11 best card machines and mobile card readers for small businesses

Choosing the wrong card machine can often lead to hidden setup and transaction fees. Read on to learn more about finding the best deal available for your business.

Our experts

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According to our research, the best credit card reader for UK small businesses is the SumUp Air card reader, due to its range of cleverly-compact hardware and low transaction fee of 1.6%.

While we'd put SumUp at the front of the pack, there are some great rival card readers from brands including Square, WorldPay and PayPal's Zettle system. Picking the right one for your business comes down to the type and scale of transactions as this will have a significant impact on the amount you pay in transaction fees.

The most important thing is to choose a card reader system that presents the best long-term value for your business. We recommend using our handy card reader cost comparison tool. It only takes minutes to use, and there's zero obligation on your part.

0 out of 0
Device cost
Transaction fees
Warranty
Money-back guarantee
Mobile/Wifi?
Payment gateway

SumUp Air

Takepayments A920

Zettle by PayPal

Square Reader

Worldpay Reader

Barclays Anywhere

Shopify WisePad 3 reader

MyPOS Go

Clover Flex from Tyl (by Natwest)

Dojo Go

 

Ingenico iWL251

£29 + VAT

Monthly rental

From £10 per month + VAT

£29 + VAT

£19.20 + VAT

£49.99 per month (fixed monthly plan)

£29 + VAT

£49 + VAT

£29 + VAT

£14.99 + VAT per month

£20 per month

£20.99 + VAT per month

  • 1.69% for all card payments
  • 2.5% for invoices

Between 0.3% – 2.5% (personalised depending on your business)

  • 1.75% for contactless or card payments
  • 1.75% for PayPal payments
  • 2.5% for invoice transactions
  • 1.75% for contactless and inserted CHIP cards
  • 1.9% for ecommerce payments
  • 2.5% for cardless payments

2.75% + £0.20

1.6%

1.7%, 1.6% or 1.5%, depending on your Shopify plan

1.10% + 7p

0.2%-3.5% + 20p-40p dependent on sales volume

0.3-2% + 4p

1-4.99% depending on sales volume

12 months

None

12 months

24 months

N/A

N/A

12 months

12 months

36 months

N/A

12 months

Yes, if returned within 30 days

Yes, if returned within 30 days

Yes, if returned within 30 days

Yes, if returned within 30 days

N/A

N/A

Yes, if returned within 30 days

Yes, if returned within 30 days

N/A

N/A

N/A

4G and Wifi

GPRS, 4G, and Wifi

4G and Wifi

4G and Wifi

4G and Wifi

4G and Wifi

4G and WiFi

4G and WiFi

3G and WiFi

4G and WiFi

3G and WiFi

No

Yes – via Barclaycard

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Free access to Tyl, by Natwest

No

Yes

Pricing is correct as of 13 June 2022

What's the best card machine for small businesses?

As the table above shows, we think the best credit card reader for UK small businesses is the SumUp Air card reader, closely followed by the Takepayments A920 and Zettle by PayPal card readers.

Card machines are a must-have for any business that needs to take payments from customers, so finding the right provider is crucial. You don't want to end up forking out hundreds in hidden fees, so it's best to do your research before comitting to a long-term contract.

Startups has been working with SMEs for more than two decades. We know all of the point-of-sale pain points that have arisen as a result of COVID-19, including the need for contactless payments and a desire for faster, transparent transactions akin to shopping online.

In the below article, we've picked out 11 options based on several key factors – such as accompanying fees, internet connectivity, and accounting integrations – to ensure you invest in the best card payment machine for your small business.

Need to know bespoke costs for your business? Compare card machine provider costs in moments Compare quotes in under a minute

1. SumUp Air card reader: best for low transaction fees

Sumup Air card reader machine

Best suited for:

✓ Small retail shops and market stalls

✓ Counter service cafes and pop-up food stalls

✓ Businesses taking less than £1,000 per month in sales

✓ Sellers wanting to get set up online

Is the SumUp Air card reader for me?

With one of the lowest transaction fees on the UK market (just 1.69%) and crystal-clear, flat-rate pricing, the SumUp Air card reader comes up trumps for affordability – perfect for beginners and savvy business owners wanting to keep things simple and costs low.

Whether you’re running a mobile coffee stall, or simply want something a little more compact in-store, SumUp Air travels well and measures up at just 8.4cm by 8.4cm. It also has a long-lasting battery life to boot, able to make 500 transactions in one charge. This makes it a popular option amongst businesses fresh on the startup scene.

