Square Reader Tips
(updated 9/24/2016)
2013 Beverly Howard
Bev@BevHoward.com
feedback appreciated!







From Square PRO to Square CON

As anyone can tell from the tips for using Square below, when I initially posted this page back in 2013, I was very "pro" square...

HOWEVER, AND, UNFORTUNATELY, things at square have changed and I can no longer recommend that anyone consider them as a method for accepting credit card payments.

The main motivation for creating this page was that the square documentation was terrible... and it's STILL terrible plus, in many ways worse. 

At the same time, square has made significant changes in it's interface and apps that make using square harder and much more frustrating indicating that whomever is now in charge of square does not care about user needs and problems. 

Worse, square support is "knowledge based" which  means that if you contact square support and the problem you have is a common question and therefore exists in their "knowledge base" data, you may get an answer, but, if it is not a
common question, square agents will not only not be able to help, square has no option to "escalate" issues to more skilled employees.  That also means that it is highly unlikely that new problems will be acknowledged and be added to square's KB data.

That said, most of the tips below are still valid, so, if you are currently using square register or decide to use it anyway, there is a lot of valuable user info and help below.








At the 2013 Texas Clay Festival in Gruene, it was interesting to see that a large percentage of the potters there were using Square credit card readers running on a variety of devices from iPads to smartphones... a big switch from even a couple of years ago when it was rare to find any artist who accepted credit cards for their sales.  Traditionally, artists did not accept credit cards because they could not justify the fees that banks charged as well as the technical requirements to "swipe" cards... especially at fairs and shows away from a fixed business location.

FWIW, the Square concept was designed when the founder of Twitter heard about an artist friend who lost a major sale because he could not accept payment for his work using a credit card transaction, so, he sat down and created the Square Register App and system.

The entire Square design was tailored for artists and small businesses that do not operate according to traditional business expectations... in other words, it's a system to allow low cost transactions and be small, portable, mobile and usable in locations without power and telephone lines.

At the same time, while I was at the Texas Clay Festival, I was also privy to a number of
comments being made by frustrated Square users.  Since I had spent time over the past year researching and setting up a Square account and app for my potter wife Rebecca where I had learned a number of points, I am sharing on this page in the hope that it might make setting up and using Square accounts easier for others.

This "tip sheet" is also prompted by the fact that the Square documentation is sketchy, scattered and specific answers to many of my own questions turned out to be very hard to find.

Add to that the fact that there is also a good bit misinformation about Square floating around.  As an example, an artist friend who was considering using the Square system with her iPhone abandoned the idea when her banker erroneously told her that she would need to establish a commercial bank account to accept payments using the Square system...

Table of Contents

Cost and Fees
Point of Sale (POS) App
Setup
Item Entry
Swiping Blues and Tips
Creating A Sales Receipt
Checkout Time
Offline Mode <=New!
iPad Favoritism
Sales Tax Setup
Downloadable Transaction Records
Invoicing <=New!
Wireless Payments
Multiple Checkouts
Market Place
Bonus Tips


Cost and Fees

For the record, a commercial account is not required to accept payments using the Square app and reader. Square will deposit payments made using square into any checking account.

Related to this, there are no setup or monthly charges to use Square.  Even the credit card reader that plugs into an iPad or smartphone is free.

The only fees charged will be a percentage of each credit card charge amount which will be deducted from each sale.  At the time I am updating this page, Square's fee is 2.75% for each card swipe.  If you cannot swipe a card and have to manually enter a credit card number, the charge will be 3.5% plus 15 per transaction because of the higher risk of fraud when transactions are made without using the plastic card itself.  If you have problems swiping a card for a large transaction, be sure to re-read the swiping tips on this page, plus, with the introduction of "Invoicing" you now have the option of using invoicing to charge sales without swiping at the 2.75% rate.

There is no charge for cash or check transactions plus, all transactions, including cash and checks will be recorded and available for download to use in  your business accounting at any time.

