This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
Square Point of Sale is our overall top POS recommendation for small businesses. It earned a rating of 4.48 out of 5, based on 31 criteria that are important to small business owners, like price, ease of use, and POS functions. This self-installable, user-friendly system is free to use (it also tops our list of best free POS systems) and can operate on hardware you already own.
Square is a great point-of-sale system for mobile sales and solopreneur businesses like on-site repair and beauty services. It is also great for pop-up shops and small specialty businesses like coffee shops and vape shops. Though, vape shop owners should note that Square’s terms of service do not support online sales of age-restricted products.
In addition to not supporting online tobacco sales, Square is not the best fit if your shop has a complex inventory, needs a lot of customization, or relies on subscription products. So, we don’t recommend it for liquor stores or convenience stores. Square’s terms of service also do not support subscription-based products. If you specialize in subscription boxes or similar, you’ll be better off with a processor like Helcim. Ticketed venues should check out KORONA instead.
Which Square POS is right for you?
In addition to the basic Square POS, Square offers specialized POS software for various business types. Brick-and-mortar retail businesses should consider Square for Retail. Restaurants can find table and check management tools in Square for Restaurants. And appointment-based businesses like sales should check out Square Appointments.
Square POS Deciding Factors
Supported Business Types
Pop-up shops, small brick-and-mortar retailers, simple food businesses
Monthly Software Fees
Setup and Installation Fees
No long-term contract, pay month-to-month and cancel any time
Payment Processing Options
Square. When you use Square POS, you must use Square’s built-in payment processing
Payment Processing Fees
In-person: 2.6% + 10 cents
Online: 2.6% + 30 cents
24/7 online seller support community
Support representatives available by phone and email during standard business hours
Square Fee Calculator
Square Fee Calculator
Enter your current in-store and/or online sales volumes and average order values for an estimate on the monthly fees you would pay using Square.
Square POS Alternatives
In-person payment processing rates
$9 per month
iOS and Android
Varies; use Shopify payments or connect a third-party processor
Retailers with large, complex inventories and customer database
$99 per month
Varies; use Lightspeed Payments (TK) or connect a third-party processor
Businesses needing a simple online and international mobile payment app
iOS and Android
2.29% + $0.09
Businesses needing an all-in-one solution with a dedicated merchant account
$9.95 per month
iOS, Android, or Clover hardware
Varies by reseller
The best Square alternatives offer competitive pricing and all-in-one solutions for POS, payments, and ecommerce.
The Square POS is free to use. It has no setup fees or monthly fees. All you pay are processing fees on credit and debit card payments.
Every new Square account also comes with a free magstripe card reader that connects to iOS or Android smartphones and tablets to accept credit card payments. Square says to expect your card reader in 10 days, but in our experience, it usually doesn’t take that long.
However, we recommend purchasing an EMV/chip reader, since it makes your transactions more secure. These readers start at $49. Square offers interest-free payment plans for larger hardware purchases like iPad stands or Square Terminals. See more information about Square’s hardware options in the hardware section below.
Overall, Square’s pricing is extremely transparent and predictable. It has flat-rate, pay-as-you-go transaction fees and month-to-month billing for software products. There are no contracts or long-term agreements, and users can add or change any add-on subscriptions at any time. You can also cancel at any time with no termination fees.
Click through the tabs below for more detailed pricing information.
The Square POS app can be downloaded and used on any iOS or Android device, and the browser-based Square Dashboard can be accessed from any computer. To use Square, you just need to connect a card reader to your smartphone or tablet.
However, Square also has several full POS hardware setups available that you can use with, or instead of, a smartphone or tablet.
Square’s checkout tools are the most comprehensive we’ve found in a free POS. Most small businesses are able to process their first sale within an hour or two after creating a Square account. No other POS we have encountered has such a short setup time, especially with integrated payment processing and online ordering.
Your Square POS will accept:
- All major credit and debit cards
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
- Cash App
- Plastic and e-gift cards
- Invoice payments
- Online payments
Once your store is set up, you can accept card payments right away by manually entering card numbers into the POS, or you can connect a Square card reader. Square will send you a free magstripe card reader (which can take up to 10 days), or you can purchase card readers from an office supply store like Staples or Office Depot.
Square recently rolled out an integration with Apple’s iPhone that allows users with an iPhone 11 or later (running on iOS 15.5 or later) to accept credit and debit cards and mobile wallet payments simply by tapping the iPhone. No card reader is necessary.
Your Square POS can scan barcodes with an attached barcode scanner or use the integrated iPad camera. Square also supports split payments and customizable digital and physical receipts, collects customer data, and includes customer feedback tools at checkout. You can import items using the bulk import tool in the Square dashboard. Additionally, you can refund sales, apply discounts, and accept online and third-party orders directly in your POS.
Square lost some points for inventory management because detailed inventory tools require third-party integrations, and its reports are not as customizable as some other paid POS subscriptions. Your Square POS will send you automated emails to alert you to low stock, but if you need vendor or purchase order management, you’ll need to add a third-party integration with an app like Shopventory, SKU IQ, or Stitch Labs.
However, Square POS offers excellent marketing and employee management tools. Its email and text marketing modules are both templated and easy to use. It lets you quickly design sharp-looking messages to send to your customers. You can also set it and forget it; after you create an automated text or email message chain, Square will automatically send customers the relevant message based on their purchases or behavior.
Pricing for both marketing tools is based on the number of messages sent. So, you only pay for what you use, which is great for small businesses that want access to big business tools.
