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

A credit card machine can make all the difference for your business when it comes to driving sales and taking the hassle out of payment processing.

But the best card machines for small businesses will make it easy and cheap to take card payments, and give you the best chance of competing in today’s increasingly cashless world.

The UK Card Association found that 78.4% of retail sales in the UK in 2017 were paid by credit/debit card, and cards were the nation’s preferable way to pay for purchases that were lower in value.

Best card machine reviews: Who made the cut?

With the arrival of powerful yet cheap card readers, the card payments industry has never served small businesses better. But which is the best card machine for your businesses?
To make our list of the best card machines for small businesses, these credit card terminals needed to score top marks in all the areas business owners tell us matter most to them:

  • 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)?

In this article, we profile:

Whether you’re looking for a card machine that doesn’t break the bank, or one that you can set up with your smartphone easily, as well as the best model that can grow with your business, we’ll provide the information you need to know to answer these key concerns.

Below, we review and explain the UK’s leading options – from the cheapest card payment machine to the best mobile card reader for small businesses – and help you choose and compare quotes for the best card reader for you.

The 6 best card machines for small businesses

Card machines are more popular than ever, thanks to the convenience boost they offer both customers and businesses owners in the UK. So, which are the best card readers for small businesses?

Credit card machines from the likes of iZettle, Square, SumUp, Worldpay, PayPal and Barclays are now making credit card processing cheap enough for small businesses to join the gravy train, and their devices help simplify everything from taking payments to tracking sales.

Here is how the UK’s six top credit card machines compare:

Card Reader Best for… Device Cost
(excl. VAT)
Transaction Fee
sumup Best for cheap transaction fees £29 (excl. VAT) 1.69%
izettle Best all-rounder £59
£19 on offer here
square Best for card machine features £39 (excl.VAT) 1.75%
worldpay Best for flexibility £69 1.95% – 2.75%
paypal Best for growing businesses £54
£34 on offer here
1% – 2.75%
barclays Best for being a trusted payments brand £29 (excl. VAT) 1.6%

SumUp card reader

Best for: Cheap transaction fees

sumup card machine

Most competitive flat-rate transaction fees of 1.69%

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.

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 also offers plenty of features you might not expect (such as virtual terminals and SMS payments).

Although ‘card not present’ payment options aren’t available with this simple device.

Is it for me?

SumUp is perfect for beginners and savvy business owners wanting to keep things simple and (most importantly) costs low.

✅ Top rate of 1.69% transaction fee
✅ No monthly fees
✅ Great customer support
✅ User-friendly app
✅ Virtual terminals
✅ SMS payments
❌ No ‘card not present’ option
❌ Simple reporting

Read our full SumUp card reader review

iZettle card reader

Best all-rounder

izettle card machine

An award-winning, affordable card reader and slick app

iZettle was one of the first merchant service providers to bring flexible payment options to small businesses, and they’ve made it their mission to cut costs without cutting corners.

The mobile iZettle card reader and quality app make 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).

iZettle is proud of a 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 iZettle with 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.

However, account suspensions are possible, although this is most likely for unauthorised users.

Is it for me?

With ultra-low costs and one of the most high quality apps around, the iZettle reader is a great alternative to traditional ways of processing card payments, and great for more innovative and budget-conscious businesses.

✅ 25% faster than competitors
✅ 8-hour battery life
✅ Nimble design
✅ 4.7 out of 5 on App Store
✅ Flat rate fee of 1.75%
❌ Account suspensions (mostly when users are unauthorised)

Read our full iZettle review

Square chip and pin machine

Best for: Card machine features

square card machine

All the top-notch features – and none of the fuss

Square is your go-to card reader for action-packed features with a price tag you can get on board with – card payment processing fees are just 1.75%, and the card machine is one of the cheapest.

But you can still expect plenty of perks you don’t often find in such budget card machines: things like mobile payments and digital receipts that can really help your business impress even the most demanding customers.

This is also a high spec (but so easy-to-use) device that will help you shine as a forward-thinking business – your customers can enter their pins on the glass of your phone or tablet rather than tapping buttons on a keypad, making most other card readers already start to look outdated.

Is it for me?

The Square card reader was designed for small business owners wanting to keep costs low without missing out on the good stuff.

✅ Low transaction rates (1.75%)
✅ Transparent pricing
✅ One of most features-heavy
✅ No monthly fees, no lock-ins
✅ Great, comprehensive app
❌ Pin on glass is unusual
❌ Fiddly magistripe (magnetic stripe to swipe) payments

Read our full Square card reader review

Worldpay card machines

Best for: Flexibility

worldpay card machine

UK’s #1 voted payments gateway provider

Worldpay is the UK’s top-voted payments provider in the 2017 Nilson Report by 250,000 small businesses, and as you’d expect, it’s easy, ultra-fast and safe to use.

The Worldpay Zinc card reader is no more – now Worldpay is offering 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.

Is it 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.

✅ Voted favourite by small businesses
✅ Business Manager tool
✅ Decent fraud protection
✅ Range of card readers
✅ Wifi-free payments possible
❌ 2.75% is not the cheapest

Read our full Worldpay review

PayPal card machine

Best for: Growing businesses

paypal card machine

Top speeds and a tidy price from a reliable brand

PayPal has already proven itself in the ecommerce space, and 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.

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%).

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 it for me?

