A Guide To Open Source Project Management Software

When it comes to project management software, there are all sorts of opinions about what is most desirable. I think the majority of people, even those who would describe themselves as technology nerds, most often prefer to use applications that work well enough on their own and do not require deep knowledge of coding to use and understand. We want a kitchen knife that is sharp, comfortable in the hand, and dependable for chopping ingredients. For us, the point is not the knife itself, but the beautiful food we make with it. And the same principle applies to our project management tools.

But not everyone subscribes to this view. In the software world, particularly, there are those who prefer to write their own code and design their own applications. They use self-made computers and run operating systems like Linux. Whenever they can, they use open-source applications so they can dig into the code and make sure it is doing just what they want it to.

As with most kinds of web-based software, the project management world contains a number of open-source options. If you are anything like me, you have probably heard the term “open source” before, and it filled you with a vague apprehension. Do I have to write the code myself? Isn’t this why I paid for someone to design this software in the first place? What if I break the code by accident! This is all too stressful!

Fortunately, I can offer you respite from those fears. There are a number of advantages to using an open-source software for task management, though there are some complications that can arise from that choice. Is it worth your time? Let’s dive into the facts to find an answer to that question, and then take a look at some good open source project management software programs.

What Is Open Source Software?

In general terms, open source software refers a program or application with a source code that is accessible by any user. Now if you are like me, the term “source code” makes your eyes glaze over, your head tip back slightly, and re-runs of “How It’s Made” start playing behind your eyes. But fear not! The term is far less intimidating than it might seem. As you probably know, all software runs on code, and open source software just makes that code available for editing by anyone. As my father is fond of reminding me, “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to.” So if you are content with your software just how it is, you do not have to play with it.

Another misconception people have about open source software is this: If anyone can edit the source code, isn’t it easier to hack, sabotage, or otherwise ruin by mischevious antagonists? Effectively, the answer is “no.” When you purchase or download open-source software you are creating your own version of that software, and the only people able to modify the code will be people within your own team. It is no more vulnerable to attack than other software you might consider using.

More specifically, open-source project management software tends to include applications that are designed to meet project management needs (task lists, project portfolios, Gantt charts, Kanban boards, etc), while allowing users to customize their experience both in the mechanics of how the app functions (do you want recurring tasks? Templates? Timesheets?), and the visual interface (want a bright pink background? Company logos?)

Buying or subscribing to open source project management can be like going to the hardware store and buying lumber, nails, and a hammer, rather than simply buying a pre-built table. Alternatively, sometimes it is more like going to IKEA for a flatpack table that just requires a few steps to assemble. So how much of a DIY-er are you? And what are the concrete benefits of that trip to the hardware store or IKEA, rather than just getting something ready-made? Let’s take a closer look.

Benefits To Open Source Software

The most obvious benefit of open-source software of any kind is the higher level of control you will have over your application. This goes deeper than the cosmetic jokes I made above, meaning you can drastically modify the inner workings of the program. You can add entirely new features that were never present in the original, though the quality of these features will sometimes depend on the skill of your in-house software engineers. Some providers, however, have marketplaces that users can browse, shopping for community-designed features that slot into the code perfectly. A great example of this concept is OrangeScrum, hosting a diverse market with all sorts of additions to choose from.

Another big draw of open source software is that these options tend to be available for free! Most open-source creators don’t see the point in charging for a product that their customers are likely going to modify up the wazoo anyway. Access to the source code is usually free or comes with a one-time cost, rather than the monthly subscription model common to other, cloud-based project management software. If you are wondering how companies like the aforementioned OrangeScrum and others (like Taiga or MyCollab) make money, it’s simple: they tend to charge for customer service, though some also offer standardized versions of their software as well.

Downsides To Open Source Software

In some ways, the most prominent advantages to using an open-source project management software — control and customizability — can be the biggest disadvantages as well. You may have noticed above my repeated references to coding and software engineers, both of which will be needed to take full advantage of apps like OrangeScrum and the rest. If your small business lacks an in-house IT or computing division, open-source might be too large an undertaking.

On another note, if you end up with a project management vendor that offers source code for free but customer service for a premium, you might be facing prohibitive costs. Basic customer service plans can go for more than $150 per month, with premium plans costing triple that. Some might consider this money well spent, and they might be right. But I can think of several closed-source, web-based project management apps that you can get much cheaper. If you just want a simple way to manage tasks, you’ll be better off with an SaaS solution like Basecamp that you can use out of the box.

Finally, using open-source software often means wading through poorly designed interfaces. To be fair, several of the ones I have mentioned here have decent designs, especially the folks at Taiga, who have created an interface as nice as the likes of Binfire (read our review) or Streamtime (read our review). However, several of the higher-recommended open-source offerings, like ]project open[, ProjectLibre, and Open Project all feature less-than-inspiring GUI’s. Like it or not, visual design is part of a user’s experience, and good design leads to happier users.

Which Open Source Project Management App Is The Best?

There are so many open source project management apps out there that it would be impossible to cover even a representative sample in a blog post like this. With that in mind, here are my three favorite apps to get you started:


As I have already mentioned, OrangeScrum is one of the most well-known apps in the open-source project management world. This is classic open-source software; the options are almost overwhelmingly endless. You can get the cloud option or the on-premise option. You can use the marketplace to modify the app up the wazoo. You can integrate Slack, Google apps, or Dropbox. You can use it on a computer, your phone, or your tablet. If all those options started to blur together in a whirlwind of customization fatigue, keep in mind that OrangeScrum was designed to be an enterprise-level tool.

When you subscribe to OrangeScrum (there are five subscription levels, each of which increases the file storage and user cap), you gain access to a full range of project management features. This includes time tracking for tasks, projects, task lists and to-do lists, Gantt charts, resource tracking, and more. For those of you looking for a comprehensive project management solution available at a decent price with excellent customization options, this may be the task management tool you are looking for.


In my opinion, Taiga takes the prize for the most stylish open-source project management app. Comparing Taiga to OrangeScrum is like comparing apples to an apple tree. Where OrangeScrum can be almost anything you need it to be, Taiga is extremely focused on Agile methodology. With a scrum board to highlight what jobs and tasks are falling behind schedule and a Kanban view to help dissect what needs to happen on your own project, this is one of the best interpretations of Agile project management I have yet seen.

There is a free version of Taiga, though it is quite limited, with only one project and three team members available. Fortunately, a subscription comes pretty cheaply, at only five dollars per month. Best of all, for you coding geeks out there, the source code is available to you to customize to your heart’s content.


Of the three apps I am covering here, MyCollab is the tool that best fits the open-source archetype, warts and all. The website feels thrown together, with a couple of copy-editing issues even on the front page. MyCollab does offer some paid subscriptions, but the option open-source fiends are going to be most interested in is the free “community” edition. Note that in order to use this completely open-source version of MyCollab, you will need to self-host the app on your own servers.

If you choose to do that, you get access to issue tracking, email reporting, tasks, project and customer management, and anything else you can dream up; you can alter, modify, and otherwise change the code to your heart’s content. I probably don’t need to point this out, but this option is probably not for you if you don’t have dedicated code monkeys on staff to keep everything straight and track your own bugs. If you are looking for project management that works every time you use it without much effort from you, you should probably look elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

When it comes right down to it, I think that open-source software is going to be valued differently by different kinds of teams looking for different things out of a project management tool. Enterprise-level corporations, with in-house computer engineers, will probably find the flexibility and customization of these tools extremely appealing. Likewise, startup tech companies and smaller teams will probably appreciate the opportunity to tailor their apps directly to their own needs, whether they need Gantt charts, advanced task tracking or simple to-do lists. Experienced project managers will also enjoy the fact that they can tailor their tools to Scrum, Agile, or Kanban-based project planning methodologies.

However, if you are in a small or mid-sized business operating outside the tech industry, you will probably get better value and less headache out of a more conventional cloud-based tool.

The post A Guide To Open Source Project Management Software appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


The Best American Express Business Credit Cards

American Express is best known for their charge cards. These are cards with no hard credit limit that have to be paid off in total every month. But they don’t represent the full extent of Amex’s product line.

Like its competitors Visa and MasterCard, Amex offers credit cards, on which you can carry a balance from month to month if you so choose (note, you shouldn’t if you can help it). Compared to charge cards, credit cards tend to have lower annual fees and less aggressive rewards programs, although this isn’t always the case. And one particularly nice perk offered to Amex business credit cardholders is the OPEN Savings program.

But which American Express business credit cards are the best? Read on.

American Express Blue Business Plus

If you’re overwhelmed by myriad rewards options provided by business credit cards and your business expenses aren’t concentrated in any one area, you may want to try Amex’s Blue Business Plus card. With 2% back on all purchases up to $50,000 and no annual fee, it’s one of the better cash back business cards on the market.

American Express Blue Business Plus
Annual Fee $0
APR 12.24% – 20.24% variable (0% first 15 months)
Signup Bonus $0
Rewards 2 pts./$1 spent on all purchases up to $50K/yr
1 pt./$1 spent on all purchases after $50K/yr
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The American Express Blue Business Plus is a great first business credit card as it offers both a simplified reward system and no annual fee. In fact, it’s the perfect credit card for businesses that don’t plan to make many charges. (There’s no signup bonus encouraging you to spend a ton of money in the first few months.)

Most cash back credit cards offer a roughly 1.5 pt. return per dollar. Blue Business Plus instead frontloads your rate, giving you a 2 pt. return on your $50,000 worth of purchases per year. This comes at the expense of a subpar 1 pt. rate after you hit that limit. If you anticipate putting more than $50K per year on your business card, you may want to consider a different card (or an additional card).

American Express Blue Business Plus reward points can be redeemed for travel, shopping, or statement credit.

American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card

Another great option for businesses with modest credit card spending habits is Amex’s SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card, particularly if you want your rewards in the form of cash back.

American Express SimplyCash Plus Business 
Annual Fee $0
APR 12.24% – 20.29% variable (0% first 9 months)
Signup Bonus $250 statement credit after you spend $5K in first 6 months, and an additional $250 if you spend $10K in the first year
Rewards 5% cash back on wireless telephone services from U.S. providers, 3% cash back on selected category for first 50K/yr
1 pt./$1 spent on all purchases after $50K/yr
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SimplyCash dispenses with a point-based reward system, automatically applying a percentage of your purchases to your account as statement credit instead.

This card had an unusually complex reward system for a cash back program. A 5% cash back reward tier is huge, but it’s limited to hardware, equipment, and services purchased directly from U.S. providers.

