Considering other credit card apps – GoPayment vs. Square

UPDATE 09/09/2013

My full review of Square Register is much more up-to-date, but the post below is here for historical purposes.

After a year of using the combination of Ring It Up (RIU) and the Innerfence Credit Card app as my “mobile cash register” (see my blog post from Jan 2010), I have noticed some competition. But why would I consider switching to something else?

  • Fees suck. Monthly fees, cancellation fees, re-activation fees, PCI compliance fees, multiple fees per transaction. I’m reminded of the taxman from the 1980 movie “Popeye”.
  • Innerfence charges $79 for their hardware credit card reader (unless you’re a brand new customer, which I ain’t no more!)
  • The Innerfence solution isn’t just a single company:
    • I was required to set up accounts with Authorize.net (payment gateway), and Merchant Focus (merchant account). When you sign up, you fill out one big set of paperwork. It’s convenient that it’s “one big set of paperwork”, but it’s like getting a mortgage: The EULA totals to about 15 pages in 12-point single-spaced type, written completely in LawyerSpeak. Then when it’s filled out, you have to fax it all back. (It’s the 21st Century, folks. Why the hell do fax machines still exist? They use the landline telephone network, which defeats the purpose of me using a mobile phone, which is the platform I’m using to run the very app I’m being required to fax all this paperwork for! Think about it!)
    • Merchant Focus (or was it Authorize.net, I don’t remember who does what..), didn’t allow me to take American Express. I had to contact Amex on my own and create a merchant account with them — yet a THIRD company to deal with. Then they charged me $7.95 a month whether I had transactions or not. (They are kinda nifty though.. One of the perks of signing up for American Express is that they give you free “American Express accepted here” signs to display at your location. Yeah, they’re made of metal, and I’m totally keeping those!)
    • If you cancel your service however, you have to contact each company separately. But when you call to cancel your respective accounts, that’s when the companies start getting all sweet on you: Amex was willing to eliminate my monthly fee all together (but increase my transaction rate), and Merchant Focus was willing to reduce my monthly rate from $10.00 to $5.00. (I guess in order to get the best rates, you’re supposed to use them for a few months, then threaten to cancel your account.)

Recently, some challengers have entered the arena: Intuit’s GoPayment, and a little thing called Square.

DISCLAIMER: When I mention how the fees for the following solutions are so much “better” than those offered by Authorize.net / Merchant Focus, they are better for my financial situation. If you are considering any of these services, calculate some estimated transactions to see which solution is best for you. You will need the following: total number of transactions per year, average cost of each transaction, active number of months (if you run a seasonal business). Even though one solution might be less expensive in the long run, personally I find (albeit, intangible) value in not having to pay monthly fees, and not having to manage accounts with several different companies at once.

Intuit GoPayment

I haven’t yet signed up, so this review won’t be as in-depth as it could be.

Intuit, an 800-pound gorilla of the personal/business financial solution market (makers of Quicken, Quickbooks, TurboTax, and the wickedly-cool mint.com) has decided — along with most of the modern world — that the smartphone universe is the kickin’ place to be. They have an app called GoPayment, which works on pretty much everything: iPhone/iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Win7 phones.

It’s a two-prong approach, in that you have an app and a hardware card reader. They offer their little white card reader for free, but they also offer the Mophie card reader for iPhone users. (Is the Mophie reader free too?)

The startup screen

Once the app starts (and once you’ve logged into the service), you are presented with the payment screen:

Fired up, ready to go!

Upon completing a transaction, it gets entered in the “Past Charges” screen:

Payment History

The app also offers a rudimentary inventory list:

Inventory List

And by rudimentary, I mean it doesn’t have very many features: Name, Description, Price, Tax. (That’s all you’re getting.)

Item Info

Before I move on, let’s compare that to Ring It Up, shall we?

(I just felt like doing that… anyway)

How much does GoPayment cost?

Pricing

Pros:

  • NO MONTHLY FEES!* (I’m looking at you, Innerfence..)
  • The connection to QuickBooks is (probably) a lot more convenient than having to fiddle with CSV files in Excel. (I say “probably” because I don’t have Quickbooks.)