Note, any completed transactions will remain in your downloadable sales history.  Even if you refund a sale as "accidentally charged" both the sales transaction and the refund transaction will remain in the square transaction history but they will balance so it will not impact your actual sales totals.

You may hear reports of deposits being held or delayed.  According to Square support, there used to be a weekly deposit limit that would trigger this when exceeded, but that restriction has now been removed. fwiw, Rebecca's deposits from her first show using Square were credited to her account the Monday after the weekend of that show.



Free Point of Sale System

The square app is a very good, and free, "point of sale" app that includes all sales made... not just credit card sales.  No fee is charged for recording and storing non credit/debit card sales and the down loadable transaction spreadsheet makes sales accounting very simple... for example, your accountant will likely appreciate getting your sales information as a complete spreadsheet rather than a pile of receipt books.


Setup

The first step it to go to the Square website and follow their steps to set up a new account.  Since this account involves money, make sure you use a good and secure password in order to protect your account.

You will need your checking account information (a blank check will suffice) including your full checking account number and the bank's "routing number" so that the Square system has a place to deposit the funds from your credit card transactions.

The next step is to enter your business and sales item information.  Again, follow the prompts on the site to complete this process.

In addition to the business name and contact information, take time to upload a logo of your business or your products and at least one "profile image."  why? ...the profile photo will be included on the customer receipts generated by Square and sent via email or text message.  Your logo will also be visible to potential customers using the Square Wallet app when they are near your location at home or during fairs and sales at any location.


Item Entry

Hot Tip! While it's possible to enter and edit your sales items using an iPad or smartphone, for most people it will be much easier to use the Square website at https://squareup.com/dashboard on a PC or Mac to setup their item listings and details.

The Square app uses image thumbnails to help you quickly select each item sold, but these images are so small that it will pay off to generate "iconic" images of each item to make them easy to spot on a small screen.  Remember that doing this may impact the suitability of images in the Square Marketplace if you elect to use that Square option.

While almost everything related to your account can be accomplished online using a computer, iPad specific features can only be setup on the iPad itself.

For items with a single set price, once each item is entered, when making a sale you can simply tap the item description the number of times equal to the quantity the customer is purchasing.  You can also tap the entry and manually edit the quantity field for that item.

If you want to price an item at the time of sale, enter the item name, description and image, but leave the price blank... (note a "zero" is not "blank" ;-)  When these items are selected at the time of sale, a number pad will pop up so the price can be manually entered for each sale.

Each item can also have the ability to sell for different preset values... for example, an item entry can contain  "small, medium, large" or "blue, white, checkered." prices.  When these items are selected at the time of sale, you will be asked to select the item's "sub item."

When adding or editing these items, look for the box with the default name entry of  "Regular" and edit/add your own sub price descriptions and prices.  In addition, you can leave one or more of these "sub prices" blank (not zero) so that when that sub price is selected at the time of sale, you will be prompted to enter the special price.

With items set up with multiple prices, be aware of the fact that the screen for selecting a specific price will be different on iPads and smartphones.  On the iPad, when one of these entries is selected at time of sale, you will be presented with the different price selections and the ability to set the item quantity, but, on a smartphone,
you will only have the option to select the price.  The item will need to be selected from the sales list and then edited to change the quantity or add a sales note.

Each item can be assigned to a "category" but, selecting items by category during sales is only possible on an iPad.

The iPad (and unfortunately only the iPad app) allows creating a "favorites" display, so, for example, if you have a large item inventory, but are taking only a small number of them to a specific show, you can create a "favorite screen" named "Current Show" and add only the items that will be included in the current show.  Another advantage of using this "favorite" feature is that each item's images are much larger than they display on the "item list."

Swiping and Swiping Practice

The biggest problem that most new users have is that you must scan cards flat, smooth and quickly.  It's not easy to find in the Square documentation, but you can "practice" card swiping without charging the card you are using to learn... see;

https://squareup.com/help/en-us/article/5203-square-reader-troubleshooting#swiping-and-card-reader-tips

Tip! Know that the app's error message that appears if a card scan is unsuccessful can be misleading... it says that the card must be scanned FASTER even if the card was swiped too fast to be read... try different speeds and keep the swipe smooth and straight.

