Square’s credit card processing gives you a variety of transaction options along with a full suite of business management tools. The real trick is knowing how to use Square for your particular business needs. We’ll show you how to use Square for payments and how to use it to expand your sales reach and manage your entire business. 

Here’s a look at the six ways that most Square users accept and process payments.

Square Credit Card Processing – Your 6 Options

Payment method:How it works:
Mobile payments using a card readerUse Square’s mobile card reader to physically swipe credit cards anywhere using your smartphone or tablet
Mobile payments without a card reader*Square’s mobile point-of sale (POS) app lets you key in credit card numbers into your smartphone or tablet
Retail in-store paymentsSquare’s retail POS checkout accepts all types of payments, prints receipts, and connects to a cash drawer or barcode scanners
Online store*Accepts online payments for sales made via Square’s free online store or another ecommerce platform
Online virtual terminal*Square’s online dashboard lets you use your computer to key in credit card numbers for phoned-in orders
Invoices & recurring payments*Square’s online dashboard and POS app let you create and send invoices via email and accept online or automated payments

To start processing credit cards with Square, you first need to open a free Square account, which you can set up in minutes. Once that’s done, you can immediately accept what Square calls keyed-in payments using your smartphone, tablet, computer, or e-commerce website. Square also sends you a free mobile card reader when you sign up. Once you receive your reader, you can physically swipe credit cards using your smartphone or tablet, too.

Processing payments just scratches the surface of all that you can do with Square. You get a full suite of tools for inventory and sales tracking, customer and employee management, invoicing, an online store, and more in your free account. But how you use Square’s many features really depends on how you sell and accept payments.

Now we’ll take a closer look at how to use Square to accept these various credit card payments, plus manage sales, customers, and inventory for all types of businesses.

How to Use Square to Accept Mobile Payments

Square mobile payments work in both online and offline mode

Square started out as a mobile credit card processor and still leads the pack for accepting mobile credit card payments wherever and however you do business. To get started using Square for mobile sales, you need to:

  1. Set up a free Square account – Sign-up takes just a few minutes and it’s completely free
  2. Download Square’s mobile POS app – You can start accepting keyed-in credit cards using the Square POS app on a smartphone or tablet as soon as you open your Square account
  3. Add the Square Card Reader – Square sends you a free Magstripe card reader to physically swipe cards using your mobile device

Whether you physically swipe a credit card using the Square reader or manually key in the credit card number, the basic steps are the same:

  1. Connect the Square card reader to your phone or tablet
  2. Open the Square POS app on your phone or tablet
  3. Add items (from your Square POS inventory list) to the sale, or set a custom charge amount
  4. Automatically apply any taxes or discounts
  5. Swipe (or manually key in) the customer’s credit card
  6. Have the customer sign the screen with their finger (this is optional, but a good idea)
  7. Hit Done to complete the sale
  8. Enter the customer’s email or mobile number to send a receipt (also optional)

How to Use Square Mobile Payments to Run Your Business

Square’s mobile POS app is a very powerful sales and inventory management tool that seamlessly ties into your online Square dashboard. With it, you can oversee many aspects of your business using just your smartphone or tablet, such as:

  • Manage inventory – You can add items to your Square inventory list, track your quantities in stock, and even record key details like wholesale costs. When you make a sale, Square automatically reduces item inventory levels so your stock numbers are always correct.
  • Track sales – Every mobile sale is tracked in detail and you can access sales reports to help you track growth and make key business decisions. Plus, if you sell via other methods, like online or in-store, all of your sales tie together seamlessly in one system.
  • Manage customers – Square’s mobile app lets you enter and track your customer data, such as email addresses and purchase history, so you can provide better service or grow your business via email marketing.

What It Costs to Use Square Mobile Payments

Square’s mobile credit card processing costs are easy to understand and predict. You get a free Magstripe card reader with your account and your only ongoing costs are your credit card processing fees. You can buy a more advanced card reader to accept chip cards and eWallet payments if you wish.

Here’s a complete look at Square’s mobile credit card processing costs:

Square’s Mobile Credit Card Processing Fees & Card Reader Costs

ServiceSquare’s Fee
Setup & monthly fees$0
Cancellation fee$0
Square POS appFree
Card ReadersPriceUse for:
Magstripe reader
FreeUse to swipe the magnetic strip of credit cards

Plugs into your phone or tablet
Chip & Tap reader
$49Chip cards & eWallet payments, Apple Pay & Android Pay

Connects via Bluetooth to your phone or tablet
Processing FeesRateWhat You Pay on a $100 Sale
Swipe, Chip & Tap charges2.75%$2.75
Keyed-in charge:3.5% + 15¢ per transaction$3.65

Now let’s look at how to use Square to accept payments and manage sales in a retail store setting.

