The 6 best card machines and mobile card readers for small businesses

More people than ever pay by card. Discover the best card machine for your small business on this page

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So you’ve set your business up and you’re almost ready to start selling – all that’s left is to find the right card reader. To help you do this, we’ve picked out six of the best card readers for small businesses.

While you’re comparing the card readers, it’s worth considering the following key factors:

  • Associated fees and costs – how much is the device, how much does the card machine provider charge per transaction, and are there any associated payment software costs
  • Accompanying services – can you set up an online store using the payment software, and does the software offer payment gateway services for existing online stores?
  • Type of card machine – does it work with a 3G or 4G connection or does it require an internet or wifi connection to process transactions?

Alternatively, an even easier way to compare small business credit card machines is through our card reader comparison tool. It asks you a few simple questions, then works out which providers match your needs based on your answers.

You can compare costs from a range of suitable providers, which inevitably saves you time and money. Thousands of small businesses found their card reader through Startups.co.uk last year, so why not give it a go?

Top 6 credit card readers for small businesses

The best credit card machines that small businesses should be considering are the SumUp 3G card reader, Zettle by PayPal card reader, Verifone V240M card reader, Square card reader, Worldpay card reader, and the Barclays Anywhere card reader.

Compare them in the table below:

Card readerSumUp 3GZettle by PayPalVerifone V240MSquare Worldpay Card ReaderBarclays Anywhere
Device cost£99£29From £10/month£19£69£29
Fees1.69%1.75%Debit - 0.4%
Credit -0.9%
1.75%Dependent on sales1.6%
Includes payment software?YesYesYesYesYesYes
Online store?YesNoNoYesNoNo
Store fees2.5%N/AN/A2.5%NoN/A
Mobile/Wifi?3G* and Wifi3G and WifiGPRS, 3G, and Wifi3G and Wifi3G and Wifi3G and Wifi
Payment gateway?NoYesYesNoYesYes

* 3G minimal mobile signal required

The majority of featured card machines are supplied by payment facilitators, as they usually offer small businesses the best payment processing rates.

One of the reasons they offer better rates is because sales are pooled into a shared (aggregated) merchant account, rather than an individual (dedicated) merchant account. This does not mean security is compromised. However, it does mean payments can take twice as long to reach your business bank account.

Credit card machines and dedicated merchant accounts supplied by banks and larger payment bodies often incur contracts, monthly charges, and unpreferable rates for businesses with lower sales figures.

You can find out more about merchant accounts in our merchant account guide.

1. SumUp 3G card reader

Best for: low transaction fees

sumup card machine

Main features:

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

✓ 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 3G benefits and drawbacks

SumUp 3G benefitsSumUp 3G drawbacks
Standalone device with its own 3G connection

Free-unlimited mobile data with SIM card

Can come with a receipt printer

Cheapest transaction fees

User-friendly app

Simple set up
No hospitality-specific features

Reporting is simple compared to other providers

SumUp 3G pricing

DeviceDevice
Card present fee1.75%
Card not present fee2.5%

Is the SumUp 3G 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 3G 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 has a long lasting charge to boot. 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 first-timers in the world of using card machines.

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.

Suitable for: 

✓ Small retail shops and market stalls

✓ Counter service cafes and pop up food stalls

2. Zettle by PayPal

Best for payment features

izettle card machine

Main features:

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

✓ Software supports payment links and invoicing

✓ 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 benefits and drawbacks

Zettle by PayPal benefitsZettle by PayPal drawbacks
Compatible with iOS and Android

Device 25% faster at processing transactions

8-hour battery life

Can include a payment gateway for online selling

Accompanying software more sophisticated than SumUp’s and specific hospitality software available
Customer service standards may slip due to acquisition

Must be connected to a phone or tablet

Doesn’t offer an online store through the app

Zettle by PayPal pricing

Zettle by PayPal benefitsZettle by PayPal drawbacks
Compatible with iOS and Android

Device 25% faster at processing transactions

8-hour battery life

Can include a payment gateway for online selling

Accompanying software more sophisticated than SumUp’s and specific hospitality software available
Customer service standards may slip due to acquisition

Must be connected to a phone or tablet

Doesn’t offer an online store through the app

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 it up to your smartphone or tablet to take card payments on the go. Customers who require a receipt can have one sent to their email address.

The Zettle by PayPal card reader is well-suited to startups looking to take payments quickly in a no-fuss fashion.

Even its 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.

Suitable for: 

✓ Small retail shops and market stalls

✓ Counter service hospitality businesses, full service cafes and restaurants (with Zettle by PayPal hospitality software), pop up food stalls

Could your business be deemed high risk? If so, you may need a card machine from a high risk merchant account provider. Find out more about high risk merchant accounts.

3. Verifone V240M card reader and POS

Best for higher sales volumes

Main features:

✓ In-built, simple POS system

✓ Supports application downloads for a POS system built on your needs

✓ Still works with really low signal (GPRS)

✓ Also supports a fixed line into phone and broadband for countertop set ups

Verifone V240M benefits and drawbacks

Verifone benefits Verifone drawbacks
Works with SIM or fixed line

Can use with or without built-in POS

Add apps in line with your business’ needs

Built-in printer for instant receipts
Contract with on-going monthly costs

Fees dependent on volume of sales

Verifone V240M pricing

Monthly costs dependent on sales volume.

Is the Verifone V240M card reader for me?

A little more heavy duty than the Zettle by PayPal and SumUp card readers, the Verifone V240M card reader offers ready-to-go built-in POS software and a receipt printer.