You’ll also get 3% back in one of the following categories you choose (you can change this category once per year):

  • Airfare directly purchased from airlines
  • Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
  • Car rentals from select rental companies
  • U.S. gas stations
  • U.S. restaurants
  • U.S. purchases in select media
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
  • U.S computer hardware, software, and cloud computing from select providers

Be aware that the 5% and 3% tiers are limited to the first $50K you spend each year, combined. So if you spend $20,000 on the 5% tier and $30,000 on the 3% tier, you’ll have exhausted both tiers for the year. If you think you’ll be charging more than that on a business card each year, you may want a backup card, or another card entirely.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card

Moving into cards that cater to more specific business behavior, we have the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. It provides a very generous reward system for travelers who frequently stay at Starwood or other Marriott brand hotels.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card
Annual Fee $95/yr ($0 the first year)
APR 16.49% – 20.24% variable
Signup Bonus 25,000 pts. if you spend $3K within first 3 months
Rewards 2 pts./$1 at participating Starwood and Marriott hotels (in addition to points earned as a Starwood Preferred Guest)
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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With a reasonable annual fee and a generous signup bonus, the Starwood Preferred card offers a lot of benefits to cardholders who travel. It’s not quite as flexible as the cards we’ve looked at so far, but if you use it strategically, it can rack up tons of points with no limit. Starpoints can be redeemed at participating hotels and resorts and on flights with participating airlines through the SPG Airline Transfer Program.

Additional perks that come with the card include:

  • Credit toward SPG Elite status (5 nights and 2 stays annually)
  • Unlimited Boingo wi-fi on up to four devices
  • Complimentary premium Internet service at participating SPG hotels
  • Access to the Sheraton Club Lounge
  • Free nights at participating SPG hotels with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees

If these perks complement your traveling habits, this card is a great choice. Otherwise, its specificity, annual fee, slightly higher rates, and lack of introductory APR may not make it as appetizing.

American Express Platinum Delta Skymiles Credit Card

Airline travel-based rewards are some of the most popular types of credit card rewards programs. American Express partners with Delta for their credit card rewards programs, offering three flavors of the card (Gold, Platinum, and Reserve).

American Express Platinum Delta Skymiles Credit Card
Annual Fee $195/yr
APR 16.49% – 20.49% variable
Signup Bonus 70,000 miles + 10,000 Medallion Qualification miles if you spend $3K within first 3 months, and $100 statement credit if you make a Delta purchase within the first 3 months
Rewards 2 pts./$1 directly spent with Delta
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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Amex’s Platinum Delta card offers a huge signup bonus to businesses that spend $3,000 within the first three months, and an additional $100 in statement credit if you make a purchase directly with Delta.

Additional perks of this card include:

  • Priority boarding
  • First checked bag is free
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 20% statement credit on qualifying in-flight purchases
  • Baggage insurance
  • 1 Companion Airfare certificate each year, rewarded upon card renewal

For the heavy traveler, I believe the Platinum Delta card offers the most value, though prospective cardholders who want to save a little money on their annual fee may want to consider the Gold version. The Reserve version’s premium fee will probably only be justifiable for elite first-class travelers.

Final Thoughts

While they may not be quite as well-known as the iconic Green, Gold, and Platinum charge cards, Amex’s credit cards offer their own suite of appealing rewards programs to customers who want the option of carrying a balance.

Didn’t find what you were looking for here? Check out our comparison guides to business credit cards, charge cards, and personal cards that are good for business expenses.

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The 5 Best Fora Financial Alternatives For Business Funding

fora financial logo

Fora Financial (read our review) is one of the more reliable online lenders in the business. While they don’t necessarily excel in any one area, they do provide short-term loans and merchant cash advances at fairly reasonable (for the industry) rates and are willing to work with new businesses. If Fora doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, what other options are available?

Here are some business funding alternatives to Fora Financial.

Square Capital

Best for…

Square customers looking for small loans with low rates


Time in business: N/A
Credit score: N/A
Revenue: $10K/yr

Square (read our review) isn’t primarily known for loans, but they do offer some of their point of sale hardware customers loans ranging in size from $500 to $100,000.

These loans come at lower rates (1.1 – 1.16) than you’ll probably get from Fora, and Square’s payment processing infrastructure makes it easy to set up the automated repayment process. If you’re looking for convenience and don’t mind your payment services company also being your lender, it’s a pretty good deal.

How To Apply For A Square Capital Loan

Unfortunately, the process for determining who is eligible for a Square Capital loan is a bit opaque. Rather than apply at your leisure, Square will, at their leisure, send email notifications to qualifying customers. That means that you may not qualify for funding through Square Capital when you need it.

If you do receive an offer, the process is extremely easy. You decide how much you want from the options offered, then Square will use the information they already have on file to process your application. In some cases they may ask for additional documents.


It’s best to consider Square Capital as a perk that comes with being a Square customer.



Best for…

New businesses looking for a transparent lender


Time in business: 6 months
Credit score: 500
Revenue: $15K/yr + avg. daily balance over $1K for expansion loans

It can be hard for new businesses to get funding right out of the gate. One of the nice things about Fora is that they’re willing to work with businesses that have been around for only three months.

Credibly (read our review) isn’t quite so lenient, but they are willing to work with businesses that have only been in business for six months. Like Fora, Credibly offers some variety in their financial products, although they’re more focused on installment loans than merchant cash advances. Expect slightly more stringent lending guidelines than you will find with Fora.

One nice aspect of Credibly is that they’re more transparent than most of their competitors, making it a little easier to know what you’re getting into. Credibly’s rates are comparable to Fora’s, falling between 1.09 and 1.36.

How To Apply For A Credibly Loan

You can begin your Credibly application online on their website. This is essentially a screening process. If you make the cut, you’ll be contacted by a representative who will prompt you to provide the following information:

  • Business lease or mortgage agreement
  • Picture ID of all owners
  • Business tax returns
  • Bank statements for the last three months
  • Basic personal information including Social Security number


Credibly’s easy qualifications and above-average transparency make it a decent choice for new businesses without a lot of options.

Breakout Capital


breakout capital

Best for…

Businesses looking for a flexible funder


Time in business: 1 yr / NA(invoice factoring)
Credit score: 600/ NA (invoice factoring)
Revenue: $10K/month / NA (invoice factoring)

Breakout Capital (read our review) offers a number of short-term funding solutions for new businesses. In fact, flexibility is one of their biggest draws.

Breakout’s loans operate on a principle similar to a line of credit, making it easy to tap additional funding in the future without racking up punishing fees or double-dipping. While Breakout’s rates are still on the high side — as are those of most online lenders — the company takes pains not to pull too many unexpected fees or terms of service changes.

They also offer a niche form of financing that can be useful to businesses that want to borrow against their unpaid invoices. Invoice factoring allows businesses to sell unpaid invoices to a lender at a discount. Rather than owing interest, you’ll sign over your invoices to Breakout, who will then advance you a percentage of the invoice’s worth. The advantage here is that you can bypass credit checks and similar prerequisites. You just need to have invoices to sell. Note that Breakout doesn’t provide invoice factoring in-house, but rather partners with invoice factoring companies to offer the service.

How To Apply For A Breakout Capital Loan

You can fill out a truncated application at Breakout Capital’s website, or bypass that part and contact them by phone. Expect to have to provide documents that establish your identity, your business’s details, and your revenue. Breakout will then determine which of their products you qualify for.


Breakout is a great option for businesses that need flexible lending. Both their lines of credit and invoice factoring give you control over when and if you want to tap your credit resources. This freedom comes at a premium, however.

Street Shares


Best for…

Profitable businesses with decent credit, businesses looking for a line of credit


Time in business: 1 year, some exemptions for 6 months
Credit score: 620
Revenue: $100K (for 6 month consideration)

Street Shares (read our review) may sound like an arcade game, but they’re actually among the more conservative online lenders, offering installment loans and lines of credit.

The credit requirements here are a bit higher than many of their competitors, but businesses with good credit can take advantage of Street Shares’ lower rates and weekly (rather than daily) repayment process.

Profitable companies should take special notice as Street Shares will work with companies that are less than a year old, provided they’ve earned $100,000 in revenue at the time of application.

Street Shares charges interest just like a bank loan. You’re looking at APRs between 7 – 39.99%.

How To Apply For A Street Shares Loan

Like most online lenders, Street Shares lets you begin your application on their website. There you can submit some basic information about yourself, your business, and the financial products you’re interested in.

If you’re approved, you’ll be contacted by a representative and asked to provide additional information. The documents will vary depending on the product (if you’re provided with multiple loan offers, you can decide between them).


Street Shares is a little harder to qualify for than some of the other options here, but their competitive rates and the flexibility of their products make them a good choice for businesses that can make the cut.



bluevine logo

Best for…

New companies needing a flexible lending plan


Time in business: 3 – 6 months
Credit score: 530 – 600
Revenue: N/A

BlueVine (read our review) operates in a similar niche to Breakout capitals, offering both lines of credit and invoice factoring. Note above that the lower “time in business” and “credit score” requirement ranges are for invoice factoring, while the higher ones are for lines of credit. The line of credit product isn’t available to businesses based in Kentucky, Tennessee, Nevada, Vermont, New Hampshire, or either of the Dakotas.

BlueVine only assesses a fee (1.5%) on their lines of credit when you draw upon them, but you’ll want to make sure you pay them off quickly. Interest accumulates weekly at a rate of 0.3% to 1.5% (this is not an APR).

BlueVine does their invoice factoring in-house. If you choose to use this service, they’ll set up an account that will receive your invoice payments from B2B transactions. When you receive an invoice, you can then decide whether or not you want an advance on it. If you choose to, Bluevine will advance you between 85% – 90% of its value. When the invoice is paid, you’ll get a rebate on the remaining amount, minus any accumulated fees.

How To Apply For A BlueVine Loan

You can begin the application on BlueVine’s website by creating an account and answering some questions about your business. You’ll then have to provide read-only access to your bank account or three months worth of bank statements. You can create invoices in BlueVine’s interface or connect your QuickBooks, Xero, or FreshBooks account.

In addition to the usual information like income and creditworthiness, BlueVine also considers your transaction volume and advertising strategy.


New businesses that haven’t had much time to establish themselves, but have good fundamentals, can find a lot of flexibility with BlueVine.

