Accepting international payments with Square


Your Business Credit
Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist whose articles on entrepreneurship and careers have appeared in Fortune, Working Mother, Money and many other publications. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of, a website for independent professionals. She writes "Your Business Credit," a weekly column about small business and credit, for

Ask Elaine a question or read her prior answers in the 'Your Business Credit' archive.

Question Dear Your Business Credit,
I have a small business and need to be able to accept the four major cards for payment. I am using Square and have no problems in the U.S. However, I do plan to make sales in other countries. I can only accept U.S. dollars, so how do I set up to do that? -- Rob

Answer Dear Rob,
Square allows merchants to process international transactions but you have to do it manually. The company's website says most internationally issued cards are accepted, so you should not have a problem with processing the major cards.

As for accepting U.S. dollars, the payments must be processed in your country's official currency, which in your case is the U.S. dollar, so you don't need to worry about receiving other currency. Square's site says that cardholders may be charged for the currency conversion by the card issuer, so keep this in mind when setting your prices. If the conversion fees will be high for a particular country, you may want to offset that in your pricing, so your prices remain competitive. 

As to the nuts and bolts of a transaction, according to Square's website, processing a transaction requires you to enter the card number, expiration date, security code and either the postal code or ZIP code. In countries with no postal code, enter five zeros (00000).

If you are a "digital nomad" who travels while running your business, there's a rule you need to know: You cannot process international transactions on Square when you are outside of your home country.

Anyone who is processing a substantial number of international transactions will find that payment processing solutions do not work equally well in all countries. If you would like to offer your customers alternatives, check out our story "Options for accepting overseas payments expand for small business."

If you are planning to market your wares in developing economies, you will discover that many people around the globe do not have credit cards. Processing their payments will require other solutions. PayPal, Skrill and Stripe offer international payment processing in many countries and are worth checking out.

Of course, all payment processing solutions come with fees. If you end up doing frequent international sales in Europe, you may reduce fees the most by setting up a merchant account that accepts payments in European currencies.

The best way to choose the right approach for your business is to monitor your international sales carefully. Keep track of each sale and look at what you are paying in fees. Also note any sales you have to turn down or could not process because of issues that cropped up with your payment solution.

After three to six months, you should have a good idea of whether the approach you are using is working and if it is cost effective. Reaching out to international customers is a good way to grow your business, but it is important to keep an eye on your overhead.

See related: How to cut your business's foreign wire transfer fee costs, When does a merchant account make financial sense?

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Published: September 28, 2015

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