Overall, PayPal Here is an intuitive card machine and complete sales system from a trusted brand.

If you’re a high volume small business (bringing in over £6,000 a month), you’ll get the best rates with PayPal.

If not, you’re better off with one of the others – unless you can’t live without PayPal’s instant bank transfers.

✅ Cheapest for high volume sales
✅ Fastest transfers (instant)
✅ Top rated app
✅ PayPal Seller Protection
✅ Syncs well with other platforms
❌ USB and Diners Club cards not supported
❌ Need at least Bluetooth 2.0 on phone

Read our full PayPal Here review

Barclays card machine

Best for: Being a trusted payments brand

A flexible contract from a bank you can really trust

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.

Is it 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, if saving costs is your priority, consider the cheaper card machines in our list.

✅ No monthly fees or lock-ins
✅ Clear pricing
✅ A trusted payments gateway brand
✅ Mobile, easy-to-use card reader
❌ Only accepts Visa and Mastercard
❌ Need a Barclays account

Best credit card machines: In a nutshell

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:

  1. Up your sales – Today’s customers expect to pay by card, and giving them what they want will help stop them from walking
  2. Build your credibility – Card machines make you seem more professional, which is especially important if your small business is still fairly newborn
  3. Save on admin – Forget the bank runs and streamline your account management by linking your terminal to your computer or smartphone
  4. Take safer payments – Card machines have extra security built-in to protect both you and your customers
  5. Be ready for the future – Cash is drying up, and it’s a good idea to think ahead

Next step: Compare card machines

The best card machines will make it easier for more customers to pay, do much of the accounting for you, and give you more time to run your business.

Credit card machines from iZettle, Square, SumUp, Worldpay and PayPal, as well as online payments from Stripe are now making credit card processing more affordable than ever for small businesses, with cheap card machines and low credit card charges.

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?

Still got a few questions to help you decide? The next best step is to talk directly to the UK’s leading credit card processing providers – and we at Startups help our readers start this conversation.

If you’d like to be matched with the best card readers for your small business specifically, check out our interactive quote-finder below to get your hands on the best card machine deals for you to compare.


In this section, we address some of the common queries around card machines for small businesses.

1. How much are credit card terminal fees?

You can now buy a quality credit card machine for under £50, and the transaction rates are also lower than ever.

Traditionally, credit card processing costs for merchants had always been around 3% with terminals issued through the main banks.

They would also come with complex fee structures that were a nightmare trying to get your head around – and not much good for small businesses wanting to stay on top of their cashflow.

But today’s mobile card machines tend to charge easy-to-digest (and easy-on-the-eye) flat-rate fees – from 1.69% with SumUp, or as little as 1% for high volume monthly sales with PayPal.

For a full break-down of credit card machine prices, read our page on how much a chip and pin machine costs, or click here to use our interactive calculator and find out how much a card machine will cost you.

2. Why accept card payments?

Accepting card payments can help small businesses make more sales, more easily (and win back precious time lost on bank runs).

Of course, card machines have to make sense for your small business, as taking card payments is not free.

The UK Card Association found that in the UK in 2016, 96% of the population had a debit card, and more and more of us prefer paying by card.

Contactless payments are also booming. To give you an idea, the total spending on contactless today is more than double the previous eight years combined – at around one in three transactions.

These are the main advantages to using card machines – see how many resonate with you:

card machines advantages

More sales

  • More check-outs – Around a third of customers would consider walking away from a purchase if they cannot pay by card. Simply put, customers today expect to be able to pay using their card, and if they can’t, you may miss out on sales
  • More profits – As well as making the transaction process easier and more efficient, businesses that accept more payment types are more likely to win customers over any competitors who do not offer card payments

Better protection

  • More security – Credit card machines keep you safer, as you will be able to store less cash on the premises, avoid any fake bills, and benefit from credit card fraud protection
  • More credibility – Barclaycard’s research has shown that 43% of people would have a lower opinion of a business if it didn’t take card payments – credit card machines make small businesses seem more professional

Less admin

  • Less time wasted – As well as waving goodbye to bank runs, you can link credit card machines to your PoS (Point of Sale) system (whether that’s a cash register or just your smartphone), reducing the overall administration of payments
  • More insights – Most card reader apps make it easy to track your sales with user-friendly reporting features without you having to do the manual task of accounting, and they can join up your high street and online revenues together in one place

3. How can card machines benefit businesses? Card machine testimonials

Block & Bottle’s customers like paying by card

block and bottle testimonial

“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

hilda valerie testimonial

“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

4. How to choose the best card machine for your business

Of course, your business needs are unique – and so is the right card reader for you.
To help you pick the ideal merchant service provider for your business, here are the five key questions to ask yourself:

  1. What do my sales look like? – Some credit card machine providers keep things simple with flat rates, but others offer cheaper fees depending on your sales volumes, so check which makes most sense for you
  2. How mobile are my sales? – If you run a hospitality business like a restaurant, make sure you choose a mobile card reader that you can take to your customers
  3. How many devices do I need? – Customers don’t like waiting to pay, and poor service might stop them coming back. These days, card machines are cheap, so make sure you have enough
  4. 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
  5. Will I be accepting contactless payments? – In 2017, 15% of all payments made were done via contactless cards, so you may want to consider it. If you’re selling products under £30, this will really speed up the check-out, and your customers will thank you

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