SumUp keeps its users happy with stellar customer support and a no-nonsense app that’s perfect for newcomers to the world of card machines. It's also dead easy to get started – simply go on the website, complete an online sign-up form, and wait 2-3 working days to receive the reader by post.

Just don’t expect all the bells and whistles at this price point – this is an uncomplicated card reader with a simple app, but it has everything you need to start growing your business.

Main features:

✓ Works with a SIM card (no need to connect to mobile phone)

✓ Can set up an online store using SumUp app

✓ Includes decent analytics platform to help grow your business

✓ Contract free (leave when you wish and only pay when you make a sale)

SumUp Air pricing

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Device cost
Transaction fees

SumUp Air

£29 + VAT

  • 1.69% for all card payments
  • 2.5% for invoices

As our pricing table shows, the SumUp Air card reader can work out as great value for a small business.

Costing just £29, the card reader machine is a much better deal than what you'll pay for rivals. Plus, lower ongoing transaction fees mean that SumUp's device is suitable for small businesses making any number of sales.

As it's name suggests, it's also a great choice for trading on-the-go, with no mobile data fee for using the card reader!

How does SumUp Air compare to rivals?

In terms of transaction fees, SumUp Air has the second-most generous plan available for SMEs. Its fixed rate of 1.6% puts it in front of competitors like Takepayments A920 (0.3-2.5%) and Zettle by Paypal (1.75%) and lets users feel assured about how much they'll be charged per sale they make.

The actual SumUp Air machine (costing £29 + VAT) is also very generous compared to other providers on the market.

As a one-off purchase, it easily pips Natwest's Clover Flex card reader (£14.99 per month + VAT) to the finish line, despite lacking a few of the latter's more sophisticated, but ultimately unnecessary, sales tools.

SumUp Air Pros
  • Free unlimited mobile data with SIM card
  • Cheapest transaction fees
  • Standalone device with its own 3G connection
SumUp Air Cons
  • Reporting is simple compared to other providers
  • No hospitality-specific features

2. Takepayments A920: best for customer support

Takepayments A920 card reader

Best suited for:

✓ Firms with a consistent number of transactions each month

✓ Retailers with lots of sales representatives, such as shoe stores

✓ Service-based industries that make use of gratuity features

Is the Takepayments A920 card reader for me?

If you’re unsure about future plans for your business, the short 12-month contract offered by Takepayments is a great option, especially as the majority of competitors lock you into an 18-month contract (at least).

The A920 model is a ‘multipay’ smart POS terminal that can be shared with up to six users, which is great if you want to use it as a mobile checkout on the move around your business (especially good for hospitality).

It also comes with a neat feature that allows you to allocate tips to each user, keeping the gratuities received within your team fairly distributed.

Real-time reporting and in-depth sales analysis come as standard with the A920, which is great for measuring employee performance and daily/weekly sales figures to help you identify customer trends.

Main features:

✓ 12-month contract

✓ £0 setup fee

✓ Touchscreen terminal for up to six users

✓ Next-day settlement

Takepayments A920 pricing

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Device cost
Transaction fees

Takepayments A920

Monthly rental

From £10 per month + VAT

Between 0.3% – 2.5% (personalised depending on your business)

One of Takepayment's sore points is that there are a lot of hidden fees. There’s no setup fee or monthly cost, but be aware that if you want to cancel your contract early, you’ll have to buy out the remainder of it if you don’t give at least two months’ notice.

You can also expect to pay a monthly minimum service charge (an agreed amount required in transaction charges every month).

Costs range for the actual A920 device. You'll need to contact the Takepayments team for a quote. However, rental prices start from £10 per month + VAT.

How does Takepayments A920 compare to rivals?

Takepayments is a competitive terminal for lots of elements including hardware, transaction fees, and also contract length.

Compared to bulkier machines like the Ingenico iWL251, the A920 also leads on design. Its touchscreen, modern interface blends in much more nicely with your countertop and doesn't come with lots of additional wires like the WorldPay reader.

Still, there are some flaws that need to be addressed, such as a multitude of hidden fees that can frustrate users. Small business owners should contact Takepayments for a detailed breakdown of all the platform's charges before signing anything.

