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Square Stand vs. Reader: Which Should You Use?

UPDATED Jul 24, 2017

If you’re thinking of using Square as the point of sale software for you business, you may notice there are two main ways to set up Square: with an external card reader (like the standard headphone jack reader or the NFC payment reader), or in the Square Stand, which has an integrated card reader. Deciding between using Square with an external card reader (which we’ll refer to as Square with a reader) and the Square Stand really comes down to your device and the hardware you want to use. In this article, we’ll go over the benefits and drawbacks of using the Square Stand and help you decide if it’s best for your business.

Your Device

The first thing to determine is what device you’re going to be using to run Square. The Square Stand is only for iPad, so if you’re thinking of using Square on a mobile phone or any Android device, the Square Stand isn’t for you. See our Square Reader Basics for iOS or Android for more information on using these. If you’ve decide to use Square on an iPad, choosing to use the Square Stand is mostly about the compatible hardware.

Hardware

As we mentioned, the biggest difference between using Square with a reader and the Square Stand is hardware compatibility, which mainly includes using receipt printers and barcode scanners. This can also include cash drawers, but they generally connect to your device via receipt printer. If you'd like to use a cash drawer, see our note on cash drawers below. If you're not planning on using any hardware at all with Square, the Square Stand isn’t really necessary and you may want to consider a cheaper stand (more on that below).

For the most part, Square with a reader is only compatible with wireless hardware, primarily Ethernet, Bluetooth, or WiFi devices. The Square Stand, however, includes a USB hub, which allows you to use USB interface hardware. USB hardware tends to be cheaper than wireless hardware. See a cost breakdown below:

Stand

Receipt Printer

Cash Drawer

Barcode Scanner

Total

Square with
a Reader

Variable
($99 average)
Ethernet TSP100III
$256
CD3 16"x16"
$96
Bluetooth CSH 7Ci
$220
$671

Square Stand

$169 USB TSP100III
$220
CD3 16"x16"
$96
USB LS2208
$108
$593

This price comparison includes the most basic official hardware available for each option. There are other, more expensive hardware options available, see our in-depth reader and Square Stand guides for more hardware options.

As you can see, the total hardware costs for using the Square Stand are less than using Square with a reader. Your particular costs may vary, depending on which hardware you need, as well as the type of stand you purchase if you decide against the Square Stand (there are both much cheaper and much more expensive stands than the $99 average we used to calculate total cost). Keep in mind that if you're looking to use a cash drawer, you will most likely be using a receipt printer as well (see our note on cash drawers below).

In addition to cost, most of the USB hardware for the Square Stand is plug and play, meaning you just plug it into the USB hub and the hardware is ready to go. You don’t have to configure the hardware on your network or set up a Bluetooth connection the way you need to for wireless hardware.

So, Should You Get The Square Stand?

Since it’s cheaper and easier to use hardware with the Square Stand, that seems to give it the advantage, and depending on your business, that can be the case. However, the Square Stand is pretty much the only point of sale solution for iPad that supports USB hardware. If you think there’s a chance you may outgrow Square or want to upgrade to a different point of sale software in the future, such as ShopKeep, Ambur, Aldelo Touch, etc, your USB hardware wouldn’t be compatible. Square's new point of sale app, Square for Retail, however, will still work with the Square Stand and your hardware.

A second thing to keep in mind is the Square Stand is not exclusively compatible with USB hardware; it's also compatible with all of the same wireless hardware as Square with a reader. If you’re interested in using the Square Stand and also want wireless hardware, either to future-proof your business or for more mobility, that's an option you can consider (although the Square Stand may be a bit excessive, see below for other stand options). This also means you can add on wireless hardware to your Square Stand in addition to your USB hardware, like an Ethernet kitchen printer or Bluetooth barcode scanner.

If you’re considering using a stand other than the Square Stand, there are a number of stands available, ranging in price and quality. There are very basic stands (a quick search of Amazon or BestBuy will pull up any number of iPad stands available for less than $40) that serve to hold your iPad, but do little else. For point of sale, you may want to consider an iPad stand that pivots or rotates, in order to face both you and the customer, as well as a stand that locks (either to the iPad, to the counter, or both). On the more basic end of these, we recommend the Heckler Design Windfall, or for a more professional looking point of sale station, the POS-X iSAPPOS stand.

The bottom line is, if you're planning on using Square with hardware (at least a receipt printer or scanner) and you're looking to save some money or want a simple setup process, the Square Stand is a good option. Just keep in mind that if you buy USB hardware, it will likely only work with the Square Stand.


A note about cash drawers: For the most part, cash drawers connect to Square via your receipt printer. As long as you're using a Square-compatible receipt printer, any printer-driven cash drawer that works with that printer will also work with both the Square Stand and Square with a reader. There is a USB cash drawer option that bypassess a receipt printer and plugs into the Square Stand directly, the APG Vasario USB, but this cash drawer is much more expensive (around $230, compared to printer driven cash drawers, which start at around $95). In addition, all manual cash drawers will work with either set up (they do not open automatically at the end of a transaction, you simply open them manually) and start at around $75.

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