The 6 best card machines for small businesses
More people than ever pay by card. Decide which card machine would work best for your business here
When it comes to driving sales, a credit card machine takes the hassle out of payment processing, making a real difference to your business and giving you a fighting chance to compete in today’s increasingly cashless society.
The UK Card Association found that 78.4% of retail sales in the UK in 2017 were paid by credit/debit card, making card payments the nation’s favourite way to make purchases of any value.
Whether you’re looking for a card machine that doesn’t break the bank, or one that you can set up with your smartphone, here we review the UK’s leading options; from the cheapest card payment machine to the best mobile card reader for small businesses.
Read on for a full-fat breakdown of the six best card machines for small businesses. Or, if you’re ready to tuck right into some quotes, hop to the top of the page and we’ll put you in touch with the perfect provider for your small business today.
Best card machine reviews: Who made the cut?
To make our list of the best card machines for small businesses, we pitched the providers against one another and zoomed-in on the following areas:
- Price – How competitive are the device costs and transaction fees?
- Ease of use – Will the card reader make your sales faster (and your life easier)?
- Reliability – Will it survive a cup of coffee being dropped on it? Will your customers trust the brand?
- Features – How good is the card reader app? Can it handle all the functions you need (such as cashback and invoicing)?
Credit card machines from the likes of iZettle, Square, SumUp, Worldpay, PayPal and Barclays are now making credit card processing a budget-friendly and convenient option for both business and customer. Here’s how they compare:
Best card machines for a small business UK
|Card Reader||Best for...||Device Cost (exc. VAT)||Transaction Fee|
|Sum Up||Cheap transaction fees||£19||1.69%|
|iZettle||All-rounder||£29 on offer here||1.75%|
|Square||Card machine features||£29 on offer here||1.75%|
|Worldpay||Flexibility||Costs available via quote||1.95 - 2.75%|
|PayPal||Growing business||£34 on offer here||1 - 2.75%|
|Barclays||Being a trusted payments brand||£15 - £29||1.6%|
Benefits of card machines for small businesses
Is a card machine right for your small business? Of course, it varies from business to business. But this is what it could do for you:
- Up your sales –
Today’s customers expect to pay by card, and giving them what they want will help stop them from walking
- Build your credibility –
Card machines make you seem more professional, which is especially important if your small business is still fairly newborn
- Save on admin –
Forget the bank runs and streamline your account management by linking your terminal to your computer or smartphone
- Take safer payments –
Card machines have extra security built-in to protect both you and your customers
- Be ready for the future –
Cash is drying up, and it’s a good idea to think ahead – so fill in our handy quote finder without delay, and get the cardreader ball rolling for your business.
Tips for choosing the best card reader for your small business:
To help you pick the ideal provider for your business, here are the five key considerations:
- Sales –
Some providers have flat rates whereas others will offer cheaper fees the higher your sales volumes. Check that your sales volume will match the provider’s minimum requirements to make the most of any deals to be had.
- Mobility –
A mobile card reader that you can take to your customers is especially helpful if you’re in the hospitality industry.
- Number of devices –
Customers don’t like waiting to pay, and poor service might stop them coming back – make sure you have enough machines to allow maximum payment efficiency.
- Which types of card do I need to accept? –
Most people understand that small businesses may only be able to accept a limited number of cards, but the more options you give your customers to pay with, the better.
- Accepting contactless –
One in three UK card payments are made using a contactless card or e-wallet. Therefore, having a contactless point of sale option is a must, especially if you’re often making sales of £30 or less.
SumUp card reader
Budget-friendly and offering great customer service, SumUp is great for new business looking to hit the ground running when it comes to payment processing.
SumUp pros and cons
|Top rate of 1.69% transaction fee|
|No monthly fees|
|Great customer support||No 'card not present' option|
|User-friendly app||Simple reporting|
Best for: cheap transaction fees
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 the costs low.
Which cards are accepted
SumUp accepts all credit or debit cards with a Visa, Mastercard, V Pay, Maestro or American Express logo.
The competitive transaction fee of 1.69% (UK) / 2.75% (Ireland) applies to any card, even American Express, which some providers (like PayPal) will charge more for.
Is SumUp for me?
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.
And, for such a cheap card machine, SumUp offers plenty of features you might not expect (such as virtual terminals and SMS payments).
Read our full SumUp review.
iZettle card reader
iZettle was one of the first card readers to bring flexible payment options to small businesses, and they’ve made it their mission to cut costs without cutting corners.
iZettle pros and cons
|25% faster than competitors|
|8-hour battery life|
|Nimble design||Account suspensions (mostly when users are unauthorised)|
|4.7 / 5 on App Store|
|Flat rate fee of 1.75%|
Best all-rounder: award-winning, affordable and featuring a slick app
iZettle is proud of its reputation for being 25% faster than other mobile card readers. And even its transfers are speedy: the money will hit your account the next day. And the battery life lasts around eight hours.
You can also use the iZettle card reader with hardware like receipt printers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners, so it can work as part of a complete PoS system – or just hooked up to your smartphone or tablet for ease. And if it makes things even easier, iZettle also offer tailored all-round EPOS system solutions.
However, account suspensions are possible, although this is most likely for unauthorised users.
Which cards are accepted?
iZettle's mobile card reader and quality app makes taking card payments a breeze: you can accept chip and pin as well as contactless payments from almost all card types (including Apple and Android Pay):
- V Pay
- Union Pay
- American Express
- Apple and Android Pay
Note: iZettle is one of the only card readers to take payments from JCB, Union Pay and Discover.
Is iZettle for me?