How to Use Square to Accept In-Store Payments

Build out the exact register you need with integrated peripherals

Square’s powerful, free POS software can be paired with a checkout register for in-store sales. While you can use the mobile readers covered above for in-store sales, most retail stores and eateries prefer using a checkout register with a cash drawer and receipt printer, like the setup above. For this, you need to:

  1. Set up a free Square account – Sign up takes just a few minutes and it’s completely free
  2. Choose a checkout register – Options include a Square Stand with iPad and card reader OR the new all-in-one Square Register
  3. Add peripherals – Cash drawers, receipt printers, barcode scanners, and mobile card readers can be added as needed
  4. Set up your free Square POS software – Add inventory items, tax rates, and other key information needed to create sales

Since Square’s retail POS lets you accept payments many ways, once you have the above in place, you can complete in-store sales any way you wish:

  • Standard checkout sales – Use the Square POS register to physically process cards and print receipts
  • Phoned-in orders – Key in payments into your POS screen for prepaid deliveries or pick-up orders
  • Combine with mobile sales – Complete sales on your shop floor or at dining tables using a mobile card reader with a smartphone or tablet

However you accept payments for your in-store sales, the basic steps are the same:

  1. Add items (from your Square POS inventory) to the sale, or set a custom charge amount
  2. Automatically apply any taxes or discounts
  3. Swipe or key in the customer’s credit card (or select the cash or check payment option)
  4. Have the customer sign the screen (for in-person sales)
  5. Hit Done to complete the sale
  6. Print the receipt or enter the customer’s email or mobile number to send an e-receipt

Of course, the above procedure can be tailored to fit your unique business. You can add a barcode scanner to your Square POS for faster checkout, allow the customer to apply a tip if you run a dining establishment, and much more. Square supports many selling methods in your free Square POS software. See how to set them all up in Square’s in-store POS tutorial.

How to Use Square POS to Run Your In-Store Business

The best part about using Square to run your shop is that everything is seamlessly connected and fully integrated from day one. You never have to struggle to combine different store management software or register hardware products, since Square ties everything you need together within one tidy system and service. You get:

  • Reliable checkout hardware and card readers
  • Payment processing and refunds
  • Customer tracking and management
  • Sales tracking
  • Inventory management
  • Employee time tracking
  • Business reporting
  • Appointments booking
  • Email marketing*
  • Customer loyalty program*
  • Payroll services*

* Square’s advanced management features can be added for low monthly fees

What It Costs to Use Square POS for Your In-Store Business

Your Square account and basic POS software are free, but there are some hardware costs if you want to set up a physical register. Here’s a look what it costs to set up a Square checkout register and process credit cards for various types of in-store sales.

Square POS In-Store Payment Processing Fees & Hardware Costs

ServiceSquare’s Fee
Setup & monthly fees$0
Cancellation fee$0
Square POS appFree; optional advanced features have low monthly fees
Register OptionsPriceUse for:
Square Stand for iPad
Stand if you already have an iPad: 
$169

Add an iPad:
$498
Physical POS register stand that works with an iPad to accept payments, run printers, scanners, and cash drawers, and provide a store management hub
Square Register
$999 one-time purchase or 
$49/month for 24 months
Fully integrated POS register hardware that accepts payments, runs printers, scanners, and cash drawers, and provides a store management hub. You also get lower credit card processing fees using the Square Register.
Type of ChargeSquare’s FeeWhat You Pay for a $100 Sale
Swiped card with a mobile card reader or iPad Stand2.75%$2.75
Swiped card with the new Square Register2.5% + 10¢ per transaction$2.60
Keyed-in sale for phone orders3.5% + 15¢ per transaction$3.65

Next, we’ll explore how to use Square to accept e-commerce payments and manage online sales.

How to Use Square to Sell Online

Square’s free online store connects seamlessly with your Square product list and sales data

Square makes it very easy to expand your existing business into online sales or launch a completely new business online. You have two options for using Square for online sales:

  1. Use Square’s free online store feature – Every free Square account includes a free online storethat integrates directly with your existing Square inventory list. This is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way for Square users to start selling online.
  2. Use Square with top e-commerce platforms – Top e-commerce platforms, including BigCommerceand Ecwid, integrate with Square if you need more online selling features than the free Square online store offers.

Here’s a closer look at how to use Square for your online sales:

How to Use Square’s Free Online Store

If you already use Square and have inventory items set up, you can quickly launch a free Square online store to sell some or all of your existing products online.

If you’re new to Square, here are the three things you’ll need to do to launch a free Square online store:

  1. Open a free Square account
  2. Enter products into your Square inventory, with good product photos and product descriptions
  3. Decide on a domain name for your website (you’ll create this during your Square online store setup)

How to Use Square with Other E-commerce Platforms

You can use Square as your online payment processor for other e-commerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, or Ecwid. If online sales are your focus, these platforms offer a stronger set of online sales features than the free Square online store. These platforms charge monthly fees, but Square charges you nothing more to go this route (you just pay credit card processing fees).

