Wondering if Square Terminal is right for you? We recommend it for any business that needs a user-friendly card reader or a handheld POS device.
This article is part of a larger series on Payments.
Square Terminal is a handheld point-of-sale (POS) device that includes a swipe, dip, and tap card reader with a touch-screen POS display and thermal receipt printer. We scored this POS hardware in our ranking of the best credit card readers, where it earned a 4.42 out of 5 and beat out the competition to top the list. And that’s just for the credit card reader components. With the Square Terminal there are no long-term contracts and most users can start ringing up sales in a single day.
Square Terminal Overview
The Square Terminal fits in your palm and weighs about as much as a can of soup. It can ring in sales and orders, and even integrates with other apps to support appointment booking, rental processes, and ticket sales. It could hardly be more user friendly. It comes with Square Payments built in, so you can start processing sales and payments the day you receive the device; there is no need to apply for a separate merchant account.
You can configure your Square Terminal as a simple touch-screen payment device on a countertop, using a wall plug and ethernet connection. Or take the Terminal onto your sales floor to process sales wherever you have a Wi-Fi signal. The battery is designed to have a 24-hour battery life, and your Terminal will be fully recharged in five hours. It also has an offline mode, so you can process payments even if you lose your internet connection.
You can purchase a Square Terminal directly from Square for $299. Your opinion of the price will vary based on your needs. If all you need is a card reader, $299 is pricey for a single-use device. But $299 is incredibly affordable for a POS device, especially when you consider the included receipt printer.
For solopreneurs, booth sellers, and small shops, a single Square Terminal may be all you need to run your entire business. And you have the option to split your purchase into monthly payments of $27 for 12 months if $299 upfront would be a stretch. Mobile sellers will also be well supported with the Terminal; the built-in Square Payments is our top-ranking mobile payment processor.
The Square Terminal uses Square Payments for processing, so you’ll also want to consider that pricing. Currently Square’s processing rates are:
- In person: 2.6% + 10 cents
- Manually keyed: 3.5% + 15 cents
- Online: 2.9% + 30 cents
Businesses that process more than $250,000 annually can get custom-quoted rates from Square.
Square Terminal operates on the Square suite of POS software. So you’ll also want to factor in the costs of a POS subscription:
Square POS Subscription Costs
$0 per month
Square for Retail
$0 per month
$60 per month
Square for Restaurants
$0 per month
$60 per month
$0 per month
$29 per location monthly
$69 per location monthly
All Square POS offerings have a free baseline subscription tier, most of which allow you to operate the POS on multiple devices. Square doesn’t lock you into a long-term contract, so you can cancel or upgrade your Square account whenever your needs change. Square also offers a free 30-day trial of all the paid tiers of its POS subscriptions, so you can test the system before committing.
- Dimensions: 5.6 inches long, 2.5 inches high, 3.4 inches wide; 5.5 inch screen
- Weight: 417 grams (0.90 pound)
- Available colors: White
- Materials: Metal and plastic
- Power Source: Wall plug or battery
- Battery life: ~ 24 hours
- Charging time: ~ Five hours for a full charge
- Connection type: Ethernet or Wi-Fi
- Warranty: 1-year limited warranty
Square Terminal accepts all payment types, from tapped, dipped, or swiped credit and debit cards to mobile wallet payments and swiped gift cards. You can also add Afterpay as a payment option, and you can deposit cash sales in an (optional) cash drawer.
The Terminal can connect directly to up to three additional hardware tools—like barcode scanners, cash drawers, or a scale—via the optional Square Hub ($39). It comes already programmed with Square Payments, so you don’t need to worry about formatting the reader to work on your payment network.
In addition to Square POS software, the Square Terminal integrates with third-party apps to support the additional needs of healthcare and food businesses:
- Healthcare and Wellness apps: ClinicSense (practice management), Remedly (practice management) Reference Health Payments (healthcare payment processing), EZDerm (dermatology practice management)
- Food business apps: Mobi2Go (self-service kiosks & loyalty), Local Line (online ordering for food producers)
The Square Terminal further integrates with even more niche tools for service, membership, and appointment-based businesses:
- Rentrax: To manage rental businesses, including inventory tracking and online bookings
- GlobalTill: Automated omnichannel retail management tools
- Cleantie: Laundry and dry-cleaning service point of sale
- Gymdesk: Management software for martial arts studios, gyms, and other membership-based businesses
- MoeGo: Pet grooming point of sale and appointment booking
- TicketSocket: White-labeled ticket sales and registration platform
The addition of these thoughtful integrations makes the Square Terminal an excellent tool for virtually any type of independent business. The Square Terminal (and attached Square POS) are functional enough for businesses of any size, from mom-and-pop shops to multilocation restaurants and retailers. Though Square is one of the few POS brands crafting tools for micro-businesses, its features really stand out for solo sellers and small shops.
Square Terminal is the most user-friendly card reader or POS device I have ever used. It comes ready with Square Payments included—all you need to do is sign up for a Square account and attach a verified bank account. The longest I have ever seen this take is 48 hours, but in most setups I’ve done, the Square account was ready to process sales and payments in a couple of hours. The Terminals’ touch-screen interface also makes it very easy to set up, sign into your POS account, and troubleshoot if there is a problem.
