8 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. Written by Stephanie Lennox Updated on 29 November 2023 Our Research Our expert team of writers and researchers worked to identify the best payment processing and merchant account providers by focusing on the factors small businesses care about most – value for money, including fees and hidden extras; security protocols and fraud protection; customer support, and ease of access across platforms including mobile. Written and reviewed by: Stephanie Lennox Writer Robyn Summers-Emler Digital Growth Editor Our independent reviews are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers. Our research found that the best card reader for UK small businesses is the takepayments card reader, which has low-cost hardware and four varied payment plans.But if you're in the market for a card reader for your business, it's essential to understand the potential benefits of the different systems available, the equipment costs, and any ongoing transaction fees that could impact your bottom line.While takepayments leads the pack, we've picked out seven other top options for you to consider from brands such as Square, Worldpay, and Zettle by PayPal, to ensure you invest in a card payment machine that is best for your small business.Here's a quick overview of the top card reader brands that emerged from our research: Best card machines and readers at a glance: takepayments: Best for Bespoke PlansWorldpay: Best for Customer ServiceZettle by PayPal: Best for Payment FeaturesTyl by Natwest: Best for Fast Payment ProcessingSquare: Best for IntegrationsSumUp Air: Best for 3G ConnectivityDojo: Best for FlexibilitySmartPay Anywhere: Best for Brand FamiliarityDon't overspend on your card reader – you can click any of the links above to begin 🔍comparing fees on card machines for your own business's size and needs or to learn more about various systems. Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward BEST OVERALL takepayments A920 Worldpay Reader Zettle by PayPal Tyl (by Natwest) Square Reader SumUp Dojo Go Smartpay Anywhere (by Barclaycard) Star Rating 4.8 Star Rating 4.7 Star Rating 4.6 Star Rating 4.6 Star Rating 4.3 Star Rating 4.1 Star Rating 4.0 Star Rating 3.2 Hardware cost Bespoke Hardware cost Terminal Fee £19/mo Hardware cost Starting from £29 + VAT Hardware cost £14.95 + VAT per month Hardware cost £19 + VAT Hardware cost Starting from £29 + VAT Hardware cost £20 per month Hardware cost £29 per month + VAT Transaction fees Rate varies depending on your business Transaction fees 2.75% + 0.20p Transaction fees 1.75% for contactless or card payments1.75% for PayPal payments2.5% for invoice transactions Transaction fees 1.50% Transaction fees 1.75% for contactless and inserted CHIP cards2.5% for other payments Transaction fees 1.69% for all card payments2.5% for invoice transactions Transaction fees 1.4% + 5p Transaction fees 1.6% or bespoke (Barclaycard can work with you to work out a rate based on your needs) Includes payment software? Yes Includes payment software? Yes Includes payment software? Yes Includes payment software? No Includes payment software? Yes Includes payment software? Yes Includes payment software? Yes Includes payment software? Yes Store fees N/A Store fees N/A Store fees N/A Store fees N/A Store fees 2.5% Store fees 2.5% Store fees N/A Store fees N/A Mobile/Wi-Fi? GPRS, 4G, and Wi-Fi Mobile/Wi-Fi? 4G and Wifi Mobile/Wi-Fi? 4G and Wifi Mobile/Wi-Fi? 3G and WiFi Mobile/Wi-Fi? 4G and Wifi Mobile/Wi-Fi? 4G and Wifi Mobile/Wi-Fi? 4G and WiFi Mobile/Wi-Fi? 4G and Wifi Payment gateway Yes – via Barclaycard Payment gateway Yes Payment gateway Yes Payment gateway Free access to Tyl, by Natwest Payment gateway No Payment gateway Available through integration with WooCommerce Payment gateway No Payment gateway Yes Use our comparison tool to find the best card reader fees Compare Costs *Pricing is correct as of October 2023 In this article, we will cover: 1. takepayments: Best For Bespoke Plans 2. Worldpay: Best For Customer Service 3. Zettle by PayPal: Best for Payment Features 4. Tyl (by Natwest): Best For Fast Payment Processing 5. Square: Best For Integrations 6. SumUp Air: Best For 3G Connectivity 7. Dojo: Best For Flexibility 8. SmartPay Anywhere (by Barclaycard): Best For Brand Familiarity How does a card machine work? What type of business are card machines suitable for? Buying guide: How to choose a card machine Our methodology Verdict FAQs What is a card machine?Otherwise known as a card reader or a Chip & PIN, card machines allow you to take payments from your customer's credit cards. You can choose from a portable, mobile, and countertop card machine. Here's the difference:Portable: A portable reader uses wifi connect wirelessly to your POS system and can be taken around the premises, i.e. in a restaurant to take payment at the table.Mobile: A mobile card reader can connect to cellular networks or have in-built modems, which mean they're suitable for outdoor businesses or businesses that move from location to location (like pop ups or food truck businesses).Countertop: A countertop reader is a fixed sales point that uses wired internet or a phoneline to connect but was made to stay in one general location.What's the best card machine for small businesses?As the table above shows, the best credit card reader for UK small businesses is the takepayments A920. It is closely followed by the Worldpay card reader and the Zettle by PayPal card reader.