A few platforms, like BigCommerce and Ecwid, fully integrate their inventory, sales, and customer tracking data with Square. This can be a major plus if you sell online, in-store, and via mobile. This integration lets you conveniently manage all of your sales functions within Square. To learn more about this option, check out the BigCommerce and Square integration and the Ecwid and Square integration.

To use Square with one of these e-commerce platforms, you need to:

  1. Open your free Square account
  2. Choose your e-commerce platform
  3. Connect it to Square using the platform’s built-in integration app
  4. Build your online store

How to Use Square to Manage Your Online Business

If you use Square’s free online store feature or an integrated e-commerce store, you’ll be able to manage online orders right from your Square dashboard or POS screen. Square provides several valuable tools that online sellers find particularly useful, including:

  • Automated, secure online payment processing
  • Customer tracking and management
  • Inventory management for both online and in-store sales
  • Print shipping labels and track orders
  • Virtual terminal screen in the Square dashboard for entering and processing customer phone-in orders
  • Sales tracking and business reports

What It Costs to Use Square to Sell Online

Square’s online store feature is free (you only pay credit card processing charges). It also integrates with other e-commerce platforms for free; again, you pay only the credit card processing fees. Square’s online processing fees are simple and straightforward.

Square Online Store Processing Fees

ServiceSquare’s Fee
Setup & monthly fees$0
Cancellation fee$0
Square online storeFree
Type of ChargeSquare’s FeeWhat You Pay for a $100 Sale
Online order3.5% + 15¢ per transaction$3.65
Keyed-in sale for phone orders3.5% + 15¢ per transaction$3.65

Next, we’ll look at how to use Square to manage invoices and payments for service businesses.

How to Use Square to Manage Invoices & Recurring Payments

Square lets you create invoices and email them to your customers from both your Square dashboard and POS app. Once received, your customers can conveniently pay invoices using a credit card by clicking the Pay button on their invoice. They can even choose to save their payment information in Square’s secure payment vault Square – Card On File to use for future payments or as a recurring payment.

You can customize your Square invoices with your logo

To use Square for invoicing, you need to:

  1. Set up a free Square account – Sign up takes just a few minutes and it’s completely free
  2. Generate and send invoices – Create invoices in your Square POS or using your online Square dashboard, then email to customers or print as needed; you can enter inventory items on invoices or create custom charges
  3. Track payment status – Online invoice payments record automatically as customers pay; you can also enter check or cash payments, or process phone-in credit card payments within your Square dashboard or app

Recurring payments are a handy feature that Square provides. They’re ideal for automating monthly service fees, say for lawn care or housekeeping services, or monthly tuition or dues. Customers enjoy the convenience of automated payments and you enjoy a steady stream of predictable, on-time income each month.

You use Square’s invoice feature to set up and manage recurring payments. Here is a step-by-step guide that details how to use Square for recurring payments.

How to Use Square Invoice Payments to Manage Your Business

Square gives you a powerful set of invoicing tools to help you track payments and stay on top of late accounts. Best of all, if you combine invoice sales with other types of selling, such as online, in-store, and mobile sales, everything is recorded in your Square dashboard for an accurate view of your entire business.

Square’s invoice screen lets you easily track payment status

If you use invoices, you’ll find that Square makes it easy to:

  • Create and send single or batch invoices
  • Track sales and payments by customer
  • Track aging and late-pay accounts
  • Assign inventory to sales tickets
  • Charge for parts, items, and services on one invoice
  • Accept invoice payments via credit card, check, and cash
  • Set up secure and convenient recurring billing
  • Pull up-to-date sales reports
  • Market or send service updates to customers

What It Costs to Use Square Invoices & Recurring Payments

Square’s invoicing and recurring payments feature is free. You aren’t charged for creating or emailing any invoices or setting up recurring payments. Plus, you only pay credit card processing charges for the invoices that are paid by credit card. Cash and check payments cost you nothing.

Square Invoice Payment Credit Card Processing Fees

ServiceSquare’s Fee
Setup & monthly fees$0
Cancellation fee$0
Square invoicing featureFree
Type of ChargeSquare’s FeeWhat You Pay for a $100 Sale
Online invoice payment2.9% + 30¢ per transaction$3.20
Recurring payment3.5% + 15¢ per transaction$3.65

The Bottom Line

When someone asks how to use Square, my first response is: What do you want to do? Clearly, Square gives you almost unlimited selling options from the moment you open your free Square account. Here are just a few of your many sales possibilities:

  • If you sell in-store, you can easily expand into online sales
  • Use mobile card readers to take your retail store on the road to fairs and shows
  • Use mobile app payments to cut down on retail store checkout lines
  • Let customers pay for meals right at the table with waitstaff using the mobile POS app
  • Use invoicing or recurring payments to add classes or specialty services to your product lineup
  • Online sellers can use a mobile card reader to accept credit cards in-person for trade shows and sales events

Best of all, once you know how to use Square to manage all types of sales, you’re not held back by troublesome integrations, equipment add-ons, or software learning curves. Everything is streamlined into one tidy package.