Takepayments Pros
  • Specialist onboarding team
  • No fees to join or leave
  • Excellent customer service – consistently positive support reviews on Trustpilot
Takepayments Cons
  • For PCI-DSS security compliance, there is a mandatory monthly fee of £15 to Barclaycard.
  • Chargebacks have a fixed fee of £9 each with Barclaycard. Refunds cost 30p to process.
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3. Zettle by PayPal: best for payment features

Zettle card reader by PayPal

Best suited for:

✓ Taxi firms and other businesses based in rural areas

✓ Counter service hospitality businesses, full service cafes and restaurants (integrations with Zettle by PayPal hospitality software)

Is the Zettle by PayPal card reader for me?

Small businesses can use the Zettle by PayPal card reader with third party hardware, including receipt printers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners, as part of a complete POS system.

Alternatively, you can sync the Zettle Go app to your smartphone or tablet to take card payments on the go. Its excellent 3G and 4G coverage makes it brilliant for taxi firms. Customers who require a receipt can have one sent to their email address immediately after a transaction is completed.

Zettle's customer service is minimal, with the provider preferring to lead customers down the self-help route. For those who prefer to speak to an agent, its phone lines are only available between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.

With ultra-low costs and one of the highest-rated apps around, Zettle by PayPal is a great alternative to traditional ways of processing card payments, and great for innovative and budget-conscious businesses.

Main features:

✓ Supports a huge range of payment methods, including Amex and Diners Card

✓ Contract free (only pay when you’re selling and leave when you wish)

✓ Choose Zettle as your payment gateway to keep online sales in same place

Zettle by PayPal pricing

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Device cost
Transaction fees

Zettle by PayPal

£29 + VAT

  • 1.75% for contactless or card payments
  • 1.75% for PayPal payments
  • 2.5% for invoice transactions

The Zettle device costs start from £29 + VAT – the same price as our top-rated Sumup Air card reader. Its transaction fees are a tad more expensive than the latter (1.75% compared to 1.69%).

However, this fixed amount is a significant improvement to a year ago, when they had charged on a sliding scale up to 2.75%. There are also no setup or monthly fees with Zettle, so it's a good option for typically cash-poor startups.

Plus, you won't be charged for card payments that are declined – so you won't need to bear the brunt of your customers' mistakes!

How does Zettle by PayPal compare to rivals?

Zettle's closest rival is Square, another software provider that released a small business card reader at a similar time.

Zettle's reader is more expensive than Square's, however Zettle outranks the latter in terms of deposit speed and for its mobile app, which makes it the better choice for firms making transactions on the move.

That being said, Zettle loses out to Square in the battle of providers. PayPal is a payment gateway but Square is a fully-formed POS system that also integrates with the Square website builder – making it the better choice for ecommerce sales.

Zettle Pros
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Eight-hour battery life
  • Receive payout from transactions in just 1-2 days
Zettle Cons
  • Must be connected to a phone or tablet
  • Doesn’t offer an online store through the app

4. Square card reader: best for side hustles

Square card reader

Best suited for:

✓ Small businesses with low card sales volumes – for example, service providers selling products on-the-side

✓ Dropshipping firms that need to keep an eye on inventory

Is the Square card reader for me?

Square's card reader is designed for small business owners wanting to keep costs low without missing out on the good stuff – like the option to integrate its accompanying POS software with food delivery apps or customer relationship management systems.

The card reader itself is a high-spec device that allows customers to enter their pins on the glass of your phone or tablet, rather than tapping buttons on a keypad. While this is unconventional, you can rest assured that Square applies the highest security standards to its products.

Clean and simple, Square’s card reader adds a breath of fresh air into the payment process, and shows that it’s putting itself at the forefront when it comes to pioneering the future of the payments market.

If you’re looking for an all-in-one payment solution, you may want to check out the Square terminal, which also allows you to manage items and print receipts from one device.

Main features:

✓ Compact design measuring just 8cm by 8cm

✓ Real-time updates on items sold – great for inventory tracking

✓ Works alongside multi-functional and very expandable Square POS hardware

Square pricing

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Device cost
Transaction fees

Square Reader

£19.20 + VAT

  • 1.75% for contactless and inserted CHIP cards
  • 1.9% for ecommerce payments
  • 2.5% for cardless payments

The Square mobile card reader pricing is as stripped back as its device's design. The reader itself costs just £19.20 + VAT, with no monthly or annual fees attached.

You'll need to purchase a Square dock for countertop transactions. This will cost you an additional £25 + VAT.

How does Square compare to rivals?

We rate Square highly as a tool for ecommerce websites – thanks to its high-spec integrations with the Square software portfolio.