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 of Pounds in hidden fees, so it's best to do your research before committing to a long-term contract.Startups has been working with SMEs for more than 20 years, so 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 that are akin to shopping online.We've picked eight of the top options based on several key factors, such as accompanying card processing fees, internet connectivity, and accounting software integrations. By honing in on these points, you're sure to be investing in the best card payment machine for your small business.We also interviewed local business owners and staff to delve into their user experiences with the various card readers. Our intention was to gain first-hand experience and a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of the readers by identifying the commendable aspects and areas in need of improvement. How do the July 2023 card reader regulations impact my business? Under new consumer duty rules introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in July, updated card reader regulations have been introduced to improve card reader services and choices for small businesses.Providers will need to be more transparent and notify businesses when their contracts are due to expire. Contracts for card readers can no longer exceed 18 months, so businesses can't get locked into a bad deal. 1. takepayments: Best for bespoke plans 4.8 out of 5 Price 4.2 Taking Payments 5 Features 5 Customer Support 3.8 Customer Score 4.4 Compare Costs 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?The TakePayments A920 is a compact and versatile payment terminal that is typically used by businesses to process card payments. It comes with a touchscreen interface, allowing customers to easily enter their payment information, and it can handle various payment methods, including chip and PIN, contactless, and mobile wallet payments. The A920 is portable, making it suitable for businesses that require a mobile payment solution.Our expert researchers found that the A920 model is one of the best free POS software terminals, and 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 (which makes it one of the especially good POS systems for hospitality).It also comes with a neat feature that allows you to allocate tips to each user, ensuring that gratuities are correctly distributed among your staff.Real-time reporting and in-depth sales analysis are standard with the A920, which is great for measuring employee performance and daily/weekly sales figures to help identify customer trends.How does takepayments A920 compare with its rivals?While takepayments offers a competitive terminal for many elements, including hardware and transaction fees, its contracts are much lengthier than other options, such as Dojo's six-month contracts, which may suit your business better.A shorter contract length, such as the six-month contracts offered by some payment service providers like Dojo, can be particularly advantageous for businesses that value flexibility and prefer to have the option to adapt to changing circumstances more quickly. For startups and seasonal businesses, in particular, shorter contracts can be beneficial as they align better with the fluctuating nature of their operations. It also minimises the risk of being tied into a service that may not meet your needs.Compared to bulkier machines like the Dojo card reader, the A920 also leads on design. It offers a modern, fully touchscreen interface that easily blends in with your countertop. It can be wireless, unlike the Worldpay reader, which has numerous additional wires and could make your countertop look and feel cluttered.Still, there is a flaw that needs to be addressed: it is the only mobile provider with no credit check function. This alone dramatically reduced its score given by our researchers during testing, receiving a low overall score of 3.2 out of 5 for features. We suggest that small business owners check all of the platform's charges before signing. takepayments Pros Excellent customer service – consistently positive support reviews on Trustpilot £0 setup fee 12-month contract Touchscreen terminal for up to six users Specialist onboarding team Next-day settlement 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. takepayments A920 pricingTakepayments' pricing is bespoke, so you'll need to contact the provider for a quote. It is worth noting that there can be additional fees to account for, particularly if you want to cancel your contract early.While there are no setup fees, you’ll have to buy out the remainder of your contract if you don’t give at least 30 days notice.However, these costs are still cheaper and more straightforward than the cancellation fees of other providers, which is why we still feel confident about recommending takepayments as a good value option. Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward takepayments A920 Hardware cost Bespoke Transaction fees Rate varies depending on your business Compare Fees Compare In comparison to SmartPay Anywhere for example, they require a 30 day written notice to cancel a contract, in which time you will still be accumulating cancellation fees which may be frustrating (and was the reasoning behind our researchers giving it a quite dire score in the area of pricing, at 2.3 out of 5).Retail Merchant Services scores 5 out of 5 for pricing but, in addition to buying yourself out of the rest of your contract, you would be required to fork out £1000 in administration fees if don't provide the required notice for cancellation.With takepayments, you can also expect to pay a monthly minimum service charge. The exact amount of the monthly minimum service charge can be subject to negotiation and may differ based on the specific terms of the contract.Costs vary for the actual A920 device. takepayments 4.8 takepayments is a UK-based, 25-year strong business that offers card machines, online payments and card processing for SMEs. Best for its excellent customer service, and abundance of useful features. Compare Costs Read our full takepayments review Price Bespoke Fees Varies based on quote package Tailored costs Offers 8 reporting tools PCI compliance + guidance through the process Summary takepayments claim to make getting paid simple, whether you're looking to accept card payments in store, online, or on the go - they have a solution for you. With personalised pricing packages and specialised payment consultants who guide you through the entire process so you can become PCI compliant - you can take card payments securely. They also have an abundance of great features for small businesses, including real time inventory tracking, employee sales tracking, and the ability to track cash received. Show moreless 2. Worldpay: Best for Customer Service 4.7 out of 5 Price 3.7 Taking Payments 4.5 Features 4.5 Customer Support 5 Customer Score 3.8 Compare Costs Best suited for: ✓ Businesses selling products that cost more than £2✓ Small retailers that need to prioritise security for luxury items✓ 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?Payment provider Worldpay is all about the options, offering a range of contracts and transaction fee rates, which you qualify for based on your monthly sales income. There are also multiple machines to choose