Clover vs. Square: Key Differences
When it comes to Clover vs. Square, you’re looking at two very popular payment service providers with high-tech POS hardware and software. In our analysis, we found that Clover is superior for merchants who want a highly customizable, scalable solution and Square is better for merchants who want a low-cost POS solution with industry-specific software.
If you’ve done some research on point of sale (POS) options, you’re likely curious about how Clover vs. Square stack up, as they’re two of the leading names in payment solutions for small businesses.
In this guide, we’re going to compare Clover vs. Square to determine which is best for your business based on the following criteria: POS hardware, POS software, pricing, ease of use, and payment methods accepted. Let’s get started.
Clover vs. Square Overview
$69 – $1,349
Free – $799
Free – $29.95/month
Free – $299/month
Payment Processing Fee
Starting at 2.7% + $0.10
Starting at 2.6% + $0.10
Mobile POS Device
Countertop POS Device
6 a.m. – 6 p.m. PT Monday through Friday
Here’s a more detailed overview of the criteria we’ll be comparing:
- Price: This includes the cost of the POS software and hardware, as well as processing fees for running credit card transactions with each system in person and online.
- POS Hardware: The variety of payment hardware options offered by each service, including POS terminals, credit card readers, and more.
- POS Software: The capabilities of the POS software of each service, such as inventory management, employee tracking, customer-behavior data, sales report generation, and more.
- Ease of Use: How easy is it to learn how to use the POS system? Does it allow you to handle lots of different tasks efficiently, or does it make things overly complicated?
- Payment Methods Accepted: This is exactly what it sounds like—how many payment methods can this service accept. This includes credit cards, mobile wallets, and foreign forms of currency.
Now let’s see how each of these payment service providers stack up.
Clover vs. Square: POS Hardware
Good POS hardware allows you to process payments efficiently, whether that be behind the counter of a retail store, or on the go at an outdoor event. Here’s what Clover and Square offer in that regard.
Clover POS Hardware
Clover POS gives merchants the option to select from four different POS hardware kits. They are as follows:
- Clover Go: This device connects to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, and can process magstripe cards, chip cards, and contactless payments. However, unlike other Clover POS system hardware options, Clover Go requires you to come to the table with additional technology—be it a smartphone, tablet, or iPad. Clover Go will only be able to process payments if it’s attached to another device.
- Clover Flex: Flex is Clover’s handheld, WiFi-connected payment processing option. In addition to accepting all the same payment methods that Clover Go can, Clover Flex can capture signatures, scan barcodes, and print receipts.
- Clover Mini: Clover Mini has similar capabilities to Clover Flex, but in a (predictably small) countertop format, rather than as a handheld device. You’ll be able to process all payments, scan barcodes, and print receipts—and do so with greater speed than you would with mobile Clover point of sale hardware options.
- Clover Station: Clover Station is Clover’s most powerful, secure, and fastest POS offering. This countertop payment processor can accept credit cards, of course, but it also comes with a cash drawer. On its large, high-definition display screen, you can also access all of Clover Station’s additional business-management capabilities, like inventory management, employee tracking, and sales reports.
All of these hardware devices can work alone, or together—choose whichever tools you need to serve your particular business.
Square POS Hardware
With Square POS, you can choose whether to purchase an all-in-one POS terminal to process your payments, or to use your own iPad or smartphone as your POS terminal—in which case, you’ll need to download the Square POS app and purchase a external hardware that can accept card payments.
Here’s a quick rundown of Square’s hardware, and the types of payments each can accept:
- Square Register: Square’s most powerful POS hardware, Square Register is an all-in-one, countertop payment processing system that includes a customer-facing display. Square Register can accept magstripe cards, chip cards, and contactless payments, and the Square POS app is included in the hardware.
- Square Terminal: Square Terminal is the most compact all-in-one POS terminal Square offers, most comparable to Clover Flex. It can accept all the same payment types as Square Register, and can connect via USB, Ethernet, or WiFi.
- Square Stand for Contactless and Chip: Square Stand is essentially what it sounds like—it’s a stand to which you can connect your iPad. Then, once you download the Square POS app to your iPad and connect the included hardware, you can use your iPad as your business’s POS system.
- Square Card Readers: Square offers a collection of external hardware, all of which are built to accept different types of payments—choose among a chip card and magstripe card reader, a magstripe card reader, and/or a chip card and contactless payment reader. Note that you get a magstripe card reader for free when you sign up.
Square’s POS hardware is more affordable than Clover’s (more on this later), and is generally more popular among small business owners. The fact that Square also gives you a free mobile magstripe reader is a nice bonus. While Clover does have a nice variety of options, it can’t match Square in terms of cost or popularity.
