Don’t Use Square
Square is an American payment platform. You may have seen vendors use their physical checkout system. I used Square’s online invoicing system to invoice my clients and receive payments. After a series of bad experiences with Square, I won’t anymore, and I suggest you don’t, either.
Square’s invoicing system is simple: you add a client, send them an invoice, and they pay it online on a page hosted by Square. Square then receives the funds on your behalf and keeps a processing fee (2.9% plus $0.30 at the time of writing). After a few days, they automatically transfer the money to your linked bank account.
In early July, I changed my bank-account information. On July 10th, Square informed me they had placed a hold on my account on July 5th because they were worried somebody had gained unauthorized access. Payouts were frozen. Five days is an awfully long time to wait to inform users that their account may have been compromised.
I called Square immediately and asked what was going on. I let them know it was me who had changed my bank-account information. They said they were looking into it and informed me I’d be able to continue invoicing my clients, which I did.
The problem persisted about a week later, on July 18th. I contacted Square via their support chat and requested an update as well as access to my funds. Here’s an excerpt from my chat with a rep named Mafer:
I’ve escalated this to the Square Secure Team for further investigation and they will be following up with you directly to assist in addressing your concerns. They will reach out to you directly as the Support Team does not have more insight into your account at this time.
“directly” meaning email?
That’s correct 😊
Should be in the next 48 hours
I did not hear from them within 48 hours. So I had to contact them again. This time I tried their online contact form and wrote on July 25th (excerpt):
A hold was placed on my account on 7/5 due to alleged suspicious activity.
I was only made aware of this on 7/10 and then called your support.
I followed up on 7/18 over chat requesting access to my funds and was told somebody would get back to me within 48 hours.
It’s been a week since and I haven’t heard from you. I have been patient. I demand immediate access to my funds.
The next day, on July 26th, I received an email from Square. They had sent it to an old email address I do not use to log in to Square anymore (!). They did not refer to my earlier communications. Instead, they informed me, again, that they had “detected some unusual activity on [my] Square account” and that they’d hold my funds. They also requested a call from me.
I called them the same day and spoke to another rep. She said they needed to call me on an old number; a number which I used many years ago to sign up for Square. I explained that I haven’t owned that number in years so I could not receive phone calls there.
She asked me to add my Google Voice number for 2FA. I did so. She said she will note that down and somebody will email me within 48 hours. She also said to call them if I don’t hear from them within that timeframe.
Nobody emailed me. On July 30th, I contacted their chat support again (can’t call them on weekends). They apologized and said, again, that somebody would email me.
Then, on July 31st, I suddenly received an automated email informing me that payouts had been re-enabled. It contained no explanation, but at least I thought this ordeal was over.
However, the next day, on August 1st, I received an email saying payouts had been disabled again until I provide additional information about my business. Payouts had now been disabled for almost a month by this time.
Here’s a quote from their email (bold in the original):
Right now, you can still continue to accept payments. However, until we can confirm your information, your funds will be held in your Square account. You will not be able to transfer your funds into your bank account and they will not be accessible on your Square Card.
Once we confirm your information, the funds will be released and available both for transfer and for use on Square Card.
That’s manipulative. They count on the fact that most people will cave and provide the information under threat of not receiving their money.
Their email linked to a form. It was clear from the form that this time, the reason that payouts had been disabled was that a client of mine had repeatedly tried to use a card that didn’t work. I guess that raised a red flag with Square.
I filled out the form and provided most of the requested information plus explanations. Some of the information, however, I was not willing to provide. For example, they asked for my three most recent bank statements. That’s none of their business. They also asked for invoices that I had created using their system, meaning they already had those invoices, which seems lazy and unnecessary. Lastly, they asked how I made sure the card my client “presented to” me was legit, but that’s their responsibility as a payment provider; that’s what I pay them for. No card had ever been presented to me: it had been presented to Square, on their website. (Maybe they don’t distinguish between vendors using their hardware to swipe cards and people like me who exclusively use their online payment system and never see any physical cards. Vendors can do things like check the signature on the back of a credit card, and they can ask to see an ID to check if the name matches that on the credit card; being online only, I can’t do any of that.)
After I submitted their form, I received an automated email saying they’ll get back to me “within 2 business days”. And: “[W]e will continue to hold the funds in your Square account and you will not be able to transfer them or use them on Square Card.” (Bold in the original.)
The next day, on August 2nd, I received an email saying my account had been deactivated altogether, that the decision is final, and that I’d receive my funds by October 31st. Notably, they had not told me before sending me their form that I’d get my money even if I don’t fill it out to their satisfaction.
To summarize: Square manipulates customers into providing information under threat of refusing payouts. In addition, their customer support was slow and unresponsive overall. They repeatedly promised that somebody would reach out within a certain timeframe and then broke those promises. I would not trust them with my money again, and you shouldn’t, either.
If you know of a replacement payment processor, leave a comment below. PayPal once pulled a similarly manipulative stunt on me to get information (though not quite as bad), so I don’t recommend using them, either. I suppose crypto currencies are an option but I don’t know much about them and the volatile exchange rate is a risk.