from. Overall, our researchers gave it a strong score of 4.7 out of 5, mostly due to its top-rated customer service (and its 24/7 support).The two card reader models available are: the countertop Ingenico Desk/5000, and the mobile Ingenico Axium DX8000 with Wi-Fi (designed for table service).In terms of security, Worldpay is also a formidable provider because it gives you robust fraud protection and complete PCI compliance (security standards for card payments).However, it's high transaction fees mean Worldpay is not a good option for businesses that sell lots of cheap items. However, if you’re an established business that sells expensive, boutique items, then we recommend Worldpay's fixed monthly plan for your shop's point of sale area.There's also a range of plans available, giving you more flexibility than a lot of other providers.How does Worldpay compare to rivals?Our researchers found that Worldpay has some of the least generous transaction fees available on the card machine market, which is why it only scores 3.6 out of 5 for pricing.When compared with rival budget brands like Square (1.75%) and SumUp (1.69%), Worldpay users pay an astonishing 2.75% + 20p on every transaction. This means that if you're selling products that cost less than £2, you'll lose out on over 10% of every purchase.Kameron Patel, the manager at Nisa Local described the Worldpay machine as “a basic payment reader”, which was a positive point for Patel, who didn't want any bells or whistles. He explained that it hadn't ever caused him any hassle, and did what it was meant to do efficiently and with no problems. Because the connectivity relies on a broadband server, he mentioned that, at times, it could be slow (at no fault of Worldpay), and that most small businesses would be wise to have a backup system in place in case of any emergencies.Before using Worldpay, Patel was using Paymentsense, which he described as “the worst machine, worse than even HSBC or Barclays”. It was apparently outdated, old and slow, and printed double receipts, which he noted was a waste for the environment.Patel says he is on a good contract and described Worldpay as “very competitive”. 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 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 Cons Customers report slow response time from the Worldpay helpdesk 18-month commitment with subscription Worldpay pricingThere are two Worldpay plans available to SMEs: the fixed monthly plan and the custom plan.We recommend the fixed monthly plan if you need to know what your expense will be 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 (£19) but potentially face harsher transaction fees, which are dependent on your sales volume.Worldpay also has a fixed £15 minimum monthly service charge that's paid for out of transactions. Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward Worldpay Reader Hardware cost Terminal Fee £19/mo Transaction fees 2.75% + 0.20p Compare Fees Compare Worldpay 4.7 Worldpay is a complete online payments service that gives you the ability to take payments directly from your website or app. Compare Costs Read our full Worldpay review Price Minimum £19 + VAT Fees 0.75%-2.75% Monthly: £19/mo + 2.75% (credit cards) & 0.75% (debit card) Pay as you go: 2.75% + £0.20 (for both credit and debit cards) Offers 100+ integrations - the most out of all providers we reviewed by far The only provider out of the ones we reviewed with a 24/7 phone number Highest rated for Customer Service Summary Worldpay is a complete online payments service that gives you the ability to take payments directly from your website or app. Easy to integrate and easy to use, our API helps developers to create bespoke checkout forms that can be activated and ready to take payments within 24 hours. Show moreless 3. Zettle by PayPal: Best for Payment Features 4.6 out of 5 Price 3.9 Features 4.9 Customer Support 5 Customer Score 4.5 Compare Costs Best suited for: ✓ Taxi firms and other businesses based in rural areas✓ Counter service hospitality businesses✓ Full service cafes and restaurants (with Zettle hospitality software) Is the Zettle by PayPal card reader for me?With ultra-low costs and one of the highest-rated apps around, Zettle by PayPal is a great alternative to traditional processing card readers and for innovative and budget-conscious businesses owners . You can find out about even more features included with the system in our full Zettle by Paypal review.Small businesses can use Zettle 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 if you need to take card payments on the go. Its excellent 3G and 4G connectivity makes it brilliant for taxi firms – and it can print receipts manually or automatically, which is now a Transport For London requirement.The card reader pairs with the iZettle Go app via Bluetooth. To use and take payments through the app, you'll need Wi-Fi or a 4G connection. Customers who require a receipt can have one sent to their email address immediately after a transaction is completed.This provider is an ideal option if you're experienced with card readers and won't require additional guidance or support. Although Zettle received a 5 out of 5 for customer service, its phone lines are only available between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.How does Zettle by PayPal compare with its rivals?Zettle's closest rival is Square, another software provider that released a small business card reader at a similar time.PayPal is a payment gateway, but Square is a fully-formed POS system that also integrates with the Square website builder, which makes it the better choice for ecommerce sales.Zettle's reader is more expensive than Square's, however Zettle outranks the latter in terms of deposit speed and because it has a stronger mobile app, which makes it the better choice for firms making transactions on the move.SumUp, Square, Tyl, and Dojo do not offer multi-currency options, whereas all the other providers do offer this feature, including Zettle by PayPal.A review of Zettle from The Rugged Bunch, LondonFrederico, the owner of Rugged Brunch, a cafe in North London (pictured), has had a Zettle card reader since he opened the cafe in 2020.He said: “I find Zettle easy to use and straightforward. It has everything we need. I love that it is small and easily transportable so that customers can pay at their tables. The software is also really easy to use, and accessible for my customers. I haven’t considered switching to a different device and don’t plan to any time soon.”