SumUp card reader review

Our full-fat review of the SumUp card reader, plus the easiest way of getting quotes for your small business

Founded in 2011, SumUp was the UK’s answer to making card payment processing easy and affordable, and it’s still one of the best options for small businesses wanting simplicity and low costs today.

thumbs up icon Best for – Most competitive transaction rate at 1.69%

thumbs down icon Not for – Someone wanting an app with bells and whistles

happy Who for? – Lower-volume and budget-conscious small businesses

With fewer and fewer people taking cash when they go out and more and more customers expecting speedy check-out with contactless payments, we think adding card payment options to your small business is now more important than ever.

But with so many providers out there – SumUp, iZettle, Square, WorldPay and PayPal are the most popular ones in the UK – which is the best one for you?

So, to help you decide if they’re right for you, now let’s dive deeper and explain everything you need to know…

In this article you will learn:

The pros and cons of SumUp Air

The pros

With one of the lowest transaction fees around (just 1.69%) and crystal-clear, flat-rate pricing, SumUp is hard to beat for affordability.

  • Affordable, fixed fees – Top rate of 1.69%, no monthly fees
  • Great customer support – Quick and helpful answers to questions
  • Easy-to-use app – Simple layout, easy to get started
  • Nice features – Including free virtual terminals & SMS payments

The cons

SumUp is one for simplicity, so don’t expect the fanciness of other (often pricier) credit card processing providers.

  • Basic reporting – Reduced geeking out on numbers with SumUp
  • Limited features – Where’s the card-not-present option?
  • Reader glitches – Uncommon, but some customers have had freezes


The SumUp Air card machine explained

One of the cheapest mobile card readers in the UK

SumUp Air is a wireless card reader that lets your customers pay via Chip & PIN, contactless, Swipe & Sign, or Apple Pay and Android Pay.

All you need to get going is a smartphone or tablet with Bluetooth, the free SumUp app on your iOS or Android device, and an internet connection (Wi-Fi or 3G/4G are best).

Bluetooth lets your mobile device connect to the card machine, and the cloud-based app will take care of the legwork of processing the payment for you.

Here’s what the SumUp Air mobile card reader looks like:

sumup air card reader

how twitter business

How does SumUp Air work?

Like most card machines, SumUp works using Bluetooth

We found making card payments really simple with SumUp. You just enter the amount in the app, and the customer either inserts their card into the reader and keys in their PIN, or taps their contactless card or phone on the reader. Once their payment is accepted, they can get a receipt via email or text.

Here’s a 90-second demo:

Is SumUp safe?

SumUp ticks all the safety boxes

SumUp is an FCA-approved entity, meaning it works with the UK government to ensure its customers (you) get a fair deal.

The Air mobile card reader also keeps your customers’ sensitive data secure. As a certified device with the PCI PTS (Payment Card Industry PIN Transaction Security) – an important standard for POS systems – it uses encryption to give your customers peace of mind.


Who is eligible to use SumUp?

SumUp is eligible for any registered business and non-profit

This includes clubs, societies, schools and universities. But you will need to register in the name of your business – they don’t accept individual merchants.

Certain businesses are also not eligible, including:

  • Unlicensed counselling services
  • Door-to-door sales
  • Adult entertainment

Though you will be able to use SumUp abroad (in most European destinations, the US, and some parts of Latin America) if you contact their customer service team in advance.

Small businesses that use SumUp

Trusted by thousands of UK-based and international small businesses

Since making card payments affordable and with such a simple set-up and pocket-sized device, SumUp is especially popular with:

The SumUp Air features

Action-packed features, but no discount option

The biggest feature you’ll get with SumUp is mobile card processing made simple. And UK customers can enjoy everything you would expect from your card machine, including:

  • Item Library – You enter your products into the app, with photos, prices and descriptions
  • Item Variants – You can charge different prices for particular sizes etc.
  • Quick Sale Mode – Just enter the amount and take the payment
  • Email and SMS Receipts – Giving your customers more convenience
  • Analytics – You can track your sales data to help you make the best decisions

There are also some handy features that don’t come with every mobile card app, like:

  • Refunds
  • Tipping
  • Multiple Tax Rates
  • Virtual Terminal
  • SMS Payments

Overall, the SumUp dashboard is an intuitive tool. Just like with other leading card reader providers, you’ll get a 360 degree view of your sales data, which you can export to an easy-to-digest Excel file.

Just note that small business owners sometimes find they need to contact customer service to get some of these bonus features added to their accounts, then they are easy to get the hang of.

But there are some features you might miss:

  • Discounts
  • Invoicing
  • Modifying products from the dashboard

The shiny new addition of SMS payments, though, can be a nifty way of getting round the lack of invoicing – rather than issuing an invoice, you just send your customers a way of paying you directly.

But if any of these specs are a must, you can check out the other options available to you on our page comparing the best card readers for small businesses today here.

how much hr outsourcing

SumUp Air fees and charges

SumUp currently offers the best fixed rate transaction fee in the UK, at 1.69%

iZettle and Square both come in a close second at 1.75%, and with WorldPay and PayPal you can expect to pay more.

That said, with these competitors you’ll get your funds that bit sooner – anywhere from instantly (with PayPal) to between one and two business days (with iZettle and Square).

Here is a breakdown of the rates you’d be paying with SumUp:

Payment method Rate
In person 1.69%
SMS Payments 2.95% + 25p
Phone / virtual payments 2.95% + 25p

Phone payments isn’t offered by everyone, and is a nice touch. SumUp’s virtual terminal rate is also kinder than PayPal’s 3.4% + 20p (and £20 monthly fee), but a tad more than Square’s 2.5% here.

