How Square Works

By: Dave Roos

Paying With Square

Square is more than a mobile cash register. It also offers free apps for making payments with your smartphone and e-mailing money to your friends.

Square Wallet is a free app that allows you to pay at hundreds of thousands of stores and restaurants with nothing but your smartphone.


After you download the Square Wallet app from either the iTunes App Store or Google Play, you are asked to enter your credit card information and upload a photo of yourself. Why do you need a headshot to buy a sweater? You'll see in a second.

Using your smartphone's built-in GPS, the Square Wallet app allows you to browse or search for local businesses that accept Square Wallet payments. When you physically enter a store, you click on the store's name in the Square Wallet app. That's called "checking in" to the store. When it's time to pay for your sweater, you don't even need to take out your phone. Just tell the salesperson your name and they will see your pretty photo on their screen. With a click of your picture, the sweater is charged to your credit card.

If you are a regular at a store or restaurant, you can use a special check-in feature and automatically order your favorite items.

Square's free service for sending money to friends and family is called Square Cash. You don't need the Square device to use it — only an e-mail address and a debit card. Let's say you want to give $50 to your niece for her birthday, but she lives in another state. You could mail her a check or you could use Square Cash. Here's how it works:

  1. Compose an e-mail with your niece as the recipient
  2. Type the e-mail address to the "CC" field
  3. In the subject line, write "$50.00"
  4. Compose your happy birthday wishes and press "send"
  5. Square will e-mail you a link to enter your debit card number
  6. Your niece will receive two e-mails: the e-mail from you and a second message with a link to enter her debit card information
  7. The money will arrive in her bank account in one to two days

No other steps are required to send up to $250 a week. To send up to $2,500 a week, you need to provide more verification information, but only once, and the service is still free.

As with any new technology, Square has its share of detractors. Keep reading for some common complaints with Square services and how the company is responding.