“That said, to make it even more customer-centric, and like the Square card machine, the Zettle could have a larger display screen. Some of my customers also prefer buttons to input their data rather than a touchscreen.”“The money comes into my account the next day if a payment is made Monday to Friday. However, if a transaction takes place over the weekend, it won't appear in my account until the next Wednesday. I've not looked into other transaction fees, but I am happy with Zettle's. Another sore point is battery. If the machine is new, it will last for days, but I have had this for three years and it now only lasts about one hour when charged fully.” Zettle Pros Compatible with iOS and Android Eight-hour battery life Receive payout from transactions in just 1-2 days 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 Cons Must be connected to a phone or tablet Doesn’t offer an online store through the app Zettle by PayPal pricingThe cost of a Zettle device starts at £29 + VAT, which makes it the same price as the SumUp Air card reader, however, its transaction fees are a tad more expensive than the latter (1.75% compared to 1.69%). You can find a full breakdown of comparisons in our SumUp vs. Zettle review.However, this fixed amount is a significant improvement to a year ago when a sliding scale was used, with charges rising up to 2.75%. There are also no setup or monthly fees with Zettle, so it's a good option for startups with small budgets.Plus, you won't be charged for declined card payments, so you won't need to bear the brunt of your customers' mistakes! Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward Zettle by PayPal Software cost Free Hardware cost Starting from £29 + VAT Transaction fees 1.75% for contactless or card payments1.75% for PayPal payments2.5% for invoice transactions Compare Zettle to other POS providers with our simple online tool Compare Zettle 4.6 Zettle by PayPal offer a range of financial products including payments, point of sales, funding and partners applications. Compare Costs Read our full Zettle review Price From £29 Fees 1.75% 2.5% for payment links and invoices Cheapest average hardware cost 21 integrations - the most offered by any other mobile provider Fast fund transfer times at 1-2 days on average Summary Zettle make modern point-of-sale (POS) products that they claim were designed to simplify every workday. With their products you can take payments and track every sale, all in one place. Since 2010, Zettle has been on a mission to help small businesses succeed. They believe their first mini chip card reader and software revolutionised mobile payments. Today, they offer a suite of easy-to-use, professional tools that help people in the UK, Europe, the US and Latin America start, run and grow their businesses. Show moreless 4. Tyl by Natwest: Best for Fast Payment Processing 4.6 out of 5 Price 4.8 Features 3.5 Customer Support 4.2 Customer Score 3.4 Compare Costs Best suited for: ✓ SMEs with lots of freelancer staff✓ Retailers trading big-ticket items, such as antique dealers Is the Tyl by Natwest card reader for me?Weighing in at 453 grams, the Tyl by Natwest card reader is a literal and metaphorical heavyweight in the card reader market – and one of the most powerful machines on this list.As a comprehensive POS system, you can use the Tyl reader to take payments and manage your business from one device, including inventory and customer management as well as itemised receipts. This makes it an exceptionally convenient and hassle-free solution.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.Due to its fast turnaround time, we recommend it to businesses wanting speedy payments, such as those using numerous freelancers. With some freelancers making as much as £68.16 an hour, according to My Accountant Friend, a fast and reliable way to have your money transferred quickly is essential.How does Tyl by Natwest compare with its rivals?If you're after an affordable card machine, Tyl by Natwest is not it. It's the second priciest option on this list and should not be an option for businesses that just want to take payments. Instead, choose a more affordable option like SumUp Air.Tyl by Natwest should be utilised as an all-in-one merchant account that allows you to manage your inventory, oversee staff, and even take payments with no card necessary. Customers can pay over the phone via your internet browser, giving them more options to pay for your products and services.It combines the payment gateway of PayPal, the management integrations of Square, and the reporting tools of takepayments. If this is what you're after, it's unbeaten. Otherwise, Tyl by Natwest is not worth the investment. Tyl Pros Flexible monthly contract for device Payments settled in one working day All-in-one POS system Decent eight-hour battery life Tyl Cons Very expensive transaction fees Not the most affordable option for small businesses Tyl by Natwest pricingTyl by Natwest's long list of features comes at a high price. You'll need to pay £14.95 + VAT per month, and that's before the 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 antique dealers. Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward Tyl (by Natwest) Hardware cost £14.95 + VAT per month Transaction fees 1.50% Compare Tyl to Other Providers Compare Tyl (By Natwest) 4.6 Tyl describe themselves as a payment partner determined to give you the easiest, simplest way to take card payments. Compare Costs Price £14.99 + VAT per month Fees 1.50% Only provider to offer 4 Taking Payment plans - All-In-One POS, Portable, Countertop, and Pocket Lowest hardware cost available 3G terminals available Summary When it comes to taking payments, Tyl by NatWest have a range of card machines that could suit your business - including terminals such as Clover Flex, the portable, the countertop and the AX50. Tyl promises to give you "next day business settlement, fair and simple pricing, straightforward contracts, and tools to understand your business better, without hassle". By combining technology and smart data-led insights, they aim to help SMEs make informed decisions to manage their businesses more successfully, and give them tools and insights to help them grow. Show moreless 5. Square: Best for Side HustlesThe Square card reader at I Got That Crystal Healing in London. 