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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.

Here we’ll cover the following essentials to help you choose the right card machine for your business:

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)?

The 6 best card machines for small businesses

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:

Card Reader Best for… Device Cost
(excl. VAT)
Transaction Fee
sumup Best for cheap transaction fees £19 (excl. VAT) 1.69%
izettle Best all-rounder £29 on offer here 1.75%
square card reader Best for card machine features £29 (excl.VAT) 1.75%
worldpay Best for flexibility Costs only available via quote 1.95% – 2.75%
paypal Best for growing businesses £34
£34 on offer here
1% – 2.75%
barclays Best for being a trusted payments brand £15 – £29 (excl. VAT) 1.6%

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Mobility –
    A mobile card reader that you can take to your customers is especially helpful if you’re in the hospitality industry.
  3. 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.
  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. 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

sumup card machine

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

Pros: Cons:
✅ 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

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

Read our full SumUp review.

iZettle card reader

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

Pros: Cons:
✅ 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)

Best all-rounder: award-winning, affordable and featuring a slick app

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.

Which cards are accepted?

The mobile iZettle 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, the iZettle reader 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 card reader

Square pros and cons

Pros: Cons:
✅ 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

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?

The Square 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.

Read our full Square card reader review.

Worldpay card machines

worldpay card machine

WorldPay pros and cons:

Pros: Cons:
✅ 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

Best for: Flexibility

Worldpay is now 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.

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 card machine

PayPal pros and cons

Pros: Cons:
✅ 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

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

best card machines for small businesses

Barclays card machine pros and cons

Pros: Cons:
✅ 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 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.

Next step: 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, take a look at our interactive top quote-finder – it’s simple, you provide your requirements and we’ll find the quotes.

Best card machines for small business: the FAQs

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 use our credit card processing fees calculator.

What could a card machine do for my small business?

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 – find out more in our section on point of sale systems
  • 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

Card machine success stories

block and bottle testimonial

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

hilda valerie testimonial

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

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 – so fill in our handy quote finder without delay, and get the cardreader ball rolling for your business.