What Is Square? How It Works & Why Small Businesses Love It (2023)

Square is a mobile payment company that offers a suite of business software, point-of-sale (POS) systems, payment hardware products, and small business services. Unlike most payment processors, Square is available to businesses of all sizes and offers the most comprehensive free POS system on the market. The Square payment and POS app has been downloaded more than 33 million times and has more than 2 million active sellers.

Should You Use Square?

We’ll get into more details on Square’s specific products below. But, generally, for any small business processing less than $120,000 per year, Square is the best POS and payment processing solution because it comes with no fixed monthly costs and offers an incredible value with the free POS system. Visit Square to create your free account.

Visit Square

Square’s Services: Why Small Businesses Love It

Square is the original mobile payment processing app and card reader. When it first launched, it had high adoption rates because it allowed businesses to accept card payments anywhere instead of having to rely on cash or peer-to-peer payment apps. It also did away with the complex contracts and long-term commitments required by many merchant services.

Unlike most credit card processing companies, Square does not require an application or approval process and has no monthly fees or minimum requirements. Every free Square account comes with three main functions: payments, POS software, and online ordering.

How Does Square Work?

Square starts with simple, flat-rate payment processing that includes credit cards, contactless payments, and ACH transfers. Then, it offers various products within its ecosystem that all work together to form a complete small business management solution. However, some of the solutions, like Payroll, can be used as a standalone product.

Square continues to add to its offerings for small businesses, from improvements to the software to new systems (like a kitchen display system) to, most recently, banking services.

What Is Square? How It Works & Why Small Businesses Love It (1)

Easy, Flat-Rate Payment Processing

You can use Square to complete credit card transactions online, in your brick-and-mortar store, and on your mobile device when you’re on the go.

Square charges a flat rate price per credit card transaction. This means that the credit card company, customer’s bank, and merchant account processor fees are all wrapped up into one flat-rate fee. This is regardless of the type of card you are processing. The only differences in rates are whether or not you have to key in the numbers.

The advantage of this pricing model is its simplicity. You don’t have to worry about figuring out how much you are paying in credit card processing fees because you know in advance exactly how much you’re going to pay. It’s the same flat rate no matter what type of card your customer uses.

See a full breakdown of Square’s pricing and fees.

Top-Rated Merchant Services

Square’s affordable and user-friendly payment processing is one of the best merchant services available for small businesses. In addition to mobile and in-store payments, every free Square account comes with a virtual terminal, invoicing, online payments, and tools to monitor and dispute chargebacks.

In the News:

In September 2021, Square launched Invoices Plus, a paid version of Square Invoices with advanced features that include multi-package estimates, auto conversion of estimates to invoices, custom templates, milestone-based payment schedules, and custom fields. Learn more on Square.com.

Read our full Square Payments review to see if it’s right for you. Or, if you’re ready to start using Square, read our step-by-step guide on how to use Square to process payments.

Free & Low-Cost POS Software

In addition to excellent merchant services, Square also offers free POS apps that can be downloaded onto iOS and Android smartphones and tablets or used with one of Square’s proprietary hardware products. The free, user-friendly app has an offline mode, making it suitable for both mobile and in-store sales.

On top of the standard free Square POS app, Square offers free and paid POS software subscriptions for retail, restaurant, and appointment-based businesses. Each POS software product includes payment processing, inventory management, basic employee management, customer relationship management (CRM), reporting, analytics, and industry-specific functions.

For example, in November 2020, Square added a kitchen display (KDS) solution with detailed ticket views, timers, alerts, options for different prep stations, and an Expeditor Mode.

Click through the tabs below to learn more about each Square POS offering.

  • Square POS
  • Square for Retail
  • Square for Restaurants
  • Square Appointments

What Is Square? How It Works & Why Small Businesses Love It (2)

Square POS is a free, general-purpose POS system that allows you to process sales, track inventory, manage customers, and view reports. It works on any iPad, iPhone, Android device, and Square hardware. It’s best for individuals and small businesses on a budget. Read our full Square POS review to learn more.

What Is Square? How It Works & Why Small Businesses Love It (3)

Square for Retail has a barcode-based user interface that lets retailers easily ring transactions, manage orders, and track inventory. It also syncs seamlessly with Square Online for ecommerce and pickup orders. It has a forever-free plan, and a Plus plan with advanced inventory tracking, analytics, and team management. Read our Square for Retail review to learn more.

What Is Square? How It Works & Why Small Businesses Love It (4)

Square for Restaurants allows businesses to manage front-of-house and back-of-house operations, including menus, floor plans, in-house customer orders, online orders, and kitchen displays. There is a forever free plan and a Plus plan that offers better front-of-house tools and team management. Read our Square for Restaurants review to learn more.

