- Highs: No monthly fees or commitment. Can pay for terminal over several months. Very user-friendly.
- Lows: On-screen POS features not expandable. Doesn’t work with phone network. Requires additional hub to connect with cash drawer.
- Buy if: You want to save money and counter space by using one compact terminal as your main POS system.
How Square Terminal works
Square Terminal works as a standalone payment-and-POS terminal with software and receipt printer built in. It accepts mobile wallets, chip (EMV), magstripe and contactless (NFC) cards, and you can key in card details manually. Apart from credit cards, Square accepts debit, corporate, prepaid and rewards cards – even HSA, FSA, government and military cards – for the same transaction fee. You only pay more for key-in card transactions.
Contrary to traditional credit card machines, Square Terminal is more than just for card payments. You can, for example, accept gift cards and edit your product library on the terminal.
From start to finish of each transaction, the touchscreen is used to navigate POS functions, like you would in the Square Point of Sale app for Square card readers. Where relevant, customers enter a PIN code or sign to verify the payment card on the touchscreen.
All transactions and activities on the terminal are connected to your backend Square account where you can access more features, ecommerce and integrations with additional tools.
The terminal needs to be connected to the internet via WiFi. Optionally, you can purchase a Hub for Square Terminal that allows you to connect via Ethernet cable. It does not work with 4G or other network connections the way your cell phone does.
Costs and payouts
A major upside to Square is their simple costs. You just pay for the terminal, then a fixed transaction rate for any debit and credit cards processed. There is no minimum sales volume required, no payout fees and no contractual lock-in. Unless you have opted to pay for the terminal over a number of months, there are no fixed monthly costs.
The card machine costs $299 upfront. You can also choose to pay in instalments of 3, 6, 12 or 24 interest-free monthly payments (subject to credit check and approval). If you choose to pay over 12 months, you pay a monthly installment of $27 – an attractive option for many startups. The repayments are handled internally by Square, not by a third party provider, and the first payment is taken when the order is placed.
|Square Terminal – upfront price||$299|
|Square Terminal – installments||$27 x 12 months|
Other payment plans available
|Hub for Square Terminal (optional)||$39|
|Dip, swipe & tap payment fee||2.6% + 10¢|
|Key-in card fee||3.5% + 15¢|
|Transfers to bank account||Free|
|Instant Transfers (optional)||1.5% added to transaction fee|
If you’re connecting the terminal to other hardware, you’ll need the Hub for Square Terminal costing $39.
In Square’s store, you can buy the following compatible accessories:
- Countertop mount: $19
- Belt clip: $59
- Barcode scanner: $119
- Cash drawer: $249
- Eero Wi-Fi system: $199
- 20 x receipt paper rolls: $20
Transactions cost a fixed % rate and fee, 2.6% + 10¢, for all dip, tap and swipe card payments through the terminal regardless of card brand, country of issue or whether it is premium. All key-in payments through the terminal or online via Square Invoices, Online Store or Virtual Terminal cost 3.5% + 15¢ per transaction.
Refunds are free to process and chargebacks incur no admin fees. You even get free payment dispute support from the Square team, in case a chargeback should incur.
Transactions are automatically transferred – for free – to your bank account within 1-2 business days. If you want it faster, activate Instant Transfers in your account and a 1.5% transaction fee will be added to the card fees – you then receive the money in your bank account almost instantly (within a couple of hours). For example, for a swipe card payment, you pay 4.1% + 10¢ per transaction with Instant Transfers.
Photo: Emily Sorensen (ES), Mobile Transaction
Using the touchscreen of an industry-approved terminal like Square’s is secure.
Physically, it’s a bit heavier than a traditional Ingenico card machine (417 g versus circa 300 g). This is due to the large screen, whereas a mainstream credit card machine with physical keypad only has a small display. Underneath are two rubber strips to keep it stable on a counter, and a hole if you need to screw the terminal on to a surface.
Square Terminal’s battery can last all day without a charge, which is impressive given the large, energy-consuming touchscreen. Still, we found that leaving it it on standby drains the battery completely by the next day.
Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction
Underneath the terminal.
Therefore, we recommend switching it off completely when you don’t plan on using it to avoid having to recharge it first the next time you need it.
Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction
The power cable socket and power/standby button are on the left side of the terminal.
Because it runs on a local, secured WiFi connection, it can be used across your premises, for example for taking payments at the customer’s table. The Ethernet connection through the Hub could be necessary if your WiFi is unreliable, but then you have to keep the Terminal connected at a checkout counter.
|Dimensions||5.6 in. (L) x 3.4 in. (W) x 2.5 in. (H)|
|Screen size||5.5 in.|
|Data||WiFi (secured network only), Ethernet via Hub|
|Card technology||EMV (chip), NFC (contactless), magnetic stripe|
|Battery life||All day from full charge|
|Built-in receipt printer||Uses 2.25 in. thermal receipt paper|
|Accessories included||Square Terminal, power adaptor, receipt paper roll, ‘accepted cards’ decals|
Software features are very similar to Square Reader’s mobile app, Square Point of Sale. For instance, the checkout screen gives you two options for adding to the shopping cart: enter transaction/price amounts manually or tap to add products from the library.
Enter an amount to add to the bill.
The product menu at checkout.
The checkout flow and products can be edited on the terminal – no need to log in on a computer to do it. Add product variants like size and color and enable the eat-in or takeout options if you’re a coffee shop, all of which can be selected during the checkout flow.