With ultra-low costs and one of the most high quality apps around, iZettle is a great alternative to traditional ways of processing card payments, and great for more innovative and budget-conscious businesses.
Read our full iZettle review.
Square chip and pin machine
Square pros and cons
|Low transaction rates (1.75%|
|Transparent pricing||Pin on glass is unusual|
|One of the most features-heavy||Fiddly magistripe (magnetic stripe to swipe payments)|
|No monthly fees, no lock-ins|
|Great, comprehensive app|
Best for: card machine features
With card payment processing at just 1.75%, and one of the lowest hardware costs, this machine is jam-packed with features that’ll keep your payment processes slick and efficient.
Features include: mobile payments and digital receipts that can really help your business impress even the most demanding customers.
Which cards are accepted?
Square accepts all of the major cards, both debit and credit, with the exception of Discover, JCB or Union Pay.
Is Square for me?
Square's card reader was designed for small business owners wanting to keep costs low without missing out on the good stuff.
This is also 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. This looks clean and modern, compared to other outdated pieces of hardware. And for an all-in-one payment solution, there's also the Square terminal, which also allows you to manage items and print receipts.
Read our full Square card reader review.
Worldpay card machines
Worldpay pros and cons:
|Voted favourite by small businesses|
|Business Manager tool|
|Decent fraud protection||2.75% is not the cheapest|
|Range of card readers|
|Wifi-free payments possible|
Best for: Flexibility
Worldpay offers a suite of countertop, mobile and virtual card readers, so you can pick the one that’s right for you.
Worldpay is unique in offering some of the most flexible contracts – you can choose between Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go, whatever works best for your business.
And the card machines are just as adaptable – they even work without wifi, so if you have a shaky connection, Worldpay could be a lifesaver, and keep you taking payments.
Cards accepted by Worldpay:
- Mastercard credit and debit cards
- Visa credit and debit cards
- American Express
- Visa Electron
- Visa Purchasing
Is Worldpay for me?
Worldpay is for those of us who put safety first, 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.
Read our full Worldpay review.
PayPal card machine
PayPal pros and cons
|Cheapest for high volume sales|
|Fastest for transfers (instant)||USB and Diners Club cards not supported|
|Top rated app||Need at least Bluetooth 2.0 on phone|
|PayPal Seller Protection|
|Syncs well with other platforms|
Best for: Growing businesses
PayPal features top speeds at a tidy price for a growing brand. Having already proven itself in the ecommerce space, the PayPal Here card reader shows this company to be a leader in making payments easy, offline as well as online.
PayPal Here stands out in a few key areas for small businesses: your money lands instantly in your PayPal account (usually you’d wait a few days), and this is the cheapest card machine for high volume businesses.
Plus, you’re in good hands with PayPal’s fraud screening, and your customers will feel more comfortable sharing their card details with a brand they are familiar with.
Is PayPal for me?
Overall, PayPal Here is an intuitive card machine and complete sales system from a trusted brand.
Once you’re bringing in over £6,000 a month, the transaction fees are cheaper than with any other provider – and for the mega earners, it’s a lot cheaper (1%).
Read our full PayPal Here review.
Barclays card machine
Barclays card machine pros and cons
|No monthly fees or lock-ins|
|Clear pricing||Only accepts Visa and Mastercard|
|A trusted payment gateways brand||Need a Barclays account|
|Mobile, easy-to-use card reader|
Best for familiarity and flexibility
Barclaycard Anywhere is not the cheapest card machine, but it’s the cheapest one you’ll get from a high street bank, and has a card transaction fee of 2.6%.
Barclays’ nifty little device accepts credit and debit card payments from your smartphone or tablet, through chip and pin, contactless and swipe payments, and you’ll benefit from decent Barclays phone support and a straightforward app.
Which cards are accepted?
Accepts all major credit and debit cards including Visa, Mastercard, Diners Club International, Discover and American Express.
Is Barclaycard Anywhere for me?
Barclaycard Anywhere is one 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.
That said, it’s not the cheapest, so you might be sacrificing affordability for familiarity here.
Best card readers for small business UK
As you can see, there are plenty of options for small businesses looking to take card payments.
In the list below, we've summarised our reviews of the best card machines for small business in the UK:
- Sumup – best for cheap transaction fees; no monthly fees, easy-to-use app and great customer support
- iZettle – best for all round use; excellent for new businesses and 25% faster than competitors
- Square – best for features; a comprehensive app and no monthly fees or ‘lock-ins'
- Worldpay – best for flexibility; counter-top, mobile and mobile readers available, voted best by small businesses
- PayPal – best for a growing business; has a top-rated app and is fastest for transactions
- Barclays – best for familiarity and flexibility; mobile, easy-to-use card reader and clear pricing
Card machine success stories
Block & Bottle’s customers like paying by card
“We often have people asking if we take card when they come to the shop, and they are always very happy when they hear that we do.”
– Katie Cullen, Owner of free-range shop Block & Bottle in Gateshead
Florist Hilda Valerie has seen a sales boost
“The majority of our customers want to pay using a card, and without the ability to process card payments, we would have lost a sizeable number of customers.”
– Natasha Bartlett-Twivey, Floral Designer at Hilda Valerie
Next steps: compare card machines
The rise of easy-to-use, strings-free and cheap card machines have become a game-changer for ambitious small businesses wanting to make taking card payments easy and affordable, and help answer the all-important question of how much is a chip and pin machine?
The next step is to talk directly to the UK’s leading credit card processing providers – If you’d like to be matched with the best card readers for your small business specifically, simple select an option below and we'll help to join you up with top providers.