Final Thoughts

Alternative lending is a highly competitive market with a huge number of options for businesses looking for non-traditional sources of funding. Finding a lender that will meet your needs at a reasonable rate can take some work, but it’s worth the effort.

Need more information? Check out our small business loan comparison.

The post The 5 Best Fora Financial Alternatives For Business Funding appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


The 5 Best Android POS Systems

Full disclosure: I have no dog in the Android vs. Apple turf wars that threaten to tear us apart. I have an Android phone and a Chromebook, but my wife owns an iPhone and a MacBook. Somehow, despite being unequally yoked, we have made things work. I respect her desire for functionality and user-friendliness. She respects that I despise spending money on anything. And there are many individuals who share my values.

If you are in the market for a point of sale system for Android because you are fiercely loyal to your device, you may feel lonely in this industry, one that often feels dominated by the iPad. But there’s hope! Read on for a convenient list of some of our favorite POS systems for Android.

Epos Now


Epos Now (read our full review) runs on any device that is compatible with Chrome or Safari. In fact, it’s one of the more affordable systems on the market.

While it doesn’t have the most robust offerings in some areas,  Epos Now gives you plenty of bang for your buck and is easy to set up and install. With a 30-day trial and an excellent set-up tutorial, Epos Now can save you a lot of initial time. While its interface isn’t flashy, it’s intuitive and there aren’t any distractions that get in the way of navigation. Running on any device with a compatible browser, it’s easy to keep tabs on real-time reporting and inventory levels.

The back end has some nice features that you can’t find in all point of sale systems. Purchase orders can be automatically created, along with barcodes (which can be customized). Permissions are also easy to set for different employees, giving them access to specific features.

Epos Now can be used for most retail operations as well as cafes, nightclubs, and other smaller food industry establishments. This POS features table management and check-splitting functions, plus a basic loyalty system. There are also a huge number of integrations that pair with the software, some available for free and some that will cost you an additional fee.

Epos Now’s customer service is a strike against it — it costs extra and has some less than glowing reviews online. However, for ease and affordability, this is a system to check out.

Read our full review or head on over to Epos Now’s website for more information.



If you have a bigger budget for your point of sale system and are looking for an Android-compatible device with very few holes, ERPLY (read our review) might be a smart bet. No, it’s not cheap, with the Standard package starting at $200 a month, but its features are extensive, and some of its functions, like customer management and loyalty, are top-of-the-industry in quality.

ERPLY isn’t the most user-friendly software on the market, but the learning curve is manageable and once you’ve gotten the hang of the system (something that takes a little time primarily because of how much the software has to offer), you should find it fairly intuitive.

The back end is where ERPLY really shines. There are customizable and printable purchase orders. The automatic reordering function is nice as well, and the supplier database — where you can store and track information from vendors — is truly unique. As I mentioned earlier, this system’s customer management feature is excellent, providing users with the ability to store tons of data on each individual customer (from bank information to credit limits). ERPLY also makes it easy to set up targeted promotions.

What’s more, there are more than 100 available reports, so the highly organized business owner is likely to find everything they’re looking for. Add that to the ability to pair with most major credit card processors, a wide range of integrations, and strong customer service, and ERPLY is a very strong retail system.

Read our full review for more information on ERPLY, or visit the ERPLY website to sign up.


Toast (read our review) is one of Merchant Maverick’s top-rated point of sale systems. Because it is Android-based, it is affordable (packages start at $79 a month) while offering a sleek, modern interface and an incredible number of features. Designed as an “all-in-one” POS for restaurants or any food-service business, Toast is extremely easy to use and operate, taking just minutes to set up and navigate.

Toast’s front end is intuitive even to novice employees, with all of the features you would expect, including easy check splitting, voiding, and table management. Toast offers a nice menu creation option and an excellent in-house reporting system.

Like ERPLY, Toast also thrives in the area of customer management. It’s simple to look up individual customers and see their spending habits and track their loyalty and reward points. For employees, Toast makes it easy to assess efficiency and to add and assign permissions.

Its loyalty program is an additional $25 a month; this is one of the few knocks on the system as a whole, but not entirely unreasonable. The gift card and online ordering functions are also available as add-ons, but they’re extremely useful and can be purchased without completely breaking the bank. Toast really thrives in the area of customer service, offering round-the-clock support and quick responses with no additional cost.

Read our comprehensive review of Toast, or head on over to the Toast website to sign up for a trial.


Vend (see our review) is another impressive POS system with many strengths and few weaknesses. With its ability to function on nearly any device that has an internet browser, it accessible for both iOS and Android apps.

Vend’s plans start at $99/month, and it also offers one of the better free plans around if you have a smaller business. It can handle nearly any sized retail establishment, as well as some light food-industry businesses, and it offers convenient hardware packages.


With a 30-day free trial available and a convenient walk-through feature, Vend is certainly one of the easiest to use systems around. The company has recently improved its eCommerce platform, making an already strong product even better without upping its price.

Vend thrives in most back-end functions as you might expect. You can track customer purchases and store information while using a solid, built-in loyalty program that can target those customers and offer discounts and promotions. Inventory management is another plus as bulk items can be imported with ease. Reports make it simple to assess which items are selling well and which ones might need to be shelved.

Vend’s premium customer service costs extra but has relatively few complaints online.

Want to learn more about Vend? Read through our full review of Vend, or check out Vend’s website for details on sign-up.

NCR Silver

NCR Silver POS review

As you might expect from a company as large as NCR, NCR Silver POS (read our review) does an excellent job staying on top of current trends in the market and making sure that its customers have what they need.

As such, they offer a strong point of sale system that can be accessed on iOS or Android. NCR Silver is reasonably priced, with plans starting at $99 a month with just $39 a month extra per any added device.

NCR Silver Review

The software is targeted toward small to mid-sized businesses and plays well to that market, providing functions for nearly any retail establishment and most restaurants.

Functionality is the name of the game for NCR Silver. Its interface is simple to process and things that can be complicated in other systems, like mass imports, are easy to learn in this system. NCR Silver has excellent inventory management, and its Snapshot feature makes it possible to get an overview of your store and cash on hand with the push of a button. Employees are equally easy to manage and can be given individual pin numbers and assigned permissions.

A recently added mobile ordering function is another unique feature, and the ability to integrate with most major credit card processors is a big plus. If you’re looking for specific reports, NCR Silver might be slightly lacking but, on the whole, it’s difficult to imagine that the software would leave you wanting for much.

Read our full review of NCR Silver for more details about this Android-compatible POS system, or simply head over to NCR Silver’s website.

Final Thoughts

With so much emphasis on iPad-based solutions, it’s often easy to forget about the loyal Android users. For the budget-conscious business owner, finding a system that can be used on Android devices might be a quick way to save a few pennies from the get-go. Fortunately, some of the top systems around offer this option, and a few others have made promises to come out with an Android app within the year. When that happens we’ll continue to update this post.

The post The 5 Best Android POS Systems appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


5 Great LoanBuilder Alternatives For Small Businesses

PayPal’s LoanBuilder offers an unusually high level of transparency to prospective borrowers, allowing them to see — and even tinker with — the terms of their loans well in advance of signing on the dotted line.

This is a welcome trait in an industry where speed and low barriers to entry take precedence over openness and affordability.

As we often warn in our reviews, however, it’s a good idea to compare as many different products as you can to get the best deal you can.

So what are some alternatives to LoanBuilder for small business?

Square Capital

Best for: Square customers looking for small loans with low rates

Square, a company known more for point of sale hardware and software, also offers an alternative lending service to its clients. That last bit will probably be a major deciding factor for most of the people reading this: to get a loan from Square Capital you have to already be an existing Square customer.


Time in business: N/A
Credit score: N/A
Revenue: $10K/yr

If you’re a Square customer, you may periodically get funding offers from the company by email. This passive approach to lending won’t suit everyone, but Square does offer some of the lowest short-term loan rates in the business (between 1.1 and 1.16). If you accept the offer, you’ll have up to 18 months to repay the loan. Micropayments are deducted from your daily credit card sales until you’re paid up. You can borrow between $500 and $100,000.

This arrangement may not be for everyone, of course. A lot of the advantages come from being heavily integrated into the Square environment — their credit card processing service makes it easy for them to collect on their debt. You may not be comfortable owing debt to the company that also handles your point of sale.


Best for: Businesses looking for a transparent alternative lender, businesses looking for medium-term loans

If you’re attracted to LoanBuilder’s transparency but want an alternative, you may want to give Credibly a look. Credibly offers a bit more diversity in their loans than most alternative lenders, providing not just short-term, but more traditional medium-term loans. You can find most of the information you need to make an informed comparison on their website.


Time in business: 6 months
Credit score: 500
Revenue: $15K/yr + avg. daily balance over $1K for expansion loans

Compared to LoanBuilder, you’re probably looking at higher rates (between 1.09 and 1.36), especially if you don’t have great credit, but you’ll have a little more leeway with term lengths. Consider whether the tradeoff is worth it before you commit to anything.


Best for: Businesses looking for low rates

This addition to the list probably won’t be a big surprise to anyone familiar with the alternative lending industry. If you’ve been looking for loans online, there’s a good chance you’ve come across OnDeck.


Time in business: 12 months
Credit score: 500
Revenue: $100K/yr

As one of the early arrivals to the alternative lending scene, OnDeck’s had a lot of time to hone their products and offer competitive rates. These extremely low rates (1.003 – 1.04) come at the cost of some additional charges, namely a fairly high origination fee, but you’re still likely to land a better deal here than with many other alternative lenders. Additionally, OnDeck offers lines of credit for companies that want the flexibility.

You won’t find quite the same level of transparency here as you will with LoanBuilder, though the company’s website should give you a decent sense of what types of fees to expect.


Best for: Businesses looking for equipment financing and transparency

SnapCap flies under the radar compared to some of the other funders on this list, but they still deserve an honorable mention. Like Credibly, their rates are a little higher, particularly for borrowers with bad credit.



Time in business: 1 year
Credit score: 500
Revenue: $100K/yr

On the other hand, you’ll be able to find a lot of the information you’re looking for upfront, with only a little digging around SnapCap’s website. While they wouldn’t be my first choice for unsecured loans, SnapCap also offers secured financing in the form of equipment loans. This is where they’re most likely to stand out to prospective borrowers.


Best for: Companies that want to avoid hidden fees

As we often caution, the alternative lending industry isn’t known for its transparency. Kabbage is an interesting case study. The fee structure is a bit more complex than that of many of its competitors, which can make it challenging to compare to other products.


