Heartland vs. Square: a comparison of key features and functionality

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Ice cream flavors. Las Vegas buffets. Sometimes it’s nice to be spoiled with choice.

Other times, not so much. When it comes to choosing payments, point of sale (POS) systems and payroll solutions, the sheer number of options can feel overwhelming. But because the wrong choice could disrupt your business, it’s important to get it right.

Which is why you’re here. And why we’re here too. We think it’s crucial you understand what leading providers offer and how they stack up against each other. That’s why we’ve created a comparison between Heartland’s and Square’s solutions for payments, POS and payroll.
Read on to learn:

  • Which key payments, POS and payroll features Heartland and Square offer

  • How their solutions differ

  • Why you might choose one provider over the other

  • How different pricing models work

  • What to consider when thinking about pricing

  • How to get in touch with Heartland for a quote

As you continue, remember: Each provider’s offering boasts functionality for small businesses that’s so robust, we couldn’t possibly cover it in detail with just one blog. So this is an overview of what we think are some of the most important features the right solution should offer. For more information on any solution, visit these providers’ websites. Let’s dive in.

A woman paying with her smartwatch

Explore features and functionality

Payments

OK. So there’s nothing particularly glamorous about payment processing. But, it’s a critical component of your business. Without it, there would be no way to keep the lights on or serve today’s tech-savvy consumers.

That’s why small and mid-sized businesses in every industry must be prepared to quickly and securely accept all of the ways customers want to pay.

Let’s compare how Heartland’s and Square’s offerings can help you do that and more.

  • Payment processing

    Heartland’s payment processing tools and Square’s solutions both equip you to accept and process many different types of payments, including ACH, debit cards, credit card payments, online payments, mobile payments, digital wallets and more. Square also processes cryptocurrency, but Heartland does not currently offer this capability.

    Both solutions make it easy to accept payments across a wide variety of devices too: mobile phones, tablets, laptops, POS terminals and virtual terminals.

  • Billing and invoicing

    With Heartland and Square, it’s easy to send custom links and digital invoices, making it easy for customers to pay online, via credit card, digital wallet, ACH and gift cards.

    Both offerings also boast clean, simple dashboards that help you keep track of invoice statuses. Quickly see who’s paid, who hasn’t and who is overdue from one place that’s accessible from any device.

    A laptop with graphs on the screen
  • Accounting software integration

    Heartland and Square both integrate with QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, Xero and FreshBooks. Square’s solution also integrates with Commerce, Hurdlr, TaxJar, Shogo, One Up, DAVO Sales Tax and Zoho Books.

Payments differences

Heartland and Square offer much of the same functionality. The biggest differences are that Square accepts and processes cryptocurrency, and integrates with a larger number of accounting software programs. But technical capability isn’t the only criteria for choosing the right solution.

Pricing

If you’ve researched costs around Heartland and Square, you’ve probably seen that both solutions’ pricing models earn high marks, even though they’re different.

Let’s take a quick look at why:

  • Flat-rate pricing

    Interchange is a fancy term we use in the payment processing industry to refer to the fees a merchant’s bank pays to the card issuing bank to convert a charge on a cardholder’s card to a cash deposit at the merchant’s bank account.

    That’s a long winded way to say: As a credit card charge moves through the various stages of authorization, the entities involved in that process charge a fee. That fee is set by the card brands and payment companies pass it along to the merchant. That fee — combined with the payment processor’s mark up — constitute what’s referred to as “rates.”

    Interchange accounts for the vast majority of merchants’ rates for accepting card-based payments, regardless of the pricing model.

    Square offers a flat-rate pricing model, which is exactly what it sounds like. Most Square customers pay a fixed fee — as a percentage or dollar amount — for each transaction, regardless of what that transaction actually costs to process (the interchange rate).

    Because flat-rate pricing doesn’t change depending on the card type or processing method, it’s easy to know how much payment processing will cost you each month. Statements are simpler to read and understand.

    Flat-rate pricing is predictable. It also almost always costs more than other options.

    For example, let’s say the interchange fee for a swiped Visa debit card is 0.8% + 15 cents. But the interchange fee for swiping an Elite Mastercard is higher: 2.3% + 10 cents. Because flat-rate pricing uses a fixed amount to cover both fees, you would pay the same for each. Meaning you would likely be overpaying for Visa debit transactions because they are lower than Mastercard’s.

