Square: A Free and Easy Way to Accept Credit Card Payments

Last Updated May 12, 2010 8:37 AM EDT


Talk about a game-changer: Square lets anyone with a smartphone accept credit card payments.

I'm so blown away by this service, I don't even know where to start. Okay, I'll start with costs: there are none. The app is free. The service is free. The card reader for your device is free.

Square charges nothing for setup and no monthly fees. You don't need a merchant account like you do for a traditional credit-card terminal. And there are no monthly minimums. Want to hear the catch?


Sorry, I've yet to find one. Even the rates for transactions are lower than average. Square charges 2.75% plus 15 cents per transaction when a card is swiped. If you enter the card number manually, it's 3.5% plus 15 cents.

The aforementioned card reader -- the "square" in Square -- plugs into the headphone jack of various mobile devices. The headphone jack! That's some clever voodoo right there. Swipe a card, tap in the amount, let the customer add a tip (if applicable), and presto: you've got payment. Everything's secure and private.

I think Square has the potential to be the next PayPal. To me it looks like a killer solution for small businesses, charities, service providers, and anyone needing to collect payment outside of a traditional retail location.

Square is available now for Android, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The company is working to deploy it to other devices as well, so I assume a BlackBerry version is imminent.

What do you think about this? Too good to be true, or a dream come true? Let's hear your thoughts. In the meantime, check out Square's slightly dorky promo video:

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.