Time in business: 1 year
Credit score: N/A
Revenue: $50K/yr

Kabbage, however, takes pains to give you the tools necessary to figure out exactly what you’ll owe. Their website comes equipped with handy tools and explanations of their formulas. The big selling point here is that you won’t have to worry about Kabbage springing any surprise administrative fees; everything’s factored into the rates you see.

Final Thoughts

Alternative lending is a highly competitive market, so you should never feel like you’re locked into one particular funder. Find a lender you’re comfortable working with that offers you fair terms.

Not sure where to start looking? Check out our small business loan comparison.

The post 5 Great LoanBuilder Alternatives For Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


The Best Cash Back Business Credit Cards

A business credit card is an incredibly valuable tool for small companies. It allows you to keep your business spending separate from your personal charges, and to extend purchasing power to your employees. Furthermore, the right small business credit card can offer you valuable rewards in the form of points, miles, or cash back.

The ability to earn points and miles has its benefits, but many business people still prefer to receive cash back rewards from their credit card. Cash back can be used for anything and is never subject to the whims of the airlines and hotels, which frequently change the terms and conditions of their loyalty programs to make points and miles less valuable. And with cash back cards becoming increasingly competitive, now is the time to look for a card that can offer you the most rewards for your business spending.

Which Kind Of Cash Back Card Should You Choose?

Cash back cards for small businesses can be divided into two different categories. First, there are the cards that offer a single rate of return on all purchases, typically between 1% and 2%. Then there are the small business cards that offer bonus cash back on specific qualifying purchases while earning just 1% on everything else. To make this more complicated, many cards restrict the total dollar amount of purchases each year that qualify for the bonus, and you’ll earn just 1% back on all subsequent purchases. These limits can be imposed based on the calendar year or the cardmember year.

Here’s a list of the best cash back business credit cards. First, we’ll look at the ones that offer strong rewards on everything you buy, followed by those that feature bonus rewards on some purchases.

Cards That Offer The Same Cash Back Rewards On All Purchases

Some small business owners are content to use the same cash back rewards credit card for all purchases and want to earn the highest rate of return they can without having to worry about bonuses. In the past, it was common for small business cards to offer a mere 1% cash back on all purchases, but that is no longer considered to be a competitive rate of return.

Today, the best small business cash back cards that offer the same rewards on all purchases will give you at least 1.5% cash back. Some of these cards will do so with no annual fee, but you should expect to pay more for cards that offer higher returns. It also makes sense to look at the benefits offered by these cards, as well as other possible fees, such as those for foreign transactions.

Capital One Spark Cash

Capital One Spark Cash
capital one spark cash select
Annual Fee $95 ($0 the first year)
APR Variable, 18.24%
Signup Bonus $500 cash back
Rewards 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
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Capital One offers a full line of small business credit cards under its Spark brand, which includes cards that offer points towards travel or cash back. The Capital One Spark Cash small business card offers you 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limits. New cardholders can also earn $500 in cash back after using their card to spend $450 within three months of account opening, one of the best cash back sign-up bonuses offered anywhere. Other benefits include free employee cards as well as quarterly and annual spending reports. Your purchases are also covered by damage and theft protection policies for their first 90 days, and an extended warranty that can add one year to your manufacturer’s warranty.

As part of the Visa Signature program, the Capital One Spark Cash also offers a range of travel and shopping benefits and discounts. For example, you can receive a third night free and premium benefits at luxury hotels around the world as part of the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel collection. The $95 annual fee for this card is waived the first year, and as with all Capital One cards, there are never any foreign transaction fees.

Capital One Spark Cash Select

Capital One Spark Cash Select
capital one spark cash select
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 14.24% – 22.24% (0% introductory APR for the first 9 months)
Signup Bonus $200 cash back
Rewards 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases
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This card is very similar to the standard Capital One Spark card, but it offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no annual fee. Therefore, this card makes the most sense for those who have more modest spending requirements that don’t justify the annual fee of the standard Spark Cash card.

With this version, new cardholders can earn a $200 cash bonus when they spend $3,000 on their card within three months of account opening. It includes many of the same benefits as the standard Spark Cash card, such as purchase protection and extended warranty coverage. It’s even part of the Visa Signature program, which is rare for a card with no annual fee.

The Plum Card From American Express

The Plum Card from American Express
Annual Fee $250 ($0 for the first year)
APR No APR — charge card
Signup Bonus None
Rewards 1.5% discount when you pay early
60 days to pay purchases that you put on your card
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This small business card offers you cash back in a unique way. First, the Plum Card from American Express is a charge card, not a credit card, so you are required to pay your entire statement balance in full, every month. But when you make your payment within 10 days of your statement closing, you’ll receive 1.5% cash back on all of your purchases. Alternatively, you can take up to 60 days to pay your balance, but without receiving any cash back. This card makes sense for small business owners who may prefer to earn rewards some months and help manage their cash flow and extend payment at other times.

New applicants can earn up to $600 in cash back, but with a large minimum spending requirement. You will earn a $200 statement credit after each $10,000 you spend on the card, up to $30,000, within the first three months of opening your account.

Other benefits include extended warranty coverage and a purchase protection program. The card also comes with an account manager feature that lets you delegate a trusted individual that can manage your business card.

American Express small business cards participate in the OPEN Savings program, which offers discounts on purchases from FedEx Express and FedEx Ground, Hertz®, HP.com, and others. The $250 annual fee is waived the first year, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Wells Fargo Business Platinum Credit Card

Wells Fargo Business Platinum
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 12.49% – 22.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 9 months)
Signup Bonus $500 cash back
Rewards 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases
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This card features 1.5% cash back on all purchases and has no annual fee. New accounts can earn $500 in bonus cash back after spending $5,000 within three months. Cash back can be applied automatically as a credit to your account or deposited to your eligible checking or savings account each quarter. Or, you can receive your rewards in the form of points that can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, or airline tickets, with a 10% bonus when you redeem your points online.

This card also features cash management tools and spending reports that are available online. There’s no annual fee, and you can add up to 99 additional employee cards at no extra cost. There are also no foreign transaction fees.

Cards That Offer Bonus Cash Back Rewards On Some Purchases

When you have a small business rewards card that offers you the same amount of cash back for all purchases, the most you can possibly get is 2%. But when your small business card offers you bonus rewards for buying certain items, it’s possible to earn as much as 5% cash back on some of the purchases you make the most. As a trade-off, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on all purchases that don’t qualify for a bonus.

Other factors you should consider when choosing one of these reward cards are which purchases will qualify for the bonus and any annual maximums on eligible rewards. For example, some credit cards will offer bonuses that are limited to qualifying purchases in the United States only, while others don’t have any restrictions transactions made in other countries. Furthermore, many of the most generous bonuses come with annual limits, after which you’ll only receive 1% cash back. These limits can be relatively large, such as $250,000 in annual purchases, or they can be limited to as little as $25,000 in qualifying purchases each year. 

Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card By Citi

Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card By Citi
Annual Fee $0 (but must have a Costco membership)
APR Variable, 16.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 7 months)
Signup Bonus None
Rewards 4% cash back at gas stations (max $7,000 per year)
3% cash back on restaurants and travel
2% cash back on purchases from Costco in-store and online
1% cash back on all other purchases
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Costco stores are known for their low prices on bulk goods, and this model also appeals to small business owners. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card from Citi is one of the strongest cash back small business cards that offers bonuses on many purchases. With this card, you can earn 4% cash back on your first $7,000 spent each year on gas purchases, including those from Costco, and 1% after that. You also earn 3% cash back on all restaurant and travel purchases worldwide, 2% cash back from all Costco purchases and 1% cash back everywhere else.

This card includes damage and theft protection that covers your eligible purchases for 120 days (90 days for New York residents) as well as an extended warranty policy that can add a year to your manufacturer’s warranty. You also receive worldwide auto rental insurance, travel accident insurance and access to a travel and emergency assistance hotline. There’s no annual fee for this card with your paid Costco membership and no foreign transaction fees.

Simplycash Plus from American Express

Simplycash Plus from American Express
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 13.49% – 20.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 9 months)
Signup Bonus None
Rewards 5% cash back on office supply stores and wireless telephone services (up to $50,000 per year)
3% cash back on a category of your choosing – see below (up to $50,000 per year)
1% cash back on all other purchases
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This small business card offers a high level of bonus rewards on some of your most frequent business purchases, and with no annual fee. You’ll get 5% cash back at US office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers. You can also receive 3% cash back on the category of your choice from a list of select categories, including:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
  • Car rentals purchased from select car rental companies
  • US gas stations
  • US restaurants
  • US purchases for advertising in select media
  • US purchases for shipping
  • US computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers.

The 5% and 3% cash back offers only apply to your first $50,000 in purchases each calendar year, and you’ll earn 1% thereafter. Note that the cash back earned is automatically credited to your statement each month.

This card also includes 9 months of interest-free financing on new purchases before the standard interest rate applies. Other benefits include a roadside assistance plan, a baggage insurance policy, and car rental insurance. Your purchases will be covered by an extended warranty policy as well as a damage and theft protection plan. There’s no annual fee for this card, but there is a 2.7% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside of the United States.

Ink Business Preferred Card From Chase

Ink Business Preferred from Chase
Annual Fee $95
APR Variable, 17.24% – 22.24%
Signup Bonus 80,000 points
Rewards 3 pts./$1 for travel; shipping; internet, cable, and phone; and social media and search engine advertising (up to $150,000 per year)
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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This premium small business card from Chase offers Ultimate Rewards points, and you have the option of redeeming them for cash back or other options. New accounts can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening. You’ll also earn three points per dollar on your first $150,000 spent in each account anniversary year in combined purchases on travel, purchases, internet service, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. You can earn one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Points can be redeemed for one cent each as cash back or statement credits. Other options include transferring your points to miles with nine different frequent flyer programs or using points with four different hotel programs. Notably, your points are worth 25% more when you make travel reservations through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center. Finally, points can be redeemed for approximately one cent each towards merchandise or gift cards.