Cons:

  • Except for syncing with Quickbooks, there’s no API and therefore no connection to other apps (..my precious Ring It Up!)
  • Something about the interface is kinda ugly, and I can’t put my finger on it. (It reminds me of Windows 3.1 for some reason..)
  • Intuit requires a credit check when you sign up.
    • I know they’re trying to cover themselves, but eh..
  • (UPDATE:) They accept American Express, but you’re charged Amex’s fees instead of Intuit’s
  • * – Monthly fees for “high volume accounts” eh?
  • The point-of-sale/inventory features are extremely limited compared to what I’ve become accustomed to with the Ring It Up app. (Just for kicks, let’s post the photos again: GoPaymentRing It Up. This is fun!)

Square

I have already signed up for Square, so this will be a more in-depth review.

(UPDATE: 04/19/2011)As of version 1.6, the Square app for iPhone supports sales tax! No more fiddly calculations! They also changed the interface, so my screenshots are out-of-date.

Everybody has heard of Twitter, right? Well, one of their founders, Jack Dorsey apparently became so frustrated at how complicated and expensive credit card processing is for a small business that he decided to show them all how it’s done.

https://squareup.com

Just like GoPayment, it’s also a hardware/software solution. Their (iconic) card scanner plugs into your headphone jack, and the app is written for both iOS and Android.

enlarged to show texture

You start the app, and (assuming you’re logged into the service) it’s ready to take your transaction info:

Plug in the device, get the icon in the middle-left, and you’re good to go!

You enter a price, then (if you want) you can enter the name of the thing you are selling. Also, click the little camera icon and take a photo of what you’re selling.

Problem: if you have items with long names, you’ll be doing a lot of cumbersome typing — there’s no quick way to automatically enter this information (unless you have the iPad app). But if you have a photo of the item, you can include it next to the description (once again, it’s no Ring It Up, but it works):

Type the price and item detail

(Square finally has an entry for sales tax on the iPhone app! This screenshot is out of date.)

We have options!

If you haven’t received your “square” card reader, you can manually key the card number. This costs extra.

It’s better to scan it with the “square”

Here’s an interesting thing: The interface lets you know about your limit:

[old screenshots removed]

UPDATE (a while back..) — Square changed their limits! If you actually swipe the customer’s card, Square won’t hold your transactions very long. But if you hand-type the credit card number, and those hand-typed transactions total over $1,000, then they’ll wait 30-days to give it to you.

Once a transaction goes through, you can email the receipt to your customer. And if you enable Location Services, the receipt will include a map of where the purchase was made! Snazzy!

Pros:

  • The most simple pricing structure on the planet.
    • NO MONTHLY FEES.
  • Nice looking interface, slick animation
  • No credit check during application process
  • Accepts American Express without a separate contract
  • Cute little scanner!

Cons:

  • ** – Manually-keyed transactions are a higher rate: 3.5% + 0.15 cents. (so be sure to use your card scanner as often as possible)
  • No inventory management (unless you have the iPad version.. which I don’t, so I can’t do my snarky screenshot comparison like I did with GoPayment)
    • With the iPhone version, I have to manually enter the item description for every. single. transaction.
    • UPDATE! I tested the Square app on an iPad for a week. I meticulously entered a bunch of items, and looked forward to the next show when I could happily click on those items instead of hand-typing them in while the customer is standing there waiting for me to get done hand-typing them in — but alas! For whatever reason, the app forgot about most of my items! Yes, I started up the app, and most of the stuff that I typed in was GONE! (Granted, this was about six months ago. Let’s hope they’ve fixed this.)
  • It’s a mostly-closed system (even if you have the iPad version!)
    • No automatic data input — It doesn’t have an API, and therefore doesn’t talk to other apps.
      • That means it doesn’t replace the Innerfence app: I can’t use RingItUp for inventory management / point-of-sale and then press the magic button in RIU to feed the payment info to the Square app for processing.
      • The author of RIU is patiently waiting for Square to release an API, but they’re being awfully slow about it.
    • Limited data output — It allows you to download a CSV from the website, but like with any CSV, you’ll have to fiddle with the formatting to properly merge it with your existing financial data.
  • Can’t delete test transactions from the website.
    • Now this is just plain silly. What good is a list of data when it has invalid results in it?

* I didn’t want to have to buy an iPad just for a single app. (Why those features couldn’t also be in the iPhone version, I have no idea.)

(UPDATE 03/15/2011) – On March 9, Verifone’s CEO let the world know how insecure and “dangerous” Square’s little card reader is.

When using Square, the credit card data is not encrypted until it gets to the app. (However, it is encrypted before it’s transmitted over the internet, or else it wouldn’t be PCI compliant.) This means someone could write a malicious app (like the one Verifone demonstrated the video) that allows the vendor to keep the customer’s card information and use it for nefarious purposes, if they so choose.

