ShopKeep vs. Square: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Matthew Speiser

Matthew is a 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. Matthew's writing has been published in Business Insider, The Fiscal Times, and NJ.com, among others. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Delaware.
Advertiser Disclosure

ShopKeep and Square have a lot in common. Both are merchant services providers, both offer point of sale software and hardware, both offer payment processing, and both are among the best options out there for small business owners in need of a system for running and managing transactions.

Of course, if you’ve done your research, you already know all these things. You’re here because you need to decide which of these two great products is the best for your business. Do you go with one of the most popular payment solutions in the world in Square? Or do you go with ShopKeep—a smaller business that nonetheless offers one of the best reviewed merchant services products on the web?

To help you deliberate when it comes to ShopKeep vs. Square, we’ve created this guide. In it we’ll compare and contrast both services to see which ultimately offers more value to small business owners. But first, let’s get a better understanding of exactly what ShopKeep and Square have to offer.

ShopKeep: The Basics

ShopKeep sells POS software and hardware, as well as payment processing services. The system is both locally installed and can run on the cloud. This means your information is stored on your POS device and can sync with the cloud whenever there is an internet connection (ShopKeep can also operate offline if need be).

ShopKeep is most popular in the food service industry, but its software can work for retail-based businesses as well. When you sign up for ShopKeep, you have the option of keeping your payment processor or integrating with ShopKeep’s in-house processor, ShopKeep Payments. With ShopKeep Payments you can accept magstripe, chip card, and contactless methods of payment. You can also acquire your credit card reader from the ShopKeep hardware store.

Speaking of hardware, ShopKeep software can operate on iPads or Clover terminals. ShopKeep sells a variety of hardware bundles for different business types, including a retail bundle, a restaurant bundle, and a portable kit. You can acquire most types of POS hardware via the ShopKeep store, including cash drawers, receipt printers, barcode scanners, iPad stands, and more.

ShopKeep only has one version of its POS software, but it’s versatile enough to accommodate a variety of different business types. Here is a list of all the features that come with ShopKeep POS software:

  • Payments
    • Partial payments
    • Open tabs
    • Split payments
    • Tip recommendations
    • Perform refunds
    • Apply discounts
    • Print, text, or email receipts
  • Employee management
    • Time clock
    • Job-based permissions
    • Scheduling
    • Cost of labor analysis
  • Inventory management
    • Import unlimited SKUs
    • Unlimited product variants
    • Unlimited modifiers
    • Upload product catalogues via CSV file
    • Group products by category
    • Customize tax rates
    • Print barcodes
  • Customer relationship management
    • Save customer information
    • Rewards program
    • Gift card program
    • Manage social media channels
  • Reporting suite
    • View sales activity in real-time
    • Shift summaries
    • Inventory value report
    • Transaction history
    • Marketing analysis
    • View data on the go with ShopKeep’s Pocket App
  • Multi-store management

Other things about ShopKeep: It integrates with a handful of third-party software products, including QuickBooks, MailChimp, and BigCommerce. There’s 24/7 customer service via phone, email, or live chat. Outside of POS solutions, ShopKeep also offers merchant cash advances.

Here is how ShopKeep ranks on major review platforms:

As for the cost of using ShopKeep, the answer varies from business to business. ShopKeep’s pricing is entirely quote-based. When you sign up for ShopKeep, a sales representative will work with you to build a POS solution that makes sense for your business. What we can say is that ShopKeep offers pay-as-you-go, month-to-month pricing, meaning you can cancel at any time if you are unhappy and not face early termination fees.

shopkeep vs square

Square: The Basics

Square’s offering also comprises POS hardware and software, along with payment processing. However, the system is cloud-hosted, meaning your business’s information is stored on Square’s servers and transferred to your POS device via the cloud.

When you sign up for Square POS, you also have to use Square as your payment processor. This isn’t a terrible deal, as Square offers reasonable payment processing rates—2.75% for in-person transactions and 2.9% + $0.30 for digital transactions. Note that these payment processing rates are reduced if you use some of Square’s more advanced POS hardware (more on this in a moment).

In terms of credit card readers, you have your pick of the litter with Square. There’s the mobile magstripe reader that plugs directly into your mobile device—this comes free when you sign up for Square. Square also sells a chip card and contactless payment reader for $49.

Like ShopKeep, Square’s software is designed to run on iPads. You can purchase your iPad through Square for a price of $329. Once you have your iPad, Square provides all the additional hardware tools to build out your POS system—including an iPad stand with built-in magstripe reader ($199), cash drawers, receipt printers, barcode scanners, and more.

Square also offers two all-encompassing POS solutions—Square Register and Square Terminal. The Square Register is a fully functional countertop POS terminal with a credit card reader that accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless forms of payment. It retails for $999 and comes with a payment processing rate of 2.5% + $0.10 for in-person transactions. The Square Terminal is a handheld POS terminal with a built-in magstripe, chip card, and contactless payment reader. It retails for $399 and comes with a payment processing rate of 2.6% + $0.10.

As for software, Square offers a free version of its POS software as well as two paid versions: Square for Retail and Square for Restaurants. The free version of the software comes with the following:

  • Payment processing
    • Quick deposits
    • Offline payments
    • Encryptions
  • Inventory management
    • Daily stock alerts
    • Organize inventory by category
  • Employee management
    • Time clock
    • Job-based permissions
    • Labor costing
    • Payroll add-on
  • Customer relationship management
    • Loyalty program add-on
    • Email marketing add-on
  • Reporting suite

While the free version of the software is a bit limited, it can do the job for most small businesses. The paid versions of Square’s POS software both come with industry specific functions. Square for Restaurants includes the ability to manage menus, floor plans, reconcile tips, and oversee deliveries. Square for Retail allows you to print barcodes, place purchase orders, and put items on layaway. Note that both of these software products cost $60 per month.