Though users who plan to use the Terminal with a Free POS subscription should note that the customer support hours are not 24/7 for free users. And—as much as I hate to say it—it’s been my experience (and the experience of multiple small retailers I know) that Square’s live customer service has room for improvement. The hold times on phone calls can be long, and the service representatives don’t seem to be fluent in all of Square’s ins and outs.
If you have questions about your Terminal or the Square POS, you’re usually better off asking the Square Seller Community. These are business owners that use Square software and hardware every day to run their businesses. They’ve run into every potential issue, and most are happy to share the experiences and help other sellers solve problems.
Overall, the Square Terminal is a lightweight, user-friendly, versatile card reader for every type of business. The mobility of the card reader helps small, independent businesses remain EMV-compliant and avoid losing chargeback disputes. It is one of the few tools on the market that is specifically designed to save small businesses time and money.
I’ve seen the Square Terminal in businesses from salons to farm stands, and craft fairs to full service restaurants. The ability to both ring in sales and orders and process all payment types is a game-changer, especially for solopreneurs and small businesses that are commonly overlooked by technology companies.
Methodology—How We Evaluated
We scored the Square Terminal on the same scoring system that we use to rate card reading hardware. We consider these tools against a criteria of small business pain points including price, functionality, and ease of use. Click through the tabs below for a full description of our scoring process:
25% of Overall Score
We prioritized affordable devices that can be purchased along with payment processing services that don’t require long-term contracts and offer transparent, low-cost, pay-as-you-go transaction fees. We gave high marks for low (or even free) card readers and providers that offer interchange-plus transaction rates.
25% of Overall Score
We evaluated how the device is built, taking into consideration flexibility, compatibility, and mobility. Can the card reader be used in both a mobile and countertop setup? Is it compatible with popular operating systems? We also gave extra points for card readers with extra tools such as pin pads and displays.
25% of Overall Score
We gave high marks for card readers that offer offline transaction processing, accept a wide variety of payment types, and integrate POS tools such as inventory management and ecommerce. We also looked for seamless processing by researching user experience reviews for any issues when accepting payments.
15% of Overall Score
Setting up and using credit card readers should be easy. We awarded points to providers that offer automatic updates, round-the-clock support, and extensive online user guides for setting up and maintaining their devices.
10% of Overall Score
Finally, we evaluated each device’s overall performance to award points for any standout features, assessed the overall value each reader provides for the cost, read user and critic reviews, and considered our own personal experience operating card readers and interacting with each company’s customer support.
Meet the Experts
This review features the expertise of three of Fit Small Business’ retail and payments experts. Learn more about why you can trust us:
Mary King spent more than a decade managing various food service businesses, from coffee shops and food trucks to full service restaurants and event spaces. She has advised small retail and restaurant businesses for several years and focused on researching and rating small business technology for four years.
Meaghan Brophy has 10-plus years of retail experience, during which she has operated a variety of cash registers and POS systems in different settings and applications.
Since working in retail, Meaghan has 7-plus years of experience writing for retailers and 4-plus years of experience evaluating POS systems.
Anna Lynn Dizon is a retail expert writer for Fit Small Business, contributing to our POS and payments sections. She has evaluated dozens of software for small business owners. Her experience in business and finance led her to work for a US risk mitigation company in its regional Singapore office. She holds a degree in accountancy with a minor in financial management.
Square Terminal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Square Terminal is definitely legit. It topped our rankings of small business credit card readers, so I’d say it’s the most legit credit card reader for small businesses. It’s a great tool for small businesses.
My colleagues and I have seen this handheld POS terminal with its user-friendly touch-screen display in use at farm stands and craft pop-ups, food trucks, full-service restaurants and specialty boutiques. Users really love it. And as a former manager, I love that it isn’t a smartphone. Square Terminal is a single use device—it rings in sales and processes payments. You can’t scroll Instagram or text anyone from it. So, it doesn’t distract my team (or me!) when I’m on the sales floor.
Square Terminal allows you to ring in sales and process payments from a single, handheld, non-smartphone device.
Square Terminal is designed to operate for 24 hours without recharging. The battery may drain faster if your Wi-Fi connection is weak though. If your battery is draining looking for a Wi-Fi connection, it might be worthwhile to go into offline mode.
Yes, you can ring in sales and process payments on Square Terminal without a Wi-Fi connection. Payment information will be vaulted in the device until you regain internet access via Wi-Fi or ethernet. You need to ensure that you reconnect to the internet within 24 hours or the data could be lost.
You’ll also need to be OK assuming liability for any declined cards. In offline mode, your Square Terminal can’t transmit card data to funding banks, so you won’t know if a card would have been declined. So there is a chance that you could lose some funds due to declined cards once you reconnect to the internet. If you are vigilant about inspecting cards before you run them (checking for expiration dates and signatures) and decline to run suspicious cards in the first place, then you’re less likely to have this problem.
Square Terminal is an excellent card reader and mobile POS for virtually any business type. It is compatible with all Square POS products—Square POS, Square for Retail, Square for Restaurants, and Square Appointments—all of which have free baseline subscriptions. Square also doesn’t require long-term contracts for any of their tools, which is one of the reasons our retail and payments experts love it for all types of small businesses.