iOS: Square Register
Issue: 10.5 (July/August 2012)
Author: Marc Zeedar
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Article Length (in bytes): 6,042
Starting Page Number: 19
RBD Number: 10504
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IN BRIEF Product Square Register Manufacturer Square, Inc. Price $0 Contact Info https://squareup.com/ Pros Free (no monthly fees or setup charges); very low processing fees on transactions; elegant app design. Cons Only a basic cash register with few advanced features; app forgets your login info after a while; swiping credit cards can take a little practice. Rating (1.0-5.0): 4.8
Accepting credit card payments used to be complicated. But with online services such as Paypal, you no longer need to hassle with setting up a merchant account. But such online services don't usually let you accept credit cards directly. What if you have a need to swipe a card in person?
Square came onto the scene a year or so ago with a simple solution to this problem: a free tiny card reader that plugs into your iPad or iPhone's headphone jack and a simple signup on Square's website that lets anyone charge credit cards. Even the app is free!
I first used Square at the Atlanta Real Studio conference to sell a few books and it worked wonderfully well. The iPhone app is simple: you put in a dollar amount, swipe a credit card, and it's immediately either approved or disapproved. If the charge goes through, the buyer signs their signature on the phone and can opt for a receipt via email or text message. Brilliant!
I was also pleased that payment processing was very quick. Before the trip I'd linked my bank account to Square via their website, and confirmed the two under a dollar deposits they made to that account to prove that it was my account (so keep in mind registration takes a few days for those deposits to go through). After charging some cards at the conference, within just a day or two the money was deposited in my bank account (minus Square's very low fee of 2.75%).
This year at Real World I tried something new: Square's free Register app for iPad. Unlike the phone app that just lets you put in a dollar amount, Square Register gives you a very simple cash register. There's a built-in database where you can add products (including a picture from your camera roll or camera). You can mark some items as Favorites for easy access (if you have a lot of products).
Having products already entered saves time because the app will calculate the total for you. (You can still enter in any arbitrary amount if you want, but note that if you do that you have no record of what you sold that customer later, just the dollar amount of the sale with no description.) The swiping and checkout process is the same as on the phone.
I was initially disappointed that the app didn't provide a way to offer discounts, but I got around that by putting in two prices for each of my products (the database allows you to enter "variations" of a product, so if you were selling T-shirts, for example, you could have different prices for medium and extra-large). After I returned home from Real World, of course, Square updated the app and it now supports discounts (percentage or flat rate).
One aspect of having the built-in database that came in handy while at Real World is that, though I'd planned to just sell the printed books I brought with me, I encountered a few people who also wanted a magazine subscription. I hadn't created an item for that in the database, but since it was all within the app, it just took me seconds to add a new product.
One downside of this kind of purchase system in my case (selling a digital product) is that while Square emails me a receipt of the transaction, it doesn't provide me with the customer's email. So if I want that, I need to get that from the customer separately. Not a deal-breaker, but an extra step. It would be nice if there was a checkbox the customer could check to provide me with their email address.
I had one customer who typed in his email incorrectly and thus never received his receipt. He wasn't bothered, but I didn't realize until later that there is a button that lets me re-send a receipt or issue a refund. That feature is buried in the app's transaction history (available within the app or on the Square website), which is nice. (You can even look at sales summaries and reports.)
There really aren't many disadvantages to this system. The fees are low because cards are being swiped and the customer signs for the charge (credit card companies charge a lower fee for such transactions because the fraud risk is lower, so you'll get a higher rate if you enter a card manually instead of swiping it), the apps and card reader are free, there are no monthly fees or setup costs, and setting up a Square account is very easy. About the only thing I've found annoying is that the app doesn't remember my email address. While I can understand not remembering my password for security reasons, it's annoying to have to put my email in if I haven't used the app for a while (it remembers your login info for a while, so switching apps doesn't log you out).
The bottom line: since it's free, sign up for an account and get your reader even if you don't plan to use it right away, because someday you'll run into a situation where it will come in handy (roommate needs to pay rent, your friend wants to pay back the money he owes you, you sell something on Craigslist, consulting client wants to pay in person, etc.). Nobody carries cash any more, so being ready to take a credit card is a competitive advantage.
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