Square Email Marketing
Square Text Message Marketing
$10 per month, plus:
Square’s basic employee management module, Square Teams, is included in the Square POS. This allows your employees to clock in and out at the POS. You can also set up customized user permissions to control what functions each employee can perform. More advanced features like employee scheduling and detailed performance reporting require an upgrade to a paid Team membership, which starts at $35 per month.
- Easy, self-guided setup
- Phone, in-app messaging, and chat support
- Extensive resource library with FAQs and how-to articles
- Square Seller Community discussion forum
- Guided in-app tutorials for getting started
- Bulk product upload and editing
- User-friendly interface
Square is an incredibly user-friendly system. Plus, it maintains a seller site with tons of articles, blogs, videos, and community resources. Unique support features include in-app messaging in the mobile POS app and guided step-by-step tutorials.
Live 24/7 support is available to certain customers that purchase software subscriptions or hardware. However, for free Square users, phone support isn’t always available. Square’s support hours are limited and only available to active customers, so it can be a hassle if you need to get support quickly. Though, the online seller community is very active with advice from other Square users and the Square support team.
Square requires businesses to use its built-in payment processor, which is certainly easy. The ease of setting up Square’s payment processing is part of what makes this POS so user-friendly. You just connect a bank account and go—no waiting for account approval. But while Square’s rates are competitive, they are not the lowest available, especially for high-volume sales. You can, however, get a custom rate quote if you process more than $250,000 annually.
Square POS is hands down the easiest POS for any user to set up. The free price tag and the wide range of hardware options make the Square POS one of the best available POS systems for all business types—plus, it is also incredibly popular with small business owners. We’ve seen the Square POS used for everything from pop-up shop vendors, gift shops, and small retailers, to food trucks, coffee shops, and craft fairs.
But, the Square POS is truly designed to serve the smallest businesses that are typically overlooked by large POS brands. The processing rates and limited customization options make this POS a bit too niche for large or high-volume businesses. If you like the Square ecosystem and have a high-volume business, you should consider Square’s paid POS platforms Square for Retail, Square for Restaurants, or Square Appointments, instead.
Square POS User Reviews
The Square POS system is top-rated by users and critics alike. At the time of publication, the POS app has a 4.8-star rating from over 330,000 reviews in the Apple App Store and a 4.8 rating from more than 160,000 reviews on Google Play.
At the time of publication, Square POS has earned the following scores on popular review sites:
- Software Advice: 4.66 out of 5 based on over 2,000 reviews
- G2: 4.6 out of 5 based on more than 600 reviews
FinancesOnline also has a Customer Satisfaction Algorithm that gathers reviews, comments, and opinions from Square POS users across the internet. According to this, Square POS has a 97% user satisfaction rating.
Square POS reviews frequently mention:
|Free software||Limited/poor quality customer support|
|Easy to use, especially for users new to POS||Higher fees for card-on-file and keyed transactions|
|Flexible and seamless payment options: online ordering, contactless, curbside, and on-the-go mobile sales||Issues connecting mobile card readers|
|Sleek and affordable hardware||Account stability issues|
|Straightforward pricing and no hidden fees|
Methodology: How We Evaluated Square POS
When evaluating small business POS systems, we look for systems that are affordable for independent business owners and include basic POS functions like the ability to process multiple forms of payment, process discounts, and track inventory. To find the best, we also looked for systems that support multiple business types or dominate in the industry they serve.
Using those criteria, Square emerged as the highest-scoring POS system for most individuals and small businesses.
Click through the tabs below to see the full evaluation criteria.
30% of Overall Score
We prioritized POS systems that include a free plan or free trial, affordable subscriptions, and additional plans so that you won’t grow out of the system. We also awarded points to systems with affordable integrated payment processing, flexible hardware options, and no restrictions on the number of users, inventory, and transactions. Finally, we penalized systems that require long-term contracts and hefty installation fees.
15% of Overall Score
Businesses need speedy and customizable checkout tools, easy customer management, mobility to sell anywhere, a process to track orders, and a way to process online orders. Because the way businesses operate has changed so much in recent years, we also considered contactless payments, integrated online ordering, and online store features.
15% of Overall Score
The most important feature we considered was inventory tracking. We also considered how sophisticated and user-friendly the reporting dashboard of each system is and what marketing and employee management tools are available.
20% of Overall Score
We prioritized POS systems with 24/7 phone support. We also considered help tickets and email or chat support, installation processes, and whether or not the system has an offline mode or hybrid installation so that you can continue operations when you lose internet access. Finally, we considered if the system has an online knowledge base, training videos, or a training mode to help bring new employees up to speed.
20% of Overall Score
We considered the overall quality of each system’s features, along with system stability, and security. We evaluated whether or not it offers a good value for its price point and standout features. Finally, we accounted for our experts’ personal experience using each system and interacting with customer service representatives, its reviews, and the personal experience of other small business owners.
Square POS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who should use Square POS?
Small businesses and solopreneurs who need a mobile, free POS that operates in English or Spanish should check out Square. The integrated payment processing and iOS and Android-compatible POS apps make this free POS a flexible option for multiple business types. Small businesses that need multi-channel tools for in-person and online sales are also a great fit.
When should I use a Square POS alternative?
Businesses that process more than $250,000 annually or need advanced features like floorplans, matrix-level inventory, or appointment scheduling will be better served by Square’s sibling POS systems, Square for Retail, Square for Restaurants, or Square Appointments.
Is Square a free POS?
The Square POS is free to use. All you pay are processing fees when you process digital payments.
Square POS offers unbeatable value for new and small businesses or individuals looking to sell products or services. Instant setup, integrated payments, free software (including an online store), affordable and flexible hardware options, and modular add-ons make Square one of the best POS systems on the market. Visit Square to create a free account.