Also included in this card’s benefits are trip Interruption and trip cancellation insurance, and a cell phone protection plan. You’ll receive accidental theft and damage insurance, as well as an extended warranty policy that can add up to a year of coverage to your manufacturer’s warranty. This card has a $95 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

The Ink Business Cash Card From Chase

The Ink Business Cash from Chase
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 14.49% – 20.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 12 months)
Signup Bonus $300 cash bonus
Rewards 5% cash back on office supply stores and internet/phone/cable purchases (up to $25,000 per year)
2% cash back on gas stations and restaurants (up to $25,000 per year)
1% cash back on all other purchases
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This entry-level small business card offers you 5% cash back on your first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. You’ll earn 2% cash back on your first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Benefits include purchase protection and extended warranty coverage. When traveling, you also have access to travel and emergency assistance services, as well as a roadside dispatch hotline. There’s no annual fee for this card, but a 3% foreign transaction fee is imposed on charges processed outside of the United States.

The Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard From Bank Of America

The Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard from Bank of America
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 12.49% – 22.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 9 months)
Signup Bonus $200 cash back
Rewards 3 pts./$1 for gas stations and office supply stores (up to $250,000 per year)
2 pts./$1 on restaurants
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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This small business credit card can offer you up to 3% cash back on some of your business purchases. You’ll earn 3% cash back at gas stations and at office supply stores on up to $250,000 spent each year, and 1% cash back after that. You also earn 2% cash back on purchases at restaurants and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

New accounts can earn $200 in cash back after spending $500 within 60 days of account opening. New accounts will also receive nine months of 0% APR financing on new purchases before the standard interest rate begins to apply.

Points are available for cash back after earning $25, and you can choose to redeem your rewards as a statement credit or have cash deposited into a Bank of America small business checking or savings account. There’s no annual fee for this card, but it does have a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Final Thoughts

For a concept as simple as cash back, there are actually quite a lot of different small business credit card offers available. It’s important to do your research and select the one that will offer you the most benefits. While some small business owners will need to choose between cards with bonus offers and those without, others may be able to maximize cash back by carrying at least one of each. Closely examine the features and benefits of each of the cards above, and you’ll have all the information you need to find the card that best meets the needs of your business.

The post The Best Cash Back Business Credit Cards appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


Shopventory VS Square For Retail

Let’s get right into things. Today we’re looking at Shopventory vs. Square for Retail. Why? Because if you need more inventory support than the basic Square Point of Sale app offers, they are your two best bets. Square (see our review) has been a pivotal force in the mPOS space since its beginning, but lately it has also been edging into the tablet POS market with an ever-growing number of features. Shopventory is newer, but it’s carved a niche out for itself as a supplement to not just Square, but also PayPal Here, Clover, and now even Shopify.

While Square dominates the mobile space as far as features, it lags behind tablet-based systems, particularly in terms of inventory. But now there’s Square for Retail. If you need more comprehensive inventory features, you’ll get them with an upgrade to Retail.

Shopventory is a monthly service that integrates with your Square account. While Square for Retail is a full-fledged POS, Shopventory is strictly an inventory-focused add-on for Square for Point of Sale. It replaces most of the in-app inventory management with its own web browser but it does keep the inventory lists automatically synced and generates reports.

A really quick disclaimer before we get onto the comparison: We’re not looking at the full Square for Retail app here (which I’ll also refer to as just “Retail” or “the Retail app”). We’re just focusing on how its inventory management tools stack up against Shopventory’s. It’s important to consider whether the cost of either service justifies its use. Retail offers many of the same features as Shopventory, but also includes employee management. However, it could be a more costly service given that the subscription is monthly per register. Shopventory offers monthly inventory management for three locations for less than the cost of one Square for Retail register subscription.

You don’t get everything that the standard Point of Sale app offers either, such as offline mode. In fact, the Retail app is more of a pared-down version of the POS app, but with more beefed up inventory and reporting. That’s not to say Shopventory offers all the inventory tools you could ever need, either. But it certainly seems to have the upper hand in terms of capabilities and pricing.

I think for the most part that either of this will do well. Although they might not be perfect, they’re both capable. But in the end, Shopventory has more features and more competitive pricing. I would test it out before upgrading to Square for Retail.

For more information, I encourage you to check out our full Shopventory and Square for Retail reviews. Otherwise, read on for our Shopventory vs. Square for Retail comparison and see how they stack up in the great battle for inventory management!

Features & Services

Winner: Shopventory

Both of these services offer enough that they merit full reviews in their own right. Our comprehensive reviews of Square and Shopventory explore the advantages and limitations of each. For simplicity’s sake, I am going to focus on three core aspects of inventory management and see how they stack up: inventory tracking, reporting, and purchase order/vendor management.

Inventory Tracking

With both Shopventory and Square for Retail, merchants get the ability to count inventory and have each sale deducted from total stock numbers. Both offer location management as well. You’ll be working with Square’s standard item listings, which means you can include all of the following: product name, photo, SKU/barcode, item description, and item variants with the option to set different price points.

Shopventory Inventory Tools

Screenshot of Shopventory home page

Shopventory works by syncing with Square. It pushes its inventory data (item prices, bundles, etc.) into the POS app and pulls sales data from Square into its own dashboard reports and updates the inventory counts in real time. Once you get inventory set up, you manage everything inventory-related through Shopventory, NOT Square. It might take some merchants a while to get used to that, especially if they’re used to relying on the Dashboard.

Shopventory’s pricing plan, which I’ll cover in the next section, focuses on the number of locations you use, not the number of registers or products. And setting up multiple locations is actually very easy. When you log into Shopventory, the dashboard asks you to create a location and then add an integration (that is, link to your POS). It works a little bit differently for each software, but here’s what you need to know for Square.

If you have separate Square logins for each location, that’s fine and you can connect each Square account to each location. However, if you take advantage of Square’s free location management instead, Shopventory will ask you to select a location from your list of Square locations after you connect the POS. (That means you should set up your locations in Square before you setup Shopventory.) If you’re using employee management and device codes to run multiple registers, it doesn’t matter. Shopventory tracks everything at the location level.

After you’ve created your locations and linked your POS systems, Shopventory will ask you to enable two major settings: “sync items and variants” and “sync item quantities.” This will establish the connection and effectively make Shopventory your primary inventory service.

Once you’ve set up Shopventory, you’ll continue to use Square POS as usual. Just make sure that you log into Shopventory to pull inventory and sales reports. This is especially important if you’re using the Shopventory-specific inventory features like bundles. Everything is synced in real time so you can log in and check whenever.

Here’s a quick run-down of Shopventory’s features:

  • Bundles: Square doesn’t support bundling, but this feature allows you to track raw ingredients, deduct gift basket items from main inventory stock and even keep track of goods sold at wholesale versus retail. It also allows for tracking of items by partial quantities (yards of fabric or goods sold by the pound, etc.) The bundling feature even includes bundle variants. None of this is currently supported by Square for Retail.
  • Low-Stock Alerts: You can set a custom threshold for each item, so you know when it’s time to reorder something.
  • Automatic Restocks On Refunds: You’ll have to enable this feature, as it isn’t turned on by default. It also doesn’t work on partial refunds in Square.
  • Multi-User Access: Shopventory also allows you to create multiple accounts with different permissions. Enable your managers and staff to better manage store inventory while ensuring accountability.
  • Inventory Transfers Between Locations: Is one location out of a product while another has too much of it? Use the Shopventory dashboard to keep track of internal transfers of merchandise.
  • Inventory History: Shopventory keeps a log of your inventory history, including when counts go up or down. When you manually adjust stock counts you can add a note to indicate why (theft, damaged goods, etc.). We’ll get a little bit more into some related features when we talk about reporting.
  • Inventory Reconciliation Tools: If you’re a bit old-fashioned, Shopventory does offer an easy downloadable reconciliation sheet for inventory. Just the basic details that you need, not a lot of extra information, which you can download via printable PDF or spreadsheet. However, Shopventory has also introduced a barcode scanner mobile app for inventory reconciliations. Each Shopventory user can download the app and scan and update inventory counts through the app, and Shopventory will keep a record of when and who was responsible. This is actually a pretty awesome tool.
  • Barcode And Label Printing: Shopventory lets you chose from a Dymo or Brother label printer, as well as computer printing on Avery label sheets.

Square For Retail Inventory Tools

Screenshot of Square for Retail home page

Square for Retail works pretty similarly to Square Point of Sale. Everything is controlled from the Square Dashboard or the app, though the dashboard gives you the most functionality. Even though the app (or at least parts of it) will look very different from the free version, your dashboard should look pretty much the same and the data entry process will be the same.

If you have a lot of inventory (and if you’re looking at this article, you probably are), the odds are good you don’t want to create each inventory item one by one. That’s where Square’s Bulk Upload feature comes in. You can download the spreadsheet template, populate it with your inventory, and upload your item library all at once. Likewise, you can also export your library to a spreadsheet if you need that data elsewhere.

Your item descriptions are nearly identical to the standard Square offering. Even though Square for Retail doesn’t display photos in the app, you can upload them for viewing the back end. Check out Square’s how-to video for creating items manually.

Technically, Square for Retail gives you access to the Inventory Plus features, but these are really (mostly) reporting tools or PO/Vendor management. So some of these features are actually just Square’s inventory features.

  • Low-Stock Alerts: You can set a custom threshold for each item so you know when it’s time to re-order something. (This is a standard Square feature.)
  • Employee Management: Square includes employee management at no additional charge with a Square for Retail subscription. So if you have a lot of employees this could end up being a good deal for you. You can set different user permissions, track time, and more.
  • Inventory Transfers Between Locations: Square initially required you to manually add or subtract inventory at different locations to record transfers, but that’s no longer the case with the Retail app. Now you can record merchandise transfers in the app.
  • Inventory History: Another feature that wasn’t present at Square for Retail’s launch, inventory history will show you all your sales, transfers, received shipments, etc. to show why your inventory count is what it is.
  • Barcode And Label Printing: Like Shopventory, you can choose to use one of two select label printers (A Dymo or a Zebra) or print from a computer onto standard Avery labels.
  • Vendor Library: All items associated with a particular vendor (as well as their prices) are stored in each vendor’s data file.

Note the lack of bundling features here and all that this entails: no bundles, no raw ingredient tracking, no partial ingredient tracking. This is one of the biggest limitations to Square’s inventory.

However, Square also doesn’t offer any sort of inventory reconciliation. You could download your inventory for export and modify the spreadsheet, but it’ll take a bit of work on your end to make that happen.

But that’s just for inventory management. We’ve still got to talk about reporting and purchase orders/vendor management.

Reporting Tools

First of all, Square’s reporting tools, overall, are pretty robust. (Check out the list of reports.) Shopventory’s reports exist mostly as an extension of Square’s, not a replacement for them. This makes sense given that Shopventory is an extension of Square, not a standalone app. In addition to some identical reports, Shopventory offers several reports that Square doesn’t — and a couple that Square for Retail doesn’t, either.