It is also the most-competitively priced and designed reader on the market. Costing just £19.20 and measuring up as a compact, Square's is a lightweight machine that will blend into any surroundings – unlike bulky, rival terminals like Takepayments A920.

Still, this stripped back approach means it is lacking in some areas. Those that want more traditional, customer-led functions like the ability to print receipts will want to choose a docked machine, like WorldPay offers.

Square Pros
  • No monthly or annual fee attached
  • Free Square point of sale app on the App Store or Google Play
  • Instant deposit option available for 1% fee
Square Cons
  • Can't print physical receipts - only email or SMS permitted.

5. WorldPay mobile card reader: best for security

Worldpay

Best suited for:

✓ Businesses selling products that cost more than £2

✓ Small retailers storing expensive or luxury items that need to prioritise security

✓ Telesales firms that need to complete transactions over the phone

✓ Businesses taking more than £1,000 per month in sales

Is a WorldPay mobile card reader for me?

One of the best-known small business payment providers in the UK, Worldpay is all about the options. Not only does it offer a range of contracts and transaction fee rates, which you qualify for based on your monthly sales income. There's also multiple machines to choose from.

The two card reader models available are: the stationary, countertop Ingenico Desk/5000, and the mobile Ingenico Axium DX8000 with WiFi, designed for table service.

But what you're really paying for with this provider is security. WorldPay gives you robust fraud protection and complete PCI compliance (security standards for card payments). Plus, 24/7 support means you’ll never be left in the dark.

High transaction fees mean WorldPay is not a good option for firms selling lots of cheap items. However, if you’re an established business selling expensive, boutique items then we recommend WorldPay's fixed monthly plan for your shop's point of sale area.

Main features:

✓ Range of card readers and plans to choose from

✓ Large touchscreen with big-size buttons to ensure transparency during transactions

✓ Trusted brand with top-level security and data compliance

WorldPay pricing

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Device cost
Transaction fees

Worldpay Reader

£49.99 per month (fixed monthly plan)

2.75% + £0.20

There are two WorldPay plans available to SMEs: the fixed monthly plan and the custom plan.

We recommend the fixed monthly plan as a way to be sure about exactly what you will spend each month. It will cost you £49.99 per month (inc VAT) with transaction fees of 1%–2.75%.

With the custom plan, you'll spend less on the device (£17.95) but potentially face harsher transaction fees depending on your sales volume.

WorldPay also has a fixed £15 minimum monthly service charge that's paid for out of transactions.

How does WorldPay compare to rivals?

Speaking (or writing) frankly, WorldPay has some of the least-generous transaction fees available on the card machine market.

Compared to rival, budget brands like Square (1.75%) and SumUp (1.69%), WorldPay users pay an astonishing 2.75% + 20p on every transaction. That means if you're selling products that cost less than £2 then you'll lose out on over 10% of every purchase.

Still, in terms of security, it's an unbeaten provider. There's also a range of plans available, which gives you more flexibility than a lot of other providers.

Worldpay Pros
  • Fixed fees mean you won't be hit with any surprise bills
  • WorldPay Business Dashboard available for analytics and sales reports (£4.99 per month)
  • Take payments over the phone for £9.95 extra per month
Worldpay Cons
  • Customers report slow response time from the WorldPay helpdesk
  • 18-month commitment with subscription
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6. Barclays Anywhere card reader: best for paying employees weekly

Barclaycard reader

Best suited for:

✓ Small businesses that need a steady cash flow, for example if you pay staff weekly

✓ Barclays business account holders

✓ Firms selling cheap products costing less than £2

✓ Brick-and-mortar businesses that don't need ecommerce integrations

Is the Barclays Anywhere card reader for me?

Barclays’ little device accepts credit and debit card payments through the mobile connection of your smartphone or tablet. Aside from that, the card reader package is comparatively basic.

In fact, the sole function of the accompanying software is to facilitate payments. You won’t be able to upload an inventory or access an analytics platform, for example.

Still, any money do you receive will be deposited and accessible on the same day. As many retailers pay their staff weekly, this is handy if you need to keep a steady cash flow in your business account at all times.

The Barclaycard Anywhere card reader is for those who would prefer to stick with a bank they can trust – and the Barclaycard Anywhere card machine will save you hassle if you already have a Barclays account.

