Over the last decade and a bit, Square has made a name for itself as an efficient, easy-to-use POS provider.
But is it the best fit for retailers?
With an increasing number of unhappy customers citing random account freezes and suspensions, the company’s reputation has plummetted.
Add to that the much higher transaction fees for businesses and those whispers of discontent have now become a deafening chorus.
As a result, many are now searching for an alternative POS system to Square.
Today, we’re going to look in-depth at Square along with its strengths and weaknesses.
We’ll explain who Square is perfect for and who might want to rethink using the provider.
And with many fantastic alternative POS providers out there, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons - as well as pricing - of the five best POS alternatives to Square.
So, grab a coffee (or tea) and let’s get stuck in.
Who is Square?
Founded in 2009 by American billionaire and Twitter inventor Jack Dorsey, Square is renowned for its minimalistic design and efficiency.
The company turned the POS industry on its head by leading the way in allowing merchants to accept payments on smartphone and tablet devices.
With simplicity in its DNA, Square’s customers can insert a Square Reader into the headphone jack on their tablets and smartphones.
That simple process turned those devices into a flexible and mobile-friendly credit card processing solution.
Boasting revenue of $9.48 billion last year, Square is often one of the first companies a business owner considers for their needs.
Since 2009, Square has enjoyed incredible success with its free POS system.
With an affordable, all-in-one solution and no monthly fees (it’s not necessarily free, you do pay hefty transaction fees in exchange for the “free” POS), Square’s merchant customer base enjoy using an easy-to-use, scalable POS system that works on both Android and iOS.
Square lets merchants collect payments in-store or on the go with a user-friendly interface that is as powerful as it is flexible.
And with a simple, transparent pricing structure and lots of third-party integration options, Square has made inroads into various industries.
No monthly fees
Easy to use
Scalable and adaptable as your business grows
Available in offline mode
The software works on iOS and Android
A wide variety of hardware options is available
The new self-service ordering feature is a hit with food and drink merchants
One of the best free apps on the market
Expensive payments - you need to use Squares own payments
Random account freezes and suspensions reported by customers
Doesn’t work on Windows devices
High fees for larger businesses
Random holds on funds
24/7 customer support is only available with a paid upgrade
Many Square customers were angry after a September 2019 credit card processing fee change from 2.75% to 2.6% + $0.10 for all Square’s merchants
Square’s 2019 fee change favours larger merchants
Square hardware starts from £16 + VAT for a Square Reader, up to £499 + VAT for a Square Register
No setup fees
No monthly fees
Fees per transaction range from 1.75% to 2.9%, depending on which hardware products you choose
Who is Square best for?
Square is suitable for new small business owners who need a reliable, simple POS system that offers limited features.
Square is a fantastic entry-level POS option with its variety of integration options and will suit many hospitality businesses such as cafes and restaurants (or those that only do small numbers of transactions).
It isn’t a great fit for retailers or larger companies with a more considerable volume of regular transactions due to the high fees Square charges.
Also note that Square POS is quite limited, it doesn’t integrate with online, and payments are expensive.
Best Square Alternatives
No matter what type of business you have, chances are there is a POS system that is tailor-made for your requirements.
That’s because, while Square offers an impressive list of features, you might not need many of them, and you are, therefore, paying extra for the privilege.
As a result, we would recommend considering alternatives to Square that might save you money as well as catering more specifically to your niche.
Here are the best Square POS alternatives on the market.
Unlike Square, AirPOS doesn’t try to be a jack of all trades and master of none.
AirPOS is unashamedly built for retailers and maintains a remarkable focus on the retail sector.
The increasingly popular POS system allows you to sell anytime, anywhere.
That marks it out as a tailor-made POS solution that’s as affordable as it is powerful.
Built by retailers for retailers, AirPOS is perfect for small and independent retailers.
With a handy end-to-end business management app and intuitive software, you’ll be comfortable selling in-store or online.
Easy to use and packed full of helpful features, retailers enjoy straightforward integration.
Merchants can manage inventory, make sales and analyse their business all in one place.
Accepts payment with all major providers, and customers enjoy exclusive rates
Simple to use
Powerful inventory management system
Built with small and independent retailers in mind
Features in-depth business reporting
Ecommerce integrations with Shopify
Simple, transparent pricing structure with no hidden charges
Free customer support seven days a week
Works on Apple, Android and Windows Devices
FREE hardware (worth £600) when you choose the AirPOS Pro bundle
No fixed contracts
It may be unsuitable for large retailers
Not suitable for hospitality
Does not integrate with weighing systems
Try AirPOS for free with a no-obligation 30-day trial available
AirPOS Basic package costs just £29.99 per month
AirPOS Pro bundle costs just £480 and includes free POS hardware worth over £600
Who AirPOS is best for
Small to medium-sized independent retailers
Canadian company Lightspeed is an all-in-one cloud-based EPOS system.