4.3 out of 5 Price 3.3 Features 4.6 Customer Support 5 Customer Score 4 Compare Costs 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 is designed for small business owners wanting to keep costs low without missing out on good features, such as the option to integrate its accompanying POS software with food delivery apps or customer relationship management systems – a feature that contributed to Square's features score of 3.5 out of 5.Square's card reader is a high-spec device that allows customers to enter their pins on 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.If you’re looking for a comprehensive payment solution, you may want to check out the Square terminal, which also allows you to manage items and print receipts from one device.How does Square compare with its rivals?Our team of expert researchers found that Square is a great tool for ecommerce websites because it offers users high-spec integrations that are included with the Square software portfolio. It also scores a solid 4.4 out of 5 in our research for customer satisfaction as it offers the most integrations of any other provider.It is also a competitively priced, costing just £19.20. It also sports a modern design that is compact, lightweight machine and can easily blend into your countertop – unlike the bulky takepayments A920 terminal.However, this stripped back approach means it is lacking in some areas. Those who need traditional, customer-led functions – like the ability to print receipts – will want to choose a docked machine like the one offered by Worldpay.We found the Square card reader in use at a beautiful crystal store (pictured) and at Scoobys Coffee, a small cafe stall based in North London. We talked to Anthony, the owner of Scoobys Coffee who uses the Square POS card reader.“The Square card reader is pretty easy to use and a nice bit of kit. Because it's so small, it's ideal for my setup because I have a limited amount of space. It was also simple to setup and cheap to buy. Plus, the money goes into my account the next day.“My customers seem happy with it. The charge also lasts for ages. One charge will last for three days. I charge it every night and it never drops below four bars.“The biggest problem is the signal. Square randomly disconnects every hour and a payment won't go through. I have to wait a minute for it to connect back up again,” said Anthony. 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 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 Cons Can't print physical receipts - only email or SMS permitted. Square pricingThe Square mobile card reader's pricing is as stripped back as its design. The reader itself costs £19.20 + VAT, with no monthly or annual fees attached.Square charges 1.75% for each contactless, chip and PIN or card transaction, or 2.5% for payments with Square Point of Sale app, recurring online payments, Square Invoices or their Virtual Terminal.You'll need to purchase a Square dock for countertop transactions. This will cost you an additional £25 + VAT. Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward Square Software cost Free Hardware cost £19 + VAT Transaction fees 1.75% in person transaction fee1.4% + 25p for UK card transactions2.5% + 25p for non-UK card transactions2.5% Keyed-in transactions Compare Square to other POS providers with our simple online tool Compare Square 4.3 Square helps millions of sellers run their business – from secure credit card processing to point of sale solutions to setting up a free online store. Compare Costs Read our full Square card reader review Price Reader - £19 Terminal - £149 + VAT Stand - £99 + VAT or £17/mo for 6 months Fees 1.75% 2.5% POS, payment links, Square Invoices and Virtual Terminal Most integrations out of any provider Fastest fund transfer times at the next working day Built-in payments and a customer-driven checkout Summary Square has expanded from simple card readers to software and integrated, omnichannel solutions to help sellers sell online. With embedded financial services tools at the point of sale, merchants can access a business loan and manage their cash flow all in one place. Today, they are a partner to sellers of all sizes – from SME's to large, enterprise-scale businesses with complex commerce operations. Square supports sellers from Australia to the UK, Canada to Japan and across the United States. Show moreless 6. SumUp Air: Best for 3G ConnectivityThe SumUp card reader, shown by Jerry at his store in London. 4.1 out of 5 Price 3.7 Features 3.9 Customer Support 3.2 Customer Score 4.7 Compare Costs 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 low transaction fees in the UK (just 1.69%) and crystal-clear, flat-rate prices, SumUp pricing receives a respectable overall score of 3.6 out of 5 in our research. This marks it as a perfect option for beginners and savvy business owners who want to minimise expenses.Whether you’re running a mobile coffee stall, or simply want something a little more compact in store, SumUp Air travels well and measures 8.4cm by 8.4cm. It also has a long-lasting battery life to boot, being able to make 500 transactions in one charge. This makes it a popular option among businesses fresh on the startup scene.SumUp keeps its users happy with its customer support and scores 3.5 out of 5, losing a few points from our researchers because its the only mobile provider with no live chat function. It also scores a 4.8 out of 5 in our research for its fuss-free nature which is great for newcomers to the world of card machines, as it simplifies the setup and operation of the card reader and makes it accessible to those who may not be tech-savvy. It's also easy to get started: simply go onto the brand's website, complete an online sign-up form, then wait 2-3 working days to receive the reader via 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.How does SumUp Air compare with its rivals?In terms of transaction fees, SumUp Air has a generous plan available for SMEs. Its fixed rate of 1.6% puts it ahead of competitors like Zettle by Paypal (1.75%), letting users feel assured about how much they'll be charged per sale they make.The actual SumUp Air machine (costing £29 + VAT) is also generously prices when compared with what other providers on the market charge.As a one-off purchase, it easily speeds past Tyl by Natwest's card reader (£14.95 per month + VAT), despite the fact that it does lack some of the sophisticated – but ultimately unnecessary – sales tools.We found the SumUp card reader in use at Jerry's, a food stall in Angel, London. We spoke to the owner about the reader, who has used the product for the last eight months and is “very happy” with it.Jerry said that issues with the service were “quite rare”, but when they did occur, there was good communication and issues were dealt with quickly without much interruption to the service. “It's not too difficult to communicate with a human being either, which is quite nice,” he said.He noted that it is easy to use because the customer also has a screen to look at as it runs through his iPad, which he felt enhanced the user experience. SumUp Air Pros Free unlimited mobile data with SIM card Cheapest transaction fees Standalone device with its own 3G connection 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 Cons Reporting is simple compared to other providers No hospitality-specific features SumUp Air pricingAt just £29, this makes the SumUp Air card reader great value for a small businesses. It is also a much better deal than what you'll pay for readers from its competitors.Plus, lower ongoing transaction fees mean that SumUp's device is suitable for small businesses making any number of sales – a standard fee of 1.69% per transaction applies for all their card readers.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! Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward SumUp Software cost Free Hardware cost Starting from £29 + VAT Transaction fees 1.69% for all card payments2.5% for invoice transactions Compare Fees Compare 7. Dojo: Best for FlexibilityThe Dojo card reader at Melek's Jewels store in London. 4.0 out of 5 Price 3.5 Features 3.1 Customer Support 3.8 Customer Score 4.2 Compare Costs 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 that it doesn't stand out from the market in terms of value, so our experts scored it an above average 3.7 out of 5. However, it is still an ideal choice for small businesses that want a merchant provider that requires little commitment, without being tied to long-term contracts or high fixed costs.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 previous contract.How does Dojo Go compare to rivals?Dojo Go's closest rival is the 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 business-centric tools that helped boost takepayments up in our ranking, such as a money-back guarantee. Dojo's simplicity and cost-effectiveness may make it a better fit for smaller businesses, while Worldpay could be the preferred choice for larger enterprises with more advanced requirements.Its minimum monthly service charge, coupled with an expensive £20 monthly rental fee, make it a pricey option that makes it a better choice for large, established firms.Dojo's card reader was being used at Burrito (a food truck) and the owner described it as “great” and that there have been “no problems at all.”“I was with Lloyd's before and it's contracted, so I had to carry on a three or four-year contract, and sometimes you just don't want that. Another main reason is that [with Dojo] on weekdays, weekends, or whatever it is, you get your payments the next day. By 10:30am usually, the money is in your account.”She also described her Dojo machine as having great battery life, but doesn't use the receipts feature very often as a way to reduce the impact on the environment.“I was with Lloyds for 10 years and had to pay to get out, but Dojo actually paid the fees to help me get out. It's a short-term contract – I'd only just have to give notice if I wanted to get out,” she said. 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 Transactions settle by 10am the next working day Good, freestanding terminal Businesses coming from rival merchants get a monthly, rolling subscription Dojo Cons 3.85p authorisation charge on all transactions Minimum monthly service charge can reach £40 Dojo pricingThere’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. Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward Dojo Go Hardware cost £20 per month Transaction fees 1.4% + 5p Compare Fees Compare Dojo 4.0 A card machine that combines sleek design and powerful technology – ready to be used at the till, the table or on the move. Compare Costs Price £20 per month Fees 1.4% + 5p Mobile connectivity comes standard in all hardware Only a six month contract (which is less commitment than some other providers) No setup fees Summary Founded with a deep understanding of the UK payment industry at its core, Dojo’s goal is to empower hard-working businesses to focus on the things that really matter to them – by seamlessly taking care of the things that don’t. From helping you trade to getting you paid, Dojo claim to go all out to develop beautifully intuitive tools that simplify the everyday, and take the hassle out of running a business. Show moreless 8. SmartPay Anywhere (by Barclaycard): Best for Brand FamiliarityA tabletop Barclaycard reader is being used at P Shah's Opticians in London. 3.2 out of 5 Price 2.2 Features 3.5 Customer Support 2.3 Customer score 1.3 Compare Costs Best suited for: ✓ Small businesses that need a steady cash flow, for example if you pay staff weekly✓ Barclays business account holders✓ Firms selling products costing less than £2✓ Brick-and-mortar businesses that don't need ecommerce integrations Is the SmartPay Anywhere card reader for me?SmartPay Anywhere (by Barclaycard) accepts credit and debit card payments through the mobile connection of your smartphone or tablet, and now comes with an app that can provide sales reporting, inventory, supplier management, and other features.Any money you do receive will be deposited and accessible on the same day. As many retailers pay their staff weekly, this is handy if you need a steady cash flow in your business account.The SmartPay Anywhere card reader is for those who would prefer to stick with a bank they can trust – and having this card machine will save you some hassle if you already have an account with Barclays.How does SmartPay Anywhere compare with its rivals?The first thing we need to highlight about the SmartPay Anywhere is its incredibly low transaction fees (1.6%). This is more than a whole percent less than rival provider Worldpay, and is a significant pull factor for firms selling low-cost goods, like a corner shop.Like Tyl by Natwest, SmartPay Anywhere is best for users who already have a business account with the linked bank. If you have a Barclays Business account you'll be able to take full advantage of the device.