capsule review

Square Card Reader: Credit Transactions Go Mobile

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At a Glance
  • Square Card Reader

Update: As of 11/11/2010 Square updated their reader’s design, effectively fixing the issue that some older readers had with the iPhone 4. Square is now shipping these new white card readers instead of the old off-white ones.

It has happened to everyone at one point or another: A customer enters a cash-only store or restaurant, but has only a debit card on hand. The result, of course, is a lost sale. But Square promises to make sure those days are over with its new Square Reader.

Square Reader
The reader is free (as of October 6, 2010) for any business owner or any person who takes payments, but the method to obtain one raises a few eyebrows. For starters, you can create a Square account only through the company's mobile app. That alone is not cause for alarm--but the information you are required to enter during sign-up includes your home mailing address, your bank routing and account numbers, and your Social Security number. Although divulging such details may not be unusual when you lease a card reader from a bank or a credit card company, the fact that you are essentially doing this through a third party is enough to make anyone paranoid. Square does its best, however, to assure you that your money--and, more important, your information--are safe.

Once you sign up and your bank account information has been verified, you get an e-mail confirming your shipment of a reader. After enduring several manufacturing issues, Square seems to be upping its production and distribution, so the wait time to receive your reader in the mail should be relatively short.

The reader itself is a small, off-white cube that plugs into the headphone jack of your iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, or Android device. Square provides a list of devices that it currently supports. Something to be noted, however: At the time of this review, the iPhone 4 still had some issues registering the reader due to the phone's antenna.

To get the reader up and running, you must first run the Square app. Once you plug the reader into your device, you see an icon indicating that the device recognizes the reader. After that, you are ready to begin accepting payments through your phone or iPad, a fairly simple process that's similar to any other credit or debit transaction. You simply input the amount owed and swipe the payment card of choice. You can then ask the payer for their signature and if they would like a receipt, for which they can enter their e-mail address to receive one electronically.

Square needs to solve its manufacturing issues and get to work on a wider rollout of the product. Aside from that, I highly recommend the device to any and all people who accept payments on a regular basis. The Square Reader will dramatically change the way you do business.

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At a Glance
  • If you're a small-business owner or you simply need a better, cleaner way of accepting payments, this is the service and device for you.


    • Small enough to carry in your pocket


    • Some of the older models have issues with the iPhone 4
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