Main features

✓ Lowest transaction fees available on the market

✓ Sleep mode for saving battery power

✓ Same-day deposits into your business account

Barclays Anywhere pricing

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Transaction fees

Barclays Anywhere

£29 + VAT

1.6%

The Barclays Anywhere device costs just £29 + VAT, making it one of the most competitively-priced machines on the market.

Plus, at 1.6%, the Barclaycard Anywhere offers one of the lowest transaction rates going, but your compromises are that the card reader only accepts Visa and Mastercard, and refunds cost 75p to process.

How does Barclays Anywhere compare to rivals?

The first thing to notice about Barclays Anywhere is its transaction fees are incredibly low (1.6%). That's more than a whole percent less than rival provider WorldPay, and is a significant pull factor for firms selling cheap goods like a corner shop.

Like fellow card reader, Clover Flex by Natwest, Barclays Anywhere is best for users that already have a Barclays Business account if you want to take full advantage.

Because it's not been designed by a software-specialist company, its integrations are lacking and it doesn't do a lot for online retail unlike the Shopify WisePad. 

Still, we rate Barclays Anywhere as a good option for facilitating quick payments, thanks to its speedy deposit times that are beaten only by Zettle.

Barclays Anywhere Pros
  • Low transaction fees - good for firms making lots of small sales
  • Get set up in just 15 minutes via the Barclays Anywhere online form
Barclays Anywhere Cons
  • Accompanying software is very basic and somewhat outdated
  • Mobile app is known to glitch

7. Shopify WisePad 3 card reader: best for ecommerce sellers

Shopify pricing example

An example of an ecommerce site built using Shopify

Best suited for:

✓ Small ecommerce stores built using Shopify

✓ Startups looking to move online

Is the Shopify WisePad 3 card reader for me?

Shopify is one of the most popular online store builders in the world. That's why, even though it's only available for Shopify users, we think the Shopify WisePad 3 is worth considering as a great card reader for ecommerce small businesses.

The WisePad, as the name suggests, is a clever little machine for any business that uses Shopify Payments. It accepts all major payment cards and types.

You do have to enable Shopify Payments to be able to use the machine, because it’s all fully automated with Shopify POS.

However, if your firm is based online, it might actually be a bonus to switch to Shopify Payments as this partnership ensures a slick, quick checkout process for users. Another advantage of using Shopify Payments for your business is that it charges low transaction fees.

If you want to know more about using Shopify, read our full review of the Shopify platform to find out how it works and how to get started.

Main features:

✓ Fully integrated with Shopify POS

✓ Accepts all major payment types including Google Pay

✓ Only available for Shopify users

Shopify WisePad 3 pricing

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Transaction fees

Shopify WisePad 3 reader

£49 + VAT

1.7%, 1.6% or 1.5%, depending on your Shopify plan

The Shopify WisePad machine is priced in the mid-range at £49 + VAT. However, Shopify Payments' low transaction fees (ranging from 1.5% to 1.7%) mean there is plenty to be gained in long-term savings.

That being said, you'll only get these benefits if you use the Shopify payment gateway for your online store. Otherwise, you’ll be charged 0.5%, 1%, or 2%, depending on which Shopify plan you’re on.

How does Shopify WisePad 3 compare to rivals?

Because your transaction fees depend on the Shopify plan you use, WisePad users can get a very good market deal, or an average deal with the reader.

If you're on a premium Shopify plan, then you'll pay just 0.5% in transaction fees which is an absolute bargain compared to rival brands like Ingenico iWL251, which can charge up to 4.99% for one transaction.

The WisePad definitely outscores competitors in one other area though: ecommerce tools. No other provider on this list performs as well for selling online. That's why we think it's worth building a Shopify store just for its POS tools.

Shopify WisePad 3 Pros
  • Low transaction fees
  • Slick integration with your Shopify site
  • Till records cash flow so you can always track how much you’re meant to have in the drawer.
Shopify WisePad 3 Cons
  • £10 chargeback fee if a customer successfully disputes a transaction.
  • Transactions through Shopify Payments take six working days to reach your bank.
  • Not compatible with Android devices.

8. MyPOS Go card reader: best for budget-strapped SMEs

myPOS Go (1)

Best suited for:

✓ Users needing instant access to funds for paying suppliers, such as a butchers

✓ Small businesses selling small, cheap items that want low transaction fees, such as a grocers

✓ Startups that haven't opened a business bank account yet

Is the MyPOS Go card reader for me?

The MyPOS Go card reader is a sleek, portable and compact model that won't break your bank, but probably won't break your expectations either. Designed for low budget users, it's not the most attractive machine, but it is functional.