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 Square.Still, we rate SmartPay Anywhere as a good option for facilitating quick payments because of its speedy deposit times – which are next day, as opposed to Zettle for instance which lingers at around 1-2 days for its processing time.Shah Opticians – an independent optician for 37 years – has been using a tabletop Barclaycard machine for taking card payments, so we asked them a few questions about their experience with the machine.They told us their Barclaycard machine is “relatively easy and straightforward to use”, but that it “can be slow to connect sometimes; we're still connected via telephone”.They notes their machine did not take American Express cards. SmartPay Anywhere Pros Low transaction fees - good for firms making lots of small sales Get set up in just 15 minutes via the Smartpay Anywhere online form Lowest transaction fees available on the market Sleep mode for saving battery power Same-day deposits into your business account SmartPay Anywhere Cons Accompanying software is very basic and somewhat outdated Mobile app is known to glitch SmartPay Anywhere pricingThe SmartPay Anywhere device costs £29 + VAT, marking it as a competitively-priced product.Plus, at 1.6%, the SmartPay Anywhere card reader offers one of the lowest transaction rates of the top providers we looked at in our research, but your compromises are that the card reader only accepts Visa and Mastercard, and refunds cost 75p to process. Swipe right to see more 0 out of 0 backward forward Smartpay Anywhere (by Barclaycard) Hardware cost £29 per month + VAT Transaction fees 1.6% or bespoke (Barclaycard can work with you to work out a rate based on your needs) Compare Fees Compare Barclays 3.2 Barclaycard Anywhere is a card reader and app, offering chip and PIN and contactless, that enables you to take payments from your smartphone or tablet. Compare Costs Price £29 per month + VAT Fees 1.6% Only traditional provider to offer a pay as you go contract Only provider with no Pay by Links option Highest standard transaction fee (up to £150) Summary "The payment part is just the start with Barclaycard Anywhere." Barclaycard claims that their "power-packed" card reader lets you take credit, debit and digital payments in-store or on-the-move – and is suited to sole or seasonal sellers because you only pay when you trade. You can manage payments in real-time with the Barclaycard Anywhere app on your mobile device, which is available to download from the App store or the Play store - and Barclays claim that you can also connect your card reader via Bluetooth with the knowledge that your payments and data are safely encrypted. Show moreless How does a card machine work?There are six main steps a card machine follow to take payment from your customers.You enter the payment amountThe customer inserts or taps their cardThe chip interacts with the machine, which sends encrypted transaction data to your merchant accountAn authorisation request is sentVerification checks are completedThe payment is sent What types of businesses are card machines suitable for?Card machines are best suited for brick-and-mortar businesses that need to take payments from customers in person. However, the type of business can vary as card machines can be countertop readers, mobile, or portable. In other words, they're not suitable for exclusively ecommerce businesses. Buying guide: How to choose a card machineChoosing a card machine isn't just about tapping into transactions; it's about tapping into reliability, flexibility, and efficiency for your business. Here's a rundown of key considerations to ensure you're not just swiping cards but also securing a seamless payment experience.Type of card machine:Selecting the right type—mobile, portable, or countertop—depends on your business's mobility needs. Mobile machines can connect to the cellular network or come with built-in modems, and so suit on-the-go businesses like pop-ups and food trucks. Meanwhile, countertop card machines are ideal for fixed checkout points, such as those in shops, cafes, and salons. Portable card machines balance between both. They're able to connect wirelessly to your POS system to be used around your premises, and so suit businesses like restaurants where payments are taken at the table.Price of the card machine:Card readers are available for either a one-time upfront purchase, or can be leased for a monthly charge. Ultimately, choosing a card reader should be based on its suitability for your business needs, rather than solely its price tag.Remember that a higher price tag doesn't always indicate higher quality. Take Square's reader, for instance, which at £19 + VAT upfront is cheaper than the Smartpay Anywhere, which costs £29 + VAT per month. However, our research and testing rates the Square Reader more highly.Transaction fees:Dig deep into transaction fees, as they can eat into your profits. Compare rates offered for different card types (debit, credit), and negotiate where possible. Even seemingly minor differences in transaction fees can significantly impact your bottom line over time.Monthly fees:Watch out for sneaky monthly charges. Some providers levy fees for maintenance, support, or software updates. Evaluate these against the services provided and ensure they align with your business's needs.Contract lengths:Don't get locked in without an escape hatch. Assess contract lengths and termination clauses. Flexibility is key, especially if your business undergoes rapid changes or if you're dissatisfied with the service.Battery life:For mobile or portable machines, battery life dictates operational convenience. Longer battery life means fewer interruptions during transactions and more satisfied customers.Accepted payment types/methods:Versatility in payment options is a must. Ensure your machine supports major card networks (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) and emerging methods like Apple Pay or Google Pay. The broader the acceptance, the wider your customer reach.Features:Beyond the basics, consider additional functionalities. Features like inventory management, reporting tools, or integration capabilities with your existing systems can streamline operations and enhance business efficiency.Compliance measures:Security and compliance standards are non-negotiable. Ensure your chosen machine adheres to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements to safeguard sensitive customer information.Help and support:A responsive and efficient support system can be a lifesaver when technical glitches arise. Look for providers offering reliable customer service, preferably with multiple channels of support. How we test card processing products and merchant services for small businessesWe tested 11 merchant account products and services to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, price, compliance, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to small UK-based businesses.Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in six main categories of investigation and 25 subcategories – in fact, we covered 36 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs of our Startups.co.uk readers.Our main testing categories for merchant account products and services are:Compliance: the adherence of the merchant account product to relevant regulations and standards, such as data security, anti-fraud measures, and legal requirements.Customer Support: the assistance and resources provided by the merchant account provider to users in resolving issues, answering questions, and providing guidance.Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular merchant account. Also, the market position and reputation a merchant account holds.Features: the functionalities and capabilities provided by the merchant account product, including online payment processing and payment gateway integration.Taking Payments: the process and options available for accepting payments through the merchant account product.Price: the cost associated with using the merchant account product, such as transaction fees, setup fees, monthly fees, and any additional charges.The Startups product testing process VerdictIf you own a small business that’s just getting off the ground, takepayments should be the ideal first card reader. Its fees are reasonable and in line with the functional capabilities of the accompanying software.takepayments offers shorter contracts than most (12 months) and there are no joining or leaving fees, making it perfect for brand-new business needing a zero-risk, short-term commitment.For fast-growing businesses, a Square card reader or Worldpay card reader are two options that really stand out from the competition in terms of value for money. To compare Square and Zettle by PayPal side by side, read our Square vs Zettle review. Need to know bespoke costs for your business? Compare card machine provider costs in moments Yes No Compare quotes in under a minute Card machine FAQs Can I buy my own card machine? Yes. Companies like SumUp allow you to buy your card reader outright, so you're not tied into a rental contract. 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. Square and Zettle have no monthly fees, while takepayments offer competitive, bespoke pricing based on business size and other factors. How do 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. Do I need a business bank account to use 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. However, this tends to be more expensive than opening a business account. What is the difference between card readers and card machines? Card readers are essentially less powerful versions of card machines and tend to be smaller and portable. A card reader generally requires a mobile or computer application to accept payments, and your customers won't typically be able to use chip and PIN with them, so this option is best for businesses with smaller transactions. What are the different types of card machine? There are four types of card reader: the static/countertop card terminal, which is the recognisable 'chip and PIN' option that is generally used by large retailers; the portable card terminal, popular with hospitality-based businesses; Wi-Fi card terminals, which offer the greatest flexibility for small businesses; and the GPRS card terminal, which combines all of the above. What's the cheapest card machine available? Square has the cheapest card reader available at £19 + VAT upfront, with no monthly or annual fees attached. Zettle and SumUp are hot on Square's heels, with readers costing £29 + VAT. These are the three readers on this list that you can purchase immediately without monthly fees, but if you're conscious of the cheapest transaction fees as well, SumUp takes first place when it comes to that recurring cost. What should I do if my card machine goes down? It's a nerve-wracking situation, but staying calm is key. First, try troubleshooting by restarting the machine or checking for any connectivity issues. If that doesn't work, contact your provider's customer support immediately. In the meantime, consider alternate payment methods to keep business flowing smoothly. What's the difference between a card machine and a POS system? Card machines handle card transactions exclusively, whereas a POS (Point of Sale) system integrates multiple functions alongside taking payments, including inventory management, sales tracking, and customer relationship management. Small businesses with very basic transaction needs could start with just a card machine, but the majority of businesses would benefit from a POS system's comprehensive business management features. Fortunately, card readers are often easy to integrate with a POS system, and some providers, such as Zettle and Square, offer both. What is the process for switching card machine providers? Switching providers involves a few steps. Start by researching new providers and their offerings. Once decided, notify your current provider about the switch and ensure you're aware of any contract termination clauses. Coordinate with the new provider to set up the new machine/system and perform any necessary testing before fully transitioning. Startups.co.uk is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps Startups.co.uk to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews. Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Tags Business software guide Written by: Stephanie Lennox Writer Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 11 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.