Be sure to read the error message that comes up when a scan fails.  While it is often because a rescan is needed, it might be telling you another error such as no network connection.

Your device's 1/8" audio jack must support microphone input. (some android devices don't)

On devices without a microphone input, the Square app may be used without using the Square reader by manually typing in the credit card information.  However,
know that when you manually enter credit card information rather than using the reader, the transaction fee is higher (3.5% + 15 per transaction)

There is also a specific device problem list... see;
https://squareup.com/help/en-us/article/3887-features-and-device-compatibility#devices-with-known-issues


Credit card numbers that display in red indicate that the number is incorrect or the card has been declined.

Tip!!! Set your device's audio volume at max after the Square Reader is inserted... the audio/headset output is used to power the credit card reader, so the reader's ability to read a card's magnetic strip will vary with different volume settings depending on the device.

Also, if you use a stand for your iPad or smartphone, be careful that the stand does not press the volume control... for example, when any iPad is orientated so the Square Reader is at the top right, the volume control is on the bottom edge of the iPad and subject to being pressed by it's stand or the table it's sitting on.

Swiping Practice Tip!  An empty "gift card" can be used for swiping practice.  You will be able to easily see if the practice swipes are successful, but the card will be "declined" since it contains no funds.

Finally, you can simply "swipe" the customer's credit card when the sales list is complete instead of tapping "Charge..."  This will bypass the next screen of payment options.

FLASH!!!  Square just
announced (12/09/2013) a new, improved, smaller and more sensitive credit card reader.  Details are at this Wired.com Page.

Creating A Sales Receipt!

Pretty simple.  Once your items are created, edited and perfect, start the app on your device and sign in.  On any device, you can go to the item list and simply tap the item to add it to a receipt. 

If the item has a single price, a single tap is all that is necessary... or tap the item multiple times to increase the quantity.  You can also tap the "Current Sale" then the item and edit the quantity, you cannot edit any item price unless it is set up as "variable."

If the item has "sub prices" you will be able to select the price.  On the iPad, you will also have the option to change the quantity, but on other devices, you will have to pull up the item on the current sale list to do so.  This image shows how these multiple prices show up for selection using a smartphone

You can also enter "Custom Items" by pulling up the number pad... bottom right on the iPad, and "swipe right" on other devices.  You can "change quantity" on each custom item, but, again,
you will have to pull up the item on the current sale list to do so.  You can also add a note to each item entry on the current sale list.

The current sale list also offers the option to "remove item" with a single tap.

At any time you can cancel the entire sale with a single tap.

There is no way to "hold" a current sale for completion at a later date.

Checkout Time!

When the items have been entered and verified, tap "Charge $xxx.xx" to complete the transaction. 

If the transaction is going to be "cash" look for the "Tendered" button.  Just like the big box checkout cash registers, you can enter the amount of cash that is handed to you, and the app will calculate the change.

There is also a "check" option in the "other payment" selection, but this assumes the check will be for the exact amount

Next comes the "receipt"   While you can shell out big bucks for a battery operated bluetooth printer, the easiest option is for the Square app to send a professional looking receipt to either an email address or as text message to a cellphone number.  (You can always hand write a paper receipt if you or the customer wants one, so, keep a sales pad handy)

When sending a text message receipt to a phone number, that phone number must be a cellphone number.  If a home or business phone number is entered, even if the number can actually receive text messages (such as a Google Voice telephone number) Square will not send a text message.  The text message will contain only your name and the total amount of the sale, but it will also contain a link that will take the customer to a page showing the complete transaction receipt.  Receipts sent to an email address will contain the entire sales list by item.

For your information, the downloadable transaction list will show the payment type for each transaction... cash, credit card, check, etc.

Finally, if you need to record your customer's contact information, do not assume that since their email or cellphone number is entered in order to receive a transaction receipt that those will be available after the show.  After the customer enters this information at the time of checkout, Square hides it to protect the customer's privacy.  So, if you need contact information, remember to ask the customer for it separately after the transaction is complete.


