Posted on Nov 28, 2011

I abandoned my traditional merchant account (i.e. the thing that allows me to process credit cards) and went with Square for events. Here’s why.

The merchant account, through my bank, was killing me with fees. I don’t do events every month. Most of my online payments are made via paypal. My bank charged a monthly “no use” fee and these fees were adding up. Then I added the cost of the terminal lease, the increasing number of miscellaneous fees here and there, and the extra fees to accept various cards. I did the big math. Ugh. Then figured out the percentage I was paying after all was said and done, and cancelled my account that day.

I was apprehensive about cancelling the account. I know that my sales have increased double digits since I began to accept credit cards at events. I needed an alternative. Did a bunch of research and a bunch more math. I signed up for Square.

What is it? It’s this funky little credit card reader that plugs into the audio jack on a smartphone. I used my iPad. Just like a traditional merchant account, the company takes a percentage of your sales (2.75% for swiped sales). Their website has all the gritty details.

Because what was I out if it didn’t work? The reader was free. (I have seen the black reader in Walmart for $10). I already had an iPad so I thought I’d try it.

Here’s a note about the iPad I used. It’s an iPad 2 with 32GB – 3G version with Verizon service price $729. Overkill. The 16GB, $629 version would work great for this but I wanted more GB. I pay $30 per month for 3G internet, but turn this off when I don’t have an event since I’ve already got wi-fi in the studio.

I could write another post and all the ways I use the iPad in my artist practice. So not just for processing credit cards. I liked that I can use a multi-use device – not pay for a credit card terminal that does just one thing.

Okay… So back to square.

The Greyhounds Reach the Beach event at Dewey Beach, Delaware was the first big event where I’ve used this set up. This is my biggest event of the year. This is the event where I take the most credit cards. Did square work? Yes.

Really, really well.

My favorite thing was that I could enter my artwork into the Square app along with price the art work, description, and photo of the work. This made keeping track of sales easy and my tile inventory seamless!

Many people commented on the iPad verses smartphone. They loved the bigger screen and often followed along as I went through the steps. Only thing I would do differently is purchase a stylus for the customer to use to sign their name. The signing with finger worked okay – think the comfort level would be greater with a stylus.

The money appeared in my bank account quickly with no limit of the amount each day.

Very good experience.


  1. Holly
    November 28, 2011

    I’m excited to hear that Square worked so well for you! I crunched the numbers recently myself and came to the same conclusion you did. I sent for the Square reader and have done a test run or two (on my Samsung GalaxyS phone) and it seems to work well. Our first booth set up with Square will be on December 10th…wish us luck! 🙂

  2. Nick
    December 1, 2011

    I’ve been using Square for a year now. No problems at all. They have just added two new features–the ability to link to a cash drawer and a receipt printer. For my use at events the receipt printer was a needed addition. Now I don’t need to have the customer input an email address and try to explain that a receipt will be sent to them. The only complication is that the printer has to be on the same network as the iPad. So I setup a WiFi router with a closed network, my iPad links wirelessly and the POS printer plugs in. Then when I close a transaction, I click “print receipt” and in about a second the receipt is done. It is personalized with my company info, the details of the transaction and all the pertinent info. The printer required costs about $250 depending on where you find it (mine was new on eBay).

    And Square is also offering to let you send the “gift” of a reader to someone for $1 each, gift-wrapped. I sent 3 to myself…now I have spares and since I have several iPads I can use them all for multiple checkout points.

    Our Greyt Gathering in January will be my first real use of the receipt printer and I expect it to make life much easier this year.

  3. Valerie
    December 1, 2011

    I was at Dewey this year and on Friday I visited you and got to experience the “Square” it was really cool and seemed to work without a problem. Isn’t technology grand?


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