120 days after the transaction, so the customer can get the full, partial or itemized amount back and you get the transaction fee refunded. With SumUp, once the transaction has been deposited in your bank account, SumUp will keep the transaction fee – and you can only refund the amount (full or itemized) if there is currently enough balance (outstanding payouts) in your SumUp account.

Square has more POS features

You get a perfectly functioning app with SumUp – but the Square Point of Sale app tends to have more features. There’s a user-friendly product catalogue in the SumUp app where you can enter product details and images, but you can add more attributes in Square’s product library. Consequently, the SumUp app is best if you just sell fairly straightforward products or services.

Square POS screen

Square POS app features are suitable for food and drink, professionals and retail shops alike.

Several user accounts for a team of employees can be added through SumUp and Square. Digital receipts can be sent via text messaging or email after payments, unless you choose to print it through a compatible receipt printer.

With Square, you can add timesheets and set advanced user permissions too, but this comes at a monthly cost. In fact, a lot of extra features are available with Square if you can afford it, such as payroll and an appointment system for beauty salons, hairdressers and other service-oriented merchants. That being said, the free Square app already comes with a great deal of features and backend tools.

Both geared towards remote payments

Online gift cards can be sold and accepted through either platform. This has proven valuable for businesses having to shut down temporarily – it’s a creative way to make money until the business is back on its feet. In-person merchants can easily set up an online store with Square Online, but not yet from SumUp.

Only the SumUp app lets you send payment links (over SMS or social apps) and show QR codes from the app checkout, which Square does not.

SumUp Mobile Payments

Send payment links straight from SumUp App.

Instead, you can generate payment links in Square Dashboard (browser account), which can be pasted into messages or embedded on a website or social media profile.

Square Point of Sale allows the merchant to manually enter credit card details in the app if the card reader transaction fails. Although SumUp does not have that as a checkout option, merchants can apply to have a virtual terminal activated, which can then be accessed in the app menu or in the browser account.

Square is superior for food and beverage

If you own a coffee shop, restaurant or food truck, Square Point of Sale has more to offer. SumUp does not support split tenders or open tickets in the app, but does accept tips. But if you are opening a café or quick-service restaurant, the choice is easy – you’d go for Square.

One of Square’s gems is currently the free online ordering page you can set up through Square Online (Square’s ecommerce features). This allows you to create a takeaway menu for a website or self-serve page that appears on customers’ phones when they scan a QR code on your premises.

Add to that the Square for Restaurants POS plan – but this comes at a monthly cost ($60). The point is, if you’re starting out with rapid growth in mind, the option is there to expand the free Square app to more advanced, industry-specific software.

Square is expandable, SumUp gets the job done

The Square ecosystem has grown rapidly in recent years, but many of the services come at a monthly cost. You can add physical gift cards, a payroll system, appointments management, ecommerce website and even apply for small-business loans – the list is long, and many businesses are happy to stay in the Square family of services.

But if you just want no-frills credit card processing for both in-person and socially distanced transactions, SumUp will do that with a slightly lower card rate and cheaper card reader that accepts any type of card.

SumUp

Our review

Square logo

Our review

SumUp Plus/Lite
$19
Square Reader
$49