    The other downside to flat-rate pricing is that it technically isn’t as cut and dry as it seems. Providers who offer flat rates still have to make adjustments to cover all of the variables that influence the transaction fee. So one flat rate might apply to chipped credit cards that are dipped, another to debit cards that are swiped and so on.

    Credit card icon
  • Interchange-plus pricing

    Heartland offers interchange-plus pricing. It differs from flat-rate pricing in that your payment processing expenses depend on how much it costs to process individual transactions through the various stages of the authorization network.

    Your fee consists of the interchange fee plus a mark-up percentage or dollar amount for each transaction. The mark-up is a set rate that’s part of your contract; it’s essentially what you agree to pay the processor for their services.

    Keep in mind that every processor — even if they use a flat-rate pricing model — charges a mark-up.

    So what does interchange-plus pricing look like? Let’s take our previous example and say that the processor’s mark-up was .5%. That means you would pay .5% more than the interchange fee, but ultimately end up paying less for the Visa debit card transaction than the Mastercard one.

    Different fees can make interchange-plus pricing seem confusing or difficult. Monthly statements are harder to read.

A graph showing the difference between interchange and flat-fees

When it comes to pricing, the best way to ensure you choose the right solution is to get a quote. Contact a Heartland representative today to see how an interchange-plus model could work for you. It’s helpful if you have a credit card processing statement on hand when you call. That way, they can crunch the actual numbers and help you see which pricing model benefits your business the most.

The verdict

Businesses that need to process cryptocurrency payments and want the predictability of flat-rate pricing — even though it may be more expensive than other pricing structures — might consider Square. If you have or plan to have high transaction volumes, Heartland’s interchange-plus pricing model might be your best bet.

A man using a point-of-sale terminal to scan an item for checkout

Point of sale (POS)

When you hear “point of sale” or “POS,” chances are you think about hardware: cash drawers, monitors, card readers, barcode scanners and so on. And while all that’s important, it’s only part of what the right POS solution should deliver.

In addition to the components that make it easy to accept EMV, credit and debit cards, gift cards and more from anywhere, your POS system should help you manage customer loyalty, marketing and your ecommerce store.

Heartland and Square both deliver all of this functionality through their POS, Restaurant and Retail solutions. But that’s not all. Let’s take a look at just how much smarter the right POS system should be, and how Heartland and Square compare.

  • Inventory management

  • Order management

  • Customer relationship management

  • Purchasing and receiving

  • Contactless payments

  • Marketing support

  • Data and analytics

  • eCommerce integrations

  • Mobile POS Hardware options

  • Payroll integrations

  • Inventory management

    Both Square’s and Heartland’s POS solutions allow you to eliminate shortages and prevent overbuying by keeping an eye on your inventory.

    You can see what’s selling - and where - across different stores in real time. Heartland and Square make it easy to transfer inventory among unlimited SKUs and locations. With Square, you receive email alerts about low inventory levels with recommendations on items that need to be replenished.

  • Reporting

    With Heartland Retail, you can run unlimited customized reports to maintain a high-level view or dig down into detailed data. Heartland’s reporting draws in inventory, customer, purchase order (PO) and vendor data across all store locations and channels, letting you slice and dice information any way you please.

    Square offers reporting capabilities that allow you to see inventory by category, profits, projected profits and includes a history log that tracks all inventory changes. You can pull these reports from the POS, making it simple to understand which items you should order and which vendor you should order from.

  • Purchasing and receiving

    With Heartland and Square, it’s easy to set up and manage vendor profiles and purchase orders (POs) within your POS systems. Both providers’ tools simplify receiving by scanning inventory as it arrives so you can ensure it matches POs. With Square, you can also receive shipments by item or in bulk.

A computer monitor with graphs on the screen

POS differences

Here again, Heartland and Square both offer similarly robust hardware and software solutions. But there are some differences. Square sends email alerts when inventory is getting low while Heartland does not. Heartland’s reporting function makes it possible to pull data and get insight around every part of your business. With Square, reports are pre-built and may not provide as much flexibility.

Also, Heartland and Square integrate with different software programs and applications. But if you choose a Heartland POS system, you don’t necessarily have to use Heartland’s payment processing services. You’re free to switch payment providers — at any time, for any reason — without having to replace your POS system.

However, if you use Square’s POS solution, you must use their payment processing services and vice versa. With Square, changing your payment processor requires shopping for a new POS system too.