What Is Square? How It Works & Why Small Businesses Love It (5)

Square Appointments is similar to Square POS but with the added functionality of a full-fledged appointment management tool. Manage client booking for you or your employees, allow customers to book online, and automatically send email or text confirmations. Integrated payment processing means you can require a card on file for every client. Read our Square Appointments review to learn more.

To get started, read our step-by-step guide to using Square POS. Once you’re set, start adding products and tracking sales with our guide to inventory management using Square.

Free Online Ordering Website Builder

Square Online is the third free solution that comes with every Square account. It’s a user-friendly site builder that can be used to create a business website or a basic ecommerce site or to add online ordering or order-ahead functionality to your business. You can also use Square Online for online appointment booking.

It includes a range of templates for retail, restaurant, event, appointment, and other business types. It automatically syncs orders, inventory, and customers with your POS and can be used to process curbside pickup, shipping, or local delivery orders.

Read our step-by-step guide to create a free Square Online store in just a few minutes.

In the News:

In August 2021, Square entered into an agreement to purchase Afterpay. Afterpay is a popular buy-now-pay-later platform that allows consumers to purchase items in six interest-free payments (as long as they are made on time). Square plans to add this to its Cash App to expand purchasing services further.

Business Management Solutions

In addition to Square’s three free business tools: payments, POS, and online store, Square offers an array of business management solutions that can be used as a standalone tool or in conjunction with any of Square’s other products. One of the advantages of using Square is that businesses can mix and match the solutions they need to create the best setup for their needs.

Some of the most popular solutions include:

  • Square Payroll: Track time, pay employees, manage benefits, and automatically file tax forms. Read our Square Payroll review to learn more.
  • Square Capital: Square offers small business loans of up to $100,000. This is only available for Square sellers but has fast approval and fast funding without a hard credit check.

Square also has paid add-ons for email and SMS marketing, team management, customer loyalty programs, and advanced online sales.

Square Banking

The company has taken the next logical step in its business services with Square Banking. While Square, Inc. is a financial services company, not a bank, these services are provided by Square’s banking affiliate, Square Financial Services, Inc. or Sutton Bank.

It offers business checking and savings accounts, along with the small business loans mentioned above. Your income from Square sales can flow directly into the accounts, giving you greater access to your funds.

Square banking comes with no overdraft fees, no minimum balance, no opening deposit, and no account fees, so it’s a no-brainer for businesses that use Square. The savings account earns 0.5% APY. Like other banks, Square has debit cards. It allows automated payments, including paying off business loans through Square Capital.

Read our Square Business Checking review to learn more.

Bottom Line

Square has become the go-to solution for pay-as-you-go flat-rate payment processing. Every year, Square continues to enhance the features of its free POS software, including solutions specifically designed for retail, restaurants, and appointment-based businesses like salons, in addition to its generic small business POS. Even more, it offers business tools from payroll and marketing to banking. Overall, Square is one of our favorite solutions for small businesses. Visit Square to create a free account.

Visit Square

You May Also Like …

  • Learn about Square’s top competitors.
  • See our top picks for the best merchant services for small businesses and the best POS systems.


What Is Square? How It Works & Why Small Businesses Love It? ›

Square is a mobile payment company that offers a suite of business software, point-of-sale (POS) systems, payment hardware products, and small business services. Unlike most payment processors, Square is available to businesses of all sizes and offers the most comprehensive free POS system on the market.

Why Square is good for small businesses? ›

The Verdict. Square is the best credit card processing company for small businesses overall because it has transparent flat-rate pricing, free point-of-sale software, and add-on services that expand its capabilities as your business grows.

How does a Square work? ›

When you swipe a magnetic-stripe card, the technology transmits the bank info to the card reader, which sends it to Square. We then pass along that information to the acquiring bank. Square's magstripe reader plugs into your iOS or Android device's headset jack so you can take credit card payments anywhere.

How do small businesses use Square readers? ›

How to use the Square Reader Payment Solution - YouTube

Why is Square so successful? ›

Square has been successful in growing its clientele by offering ease of installation and flat rate pricing. Square uses a flat rate of 2.75% for its clients, unless they are keying in transactions in which case the rate is 3.50%.

What makes Square unique? ›

Square has some of the most valuable data in the world

It has data on how retailers order inventory. It has data on how merchants pay their employees, and how those employees spend that money. It has data on when stores are busy and when they're not. It has data on what questions its customers need answers too.

What is Square for business? ›

In the simplest form, Square is a credit card and point-of-sale payment processor. They use mobile technology to allow businesses, artists, vendors, and organizations of all kinds to accept card payments using a smartphone or tablet. Increasingly, businesses are using Square to take both mobile and in-store payments.

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