Is Square worth the transaction fees?

February 15th, 2013


Need to give your small business a boost? Why don’t you try Square? You might not know what Square is, but know this: Square will help you attract new customers to your business by making it easier for these customers to buy your goods and services. Square is a tiny, rather stylish, credit-card processor — square-shaped, obviously — that enables merchants to close credit transactions using their own iPads, iPhones or Android devices. The device gives you the ability to take on credit-card purchases while not having to invest in a more complicated system. But Square does have a cost: You must pay a bit with every transaction that you close through the service. Is the cost worth the expense? That’s something you’ll have to decide.

How it works

Reviewers, including one writing recently for USA Today, praise Square for its ease of use. Small business owners simply insert the square-shaped Square Reader — which is amazingly small — into the audio jack on their iPhone, iPad or Android device. They can then swipe their customers’ credit cards through the reader, kicking off the transaction. If a swipe doesn’t work, Square users can manually enter their customers’ credit-card numbers to close the transaction. Best of all? You can get your Square Reader device free. You can also download the app — Square Register — that powers the system for free. It’s available in the App Store and in the Google Play store.

The Biggest Positive of Square

Square has earned praise for its ease of use. Entrepreneur Magazine in a recent review said that using the Square system is intuitive for the least tech-savvy business owners. The system is also a positive for consumers. No consumer likes to walk into a store only to discover that the merchant behind the counter can’t accept credit cards. Now, in lieu of having to run to the ATM in the bank three doors down, these consumers can simply swipe their cards through the Square Reader to close a sale.

The Downside to Square

Nothing is perfect, though, and Square isn’t an exception. While the Square Reader and Square Register are free, using the service is not. Business owners will pay 2.75 of a transaction to Square, Inc. every single time they swipe a customer’s credit card. If business owners instead punch in the credit-card numbers of their customers manually, they’ll pay 3.5 percent of each transaction. Those costs will add up. A second weakness? In a review of Square, Entrepreneur Magazine said that the human-provided customer service is less than stellar. Still, Square may be a net positive to your business. And in today’s economy, any advantage is important.