Scary, eh? Do you know what’s also scary?

  • Old-school knucklebusters don’t encrypt card data either! A vendor could simply read the imprinted card number right off the sheet of paper! OMG!! (And vendors are required to keep those imprinted sheets for three years.)
  • Anybody could buy a USB credit card reader off the internet and pretend like they’re a business.
  • If you’re in a restaurant, and you hand your credit card to the waiter, what happens when they “walk off to the back room” with it? You think you just paid for dinner, but they might be back there using your card to buy a case of iPads to send them overseas for profit. Who knows! OMG, get your tinfoil hat ready!

This is what we in the industry refer to as FUD – “fear, uncertainty, and doubt.” Verifone is scared of Square’s business model and is doing anything it can to stay afloat.

Conclusion

How do I feel about these two solutions?

While writing this review, I realized how spoiled I’ve become by all the features in Ring It Up, and how it seamlessly talks to the Innerfence app. I’m dead-set on using RIU, and neither one of these platforms has enough point-of-sale features to pry it out of my hands.

  • So, I guess the first part of this review is to see which one is the most compatible with RIU.
    • On that front, they both fail — Neither one has an API for sharing data between apps.
  • Fees:
    • They’re both whooping Innerfence quite handily.
    • Even where GoPayment has a monthly fee for high volume accounts, it’s still $12.95/month where Innerfence is $25/mo. (Square doesn’t charge extra if I exceed $1,000/week, but it doesn’t give me a fee discount either.)
    • Square processes American Express at the same rate as everything else. (Unless Amex is in a generous mood all of a sudden, their rates are usually higher.)
    • – Winner by a knife-edge: Square.
  • Features:
    • GoPayment has basic inventory management, but so does the iPad version of the Square app. (But since I don’t have an iPad, I have no idea how robust the feature set really is. There’s a slim chance that it could supplant RIU, but I’m doubting it.)
    • …I’m getting the impression Square really wants me to buy an iPad. I’m considering it, but the first app I’m getting is the HD version of RIU. Then I guess I’ll get Roambi. Square, you’ll be third out of spite.
    • – Winner by a technicality: GoPayment.
  • Interface:
    • I’m sorry Intuit, but you guys have to ‘pretty it up’ a little. Your app isn’t quite as “lickable” as the Square app. (On an iPhone, the prettiest app wins.)
    • – Winner, assuming that I enjoy slobbering over my phone: Square.

I may have already made my decision by signing up for Square first, but I don’t know.. They’re really close. If one of them can either get an API going, or boost their inventory management features to supersede Ring It Up, that would make it a lot easier for me to make a decision. And since there’s no disconnect fee for Square, it would be easy to jump ship if I have to.

Competition is a beautiful thing, and both of these services represent the new way of processing credit card transactions. No matter which of these services comes out on top, I’m so glad they are teaming up on the “old school” ways of doing things. There’s no reason this needs to be complicated.

This entry was posted in Reviews.

24 Comments

  1. Will March 15, 2011 at 1:19 am #

    Hi,
    I just stumbled upon your blog through Google, and I really enjoyed your comparison of the two different services. I will say that I have some experience with Intuit’s GoPayment, and I would like to clarify somethings on that end.

    Now, one of the first things you talk about is the hardware that is available for GoPayment. The Mophie is available for the iPhone 3g/s and iPhone 4, but, it is made by a separate company aside from Intuit. That white card reader that you see on the site is the one that Intuit is offering for free. I will say that it is a compact card reader (seems to be a bit bigger than the Square), but it still conveniently fits into your pocket, and is very sturdy.

    Also, the different plans that are available, the high volume and the low volume, do suit different business types. Going over that 1000$ limit doesn’t automatically switch you over to the high volume plan, nor does it charge you any extra penalty fee. Some businesses aren’t going to be processing on a monthly basis, so thats where the low volume plan fits better than paying a fee for lower rates that I won’t be using all the time.

    And, as for Amex, it is included for free without having to go through and signing up for a separate account. While doing the app, either online or on the phone with a rep, you will be asked if you want to accept Amex or not. The only difference is that Amex has a different rate then the discount rates that you see for Visa/Mastercard/Discover.

    I hope that this was able to clear some things up for you as well as other people reading this. I will say that I have no experience with SquareUp, only GoPayment.