What about transaction options? You can accept cash, payment cards and mobile wallets, ‘card on file’ saved in the customer library, gift cards (issued from the terminal too), invoicing and manually-entered card details. Split the tender, add either custom or preset tipping amounts, and once the transaction is complete, either choose to print, email or text-message the receipt.
Photo: ES, Mobile Transaction
Square Terminal next to Square Reader.
The customer library enables you to add a person to the invoice rather than entering recipient details manually. You can create and send Square Invoices directly on the terminal, accessed from the side menu. Over-the-phone payments are also possible – just add products or enter an amount on the regular checkout screen and choose manual card payment as the payment method.
Transactions, sales history and reports can be viewed on the terminal. In fact, you go to Transactions to process a refund (itemized or custom amount) or resend a receipt via email or text. Receipts can be customized in Settings, and food places can set the Terminal to print order tickets.
Paper receipts are printed above the touchscreen display.
If the WiFi goes down, you can still accept cards on the terminal thanks to Square’s offline mode. Once you’re back online, the offline transactions will sync in the cloud with your Square account and the payments will be processed as long as it’s within 72 hours of swiping the credit card.
Significant things you cannot do on the Terminal, which the mobile app can do, include:
- Access team management features
- Do more complicated product library edits
The software is updated automatically daily when the Terminal is connected to the internet. Just be prepared to wait for the update to process when you switch on the terminal every day (it took minutes on most days we tested it). For increased security, set the terminal to require password login every time it’s used. You can reset the password on the terminal if needed.
Accessories and POS hardware
If you wonder “how does this work with the rest of the POS system”, we should emphasize the terminal IS the POS system. That said, you can still connect it to hardware through the optional Hub for Square Terminal (purchased separately for $39). The Hub connects to the terminal via cable, has three USB ports for POS hardware and one Ethernet socket for a wired internet connection.
Square Terminal Hub has three USB ports for optional POS accessories.
Compatible POS equipment is plugged into the Hub’s USB ports (Bluetooth is not accepted) and includes:
- Receipt printers
- Kitchen ticket printers
- Kitchen display
- Cash drawers
- Barcode scanners
You cannot connect the terminal to a tablet or computer since the built-in app has all the register features, and transactions happen directly in the cloud. But it is perfectly possible to run the full-fledged Square Point of Sale system (try the free app here) on a tablet at the point of sale simultaneously to the independent Terminal connected to the Square account.
On the Terminal, you can view sales history, generate custom reports and track sales by team member. You can’t view cash drawer session history like Square Point of Sale allows on a tablet.
All Square users have backend (in any internet browser) access to sales reports sorted by date, location, time period and more. Generated reports can be exported to Excel. There are lots of other free analytics on gift cards, popular sales categories, sales trends, transaction status, discounts, employee sales, etc. Custom reports can also be created.
If these are not enough, Square sales can be synced with more advanced accounting tools like Kashoo, Xero and Zoho Books.
If you have a cash register but want to accept cards, Square Terminal is the perfect supplement.
Who is Square best for?
If you’re a small shop, coffee shop, hairdresser or any other type of merchant who doesn’t require a complicated checkout, Square Terminal will save you counter space and money because you don’t need to buy a receipt printer, tablet or touchscreen monitor.
If you’re cashless, it is truly just the terminal you need, since there is no cash drawer to connect to. Vice versa, an existing cash register without a credit machine could do well with a supplementary Square Terminal for card payments on the side.
If you sell primarily online, but have a brick-and-mortar store too, the simple Square Terminal checkout could be what you need to connect those sales without superfluous equipment to fill your face-to-face shop.
It works best in locations with a fixed WiFi connection or checkout counter where you can connect an Ethernet cable. For this reason, we would not recommend it for use on the go where WiFi networks can’t be relied on.
Of course, if you’re already using a Square card reader, there’s no fuss changing over to a different system by going for Terminal. It is only if you require more custom features that we recommend looking elsewhere for card machines connecting with advanced POS software specifically for your industry.
In restaurants and cafés, Square Terminal is ideal for tableside payments.
Customer service and user reviews
Square provides 24/7 customer support over the phone for Square Terminal users. This is more support than with their Point of Sale products that only has a helpline on weekdays during business hours. There’s a very helpful Support Center on the website answering most user questions.
You get a year’s warranty on the terminal and a 30-day cooling-off period, allowing a full refund if you don’t like the product.
Customer reviews are a mixed bag. Occasionally, users complain about sudden account closures and funds being held by Square, which seem to be a result of Square mistakenly accepting sign-ups from merchants trading within business areas that Square considers high-risk.
Square just requires you to fill in some online sign-up pages with basic business and personal information. They will assess the information and check the validity of your bank account, but you are able to start selling straight after sign-up through online invoices and the virtual terminal.
It takes 5-7 business days for the terminal to arrive after the order is placed.
Transaction charges are the same for everyone, in contrast with many payment companies that like to get on a call to get business information before giving you a quote.
The card terminal is so intuitive you don’t need a guide to set it up – just make sure your WiFi is on so it can connect with the cloud.
Your bank account can take a number of days to be verified. Any transactions accepted by then will be held by Square until it can be transferred to your bank account.
If you’re looking for a compact, affordable point of sale with no lock-in or complicated fees, Square Terminal is a strong contender. The sleek credit card terminal fits neatly in a small shop that hasn’t got complicated software requirements for the checkout.
That said, plenty of add-on features are available, like ecommerce, invoicing, phone payments and connecting to a wide range of business tools. These may have other charges, but using the Terminal only costs the transaction fee when you use it.
Bottom line: Square Terminal is very good value for small shops that don’t want monthly fees or a contract.