Square’s inventory reports are somewhat lacking. Specifically, something that merchants have been clamoring for is cost of goods sold (COGS) reporting. Square for Retail finally offers this feature, but thus far it hasn’t impressed. Editing the item costs isn’t easy to begin with, and the information isn’t available at key points in the Retail app experience. And all of that’s left merchants understandably upset. However, you can also keep a record of additional costs associated with a purchase (such as shipping or handling fees) that are added to your COGS tracking. That’s helpful.

In addition to COGS reporting, Square for Retail introduces a profitability report and an inventory by category report that lists the value of the items, projected profit, and profit margins in each category. This last report is more a combination of several other reports, but it’s nice to see.

On the other hand, Shopventory’s COGS reporting is a bit more advanced. Accessing pricing information seems a bit easier than with Square for Retail. Shopventory also tracks lot costs in addition to default costs. For advanced users, Shopventory has a cost averaging feature.  You can even back-fill lot costs using the default cost feature.

But apart from cost and profitability reporting, there’s another feature I like that Shopventory offers: a dead inventory report. You can print off a list of every item that hasn’t sold recently, and specify just how “recently” you want — whether it’s a week, a month, six months, etc. This is pretty handy because “slow” for one business isn’t slow for another.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Shopventory outclasses Square for Retail in terms of reporting — it offers everything that Retail does, plus more. I’ve found that Shopventory and Square dashboards are both fairly intuitive and easy to use, so they’re evenly matched in that regard.

Purchase Order & Vendor Management

Since the upgrades to inventory and reporting tools are relatively small in Square for Retail, it’s nice to see that the additions in this category are actually pretty big game-changers. With the Retail app, it’s now possible to create purchase orders from within the Square dashboard and send them via email. You can also receive inventory from within the Square for Retail app.

If I’m being honest, Square for Retail and Shopventory are well matched in this category. There are a few differences — for one, with Shopventory you can only receive inventory through the web dashboard, not the app. But I think that, overall, their feature sets are pretty similar.

Square PO & Vendor Management

While you’ll need to use the Square dashboard to create purchase orders, you can receive stock from a PO directly in the Square for Retail app, which is nice. With Shopventory, everything has to be done from the dashboard, which is a major trade-off. However, it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.

A few other features from Square that I like: You can create a new vendor listing from within a purchase order, whereas with Shopventory you must have all of your vendors already entered. You can also edit and cancel purchase orders as needed, and Square keeps an archived file.

I mentioned previously that Square does have an item library associated with a vendor, but I don’t think it’s the most effective display. When you add an item to the PO it is added to the vendor’s item library, but you can’t browse the item library while creating a PO. Instead, you need to search for the items you want in a drop-down menu. I know that some merchants have been frustrated that Square can’t auto-populate a PO using low inventory items. Others are also frustrated that they can’t see how many of an item are in stock. Instead, these merchants wind up flipping between tabs or screens to formulate a list of what is needed.

Shopventory PO & Vendor Management

Shopventory has a handle of the same shortcomings that Square for Retail does in this regard. Namely, you can’t auto-populate a PO based on low inventory, and you can’t view stock levels in the PO.  However, you can clearly browse every item associated with a vendor and select which ones you want to add to it. This kind of display seems kind of obvious, and it should be, but it’s not.

This might be the one area where I think Square has a modest upper hand. For one, Shopventory lacks the ability to edit POs or archive them to clear them out of your way while preserving the information. (The company says it’s working on this last bit.) But you can save as a draft, just like you can in Square. So if you’re not sure or you’re not ready, you don’t have to send the purchase order out into the world. With Shopventory, you also need to create your entries for vendors before you start the PO.


Winner: Shopventory

Square for Retail’s pricing is very simple: $60/month per register. No tiered packages, no add-ons, no extra fees for priority phone support.

Square for Retail Pricing

That’s fairly competitive for an iPad-based POS system. But as we noted in our full review, Square for Retail actually removes several of the features available in the standard (and free) Point of Sale app. It’ll be up to you to decide whether the new interface and new inventory tools justify the cost.

Thinking more broadly, you’ll also need as many iPads as you have registers ($350+) and likely a Square Stand with a reader ($169) as well as any cash drawers, printers, and bar scanners you want for each device.

However, there is one caveat: Square for Retail provides employee management for an unlimited number of employees. With the standard Square plan, that cost is $5 per employee per month. So if you have 12 employees and one register, you actually break even on costs.

Shopventory’s pricing plan is focused not on the number of devices or the number of users, or even the number of transactions. Pricing is based just on the number of locations. There’s a limited free plan that provides analytics, but the paid plans start at a very reasonable $30/month.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Starter ($29/month): 1 location, 1 year order history, 1 year reporting
  • Standard ($59/month): 3 locations, 2 years order history, 2 years reporting
  • Professional ($199/month): 10 locations, unlimited order history, unlimited reporting
  • Elite ($499/month): 25 locations, unlimited order history, unlimited reporting

If you want access to purchase orders, vendor management, and the bundling features, you’ll need to get the standard plan. The starter doesn’t support these capabilities at all. In addition, the higher-tier plans throw in a few other perks (free QuickBooks syncing, otherwise $30/month; access to beta features, phone support).

Keep in mind that you still need hardware and devices to run the Square app — and an iPad is the most full-featured option. But you could use Android tablets or smartphones too. You have a lot more options and no charge for using multiple devices at the same location. So at three locations, ignoring costs of hardware, you’re already saving $120 with Shopventory. (That’s the cost of 24 employee management subscriptions, by the way.)

You can also save a bit of money if you opt to pay for Shopventory on an annual plan instead of a monthly one, which is nice. I think designing an inventory system whose pricing focuses on locations is the smart option.

While I think Shopventory’s pricing is definitely better, I can’t say definitely that it’s the better value overall. For one, Square for Retail is optimized for businesses with very large inventories. And if you’re dealing with hundreds and hundreds of items you might prefer the search-and-scan based user interface that the app offers. But if you have a small inventory, or you’re not a retail business, and still want all the management tools? If you don’t care about the UI but want some of the Square POS features like offline mode or open tickets? It’s pretty obvious that Shopventory is the better solution. What’s right for you will depend on your priorities and your budget, so check out our complete reviews of both services before you commit to anything.

Web Hosted Or Locally Installed

Winner: Tie

Both of these solutions are web-hosted, which is awesome. Yay for the cloud! Don’t forget that you’ll also get some in-app reporting capabilities if you don’t want to log into a web browser, but they aren’t inventory driven, and they’re far more limited than using the web dashboard.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

Apart from a small team on the Square Seller Community (a forum for online merchants), Square for Retail doesn’t have any exclusive support channels that are separate from regular Square support. So you should expect business as usual in this regard.

Square’s been plagued by complaints of shoddy customer service pretty much since the beginning. But honestly, I think most of those complaints are rooted in Square’s tendency to freeze or terminate accounts. For most technical (not account-related) issues, Square does seem to offer more reliable support. There’s email and live phone support, as well as a very comprehensive self-service knowledgebase. And the Seller Community is honestly a great resource as well.

But I find that the amount of information and how-to’s concerning Retail specifically to be troubling. There’s not a lot. Square has tons of videos but they seem to gloss over showing how to use the Retail app. If you want to know about specific features before you sign up, you should get on the Seller forum and ask. Otherwise, the only way to find out is to test-drive Square yourself.

Not only that, but it certainly seems like the process of obtaining a code to access phone support requires more effort than some merchants are willing to put forth. I get it. I loathe automated menus that make you jump through hoops to get to a real person as much as anyone else. And I’ve heard a smattering of complaints about email support. I think Square’s support is mostly good, but occasionally something does go wrong.

If you one of the merchants who’s felt frustrated at Square’s support, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the quality if Shopventory’s. Phone support is only available for higher-tiered plans, but the chat option is great and the knowledgebase is extremely helpful as well. (I know. I’ve tested both.) The chat option isn’t quite live chat because it might take a few to get someone to answer your question, but once you get one of the reps to respond, it is a live conversation. I shouldn’t have to say this about any customer support, but sadly I do: I like that you get to talk to a helpful person who isn’t going to shoehorn you into a script.

Shopventory isn’t quite large enough to have the kind of active forum that Square has for support, but the knowledgebase is easily as detailed as Square’s. I find the video tour is super useful as an orientation to Shopventory, despite how much I absolutely hate watching video tutorials longer than about one minute.

It’s worth noting that you’ll still have to deal with Square for payment- and account-related issues if you use Shopventory. But for inventory-related issues, you can deal with Shopventory instead.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Shopventory

At this point, merchants’ biggest point of contention with Retail is that in some ways is a step back from the standard Point of Sale app. A few features are lacking in the Retail app. Plus, I’ve seen complaints that features Square promised at launch (or at least showed in screenshots) haven’t actually appeared yet.

Some of the complaints about Square for Retail we’ve seen include:

  • Problems With Cost Of Goods Recording And Reporting: This is a big one and it manifests in a lot of ways. Currently, the only way to update costs is to upload a spreadsheet. The app itself doesn’t allow you to manually edit individual item costs, and Square’s current reports don’t list item costs on everything. Merchants who were expecting to finally get COGS reporting haven’t been thrilled, though Square does say it’s on their list of improvement to make, so we may see some enhancements.
  • Lack Of Features: Specifically, with Retail, you lose access to Square’s offline mode and the open tickets capability. You can upload images as part of the item listing, but they don’t display in the app. Merchants have complained about their removal. I haven’t been super thrilled about how Retail feels like a step back from the Point of Sale application in terms of interface and features, either. And one big missing feature that I’ve seen a lot of chatter about is the ability to auto-populate purchase orders based on low inventory (or even the ability to see the inventory count in the same window as the PO).

There’s a lot less user chatter about Shopventory overall (which makes sense with a smaller customer base). I think users who integrate with PayPal or Clover will probably be more dissatisfied than Square users, honestly. I think some merchants will dislike the same sort of shortcomings you find in Square for Retail: missing features like the ability to view inventory levels while creating a purchase order, or the ability to edit purchase orders. Overall, the comments I see from merchants are positive.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Square gets a lot of love overall for its payment processing. Signup is quick and easy, rates are fair and affordable, and the hardware is good and fairly priced. But the Retail app seems to be less popular overall. In theory, it fills a niche that businesses with a high quantity of inventory have been needing. I know a lot of merchants were excited at the prospect when it launched, but I haven’t seen as much talk about it since then.