Offline Mode (New!)

Square just added the ability (Oct 2014) to take credit card payments where an internet connection is not available.  This means that you can take unverified credit card payments at any location where there is no data connection available, then process those payments later when an internet connection is available.

When you have the latest update for the Square Register App installed, and want the ability to take "offline" credit card payments;

While the percentage charged for credit card transactions remains the same without a data connection, when you take a cc payment with no data connection, you will not know if the card will be "declined" a the time of the sale, and, if the card is declined when you process the payments later, it will be your responsibility to contact the customer to obtain payment,  So, when working "offline" it is important that you get credit card customer's contact information at the time of the sale.

When making a sale in a location where there is no data connection, a "red bar" warning bar will appear at the top of the screen to nofiy you that credit card transactions cannot be verified at the time of the sale.

Again, be sure to get the customer's id and contact info for every offline charge.

This option also opens up the option of using an iPad or Android tablet rather than cellphones to make unverified cc sales at locations where wifi is not available.

Here's the square page that explains the process;

https://squareup.com/help/en-us/article/5095-process-payments-with-offline-mode


iPad Favoritism

The original square app was very iPad centric... a number of features and options available in the iPad app were not available on other devices.  See;
https://squareup.com/help/en-us/article/3887-features-and-device-compatibility#feature-comparison-by-device

Things have gotten better.  Android Tablets now have many of the iPad app features and phone interfaces have gotten somewhat better.

As the this list will show, large android tablets are also not supported, but they will probably run the Square app, but without the iPad's large screen features.

Most Android and iPhones work great with the Square, but, because of the small screens, the user interface does not have some of the the interface features available on the iPad's.

However, Square's small screen interface has been significantly improved over the last year and, with the exception of no "favorites" or the ability to use "categories" the smartphone interfaces are very well written and usable... TIP!  When outdoors, remember to set your device's brightness settings high enough to read the screen in bright conditions.


Sales Tax Setup

The sales tax options in the Square App are significant and powerful!  If you generate sales on the road in multiple sales tax jurisdictions, the time and accuracy savings that you get from using the downloaded transaction histories can be very helpful.

NOTE THAT THE SQUARE DASHBOARD HAS SIGNIFICANTLY CHANGED, BUT, THE PRINCIPALS LISTED BELOW STILL APPLY.

Unfortunately, the location and handling of Square's sales tax settings can be very confusing and it is poorly documented.  Most of this confusion comes from the fact that there are two different (and unrelated) locations where each sales tax jurisdiction you entered can be turned ON or OFF.


The first place to go is to enter or add sales tax rates and jurisdictions is in Square's "Items" page then click "Taxes."  (Note, this has changed over the last year with the implementation of the new "Dashboard")

If you create more than one tax jurisdiction, make sure that only one jurisdiction is turned on for each show or sales location you charge for sales tax.  I suggest that you turn off all taxing jurisdictions in the Square Dashboard and then turn on only the specific jurisdiction as you prepare for each show or sales site.



The confusing thing is that once these jurisdictions are created in "settings," all of the taxing jurisdictions appear in every item entry you create... assuming the item is subject to sales tax, all of the jurisdictions should be "turned on" since sales tax will be due in any of these jurisdictions.

The trick is that when you set up for a show in a jurisdiction, you go back
"Taxes." and "turn on" the current taxing jurisdiction (make sure other jurisdictions are "off") so that when sales are made, the sales tax for each item will be calculated for that sales location at the time of sale.

Important!  Again, each new "item entered" will have sales tax "turned off" by default... make sure that you turn on all taxing jurisdictions when you enter each new item.  Not understanding this could be costly when you have a large number of items since it is easy to make taxable sales without charging all of the tax due because of one or more items having the tax turned off is mixed in with other taxed items, and taxing agencies will still hold you responsible for taxes not collected.