One feature that's rare within the market is that MyPOS Go offers users a payment card. The payment card is linked to an online “e-account” where all transactions through the card reader are settled instantly. This is a good deal to take advantage of if you don't have a business bank account – it is free to set up and there are no monthly fees.

There are disadvantages with the e-account, however. For example, although you receive an IBAN for international transfers, you have to pay a fee to transfer money into your UK bank account.

Main features:

✓ Accepts a wide range of payment cards including chip, magnetic stripe and contactless via card or mobile wallet

✓ Slightly outdated terminal with no touchscreen

MyPOS Go pricing

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Transaction fees

MyPOS Go

£29 + VAT

1.10% + 7p

The MyPOS device costs a wallet-friendly £29 + VAT. On top of this, you'll also pay a one-time £10 delivery charge to receive the machine.

MyPOS' transaction fees are amongst the lowest on the market (1.10% + 7p). However, there are some hidden costs attached to this great offering including a £1.50 payout fee from the myPOS account to any British bank account.

It's also worth nothing that there is an extra commission charge of about 1.75% on Mastercard and Visa transactions.

How does MyPOS Go compare to rivals?

MyPOS Go's unique selling point is simple. It's not just a card reader, it's a card reader directly linked to your own business bank account.

This gives you unique benefits over brands like Shopify Payments, which takes six working days for money to move money into your account.

Along with Barclays Anywhere, SumUp Air, and Zettle, the actual MyPOS Go reader has been priced at the market average of £29 + VAT, making it a good, competitive choice in terms of budget.

MyPOS Go Pros
  • No monthly fees or contract
  • Unlimited SIM data for endless mobile transactions
  • Includes a business payment card
MyPOS Go Cons
  • Minimum £5 fee to withdraw cash from business card

9. Tyl's (by Natwest) Clover Flex card reader: best for fast payment processing

Clover Flex Tyl Natwest

Best suited for:

✓ SMEs using lots of freelancer staff

✓ Retailers trading big-ticket items, such as furniture sales

Is the Clover Flex card reader for me?

Weighing in at 453 grams, the Clover Flex card reader from Tyl by Natwest is a literal and metaphorical heavyweight in the card reader market, and one of the most powerful machines in this list.

As an all-in-one POS system, you can use the Clover Flex reader both to take payments and manage your business from one device, including inventory and customer management, itemised receipts and more. This makes it a very valuable feature to have.

Plus, thanks to its association with the Natwest bank, you only need to wait one day for payments to go through and you get access to the Tyl payment gateway.

Because of this fast turnaround time, we recommend it to businesses wanting speedy payments, such as those using lots of freelancer staff.

Main features:

✓ All-in-one POS system

✓ Decent eight-hour battery life

✓ Not the most affordable option for small businesses

Clover Flex pricing

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Transaction fees

Clover Flex from Tyl (by Natwest)

£14.99 + VAT per month

0.2%-3.5% + 20p-40p dependent on sales volume

Clover Flex's long list of talents comes at a high price. You'll need to pay £14.99 + VAT per month, and that's before some expensive transaction fees.

Natwest's card reader charges 0.2%-3.5% + 20p-40p in transaction fees, dependent on sales volume.

Because of this, we don't recommend it to retailers selling lots of small, low-cost items. It's best for businesses dealing with big-ticket sales, like antiques dealers.

How does Clover Flex compare to rivals?

If you're after an affordable card machine, Clover Flex is not it. It's the second-most expensive option on this list and is not for firms that just want to be able to take payments. Instead, choose a more affordable option like SumUp Air.

Instead, Clover Flex should be thought of as an all-in-one merchant account where you can manage your inventory, oversee staff, and even take online payments without card.

It combines the payment gateway of PayPal, with the management integrations of Square, and the reporting tools of Takepayments A920. If that's what you're after, it's unbeaten. Otherwise, Clover Flex is not worth the investment.

Clover Flex Pros
  • Flexible monthly contract for device
  • Payments settled in one working day
Clover Flex Cons
  • Very expensive transaction fees

10. Dojo card reader: best for a flexible contract

Dojo card reader

Best suited for:

✓ Established firms with a steady flow of clients, such as wholesalers

✓ Sole traders requiring next-day payouts

Is the Dojo card reader for me?

Dojo's mid-range price means it doesn't stand out from the market in terms of value. However, it is an ideal choice for small businesses that want a merchant provider that requires little commitment.