I don’t see a whole lot of chatter around the web about Shopventory. The website has a couple testimonials and I’ve seen the Square Seller Community talk about it, too. The discussions I’ve seen a focus on the good customer service and its fair pricing.

I’m calling it a draw here. Both options are good ones and serve their purpose, but there isn’t enough of a discussion to say which one has more positive coverage.

Final Verdict

Winner: Shopventory

I can’t say definitely that Shopventory trounces Square for Retail in every regard. One is an inventory management add-on, the other is a full-fledged POS with inventory management. So I can draw apples-to-apples comparisons about some things and say that yes, Shopventory has more and better quality inventory features. Its pricing is way more competitive if your only concern is inventory tracking. It will work great as an add-on to Square Point of Sale.

But Square for Retail has a search-optimized UI and free employee management tools that might be deciding factors for some merchants. So you could potentially get a better value with Square for Retail if you have a lot of employees and want easy time tracking along with the ability to manage large inventories.

The good news is we’re looking at two companies that are both committed to adding new features all the time. So in six months or a year, we could be looking at two majorly improved products. We’ll have to see how they stack up then.

Check out our complete reviews for Shopventory and Square for Retail to get a closer look at each. Also, both Square for Retail and Shopventory offer free 30-day trials, so you can test drive both of them (preferably not at the same time) and see which one works better. Thanks for reading and good luck with your search!

The post Shopventory VS Square For Retail appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


How To Find A Startup Grant

business grants

Startups are inherently risky endeavors. According to Fortune Magazine, close to 60% of new startups fail. Because new businesses are so risky, it is notoriously difficult to obtain startup financing — most banks won’t lend to you unless you’ve been in business at least two years. While some online lenders offer startup loans, startup grants are another option for new business financing. A startup grant is even harder to get than a startup loan, but grants are more desirable because you don’t have to pay the money back.

Want a shot at a startup grant? Follow these steps to find a business grant you might qualify for.

1. Determine Whether You’re Grant-Worthy

Generally, only certain types of businesses qualify for startup grants. If your biz doesn’t fall into one of these categories, it’s unlikely you’ll qualify. For example, while there may be grant money for an innovative hardware manufacturer, when it comes to a run-of-the-mill hardware store…eh, not so much. Then again, if you face the significant hurdles of having a female-owned hardware store opening up shop in an economically distressed region, it’s a lot more likely that a private or public entity might want to give you some free money.

Read my post Do I Qualify For A Startup Grant? to determine if your business falls into one of the industries likely to qualify for startup grant funds. If not, you might want to start considering other alternative financing options, such as crowdfunding.

2. Start Local

City and township governments, business associations, and nonprofits in your immediate region are good places to start looking for grants. Even if you determine that your business doesn’t fit into one of the “grant-worthy” categories I mentioned above, you might be eligible for a grant if you’re starting a business in a certain city or region. For example, the Arch Grants organization awards grants to new businesses in the St. Louis area. There are not too many of these sorts of grants, but it’s always worth checking.

Be sure to scan city, county, and state websites for grant opportunities, as well as your local Chamber of Commerce. If you’re willing to relocate, you can also check local business grant opportunities in the city or cities you’d consider moving to.

3. Search Your Niche

If you can’t find any grant opportunities for businesses in your area, you can search grants by niche; that is, by your particular industry or business type. Your startup may fall into multiple niches — for example, your business may be veteran-owned and also a clean-energy business. Simply searching a phrase like “business grants for green construction” or “grants for home daycare” may deliver results tailored to your specific business niche.

Sometimes grants are for a particular niche and also a particular region. A couple examples of niche business grants include the Halstead Grant for new silver jewelry designers living anywhere in the US, and the Green Technology Business Grant Program for green technology startups in Cleveland, Ohio.

4. Go Corporate

Several large corporations offer business grants or host some kind of small business contest where the best businesses can win free money. These grant programs are highly publicized and thus highly competitive, but they might be worth looking into. FedEx, Miller Lite, and Visa are a few corporations that award business grants; Miller Lite’s grant contest is especially aimed at startups.

Even some popular business lenders offer business grant contests. Veteran-owned businesses, for example, should look into StreetShares‘ annual business contest for veterans.

5. Look At A Federal Level

Small businesses can potentially find grants they are eligible for on Grants.gov, the one-stop-shop for government grants. However, you should know that the vast majority of these are medical research grants. Also, even if you’re eligible for one of these prized federal grants, you’ll likely be competing with nonprofit organizations, and even city and state governments. The reason I listed federal grants last is that there are few, if any, federal grants a typical startup business would be eligible for.

However, at least a couple federal grants are aimed at innovative small businesses, and these are Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants for high-tech businesses involved in scientific research & development. The InnovateHER grant contest is for businesses that benefit women and children.

This blog post on the SBA website explains a little more about US government grants and how most are not really aimed at for-profit businesses. If you want some government help in funding your small business, you might want to look into a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. These loans are low-interest and relatively easy to apply for if you use an online SBA lender like SmartBiz.

Final Considerations

Once you find a list of startup grants you’re eligible for, the next step is to start preparing your grant application package. The application process is slightly different for each type of grant, but usually you will have to submit a business plan and Request for Proposal (RFP). For a large grant, you might even consider hiring a professional grant writer, though this probably wouldn’t be feasible or necessary for a grant contest where you only stand to win $2,000-$5,000, even after beating out thousands of other applicants.

The last thing I’d recommend to anyone searching for startup grants is to review startup grant alternatives, such as small business loans or alternative business financing options like P2P loans or equipment financing. If you have any questions about startup loans or alternative business financing, feel free to email us or ask in the comments!

The post How To Find A Startup Grant appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses


Say you have a small retail business. You don’t have a lot of money to invest in a super-complicated POS, and you don’t want to deal with a multi-year processing contract. Frankly, the idea of trying to narrow down the options in both categories at the same time is a little bit daunting. But enter another option: an app for a tablet (or even a smartphone) that bundles payment processing and POS software all in one go, with no contract or commitment. A single app with all (or at least most) of the features a brick-and-mortar storefront could want. But what are the best credit card processing apps for small retail businesses?

Cost is definitely part of the consideration, but more than that you need to make sure any software you use actually delivers the features you need to run your business. Most processing apps tend not to be as full-featured as a full POS, but they are capable of delivering on core needs. After we go over which features should be a priority, we’ll get into the most promising apps that let you process credit cards and run your business together.

Credit Card Processing Apps For Small Retailers

In addition to choosing apps based on the most useful features, we had two other criteria in choosing the apps: first, they had to be mobile apps for tablets (and preferably smartphones). Second, they must offer a bundled payment solutions. A couple of the options on the list allow you to bring your own processor if you want, but they do offer their own payment option as a default.

In no particular ranking, here are my favorite picks for retail-focused credit card processing apps:


Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare does have a specialty POS app for retailers, called Square for Retail. That one doesn’t actually make the cut because it’s designed for larger businesses and it actually lacks many features found in the basic free app, Square Point of Sale.

Point of Sale has definitely come a long way from just a basic mobile POS app, and it’s absolutely a solution that will grow with your business. Its clear, transparent pricing strategy (2.75% for swiped/dipped/tapped transactions) and robust app make it an attractive option for retailers. But then there’s the assortment of add-on services (email marketing, appointment scheduling, loyalty, payroll and more) that all integrate seamlessly. Combined with the huge assortment of supported phones and tablets, and the wide mix of supported hardware, and it’s hard not to see the appeal.

While Square does offer payroll and employee management, these features will cost you more — $5 per employee per month for each.

Something I do want to point out: Square does have many iPad-only features, but much of its hardware is equally compatible with Android devices as it is iPads, which is a major departure from most apps that favor the Apple ecosystem.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal is an obvious choice for a lot of retailers, especially those who sell online as well as in person. If you’re not interested in eCommerce, PayPal is still a good option because it does integrate with some very well known POS systems. PayPal also has its own credit card processing app, PayPal Here.

While PayPal Here is not quite as robust as the other options on this list (especially regarding inventory), it’s a very stable app with great pricing (2.7% per swipe/dip/tap) and a wide array of supported devices and compatible hardware. It’s the only app on this list to support Windows devices at all, and the phones on your tablet or phone doubles as a barcode scanner for both Android and iOS. Plus, you get up to 1,000 free employee accounts.

Plus, near-instant access to funds through your PayPal account is a pretty awesome deal, especially if you get the PayPal Debit card. Add in free sub-user accounts with restricted permissions (something Square will charge you monthly for), and you can see why PayPal makes the cut.


Shopify started as an eCommerce offering but these days it’s added a powerful POS app that also works on smartphones as well as tablets. Everything syncs up nicely for a seamless experience whether you’re selling online, in a store, or even on the go, and while the smartphone version of the app is more limited, it’s still quite functional. Shopify’s features definitely line up more with a full-fledged POS than just a mobile POS.

Unsurprisingly, that means it’s a bit more expensive than the two previous options on this list. Shopify’s plans start at a very reasonable $29/month for its online store. If you want the countertop retail solution, that’s a $49 add-on per month, but you don’t need to purchase additional licenses to add more devices, which definitely ups the value.

You can also create staff PINs without creating staff accounts — which means if only a few of you need admin privileges but you do have a large staff and want to track who is running the register, you can get PINs without paying for additional accounts.

However, I do want to call attention to an underplayed solution Shopify offers: its Lite plan. For $9/month, you can sell on Facebook and other social media platforms, add a buy button to your blog, and use the POS app. The caveat is that you can’t add the retail package to it — which means while you have the app, you don’t have support for the receipt printer or cash drawer.


Like Shopify, ShopKeep is more of a full-fledged POS than a mobile unit. But unlike Shopify, it’s not an eCommerce solution. It’s an iPad POS targeting all kinds of small businesses: retailers, yes, but also restaurants and quick-service environments. ShopKeep specifically targets small and medium-sized businesses, whereas many of these solutions are happy to tout that they work for businesses of all sizes.

ShopKeep’s user interface is highly intuitive, but also feature-rich, which is a major contributor to its popularity. In addition to its advanced inventory tracking tools, you get employee time-keeping, customizable reporting, and more. It also has a record for excellent (unlimited) customer support via email or live chat.

Sadly, there’s no smartphone app support for processing, but ShopKeep does offer integrated payments. Merchants get an interchange-plus plan based on their volume, which is pretty awesome considering there’s no contract involved, either. Everything is on a month-to-month basis. There’s also an additional $69 monthly charge per register.