In terms of integrations and add-ons, Square works with a huge library of third-party apps. See all the products Square works with in the Square App Marketplace. Square also sells in-house integrations for payroll ($34/month), marketing ($15/month), and a loyalty program ($45/month).

Here is how Square customers rank Square POS:

The last thing we’ll mention about Square is that they offer month-to-month, pay-as-you-go pricing, which is obviously preferable.

ShopKeep vs. Square: Similarities

Now that we understand the basics of each system, let’s start comparing them to see which system is better for your business. We’ll start by talking about where we think each system is equal in the services they offer. In the following areas, you’d be just as well off with ShopKeep as you would with Square:

Hardware

Square offers more powerful proprietary hardware, but ShopKeep offers greater hardware variety. Therefore, we feel they are about equal in how well they execute this service. The right option for you depends on your specific business situation.

ShopKeep’s hardware kits offer an affordable way for you to acquire the right hardware for your business. Plus, ShopKeep can work on an iPad or a Clover terminal.

Square, on the other hand, only works on an iPad, or the Square Register. We do think the Square Register is one of the top POS systems on the market, but you may decide ShopKeep’s hardware flexibility is better for your business.

Payment Processing

ShopKeep and Square are equal in payment processing because they can both do the same exact things: Process magstripe, chip card, and contactless forms of payment. Square does offer more popular credit card readers, but ShopKeep offers a bit more variety. You can choose from an assortment of Ingenico card readers or Clover card readers. Plus, ShopKeep is willing to let you keep your current payment processor.

Note that Square offers transparent payment processing rates (2.75%), while ShopKeep offers quote-based pricing. Therefore, you might find one service is preferable to the other based on the rate you are able to negotiate with ShopKeep.

ShopKeep vs. Square: Where ShopKeep Is Better

Next we’re going to show you areas where we believe ShopKeep offers more value relative to Square. If any of these criteria are among your top priorities when picking a POS system, we recommend you choose ShopKeep.

Customization

The benefit of working with a smaller merchant services provider like ShopKeep is that they will take the time to tailor a solution that fits your business’s needs. When you talk to a ShopKeep representative, they will ask you about your business, customers, growth projection, and transaction volume in order to build a solution that solves your issues and fits your budget. Square, on the other hand, is more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of service. That’s not to say that Square’s products couldn’t also fit your business’s needs—ShopKeep simply offers a more bespoke service. This type of solution might be more approachable for business owners without much experience in the merchant services space.

Customer Service

ShopKeep offers 24/7 customer support via phone, live chat, and email. Square, on the other hand, offers support weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Any business owner who has experienced a merchant services emergency knows that it is always better to be able to get help anytime, anywhere, which is why ShopKeep is superior in this regard. Plus, ShopKeep’s website features a Support Center with a robust level of documentation on how to use all the different ShopKeep products. Square offers a Support Center too, but we personally find ShopKeep’s to be a bit more comprehensive.

shopkeep vs square

ShopKeep vs. Square: Where Square Is Better

Now it’s time to talk about areas where we feel Square is better. Again, if these criteria are your top priorities in a POS system, we suggest you go with Square:

Software

If we were comparing Square’s free software with ShopKeep’s software, we’d say ShopKeep is better. But we can’t ignore the fact that Square offers two industry-specific software options: Square for Restaurants and Square for Retail. These software solutions offer more business-specific functionality than ShopKeep’s software could hope to offer. For instance, Square for Restaurants comes with more advanced floor plan management tools than ShopKeep, and Square for Retail offers more in-depth inventory management tools than ShopKeep.

Additionally, Square integrates with far more third-party applications than ShopKeep, meaning you can further extend the functionality of your system beyond what comes with your software. You do have to pay to use the restaurant and retail versions of Square’s POS software, but both exceed ShopKeep’s software in terms of capabilities.

Pricing

We can’t say definitively that Square is cheaper than ShopKeep because ShopKeep’s price varies from customer to customer. What we can say is that we prefer Square’s pricing model because it is transparent. You can look at Square’s website, pick the products you want, and know exactly what you are going to pay month-to-month to use them. In the merchant services space, that kind of transparency is uncommon, and it provides business owners with peace of mind. Furthermore, quote-based pricing models leave the door open for a business owner to get an unfair deal, especially if their sales representative works on commission. If it was us, we’d pick the service with the upfront pricing model every time.

ShopKeep vs. Square: The Verdict

Here’s what we think after comparing and contrasting ShopKeep vs. Square: You can’t really go wrong by choosing Square, but certain business owners might be more comfortable using a personalized service like ShopKeep.

So in the end it really comes down to personal preference. Square’s combination of POS hardware and software is probably superior to what ShopKeep provides in terms of capability and ease of use, but the dropoff isn’t large. If you’re less experienced in the world of merchant services, ShopKeep might be more amenable to you.

The most important thing to remember is that both ShopKeep and Square are really good products—so choosing either won’t hurt your business. If you’re still fretting over which one to choose, we recommend leveraging the free trials offered by both services, and coming to your own conclusions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Matthew Speiser

Matthew is a 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. Matthew's writing has been published in Business Insider, The Fiscal Times, and NJ.com, among others. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Delaware.

Our Picks