The small business owners who will find Dojo most appealing are those who have used merchant accounts before. Dojo allows SMEs that are swapping from a rival provider to enter a monthly, rolling contract, so you can leave easily and at any time.

Amazingly, Dojo even offers to pay up to £3,000 of your exit fees from your old contract that you were locked into.

Main features:

✓ Transactions settle by 10am the next working day

✓ Good, freestanding terminal

✓ Businesses coming from rival merchants get a monthly, rolling subscription

Dojo pricing

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Device cost
Transaction fees

Dojo Go

 

£20 per month

0.3-2% + 4p

There’s a monthly rental fee of £20 + VAT to use the Dojo Go card reader, plus transaction fees and other authorisation costs.

We don't recommend the Dojo reader to small businesses with an inconsistent sales volume.

This is because there is a steep monthly minimum service fee of between £20 to £40. So, if you want to take a break from trading one month, it could end up costing you in surcharges.

How does Dojo Go compare to rivals?

Dojo Go's closest rival is probably our runner-up card machine, Takepayments A920.

Both are examples of touchscreen, docked readers that offer an attractive and accessible method for customers to buy your products.

However, Dojo is lacking the more new-business centric tools that help boost Takepayments up the ranks such as a money-back guarantee.

Its minimum monthly service charge, coupled with an expensive £20 monthly rental fee, make it a more expensive option that's targeting large, established firms.

Dojo Pros
  • Good mobile app makes managing your account easy
  • Startups enter a six-month contract - half the length of the industry norm
  • 10 hour battery life, on average
Dojo Cons
  • 3.85p authorisation charge on all transactions
  • Minimum monthly service charge can reach £40

11. Ingenico iWL251: best for outdoor businesses

ingenico iwl251

Best suited for:

✓ On-the-road or market sellers that want to prioritise portability

Is the Ingenico iWL251 card reader for me?

There's nothing that particularly stands out about the Ingenico iWL251 in terms of value for money. It is a basic, compact terminal that accepts any payment type.

If you are a small business that moves around a lot for sales – such as a market trader – then the iWL251 card reader is a good option.

As a mobile card machine with SIM card & GPRS connection, portability is its number one benefit, as you can fit the device in your pocket and trade from practically anywhere (as long as you have a WiFi or 3G connection).

Main features:

✓ Lightweight terminal

✓ Pocket-sized, compact design

✓ Ideal for firms without access to a permanent connection point

Ingenico iWL251 pricing

0 out of 0
Device cost
Transaction fees

Ingenico iWL251

£20.99 + VAT per month

1-4.99% depending on sales volume

We'll be upfront about it. Unless you're a travelling salesman, the Ingenico won't bring much value for money.

It is much more expensive than many models on the market, priced at £20.99 per month before VAT. Transaction fees can also range between 1-5%.

That means, like Dojo, the Ingenico is not a good option for low-ticket vending.

How does Ingenico iWL251 compare to rivals?

As its last place ranking would suggest, Ingenico is lapped by every other merchant provider in this list. Its transaction fees are unpredictable and can range between 1-5%.

Plus, a monthly rental fee of £20.99 per month is sky-high compared to SumUp‘s one-time purchase of £29 + VAT.

The promise of a 12-month warranty does at least endear it to new users and startups that don't want to be locked into a contract for too long. Plus, for the moment, Ingenico does hold the crown for being the best card reader for flexible payments.

That being said, it could soon be overtaken by more innovative providers like Square.

Ingenico iWL251 Pros
  • Can take card payments anywhere on the road
  • Produces end-of-day reports for accounting ease
  • SIM card and GPRS connection
Ingenico iWL251 Cons
  • Long setup time of three to seven days
  • Transaction fees can reach as high as 5%

What are the different types of card machine?

Most people think of a card machine as a specific type of software. But in reality, there are a number of different types of card readers, and some will fit with your business better than others.

The different models include:

  • Static/countertop card terminal: Generally used by large-scale retailers. Because they're the recognisable ‘chip and PIN'-type terminal mounts, they're often associated with professionalism. Customers can make use of contactless or chip and PIN payments easily.
  • Portable card terminal: Funnily enough, this is a portable version of the static credit card terminal. Because of this, it's popular with hospitality-based businesses that often need to bring the card reader to the customer.
  • Wifi card terminal: Offers the greatest flexibility for small businesses, as it doesn't require a hardwired line or internet connection to take payments. The wifi credit card terminal's payment speed is also instantaneous – it's the fastest device in the industry.
  • GPRS card terminal: Combines all of the above. GPRS coverage lets you take credit card payments at any location, allowing maximum profitability for your business. This terminal type is also ideal for events and exhibitions.

