Square: Using the System (Tips & Tricks)

Your reader has arrived and you're wondering, OK, how do I use this thing? There are several tips & tricks I will show you about about the application, your reader, and what to expect if say your first transaction seems to be "processing" for about a millennium while say your first customer stares at you with skeptical eyes. Don't worry. These things don't necessarily happen often but it's comforting to know that Square still has your peace of mind at the top of its core values.

If you've placed an order for your complimentary Square card reader within the past several months, then you should expect to receive the latest operating model of the hardware. You've by now already installed the app on your mobile device and setup your personal account, linked a bank account to the backend as well, and are ready to swipe.

Step 1: Swiping

Though you are not limited to swiping with Square, as you can record cash payments for bookkeeping purposes inside the app, for this article we'll focus on credit card payments alone. First, plug the reader into the headphones port on your phone. The app will automatically recognize that you've inserted the reader and will identify that one is onboard and ready to go.

It's time to swipe. What's so unique about Square is that it already comes pre-engineered to identify your reader as the one that's linked to your account, and more specifically, the one that's linked to your bank account. So any funds you receive using the system will appear online for retrieval and/or refund action. Sometimes when swiping a card through the reader, however, you will incur an error. This is usually due to some form of user error, either having swiped too quickly or too slowly depending on the prompt.

As the tutorial on Squareup.com suggests, it's best to be patient and calm, and swipe evenly and smoothly applying steady pressure throughout the action. In the case that a glitch on Square's part prevents the processing screen from dissolving, make sure to check online to see if the transaction did, in fact, go through, which may happen from time to time, before attempting to swipe again.

Hint: It's actually best to practice swiping with your own card at home first, entering an amount of at least $1.00 USD for card transactions, so you can become familiar with how the process is performed and effectively impress a multitude of friends. It's also important to note that the backside of the card should face away from the swiper, while the frontside should face the swiper.

Step 2: Approved

Once a qualifying amount has been entered into the app and Square accepts the transaction (on average, takes 2-3 seconds), then you will be taken to a subsequent screen that asks the customer to sign for the transaction. Probably my favorite part of the whole process, signing for the transaction allows your clientele to interact with the interface and gives them even more to boast about to their friends and family.

Step 3: The Clincher

Not only will Square identify and process a card transaction, provide for user agreement, but it will also send a location-based copy of the receipt via SMS or email. I can hear you clapping and cheering adamantly. Let's continue. The app will even recall previously swiped cards and the email addresses associated with those accounts. You may also retrieve a contact from the address book if no previous history exists.

Step 4: Thank you and Repeat

Now that you're a highly trained Square swiping, card taking, billing baking portable machine, you should be ready to hit the streets with any kind of business ventures or high-stake merchandise selling scenarios you fancy. Note that Square still reserves the right to 2.75% + 15 cents of every transaction you jimmy with a card present. But for a credit card enabled mobile application, which sends you a free design-y piece of hardware to compliment your already overcrowded utility belt, I'd bargain that you're making a logical financial decision.

Step 5: Square online

There are a plethora of tools available to the Square user online, not available in-app, so to speak. For instance, as mentioned before, Square allows you to refund transactions, resend purchase confirmations, and even manage your entries by exporting them into a spreadsheet from its online interface.

You may want to play with some of these features after taking your first Square payment and before you set out to impress your friends. The more knowledgeable you are about the interface and its capabilities, the more confident your users will feel in your newfound freedoms.

The fine print: Square takes about 3 days from the point of transaction to automatically issue a deposit of accepted funds into your bank account. Some banks will require additional time to make those funds available to you and for larger amounts, Square may split the deposit into two or more entries. For further inquiries, consult the Square help forums.

Jared Clementz has been with us since Saturday, 25 September 2010.

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