The Verifone V240M card reader can take payments on very little mobile signal, making it a great option for events-based businesses where strong signal isn’t always guaranteed.

Instead of charging standard rates, Verifone decides on its transaction fees in line with how many sales you make.

Usually, the more sales you make, the lower the fees, which makes it a good choice for businesses that expect to receive high volumes of sales.

Along with your card reader, you have access to Verifone’s Central Device Management system, which makes it easy for you to make adjustments to your POS software across all of your devices.

You can also use Verifone as your merchant services provider, and take advantage of analytics and payment gateway services for an on-going monthly fee, meaning you can manage all of your payments in one place!

Suitable for: 

✓ Small to medium retail businesses

✓ Events businesses (food trucks etc) expecting high sales volumes

4. Square card reader

Best for fast-growth startups

epos-system

Main features:

✓ Very simple design

✓ On-glass chip and pin functionality

✓ Works alongside multi-functional and very expandable POS hardware

✓ Manage face-to-face and online sales in one place

Square benefits and drawbacks

Square benefits Square drawbacks
Low transaction rates

Transparent pricing

Card reader payment software offers lots of integrations

Modern technology that doesn’t compensate security

No fees or contracts
Pin-on-glass (typing pin into secure software on a mobile device) is very unusual

Third-party app integrations incur their own charges

Square pricing

Device£19
Card present fee1.75%
Card no present fee2.5%

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 unconventional, you can be reassured that Square adopts the highest security standards when it comes to developing 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.

Suitable for: 

✓ Small to medium businesses

✓ Countertop and mobile cafes (Square software)

✓ Table service cafes and restaurants (Square for Hospitality software)

5. WorldPay card reader

Best for security

Main features:

✓ Range of card readers and plans to choose from

✓ Decent rates

✓ Great security

✓ Insightful accompanying software

WorldPay benefits and drawbacks

WorldPay benefitsWorldPay drawbacks
Popular with small businesses

Very high levels of security

Plans that grow with your business

Includes payment gateway services
Draws you into contracted plans as they offer better value for money

Customer service could be better

WorldPay pricing

Mobile card reader plan

DeviceFees
£691 - 2.75% depending on sales volume

WorldPay Simplicity plan

Device Fees
£4.99/monthDependent on sales volume

Is the WorldPay mobile card reader for me?

With Worldpay, it’s 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, it also offers a range of card readers, too.

To secure the best transaction fee rate, we suggest that you opt for Worldpay’s Simplicity plan; an 18 month contract which sees the percentage you pay per transaction drop from 2.5% to 1.5% – one of the lowest rates around.

Worldpay is for those who prioritise security over everything, so you can look forward to robust fraud protection and complete PCI compliance (security standards for processing card payments). Plus, with 24/7 support, you’ll never be left in the dark.

Whether you’re looking for a mobile card reader to take on the road, or a fixed terminal for your shop point of sale area, Worldpay’s payment taking solutions are robust options for small businesses.

Suitable for:

✓ All types of small businesses

6. Barclays Anywhere card reader

Best for Barclays account holders

Main features:

✓ Very simple functionality

✓ Low fees

✓ Fairly basic accompanying payment software

✓ Fast deposits into your business account

Barclays Anywhere benefits and drawbacks

Barclays Anywhere benefitsBarclays Anywhere drawbacks
Low transaction rates

Transparent pricing

Very simple to use

Fuss-free software

Very quick set up process
Accompanying software is very basic and somewhat outdated

App does tend to glitch

Card machine only accepts Visa and Mastercard

Barclays Anywhere pricing

Device £29
Card present fee1.6%
Card not present feeN/A

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 from Barclays is comparatively basic.

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

You will, however, benefit from decent Barclays phone support and receive swift deposits into your Barclays account.

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, Mastercard, and refunds cost 75p to process.

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.

Suitable for: 

✓ Sole traders

✓ Small businesses that take occasional payments

The best small business card readers: the verdict

If you own a small business that’s just getting off the ground, SumUp and Zettle by PayPal are the ideal first card readers. The fees are reasonable and inline with the functional capabilities of their accompanying software.

Fast-growing businesses may want to consider Zettle by PayPal, but it’s the Square card reader and WorldPay card reader that really come up trumps (if you want to compare Square and Zettle by PayPal side by side, we’ve done so in our Square vs Zettle review).

Thanks to a vast array of third party integrations, the Square card reader offers businesses the freedom to build a payments package that works for their exact needs.

WorldPay is renowned for its security, and it offers preferential rates and packages when its pay-as-you-go fees stop becoming cost-effective.

Because the Verifone V240M card reader only needs GPRS to process transactions, it’s worth investigating if you’re looking for a card reader that works in remote locations.

While its built-in POS is fairly simple, its offering of third party integrations and option to add on things like analytics and payment gateways make it a suitable option for a wide variety of businesses.

There’s no doubt that the Barclays Anywhere card reader is the most basic out of our selection but it still has a place – particularly for sole traders who want a cheap, fuss-free way to take card payments.

If you’re still not certain about which card reader is best for your small business, the startups comparison tool is a good way to find out. Our merchant accounts team have put together a simple questionnaire that pairs businesses with the right providers based on their answers.

Speak to the right people from the offset and compare fees from card reader providers that best match your needs. The service is free and has been used by over a thousand businesses in 2020 alone. Why not give it a go?

Aimee Bradshaw Senior Writer

Aimee is Startups' resident expert in business tech, products, and services. She loves a great story and enjoys chatting to the startups and small business community. Starting her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she has a healthy respect for self-starters and local services.

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