Square Reader Tips
© 2013 Beverly Howard
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"
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.
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
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
portable, mobile and usable in locations without power and telephone
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
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
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
bank account to accept payments using the Square system...
Table of Contents
Cost and Fees
Point of Sale (POS) App
Swiping Blues and Tips
Creating A Sales Receipt
Offline Mode <=New!
Sales Tax Setup
Downloadable Transaction Records
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¢
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.
any completed transactions will remain in your downloadable sales
history. Even if you refund a sale as "accidentally charged" both
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.
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
will likely appreciate getting your sales information as a complete
rather than a pile of receipt books.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
but are taking only a small number of them to a specific show, you can
"favorite screen" named "Current Show" and add only the items that will
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;
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
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
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;
Credit card numbers that display in red indicate that the number is
incorrect or the card has been declined.
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.
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
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
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
The current sale list also offers the option to "remove item" with a
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.
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
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
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,
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
you have the latest update for the Square Register App installed, and
want the ability to take "offline" credit card payments;
- On the device (As far as I can determine, there is no way to select this using the web interface)
- Tap the "3 Line" "Menu" icon
- Go to "settings"
- Tap "offline mode"
- Tap the "offline mode" ON or OFF
- Below the "switch" to turn "offline mode" ON and OFF you also have the ability to set a limit for offline mode charges
- Turing "offline" on in any device's settings will turn it on for all devices logged into the same account
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;
The original square app was very iPad centric... a number of features and
options available in the iPad app were not available on other
Things have gotten better. Android Tablets now have
many of the iPad app features and phone interfaces have gotten somewhat
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
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
confusing and it is poorly documented. Most of this
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.
confusing thing is that once these jurisdictions are created in
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.
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
for each item will be calculated for that sales location at the time of
Again, each new "item entered" will have sales tax "turned off" by
default... make sure that you turn on all taxing jurisdictions
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
sales will be made. However, when Square sends a receipt to
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
"Austin" but your customers may be confused that the last item
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"
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
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.
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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.
Update... Square has discontinued it's "Wallet" payment
app. While the app has been discontinued, the app appears to
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..."
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
very effectively ...pretty much eliminating the primary advantage of
gloves worn for warmth.
When outdoors, remember to set your device's brightness settings high
enough to read the screen in bright conditions.