With a quick and painless setup and robust marketing tools, Lightspeed is fully customisable.
Lightspeed customers are predominately from the restaurant and retail sectors.
The company’s software is jam-packed with features, including impressive business reporting and analytics.
Unlimited 24/7 support
Excellent business reporting and analytics
Bespoke solutions available to suit your business requirements
No Android or Windows options (Apple only)
Complicated and time-consuming if you need a bespoke solution
Expect extra costs for hardware
Pricing is split between the restaurant and retail sectors and is expensive
Lightspeed Basic starts at £69 per month
Lightspeed Starter: £99 per month
Lightspeed Standard: £119 per month
Lightspeed Advanced: £129 per month
Lightspeed Pro: £199 per month
Small savings are possible if you pay annually instead of monthly
Who is Lightspeed best for?
Restaurants and retailers who favour using an Apple-based POS system, more suitable for larger businesses that need additional features and integrations.
Popular amongst the foodservice industry, Boston-based Toast’s all-in-one POS system includes all the features you’d expect from a POS system as well as restaurant-focused features such as online orders and gift cards.
Running on Android only, hardware is relatively cost-effective and flexible when compared to similar competitors, software pricing is quite expensive.
Easy to use (once its set up)
Widely respected customer service support
Finance options are available to help you spread the cost
Costs extra for add-ons and features
Can be challenging to set up
Toast Starter has no monthly fees
Toast Essentials starts from £120.38 per month
Toast Growth starts from £198.45 per month
Who is Toast POS best for?
Toast is suited best to restaurants and other service type businesses
US company Clover is a popular cloud-based POS provider.
Founded in 2012, the company has gone from strength to strength, processing billions of card transactions worldwide.
Adaptable, well-designed software
A cloud-based system means retailers can use it anywhere
Easy to use
Great choice of apps and integrations
Lightning quick and seamless pairing with hardware
Competitively priced software
Wide range of hardware options to choose from
Great user experience
Upfront costs are high
Added extras can be expensive
Expensive for smaller businesses
Unable to separate point of sale from payment processing
Merchants complain about very poor customer service
Questionable pricing structure with customers complaining about hidden fees
Clover Register Lite software starts from €8.36 a month
Clover Register software starts from €36 per month
Clover’s hardware options vary depending on needs and range from €500 right up to €1,400
Who is Clover best for?
Small to mid-size businesses in the retail and hospitality industry that serve customers directly
In the ecommerce world, they don’t come much bigger than Shopify.
The all-in-one ecommerce platform provides you with everything you need to build, maintain and grow an online store.
Featuring a wide variety of templates, simple payment processing and a whole host of simple integrations, Shopify has cemented its place at the very top of ecommerce.
However, its POS system is lagging behind with only simple functionality.
Boasting billion-pound customers and globally recognisable brands like FitBit, Red Bull, and Whole Foods, Shopify enjoyed annual revenue of a staggering $2.86 billion last year.
Simple payment processing
Decent inventory management system
Sell as many products as you like with no restrictions
Great mobile app
Basic POS with very limited features
Limited analytics (unless using the POS Pro plan)
Expect to pay extra for gift card features and advanced business reporting
High transaction fees online and in-store (2.2% + 20p)
Support only available for two staff accounts
Shopify POS Lite comes free with all Shopify plans, the lowest starting at $29 USD per month
Shopify POS Pro is an additional $89 per month with your Shopify plan.
Who is Shopify best for?
Companies that need very limited POS functionality wanting to create an online store or an omnichannel/multichannel sales presence online and offline.
Square POS is great for hospitality-focused businesses but falls short for retailers.
Its major downside is the high fees and the fact that its fee structure favours larger merchants.
With merchants citing questionable customer support, Square faces stiff competition from Shopify, Toast, AirPOS, LightSpeed and Clover.
That’s because, while Square has a decent offering, there’s a growing list of customer complaints that have put off many businesses.
Ultimately, you’ll want an affordable POS, has features you need, has lots of integration options and has robust inventory management.
When you’re considering Square POS - or even an alternative to Square - it’s essential not to get dazzled by the features list.
After all, features are only worthwhile if your business needs them, and if not, you’ll be paying for things you can’t or won’t use.
Instead, we’d recommend evaluating each Square competitor based on the following:
Transparent fee structure
Security and encryption
Hardware and software costs
Ease of use
Whom the POS system is targetted at
Customer service and support quality
Payment processing options
If you’re a retailer looking for an all in one POS and Ecommerce solution, then AirPOS is the best right out of the box. It’s powerful, affordable, and with our hardware bundle for only £480 you’ll struggle to find one that is better value for money.