The reason that each item has these selections is that some items (such as groceries, shipping or labor) may be exempt from sales tax in a specific jurisdiction, so, it's possible to set up individual items so that sales tax will never be charged when they are sold.)

Then, when it's time to pay the tax collector his collected taxes, the down loadable transaction history will contain a "column" for each taxing jurisdiction making it easy to show and report the exact figures for each sales location.

Tax Jurisdiction Names

It makes sense to name each sales tax entry based on the location that sales will be made.  However, when Square sends a receipt to customers, the sales tax amount is listed by the jurisdiction name you create.

For example, you may set up a sales tax entry for sales made in your home city and name it "Austin" but your customers may be confused that the last item on their receipt is "Austin $8.74" so... include the word "Tax" in the jurisdiction name, so that it will appear on your receipts as "Tax (Austin) $8.74"


Transaction Records

In my opinion, Square's downloadable transaction records are the biggest single reason to use and learn the ins and outs of the Square app.  After you setup items and other aspects within the app most of any small business' accounting tasks and drudgery will be eliminated.

These transaction records have changed and improved significantly since I started experimenting with them earlier this year.  At that time, all of the transaction information was contained in a single downloadable "CSV" file which can be opened in Excel and other spreadsheet and data programs.  Yesterday, I was surprised to find that there were now six different download formats to meet specific needs.  The sales tax spreadsheet should make sales tax reporting dead simple.

The "transactions" sheet is still there and, as far as I can see, contains all of the transaction information in one download if you have already been using that format or if you want to draw all of your accounting information from a single file.

Tip! Google Docs/Drive can be used to access these CSV transaction reports and offers mobile device access to CSV files stored in Google Drive accounts.  That means that even while you are still at any remote sales location, you have instant access to all of your current sales.  The option is in the mobile app itself... Settings/AllActivity.

However, the iPad wins this need again... While the iPad app offers totals by day, the smartphone versions simply list all individual sales and there is no daily total.  You can, however, tap any of these sales and view each sale's complete sales receipt.

Square's web interface (which can be accessed by a smartphone's browser) does allow you to access daily totals.


Invoicing (New!)

Invoicing is a new option added by Square in 2014.  While this may be appealing if you are used to writing paper receipts at shows and use this option to simply bill the gross amount of sales, consider the fact that doing so will deprive you (and your accountant) of the detailed sales information that you will have for no extra cost if you take the time to set up items, tax rates and locations in your Square account.

Are you "Chip Savvy?"

If you accept credit cards using Square or any other credit card service, it's important to know that the rules around payment disputes changed significantly in October of 2015, and, that rule could put you at a disadvantage.

Before the rule change, if you accepted a credit card payment in good faith but the credit card was stolen but validated when swiped, it is the credit card company who is responsible for the fraudulent purchase. 

After October 2015, if you do not have a "chip and pin" credit card reader and swipe a credit card that is fraudulent and it validates, you will be required to contact the credit card user to collect the amount of the invalid transaction.

What this means is that you can still take credit card payments using the square swipe readers, but, if you accept a payment from someone using a fraudulent credit card, you will be responsible for the loss, so, if you do not know the customer, make sure you obtain additional information such as drivers license, etc.  Most artists and small vendors are not subject to this type of fraud, so, let your experience guide you... if you don't often get fraudulent cards, the swipe is probably OK for you to use.

The Square plugin card readers as shown in the image above, do not have the ability to read the new "chip and pin" contacts that will appear on all credit cards by October of 2015, so, if you continue using them, they will work, but leave you potentially vulnerable to fraudulent transactions.

Square is currently (July 2015) offering several readers that do read the "chip and pin" but they are not "free" as original Square Readers were.  In addition, Square is offering new readers that are smaller for free, but they do not read the chip.

Square is currently offering a wireless chip and pin reader that can also accept
Google Wallet or Android Pay and ApplePay transactions, but, despite the "FREE" claim, this NFC/Chip device costs $50. 