Clover vs. Square: POS Software
Next we’ll look at the POS software Clover and Square offer to pair with your POS hardware. This is a key consideration when selecting any POS system, as it dictates what you’ll actually be able to do with it.
Clover POS Software
Clover offers three service plans for its software. The tier you choose dictates the amount of credit card transactions your business can processes per year, and the level of functionality you’ll get from you Clover POS terminal:
Payments Plus is Clover’s most basic service plan. With it, you can accept all payment types, and also receive a few additional functions, like employee time tracking and customer engagement tools.
With Register Lite, you can accept cloud-based payments and get some pretty powerful employee and customer management tools. This plan is designed for any business with under $50,000 in annual credit card sales. The complete list of what you can do with Register Lite is as follows:
- Accept and process all forms of payment, including credit, debit, chip, and contactless
- Track cash payments
- Process payments offline
- Ring up items, discounts, and tax
- Email, text, and store digital receipts
- Capture electronic signatures and tips
- Track sales and reports
- Item-level taxes
- Process refunds
- Set employee permissions and shifts
- Monitor activity, sales, and refunds remotely
- Liability protection up to $100,000 in event of data breach
- Access the Clover App Market
Clover’s third service plan works for businesses that have more than $50,000 in annual credit card sales. This plan includes everything that comes with Register Lite, plus the following tools:
- Inventory management
- Create customer loyalty program
- Add gratuity to checks
- Read customer feedback and reply with coupons
- Build mailing list
There are also some powerful tools for running restaurants and retail businesses, including the ability to push orders to the kitchen, manage reservations, perform exchanges, and add variants to your inventory.
Other perks that come with all Clover plans include 24/7 support and the ability to create and distribute gift cards. Note that Clover software only runs on Android devices.
Square POS Software
In terms of software, Square offers a free POS app, as well as paid apps for retail and restaurants. The free Square POS app comes with most of what you’ll need, including inventory, employee, and customer relationship management tools. There’s also reporting functions, a virtual terminal, 24/7 support, and (of course), the ability to accepts all major payment forms and methods.
Square for Restaurants
Let’s start by saying Square for Restaurants can do everything the free Square POS can do. Additional tools include menu management, front of house management (table mapping, custom floor plans, order modifications etc.), a delivery and takeout tool, and the ability to run restaurant-specific reports.
Square for Retail
As the name suggests, Square for Retail offers tools for brick-and-mortar and online retailers of all sizes. This means the inventory management tools are a bit more robust (print barcode labels, organize your stock by category, link vendors to specific items in your catalog etc.). You can also access more in-depth employee management tools with Square Team Management, which you can get for an added monthly fee.
Note that Square is also compatible with iOS and Android devices.
When it comes to comparing Square and Clover’s free POS options, we feel Square offers more functionality. However, Clover’s paid options offer more functionality than Square’s paid options at a lower cost. With Square, you can upgrade to an industry-specific POS, but it will cost you quite a bit more than if you stuck with Clover’s POS software. So if you want a free option, use Square. Otherwise, Clover is your best bet.
Clover vs. Square: Pricing
We’ve touched a little bit on price when comparing Clover and Square, but now let’s get into specifics. Here’s the breakdown on pricing for both Clover and Square.
Here’s how Clover’s costs pan out, for both their hardware and software options:
- Clover Go: $69
- Clover Flex: $499
- Clover Mini: Prices start at $749
- Clover Station: Prices start at $1,349
- Payments Plus: 2.7% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, and 3.5% + $0.10 for keyed-in transactions
- Register Lite: $14 monthly fee, plus 2.7% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, and 3.5% + $0.10 for keyed-in transactions.
- Register: $29.95 monthly fee, plus 2.3% + $0.10 per in-person transaction, and 3.5% + $0.10 for keyed-in transactions.
As we already mentioned, the Square POS app is totally free. But to accept and process physical payments at your point of sale, of course, you’ll need to purchase necessary hardware—though the exception is the Square magstripe reader, which you’ll receive for free.
Let’s go through those prices for each Square product:
- Square Register: $799
- Square Terminal: $299
- Square Stand: $199
- Square Contactless and Chip Reader: $49
- Square Magstripe Reader: First magstripe reader free, $10 thereafter
- Square Chip and Magstripe Reader: $35
- Square for Restaurants: $0, $60, or $299 per month
- Square for Retail: $0, $60, or $299 per month
- Square Marketing: $15 per month
- Square Loyalty: $45 per month
- Square Payroll: $34 per month
- Square Team Management: $35 per month
Additionally, you’ll need to pay Square processing fees for every transaction, and fees depend upon the type of hardware you choose and the type of transaction you’re processing. Prices start at 2.6% + $0.10 for in-person transactions, 2.9% + $0.10 for digital transactions, and 3.5% + $0.10 for virtual terminal transactions.