Honorable Mention: SumUp

While SumUp has a few limitations — it lacks, for example, the ability to process simultaneously on multiple devices — it is overall a solid credit card processing app. The app supports a solid item library and variants, plus convenient tax settings. While there’s no offline mode and no invoicing, SumUp does have an interesting feature in its SMS payments. The app allows you to send a text message to a phone, with a link embedded. Customers can open the link, enter their payment information and complete the transaction.

Pricing is identical to Square for retail transactions: 2.75%. There is no keyed entry option within the app, but the low-priced virtual terminal (at 2.9% + $0.15, even below Square’s rate) is a workaround, though not one you should use for the bulk of your processing.

While new to the US market, SumUp has been operating in Europe for a few years, so it definitely has experience in the processing industry, and so I expect it to see fewer growing pains than other new solutions.

Must-Have App Features for Retailers

It’s safe to say what app features a business needs tends to vary from one business to the next. But there are definitely commonalities — solid inventory management or the ability to print receipts, for example. Check out our comprehensive comparison chart below to see how these systems compare to one another. 

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Shopkeep SumUp
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes (other options available) Yes
Processing Rates (for Most Swiped/Dipped Transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange-Plus based on volume 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $69 per register $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1 (additional registers $69/month) 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple Apple, Android
Smartphone support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android N/A Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Email Only Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN Bluetooth, Ethernet Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Printer Connectivity) Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
Barcode Scanner Yes (Bluetooth for iPad only; USB for Android) Yes (USB for windows, device camera for iOS/Android) Yes (Bluetooth) Yes (Bluetooth) No
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes (Check store credit) Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Counts Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Create Item From App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

It’s worth mentioning that many of these systems have FAR more features that we don’t cover in this chart (think: virtual terminals, eCommerce support, supported integrations, etc.). If you really want to learn what a system is fully capable of, I recommend checking out our complete review of each credit card processing app.

Processing with Square or PayPal Here? Up Your Inventory Game with Shopventory

With retail environments, inventory is usually a major concern. Shopventory is a monthly add-on that works with Square, PayPal Here, and the Clover system (except Clover Go). It allows for inventory tracking and reporting, bundling, variants, and more. The biggest difference will be that you’ll no longer be using your credit card processing app for inventory reports or management. Everything will be done through Shopventory’s dashboard. Check out our Shopventory review for more information.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to software and processing, there isn’t a good one-size-fits-all solution for merchants. Every business’s needs are unique, so what works best for one business may not be good for another. Many of the credit card apps we’ve listed here have no monthly fees, and others offer free trials or a free pricing quote. They are all top-rated offerings, as well. The biggest difference you’ll find is the feature sets and little differences in the user interfaces.

If you’re on the fence about which to choose, I recommend checking out our full reviews of each product. Got questions? We’re always here to help, so please leave us a comment!

As always, thanks for reading!

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


The Best Credit Card Processing Apps For Mobile And Service Businesses


Being able to take payments on the go without having to jump through five million hoops is crucial for mobile businesses, whether you’re a service business that visits customers at home or just a small business without a permanent storefront. That’s where credit card processing apps come in: Combining integrated payments and feature-rich POS systems that run on smartphones and tablets, they’re designed to operate anywhere you can get a cellular or Wi-Fi signal.

We took a look at the most promising credit card processing apps for mobile and service businesses, comparing their features as well as their processing rates. Then, we compiled the best options into a list!

Choosing the Best App Features for Mobile & Service Businesses

If your business is primarily service-based or you tend to do more pop-up sales and events than deal with retail storefronts, you probably don’t need (or want) a whole lot of hardware. What you do need is an EMV-friendly reader and a smartphone or tablet to run the system from.

We used two primary criteria in deciding this list: first, the product has to have integrated payment processing, and the app must be available on a tablet (preferably a smartphone as well).

While hardware may not be a priority, knowing which systems can work as a countertop system as well as mobile is helpful. Invoicing, virtual terminals, solid sales tax management, and decent item libraries were also factors. Take a look at our comprehensive comparison chart to figure out which system might work best for your particular needs.

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Payline Mobile SumUp
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes Yes
Processing Rates (for most swiped/dipped transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange + 0.5% or 0.3% 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $0 / $9.95 $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Smartphone Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Yes Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN No Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) No Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Tipping by $ or % Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Multiple Tax Rates Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjust Tax Rates In-App Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
Virtual Terminal Yes Yes (monthly fee) No Yes Yes
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes No No
Item Counts Yes No Yes No No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Add-ons Yes Yes No No No
Item Categories Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Create Item from App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

You can check out our reviews of each service for more information about features, user experience, and more.


Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare made its name with a mobile processing service that anyone could use, and while the company is definitely catering to larger entities these days, small and mobile businesses still make up a good portion of Square’s merchants. Square’s totally free processing app makes it easy to create an item library of physical products as well as services.

Square’s tax rate settings are easily adjustable from within the mobile app and you can pre-program different rates if you find yourself flipping between different locations often.

In addition, Square offers invoicing, recurring invoicing/storing cards on file, and a free virtual terminal. You can even integrate Square’s appointment booking software seamlessly.

Square will charge you 2.75% per swiped transaction, but invoicing will run you 2.9% + $0.30, and virtual terminal transactions will cost you 3.5% + $0.15.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal Here is another staple of mobile businesses with a free mobile app. PayPal has the advantage of massive eCommerce support as well as a solid mPOS so you can seamlessly blend different aspects of your business. Plus, your funds are available almost instantly in your PayPal account, and with the PayPal debit card, you can spend them anywhere. The free mobile app isn’t quite as feature-rich as Square’s, but it’s highly capable.

You’ll also find PayPal Here’s tax settings are adjustable within the app and you can easily accommodate different sales tax rates. Like Square, you get free in-app invoicing. However, if you are looking for a virtual terminal or recurring billing, they’re going to run you an additional $30 and $10 per month, respectively, which is a fairly high price tag.

You’ll pay 2.7% per transaction in the app, whereas invoices will run you 2.9% + $0.30. Virtual terminal transactions (not counting the monthly fee) cost 3.1% + $0.15.


Shopify started out as just an eCommerce offering but it’s expanded into a multi-channel solution for business. You can get Shopify’s Point of Sale app for as little as $9/month with the Lite plan, or you can upgrade to a countertop-friendly version with the Retail package, and even add on integrations for appointment booking. However, if you don’t /need/ a receipt printer or cash drawer and don’t sell through your own site online, the Lite plan will absolutely get you through.

Shopify isn’t the most advanced credit card processing app out there — for example, it doesn’t support tipping — but overall it has most of the features mobile and service-based businesses need, and its integration with the eCommerce tools is definitely an asset. It even allows invoicing.

Shopify allows you to set a tax rate for a shop location and create overrides and exemptions. One thing I do like that I don’t often see in these sorts of apps is tax rates based on GPS location, which eases the burden on you considerably.

For Shopify Payments (the default processing method), you’re going to pay 2.7% per transaction to start out, though if you opt for the higher-tiered plans you’ll see some savings.

Payline Mobile

Payline is one of our favorite merchant account providers, and we like their mobile solution because it’s available independently of the other offerings and suitable for low-volume businesses, which isn’t common with traditional merchant accounts.

The app is overall solid, with inventory features, tipping, and discounts. While there’s no invoicing feature, the mobile plans do offer access to a virtual terminal. The app is also designed for mobile use only: it doesn’t support retail/countertop processing features like cash drawers or receipt printers. However, Payline supports multiple tax rates for different items as well as a master tax rate for checkout, depending on your needs.

Payline’s mobile products offer interchange-plus pricing, too: the Start plan (formerly Spark Plan) will charge you 0.5% over interchange plus $0.20 per transaction with no monthly fee; the Surge plan charges a 0.3% markup plus $0.20, with a $9.95 monthly fee. The $0.20 per-transaction fee is a little high, but doesn’t put Payline Mobile in the realm of unreasonable pricing. However, it does mean businesses with larger ticket sizes will feel the effects of that per-transaction fee less.

Spark Pay

Capital One’s mobile processing solution Spark Pay is part of the larger “Spark” line of businesses solutions, which includes a fairly advanced online store. However, despite that, Spark Pay the mobile app stands alone, with no integrations.

It has all the major features a merchant would need — tipping, custom discounts, an item library, and support for a countertop setup. Unfortunately, there’s no invoicing, and Spark Pay’s virtual terminal is only in beta mode. You can only set one tax rate in the app as well. However, the major shortcoming is simply that while Spark Pay does offer EMV terminals, there’s not currently an EMV-compliant mobile reader, something that all the other options here do offer.

That said, Spark Pay does offer great customer service, and its pricing is competitive. On the Go plan, there’s no monthly fee and transactions cost 2.65% + $0.05. The Pro plan has a $19 monthly fee, but your rates drop to 1.99% + $0.05.


SumUp has been operating in Europe for several years now, but it’s only reached the US in the past year, which definitely makes it the newcomer. The app is overall solid, though more limited than the others on this list.

You do get a free mobile app and free virtual terminal, as well as a fairly unique tool: SMS payments where customers can complete a transaction by opening a link sent through text message.

However, you can only process on one device at a time, so while you can create sub-user accounts, there’s not much of a benefit. SumUp does support multiple tax rates, but tax rates can’t be deleted when they are associated with an item. You’ll have to delete the item first.

The lack of discounts and the ability to make some changes through the dashboard are a bit disappointing — but the fact that you can manage everything from within the app is a major improvement over a platform like Clover Go, which requires you to make many adjustments in the web dashboard.

There are no recurring billing or card-on-file options, though, and no invoicing, either. That said, SumUp charges a simple 2.75% per transaction, and 2.9% + $0.15 for virtual terminal and SMS payments, with no monthly fee.

Final Thoughts

I’m usually pretty hesitant to recommend one product above all others without consideration of the differences from one business to the next. And that’s true here. If you really only have simple needs, any of the options on this list will serve you well. As your needs get more advanced, it’s definitely worth looking at more advanced setups such as Square or PayPal Here. And as always, the price is a major consideration. Make sure you run the numbers and are confident the rates you will pay are competitive.

The good news is that all of these services have a no-monthly-fee option so you can try them out with no risk. I encourage you to check out our complete reviews of any credit card processing app you’re interested in pursuing. And if you have questions, I encourage you to reach out. We’re always here to help, so feel free to leave us a comment!

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