Despite what you may have heard, it’s not always hip to be square. We’re talking about payments of course.

We’re often asked to explain what makes our solution better than the one offered by Square. It’s also a frequent question on Q&A forums like Quora, review websites like Merchant Maverick — not to mention our firsthand experience upgrading Square merchants to the ShopKeep platform.

While a lot of companies shy away from addressing these questions directly, at ShopKeep, we believe in being as transparent and honest with customers as possible.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Where it all Started

You can learn a lot about a startup company by examining the problem they initially set out to solve and the steps they took to achieve that resolution.

Square’s Roots

Square came to market in 2010 set out to disrupt credit card processing by allowing anyone to accept credit card payments with their smartphone and mobile card-reading device — not just businesses or corporations, literally, anyone. With the help of some Twitter money, they achieved this by sidestepping the underwriting and approval process that usually takes place with merchant accounts by becoming a payment aggregator (a broker of a service).

However, since merchant services are in essence already a brokered service, Square is acting as a broker for a broker which results in a hidden expense to end users.

A traditional merchant account is a financial agreement between the business owner and an authorized Merchant Service Provider (MSP). As you would expect, there is an underwriting process and some points to consider include:

  • Your length of time in business. New businesses may pay a higher processing rate, especially if their personal credit is less than stellar.
  • Your credit card transaction volume and average ticket value.
  • Personal credit. Even with a merchant account for the business, your personal credit plays an important role.
  • The type of business you operate. Certain businesses are considered high-risk and traditional MSPs will decline these applications or charge extremely high rates on processing because they have a higher probability of fraud and chargebacks.


For micro-merchants, entrepreneurs or hobbyists with low transaction volume, the hassle of obtaining a merchant account isn’t worth the benefit of giving a few customers the option to pay by credit card.

Enter, Square. Square owns the relationship between you and the MSP. They take the customer’s payment information collected by the Square app and route it to their payment processor. This enables them to charge you rates well over what they’re paying, and deposit the remaining balance in your bank account via ACH transfers through an ACH service provider.

How ShopKeep is Different?

Born out of frustration with the traditional cash register business, ShopKeep was founded in 2008 by a business owner with a different goal in mind —to replace complicated POS systems with simple, powerful, affordable, payment solutions.

Our Founder didn’t start ShopKeep to resell a service to an underserved market. He did so to provide real business owners with the reliable tools and support they need to make smarter business decisions, save time, be more profitable, and keep their passion alive.

He understood firsthand the challenges of running a retail business in New York City on a Windows-based POS System. It was ugly, expensive, and unreliable. After a POS system crash almost ended his business, he decided he would no longer be at the mercy of unpredictable POS software, and ShopKeep was born.

To sum it up, ShopKeep and Square set out to solve different problems. To fill a gap for different audiences, with a different goal in mind– and that origin influences everything they do.

Frequently Asked Questions About ShopKeep and Square

Doesn’t Square Have a Point of Sale System That’s Free?
In short, no. The first step here is to quickly paint a picture to dispel the myth of free point of sale. You’re a business owner, do you just give all your goods and services away for free? Precisely. Because if you did, you wouldn’t be in business for very long.

Square is no different. They have a free dongle that allows the user to process magstripe credit card transactions. However, with the growing importance of EMV transactions and mobile payments, Square now prioritizes the sale of a chip and contactless reader that can accept both EMV and NFC transactions like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay

So while their outdated dongle and basic POS app are free, their modern reader will set you back $49, their countertop Square Stand will cost you $169. And everyone pays a pumped up processing rate of 2.75% across all card types, swiped or dipped. If you key-in card data, expect to pay 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction.

Or you can use their proprietary cash register solution that will cost you $1,000 upfront for the hardware and 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction. And let’s not forget about their new Square for Retail app that will run you $60 a month, plus up-front hardware cost and inflated processing rate.

So after that explanation, the short answer remains the same. Square is not free. And if you’re a serious business owner with more than $10,000 in monthly sales volume, Square is going to cost you a lot more over the life of your business.

ShopKeep hardware Shopkeep vs Square

How Much is ShopKeep POS?
At ShopKeep, we approach payments differently. We provide you with the flexibility to choose your preferred credit card processor or receive the lowest integrated rate with ShopKeep Payments – which means you always get the best rate possible for your specific business. We also charge a monthly fee for our point of sale software, which is always improving to adapt to our customers’ needs.

Shopkeep‘s merchant service rates are better than most, and their technical support is second to none.”  – Steve, Montgomery County Shooting Complex

ShopKeep is used by 24,000 amazing independent business owners in North America, and while we have love for each and every one of them, they’ve shown us some love too. In fact, customers have shown us so much love that we have a five-star rating on acclaimed review website Trustpilot, and we rank #1 in the cash register and POS terminal category.


Since we leverage iPads to run our POS software, our hardware is not proprietary so you can use the iPad to run your ShopKeep register and other business applications. An iPad stand, cash drawer, receipt printer, barcode scanner, and credit card reader to accept magstripe, EMV, and NFC payments will cost less than $1,000.

Software is easy to set up and use. Always accurate. Personnel is always available either by phone or chat. We are very happy with the program!!” –  Luis, Apex Fingerprinting, Inc.

Which Service Has More Reliable Customer Care?
Square built their business around the idea that if they made taking payments simple enough, they wouldn’t require any meaningful onboarding support or customer care. And for a while, this self-service model worked for them. However, as they have begun to make the shift from serving micro-merchants, the complexity and nuance of more mature businesses exposed this lack of service.