This is a tough one. While Square’s POS hardware is much cheaper than Clover’s, Clover has lower payment processing costs, and the paid version of its POS software is also cheaper than the paid version of Square’s POS software. You also don’t pay extra for add-on features with Clover. Overall, you can probably get a Square POS system for cheaper if you use their free app and cheap hardware. However, a fully-functional POS system will be cheaper with Clover.
Clover vs. Square: Ease of Use
Having an easy to use POS system makes your job a lot less stressful. Here’s how functional Clover and Square are:
Clover Ease of Use
Clover is generally considered a very easy to use POS system. The software features a main dashboard from which you can access important business functions like updating menus, checking inventory, and adjusting scheduling. When you sign up for Clover, you can get assistance installing your system via CompuCom, a service Clover partners with.
With Clover, you’ll get 24/7 phone support as long as you’re in the U.S. Merchants can also send email inquiries for less urgent matters. On their website, Clover has a dedicated Help Center where you can access guides and tutorials on how to use various Clover products and services. There’s also an FAQ page, blog, and developer support page.
Furthermore, as we previously mentioned, Clover is a payment service provider. This means they group all of their merchants together into one large merchant account in order to allow each of them to accept credit card payments. This makes things much easier for the merchant, as they don’t have to undergo an in-depth underwriting process in order to receive a merchant account.
Square Ease of Use
Like Clover, Square is extremely easy to use. Their software features sleek, minimalist interfaces, and their software is elegant in its simplicity. Phone support is available on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and email inquiries are typically handled within 24 hours. If you need information faster, Square operates a Support Center full of useful guides and how-to’s, a blog with tips and advice on how to get the most out of Square, and a community forum where you can ask fellow merchants about the platform.
And like Clover, Square is a payment service provider, which means your signup process will be nice and easy.
This is almost a tie, but we appreciate that Clover offers 24/7 support. This is critical for some businesses, because if their POS breaks down, they can’t take payments. So it’s nice to have the peace of mind that a Clover representative can also be reached.
Clover vs. Square: Payment Methods
Obviously, you need your payment service provider to accept the forms and methods of payments your customers like to use. Fortunately, Square and Clover both hit the mark in that regard. Here’s the payment methods they both accept:
- All major credit and debit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, JCB)
- ACH payments
- Gift cards
- Virtual terminal
- Magstripe payments
- EMV payments
- NFC payments (Google Pay, Apple Pay etc.)
If they both accept the same payments, you can’t really say that one is better than the other. Just rest assured you’ll be able to accommodate your customers any which way they want to pay.
Alternatives to Square and Clover
If you’ve evaluated Clover vs. Square and found neither to your liking, here are two additional options to consider:
Shopify is a POS system tailored made for ecommerce merchants—which is something neither Square or Clover specialize in. With Shopify POS, you get a POS already integrated into your ecommerce website when you sign up for the Shopify Basic plan ($29 per month). This will give you access to all of Shopify’s customer and inventory management software, plus a payment processing rate of only 2.7% per transaction. What’s more, Shopify’s more expensive software plans feature lower payment processing rates. Shopify also sells POS hardware if you need to sell in-person as well as online.
If you read this Clover vs. Square review and thought the price of both was out of your range, Payment Depot is a good option for you. Payment Depot is primarily a payment processor. With Payment Depot you get membership pricing and wholesale interchange rates on credit card transactions. Memberships range from $49 to $199. With your membership, you’ll get the lowest interchange rate possible plus transaction fees ranging between $0.15 and $0.05. Payment Depot also partners with several POS system providers so you can get a complete payments platform.
The Bottom Line on Clover vs. Square
Now that you have an overview of Clover vs. Square, how do you know which of these POS systems will work best for your business?
Clover is likely a better option for businesses that want some of the most flexible features available in a POS terminal. Merchants who also want a POS system they can grow with would benefit from choosing Clover.
Square works well for businesses that need a no-fuss POS solution that reliably accepts and processes a variety of credit payments in several formats.
All told, you’ll need to take stock of what you want from your POS terminal and, of course, how much you’re willing to pay for it. Whether you choose Clover vs. Square, though, know that you’ll be taking advantage of some of the most advanced and secure all-in-one payment processing systems on the market—and if you find that neither option are right for your business, know that there are plenty of other top POS system options available to you.
Matthew Speiser is a former staff writer at Fundera.
He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Prior to Fundera, Matthew was an editorial lead at Google and an intern reporter at Business Insider. Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world.