    Take care, and keep the cool blog posts!
    -Will

  2. Steph July 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    This was really helpful – thanks for doing this!!!

  3. Ned Smith July 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Great post.

    I’ve been using Square to take drum student payments for about 6 months. I’m still not good at swiping through that tiny square reader, although I like how it looks. The UI is easy peasy and the transactions are fast because of all the junk they left out. But, the reader broke and there were no error messages to tell that’s what was wrong. After trying to get it to work for a week, and upgrading my iOS to v.4 on my iPhone, I gave up and ordered a new one. It arrived in 5 business days. So, I was basically down 2 weeks.

    During that time, I realized I needed a failover. So I signed up for GoPayment. They’ve got a click for everything, when I’m trying to get one student out of my studio and the next one in. Click this, click that, click some more. It takes for ever to take a quick credit card payment.

    What’s cool about GoPayment, is the swiper is totally predictable and stable. They’re 2.70% instead of Squares’ 2.75. I have NEVER had a student whip out an American Express. Both these guys should drop their fees to 1.90% and let American Express pound on us for their own fee levels.

    Also cool about the GoPayment is that they make the deposits directly to your account and then remove their fee. Of course they just have to label is a “CreditCard/Discount” just to piss you off while you figure out it’s them. I mean seriously, couldn’t they label the transaction “GoPayment Fees”? But Square, who perfectly labels their trasactions in your bank account, does their own banking before they send you your money with the fee already removed. This means you have to go to their site to dig up your monthly fees for bookeeping–lame sauce.

    So, I love Square’s speed and I know as a software maker how hard it is to make something that simple and elegant. So, they kill GoPayment which has 1000 options and yet DOES NOT INTEGRATE WITH QUICKBOOKS. Stupid.

    So, I’m sticking with Square, and everytime their reader dies, I’m just going to use GoPayment until the next reader arrives in the mail. Mischief managed.

    Ned

  4. Adam Goldfine July 27, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    Spoke on the phone with GoPayment this morning. I swiped a $137 payment three weeks ago and got the customer’s signature for the transaction. They still haven’t posted the payment claiming that they needed 12 months of bank statements, a copy of the invoice, to talk with the customer, etc. No one called to say there is a problem. They claimed it was some sort of risk management issue. I have been in business and using Paymentech since 1994, have stellar personal credit and have had zero issues accepting credit cards. The GoPayment rep asked me about the nature of my business with my customer and I informed him it was confidential and that I had an NDA. He told me Intuit’s authority supersedes the NDA. What?! He came across as a bit arrogant as well. I told him what to do with the payment and had the customer cut me a check. I will be signing up for Square posthaste.

  5. Craig August 2, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I have been using square on my Android phone. i would like a lower fee but considering all credit card are the same rate the fee is not to bad. The process is pretty simple. I do not trust Intuit as they have the habit of forcing you to upgrade their products.

  6. Yuriria Ponce August 22, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Hi,
    First I would like to apologies for my very, very bad English…
    … And secondly I want to tank you (jwallacephoto); I just find your blog after a few hours of misleading advertisement. This information it’s been very helpful and thanks to everybody I can made a more educated decision. Once again thank you everybody for your time and yours comments and your time.
    Yuriria Ponce

  7. Laurie August 29, 2011 at 2:46 am #

    Thanks for the post and the answer to the question that was driving me crazy and I haven’t even used Square yet, which was how to get rid of the test runs…..the fake sales receipts in my Sales History, ( I can’t go to an art show and start using this app and card reader without first trying it out so I know what I am doing when I have a crowd around me!) with the answer being You Can’t! That is ridiculous! You can’t edit that info……

  8. Karen McMillan September 4, 2011 at 2:06 am #

    Thanks for this review. Helpful. Just a few thoughts: I’m just setting up my account with Intuit GoPayment on iPad. I already have a QB/Intuit Merchant account so the fees for the GoPayment are lower. Also, it DOES DOWNLOAD TO QUICKBOOKS – but maybe not all versions. Yes, they have a credit check, but that made me feel better about Intuit. As for reversals/refunds, they are done on the merchant site versus the app. I’ll be using the app and if I discover other findings worth sharing I’ll be back. For now, wishing each of you increased sales.