The FREE part happens if you take over $2,000 in credit card transactions over the first three months of use and will be in the form of waived Square transaction fees until they total $50.  A plus is that the NFC device, which communicates with your phone or tablet running the Square app via wireless should be easier to use than the current "swipe" readers.  The other plus is that it allows users with smartphones to make secure payments without using a plastic credit card.

Square is also offering a version of the plugin swipe reader that can also read the chip and pin information however, this swipe reader costs $30 and there is no mention of rebates for this device.


Wireless Payments

Update... Square has discontinued it's "Wallet" payment app.  While the app has been discontinued, the app appears to still be functional, so, you may still encounter customers who would like to use it, so, knowing about it could save you a sale or two.

Once set up and activated, if the person using Square Wallet makes a purchase from you, they will "see" your logo and name on  their wallet app.  They then have the option of tapping a "payment" option on their phone, and, when they do so, their name and picture will appear on the payment screen of your device when you select "Charge" when you tap "Charge..."

Once you identify the buyer, you then tap their entry on your checkout screen, their phone will ask them to "authorize" the credit card payment to you... no card, no receipt address entry is required... quick easy and finished.

Note that your device must have WiFi turned on in order for this to work as Square uses WiFi rather than a cellular connection to communicate with nearby devices.

I will revise this information if I discover that paying by Square's Wallet app has been disabled.


Credit Card and Square "Stickers"

"Square" sticker sheets showing which credit cards you can accept with Square are available on the Square website under the account pulldown /GetACardReader selection.  However, take another look at the cardboard container that held the reader when you received it.  On the backside of the pasteboard you will find two peel and stick placards showing which credit cards are accepted.


Multiple Checkouts

Major Changes Here!  Square has decided that the following is a significant revenue source, plus, adding additional users and devices will PERMANENTLY screw up your app interface since they CANNOT be removed after making changes!  Charges up to $70/year per employee!


Since the Square app is free, there is no penalty to use multiple devices at the same time at the same or different locations. Each transaction will include the "device name" and that will be included in the downloaded transaction spreadsheets, so, if you and your partner each have a phone or tablet, you don't have to be tied to using a single device to charge sales.

However, there is a GOTCHA in this feature related to how each device is named.  For example, if one of the devices is named "Reb's iPad" and another is named "Reb's iPhone" the spreadsheet entries will contain only "Reb" since the downloaded transaction files cannot handle the apostrophe (and a few other punctuation marks)
in the device name ...so, you may want to check each device's general settings and rename phones and tablets to avoid problems down the line.

Further, Square's "Business Settings" allow you to set up a "Mobile Staff"  by entering each person's name and email address and they will be invited to agree to make sales for you.  I have not experimented with this to date, but I'm assuming that while they will be allowed to make sales on your behalf, they will not have access to the account in general.  There is also a setting in the Mobil Staff setup that allows you to select if they will have permission to "issue refunds" for sales transactions.


Square Market Place

NOT RECOMMENDED!  INFLEXIBLE AND DIFFICULT TO USE!

Again, I have no experience with this Square option, but a potter pointed out to me this weekend that the Square Market Place looks like an excellent way to establish an online sales presence that is easy to setup and includes online sales tools such as "shopping baskets" and credit card checkout service and is included as part of your Square account setup... i.e. the only fee will be the credit card percentage charge.

Once you have items entered and priced for use with the Square App, these items can be made available for sale at the marketplace and you will have your own marketplace URL that will take customers directly to your inventory lists.  You can set a flat shipping rate per item along with the capability to override that with custom shipping rates for individual items.


Bonus Tips

TIP!  When it's cold outside, gloves are nice. 

However, nothing happens when you tap the touch screen on a phone or tablet when wearing gloves.  There are now gloves available featuring "capacitive fingertips" to address this problem, but know that you can use an inexpensive capacitive stylus while wearing gloves to keep your hands warm and still use any app on a phone or tablet. 

An associate who has a pair of
capacitive fingertip gloves reports that their special fingertips also transfer cold very effectively ...pretty much eliminating the primary advantage of gloves worn for warmth.

TIP!  When outdoors, remember to set your device's brightness settings high enough to read the screen in bright conditions.