What is the difference between card readers and card machines?

Card readers are essentially less powerful versions of card machines. They tend to be smaller in size and therefore more portable.

Both card readers and machines accept payments on behalf of a registered merchant. But a card reader generally requires a mobile or computer application in order to function. It's usually cheaper because of this, but also less functional. Your customers typically won't be able to use chip and PIN with card readers, so this option is best for businesses that don't make huge sales transactions.

0 out of 0
Device cost
Transaction fees
Includes payment software?
Online store?
Store fees
Mobile/Wifi?
Payment gateway

SumUp Air

Takepayments A920

Zettle by PayPal

Square Reader

Worldpay Reader

Barclays Anywhere

Shopify WisePad 3 reader

MyPOS Go

Clover Flex from Tyl (by Natwest)

Dojo Go

 

Ingenico iWL251

£29 + VAT

Monthly rental

From £10 per month + VAT

£29 + VAT

£19.20 + VAT

£49.99 per month (fixed monthly plan)

£29 + VAT

£49 + VAT

£29 + VAT

£14.99 + VAT per month

£20 per month

£20.99 + VAT per month

  • 1.69% for all card payments
  • 2.5% for invoices

Between 0.3% – 2.5% (personalised depending on your business)

  • 1.75% for contactless or card payments
  • 1.75% for PayPal payments
  • 2.5% for invoice transactions
  • 1.75% for contactless and inserted CHIP cards
  • 1.9% for ecommerce payments
  • 2.5% for cardless payments

2.75% + £0.20

1.6%

1.7%, 1.6% or 1.5%, depending on your Shopify plan

1.10% + 7p

0.2%-3.5% + 20p-40p dependent on sales volume

0.3-2% + 4p

1-4.99% depending on sales volume

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

No

2.5%

N/A

N/A

2.5%

N/A

N/A

£20 per month for Shopify Basic

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

4G and Wifi

GPRS, 4G, and Wifi

4G and Wifi

4G and Wifi

4G and Wifi

4G and Wifi

4G and WiFi

4G and WiFi

3G and WiFi

4G and WiFi

3G and WiFi

No

Yes – via Barclaycard

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Free access to Tyl, by Natwest

No

Yes

Which is the best card reader in the UK? The verdict

If you own a small business that’s just getting off the ground, SumUp and Takepayments A920 are the ideal first card readers. Their fees are reasonable and in line with the functional capabilities of their accompanying software.

Takepayments offers shorter contracts than most (12 months) and no joining or leaving fees, making it perfect for brand-new business needing a zero-risk, short-term commitment.

Fast-growing businesses should choose either Square card reader or WorldPay card reader, as they're the two options that really stand out from the competition in terms of value for money (if you want to compare Square and Zettle by PayPal side by side, we’ve done so in our Square vs Zettle review).

Another great option is the Shopify WiseCard 3 card reader, although this is only available for Shopify users.

Alternatively, an even easier way to compare small business credit card machines is through our card reader cost comparison tool. You can compare costs from a range of suitable providers, saving you both time and money. Thousands of small businesses found their card reader through Startups.co.uk last year, so why not give it a go?

What's next?

If you’re still not certain about which card reader is best for your small business, our merchant accounts team have put together a specialist comparison tool that pairs businesses with the right providers based on their answers.

Speak to the right people from the outset, and compare fees from card reader providers that best match your needs. The service is free, so why not give it a go?

Need to know bespoke costs for your business? Compare card machine provider costs in moments Compare quotes in under a minute
Card machine FAQs
  • What is the cheapest way to take card payments?
    This depends on your provider, but a card reader is usually the cheapest type of machine to get started with. The Square reader costs just £19 upfront and has competitive transaction fees of just 1.75%.
  • Do you need a business account for a card machine?
    If you don't have a business (or merchant) account, then you can still accept payments using a payment service provider like PayPal or Square. This tends to be more expensive than opening a business account, however.
  • Can you get a card machine without a contract?
    Yes. Companies like SumUp allow you to buy your card reader outright so you're not tied into any monthly rental contract.
  • How can small businesses take card payments?
    There are a few options: you can either use an online merchant gateway like PayPal or set up a POS system with a merchant account. The cheapest route is to set up a mobile card reader to accept credit card payments.

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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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