  9. Courtney September 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    Thank you for your pros and cons, now here is the rant, sorry, have to get it off my shoulders. On Aug 7th I entered a purchase into my iPhone, (gopayment) and still have not received it. The first issue (4 days after transaction no money so I called) they informed me that it may take longer for it to be processed. Next day I get an email telling me that my business account number is wrong (They entered it when I signed up) and that I have to go to my bank and get some kind of statement stating my account number and business name and a signature confirming that I indeed had an account their and have the bank fax it to them. Done. Three days later I get another email that says I have to fill out the change of account form WTF. I call and they say just to fill it out and list the same account in both spaces, “its the only way to have it corrected in the system”. Done. Four days later still no money, I call, they say it takes some time to process. This past Friday I get and an email stating that it has been processed. Today called because still no money, she says that I will have to contact my bank to do an inquiry to Automated Clearing House because they are the ones processing it now. WTF again. She says there is nothing they can do now. This was my first transaction with intuit, not sure I should have a second. Really thinking of going to Square. Please someone tell me this is a good company and that I should stay with them.

  10. mrpeavey@gmail.com September 12, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    Square is fabulous…seamless and easy. Request an additional reader as back-up just in case. Signing up for Gopayment strictly as an alternative for emergencies Not liking what I’m reading here about Intuit.

  11. Johnny October 23, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Similar thing that happened To Courtney happened to me with Intuit. The first time i processes a payment with intuit it took 24 hours to process. The second time it took about 4 days to come in. I called the 3rd day and told me it was in today’s batch and it should be in by tomorrow. Which was true. But when you have to use the money to pay employees, bills, you can’t always wait 4 days. 24 hours for squares transactions seem like a nice thing.

  12. J.G. October 26, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    I don’t understand why Square, GoPayment and their rivals are falling over one another in their rush to get rid of the fixed transaction fees. Charging only a percentage fee means that they will be losing money on many small ticket transactions. I realize that right now they are mostly concerned with growing as quickly as possible, but this is a strategy that will inevitably need to be adjusted in the future. When that happens, the merchants that will be affected by such a change will not like it and push back hard against it. http://blog.unibulmerchantservices.com/gopayment-square-processing-fees-and-cupcakes

  13. San November 14, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    Thank you for the comparisons. Been trying to decide between Square and Intuit for my art business…Square it is…

  14. San November 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Thanks you for your research and comments! Been trying to decide what to use for art fairs…Square here I come!

  15. Fran November 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    This is all useful information since I’m looking into both services. We already have traditional credit card processing and I’m looking to cut costs. From what I understand, the security for gopayment is just like my current processing, while square is only ssi compliant. I just think of the time when someone tries to hack into these services so think that it should be a consideration.

  16. Jamie January 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Not sure how the square security is a “non-issue”… And I do agree that Verifone is scared …less as well.

    However, If angry birds can read any credit card you swipe, there’s a huge problem. As someone in the IT field, I wouldn’t possibly trust the apps that someone installs on their phone. As a customer, my card wont come near a square reader until they figure out how to secure the data from the reader to the square app. Square ignored security standards that have existed for more than 10 years just to push out their product. It’s a big enough issue that they should have been prevented from rolling it out until they could address it.

  17. RiffRaff January 16, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    I have been using intuit GoPayment for about a year. While it worked fine on our Droid X’s the swiper would not work on any other of our android phones. So it was MANUAL entry and an added 1% fee for non-swiped. Nice scam if you ask me.

    After support call after support call allI got was “we are dilligently adding supported devices.” Well a year has passed and nothing has changed, except a few app updats that did nothing to correct Droid compatability.

    I am now happily using Square!

  18. Ed Kerstetter February 8, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Go payment
    Watch out for the extra fees at the end of the month. You will first recieve the payment statement to them with a 2.7% then at the end of the month you will receive an adjusted rate at 3.7%. Even though it is a VISA card and can swipe it you cannot tell if it is a corperate or a quilified rate card. Be award because cutomer service will not care.
    I cancelled the account after 2 months of over charges

  19. patty doyal February 15, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Would you be able to update this blog and let us know if you are still using Ring It Up. We were using a wireless ccard terminal for concerts and it recently was stolen :( and now are looking at options. Your time is appreciated; we’ll send you a free CD or t shirt for your help. Thanks!
    best fishes,
    Patty at Trout Fishing in America/Trout Records

  20. Mike June 7, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Square is fine if you have a high volume of small transactions, but if you have much larger ticket items or services I would recommend something like Rectangle Ware-Ever Pay.

    Great review. Very informative and thorough!