A short search on the popular review website, Trustpilot, or a look through Square’s App Store reviews will highlight customer concerns about fund withholding and their inability to get the level of customer care they require.

Setting up Square or ShopKeep is easy, but once you get started, you shouldn’t have to fend for yourself. ShopKeep offers 1-on-1 training for those who require it, 24/7/365 customer support, so you always have someone to talk to, and comprehensive online documentation for those that prefer the DIY approach.

After all, our goal is and always will be, ensuring that our customers have the resources they need to grow their businesses. At ShopKeep, we pride ourselves on providing an intuitive product, but we recognize and respect the complexity of the business community we serve. Our very first hire at ShopKeep was a Customer Care representative, and we continue to prioritize quality support in this area.

Which One is Better, Square or ShopKeep?
If we weren’t trying to be as objective as possible, we would just say ShopKeep and move on. However, not only is that answer subjective, but it’s also incorrect.

First, the matter of deciding if one thing is better than another is entirely based off of the opinion of whom you’re asking. If you ask a millennial basketball fan who is the better NBA baller, Jordan or LeBron, they will probably say LeBron. If you ask Gen-Xer the same question, they will probably answer Jordan.

For business owners, defining a better solution means they first need to identify their problems and pain points so they can find the right solution, not the ‘better’ solution. What might be the better solution for you might not be the right fit for the neighboring business.

So, how do you determine which solution is the best fit for your business? We’re glad you asked. We’re going to answer that next.

We switched over from Square, and we were very nervous to learn a whole new system. ShopKeep is so amazing! It has made our life much simpler with our vape shop! We are two satisfied customers” – Samantha, MidWest Vape

ShopKeep VS Square: How to Choose?
If you’re in the market for a mPOS, or POS and you’re on the fence about whether to choose ShopKeep or Square, this will help you make a more educated decision.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. if you are a service business that needs to take credit card payments every now and again, Square is probably right for you. However, if you have a real store with multiple inventory items and employees, Square’s dongle card reader is not a viable solution.

For those with traditional storefronts (pop-up shops and food trucks count as mobile storefronts), take a look at your business plan. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Some entrepreneurs start out with a hobby or side hustle never having any intention of giving up their 9-5 job.

SEE ALSO: The Bottom Line On MPOS and MPayments

They run a micro business that fits into their current lifestyle, have minimal inventory and low or infrequent sales volume. They are content with the size of their business and don’t have any intentions of getting any bigger.

On the other hand, if you’re diving head first into running a food truck, specialty retail boutique, vape shop, or wine store, like our founder, you’ll need more than a dongle to track inventory, sales activity and manage employees.

Square Register, Square POS, or whatever they call their solutions these days, is an attempt at offering a more robust solution to the small business community but some of our existing customers will tell you, their solution just doesn’t cut it.

Many of our customers start out with Square and eventually upgrade to ShopKeep because it offers more advanced business features simply and intuitively.

We switched to ShopKeep 5 years ago, because our previous system did not provide the inventory management, tracking and employee tools we need. I love that I can see how many muffins or mocha lattes I sold with ShopKeep’s mobile app. Square didn’t offer this feature. – Randell, Red Barn Bakery

Our inventory features are much more advanced so that you can organize inventory by department, category, and item. Full-service restaurants and bars (FSRB) and quick-service restaurants (QSR) can track raw goods such as ingredients and create assemblies for greater inventory control and accuracy.

We know inventory management is essential, but so is employee management. That’s why with ShopKeep, employee management features like user permissions, timecards, shift detail, and contact information is baked right in — the other guys charge extra.

With our powerful BackOffice, you can review and analyze reports on inventory and employees as well as vendors (suppliers), customers, and tender types where gift cards are adequately tracked as liabilities.

And let’s not forget about cash flow. Aside from charging you a higher processing rate than traditional credit card processing companies, Square is notorious for withholding funds, deactivating accounts without notice, and charging you extra if you want your money funded the same day.

We don’t know about you, but during our small business days, cash flow was paramount to our day-to-day operations. Any hiccup or disruption in the stream of our credit card revenue could have an adverse domino effect on other areas of the business and risk jeopardizing all of our hard work. And that’s not a risk we think you should take.

With ShopKeep, you can use your preferred credit card processing provider or use our in-house service, ShopKeep Payments, for even more significant savings. Either way, you’re money is deposited into your account between 24-48 hours, like clockwork.

The Bottom Line

There’s a view out there that Square is the ‘cool’ brand. They’re the company that lets you accept payments with your phone. And that’s cool with us because we support entrepreneurship. But if your business is more than a hobby, you’ll need something more powerful than Square.

When it comes down to it, Square is building a myriad of products to serve a lot of different audiences. This lack of focus as they attempt to expand their offering beyond mobile payment acceptance is evident in their negative reviews.

At ShopKeep we’re building a specific product for a very particular audience: YOU — the growing small business. We’ve already empowered over 24,000 independent businesses with ShopKeep iPad POS. Are you next? Click here to learn more about ShopKeep and how to grow your business with a complete POS system.

Nicole Walters

Nicole Walters

As Content Writer at ShopKeep, a leading iPad Point of Sale System, Nicole Walters leverages her background in communications and her extensive experience in the payment and POS industry to create valuable content that addresses real problems and solutions for small business owners.