The verdict

POS features and functionality between Heartland and Square are largely on par with one another. If you’re looking for robust POS hardware and software, Heartland or Square would be a good choice. However, businesses that want to dive deep by slicing and dicing their customer and inventory data might prefer Heartland’s reporting capabilities. Heartland may also be the better solution if you want to have the ability to shop around for the best payment processing rates.

Payroll

A woman holding a pencil and looking at a laptop

Chances are you didn’t start your business because you were excited about processing payroll or managing HR. But running both of these areas well is crucial to your business’ success.

That’s why the solution you choose should help you accurately and efficiently manage all of your people-related tasks with automation and support.

  • Payroll processing

    Starting with the fundamentals, Heartland and Square both offer a suite of web-based payroll management software. That’s essentially comprehensive payroll software that makes it easy to pay wages, overtime, bonuses and commissions via direct deposit, prepaid paycard or check. Payroll management also includes the calculation, filing and remittance of payroll taxes to the appropriate parties. In some ways, that’s a given in the modern marketplace.

    Also, Square offers Instant Payments, which business owners can enable to fund payrolls using their Square balance — money from authorized and settled customer payments — and run payroll one business day prior to employees’ pay date. Heartland does not currently have this capability.

  • Time and attendance

    Square and Heartland offer solutions for time tracking, scheduling, shift management, PTO management, benefits and more. It’s crucial that your time and attendance software integrates seamlessly with your POS system as well. Both Heartland and Square offer this capability.

    An image of a laptop and phone showing features of Heartland's recruiting and applicant tracking software
  • Hiring

    Heartland currently offers Heartland Hire, a recruiting and applicant tracking software that integrates with mobile-optimized employee onboarding. You can recruit and interview, identify top candidates, electronically onboard new hires and manage compliance and tax credits. Square does not currently have this capability.

Payroll differences

Unlike payment processing and POS, the biggest differences between Square’s and Heartland’s payroll solutions comes down to functionality.

  • Features

    Square’s Instant Payments feature lets you submit payroll processing later than standard providers. Instead of four days, users can submit their payroll the day before payday and trust that employees will be paid on time, even on weekends. Heartland currently doesn’t offer this service.

    Laptop icon with graphs on screen

    However, Heartland’s solution does include a robust applicant tracking and onboarding suite. It’s built to help you easily manage it all with dashboards that give you visibility across the entire process. The Heartland team will also help you claim Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC), filing and managing them on your behalf. Square’s platform does not currently offer this functionality, but may integrate with different hiring and onboarding applications.

The verdict

If you need flexibility around when you can submit your payroll for processing, Square and their Instant Payments feature may be the better option. If you’re planning on growing your business and team, Heartland’s payroll solution that includes hiring functionality may be the right choice.

Service model differences

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between Heartland and Square is their approach to customer service and support. For payments and POS solutions, Square offers several tools, resources, community forums and websites with a lot of content on how to troubleshoot issues. You can also contact representatives via email and chat. But to get support by phone, users need to obtain a customer code from the Square website, and call the customer service line.

Person with headset icon

Heartland also provides tools and resources, including online FAQs, chat and email options. But your ability to pick up the phone and get help is at the heart of the Heartland service model. Customer support lines are available according to the products you have and the issues you’re experiencing.

You can reach a US-based representative 24/7 and expect to speak with someone within 2-3 minutes of calling.

When it comes to payroll, both providers pair their technology with live agents, meaning payroll services specialists are available by phone and email during regular business hours, M-F. The biggest difference here is that Heartland provides users with a dedicated specialist: someone who is assigned specifically to your account and knows your business.

Heartland users also receive live, professional support for Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance and general HR issues.

For those who prefer to research and troubleshoot payments and POS issues on their own, Square’s robust offering of resources, and email and chat features is the better solution. If being able to pick up the phone and chat with a customer support specialist to resolve issues quickly is more your style, then the Heartland service model may be best for you. With payroll, you get live-agent support with both providers, though Heartland goes one step further by providing a familiar point of contact.

A man working in a retail shop answering a phone

Drop us a line

As you’ve undoubtedly discovered during your research, there’s a seemingly unlimited amount of information out there about different solutions and providers. Even in this blog, we covered just a fraction of what Heartland’s and Square’s solutions can do.

Sometimes asking someone to bring it all into focus can help. If you would like to learn more about Heartland’s payment processing, payroll or point of sale systems, get information on pricing or just ask a few questions, contact us today. We would love to learn more about your business needs and how we can help!


Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us