Our verdict: If your small business is bringing in under £5,000 a month in card payments, SumUp will be a great option for you.

SumUp Air’s payment entry methods

SumUp is one of the only mobile card readers to accept all card payment entry methods:

  • Contactless
  • Chip & PIN
  • Swipe & Sign
  • Apple Pay & Android Pay

Plus, you don’t need to worry about a separate magstripe reader (like with Square) because it’s nicely built into the device itself.

Cards supported

SumUp also prides itself on accepting 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.

visa logo mastercard logo maestro logo american express logo

This isn’t quite as many as iZettle (which includes UnionPay, JCD and Diners Club), but these cards aren’t too popular in the UK anyway, so it’s unlikely your customers will be disappointed with SumUp’s offer.

The SumUp Air card reader cost

You can often get it discounted online

SumUp’s Air card machine costs a one-off price of £59 (excluding VAT), but you can often find it for £29 online. That’s all you’ll ever pay for it – once it’s yours, it’s yours to keep, and it comes with free shipping of three to five business days.

Just note that because you can’t manually enter amounts, you will need to purchase one of these devices to use SumUp, but we think it’s a good deal for being able to accept contactless, Chip & PIN and magstripe payments.

Card-not-present transaction fees

Thanks to the virtual terminal and SMS payment features, now you can process payments with SumUp, even without your customer’s card being present. We find these costs quite reasonable too: at 2.95% plus 25p per transaction. The only other mobile card reader provider to offer this is Square.

Payment delay time

Payouts are sent to your bank account on a daily basis from SumUp, but it usually takes two to three business days for you to get your hands on it, which is slightly longer than rivals like PayPal and iZettle.

SumUp Point of Sale Register

There are no monthly costs with SumUp, but if you’re interested in a complete POS (point-of-sale) solution, you can always upgrade to the SumUp Point of Sale Register for a custom monthly fee.

You’d need to contact them directly for a quote, but their prices generally start at around £750 (excluding VAT) to get set up with everything from the hardware (printer, scanner, tablet – all ready to roll) to the software (for bookkeeping, payment analytics and inventory management).

We thought this seemed like a hefty price tag for many start-ups, but if you use SumUp as your go-to for all your payment processing needs (including all the admin and HR outsourcing that goes with running your own business), it actually works out a pretty good deal.

SumUp Point of Sale Register

No-nonsense fees

SumUp charges no fees for set-up, cancellation or monthly minimums. You are free to sign up or end your contract whenever you like.

If you’d like to understand card payment processing costs a little better, we have a whole article on it here.

SumUp’s customer support

SumUp customer tend to report good customer service

SumUp’s online support centre will be able to help you with most of your enquiries. But you can also email or call their team during weekday working hours and on Saturdays (not Sundays, though).

You may also be comforted to know that native English speakers will be answering the phone. You may spot some grumbles from 2013, but SumUp have upped their support team since then, so we are happy to give them our Startups thumbs up for customer service.

Competitor reviews – SumUp vs iZettle, Square, WorldPay and PayPal

SumUp is a great card payment option for small and budget-conscious businesses

Unlike with some more traditional credit card processing companies, SumUp is an affordable option, with some of the lowest device costs and transaction fees, no monthly charges, and no lock-ins.

Though of course, it’s not perfect. For even more jam-packed features, you might like to explore Square, if a fancy app is your thing, you could try iZettle, and if your start-up is enjoying some jaw-dropping sales (upwards of £2,500 a month, every month) PayPal does become more attractive.

But even with this fierce competition from a host of mobile card payment providers, SumUp still takes the prize for affordability.

This table shows you how SumUp compares to its top rivals:

Card Reader Device Cost Transaction Fee Settlement time
sumup logo £59 (incl. VAT) 1.69% Mostly 3 business days
square logo £39 (excl. VAT) 1.75% Instant deposits (1% fee applies),
bank account times vary
iZettle £59 (incl. VAT) 1.75% (flat rate) 2 – 3 business days
worldpay logo £39.99 (incl. VAT) 2.75% – 1.95% 3 – 4 days
paypal here logo £75 (incl. VAT) 2.75 – 1% (depending on sales) Instantly to PayPal,
bank account times vary

In a nutshell

With one of the UK’s lowest transaction fees for mobile card readers of just 1.69%, and a friendly, flat-rate fee structure, SumUp Air is ideal for any lower-volume small businesses or sole traders.

SumUp may not have as much clout on paper as a brand like PayPal, but with backers including BBVA Ventures, Groupon and American Express, you can be sure your business and your customers will be in good hands.

Plus, SumUp’s biggest asset is its simplicity, making it ideal for busy small business owners. Here’s what you could look forward to with SumUp:

  1. Fair, predictable pricing – Clear fees make it easy to understand what you’ll be paying
  2. SMS payments – Giving your customers handy ways of paying can make balancing the books smoother and faster than ever
  3. SumUp Point of Sale Register – You can let SumUp take care of your entire card payment admin (that may be bad news for your existing bookkeeper, but good news for your bottom line)

So, if you’re bringing in monthly card payments of under £5,000, and wanting to make credit and debit card processing fuss-free, we at Startups think SumUp could be a top card payment processing option for you.

compare quotes

Next steps…

Still scratching your head? You won’t be alone, but we at Startups are helping to save our readers time and money with our quick quote-finder.

We don’t mean to blow our own trumpet, but we think it’s the easiest way of getting your hands on quotes from the best suppliers for our business.

You tell us your specs, and you can start talking directly with the top suppliers for you – ask them any questions you have, and get quotes to compare yourself.

To complete this final step, just click here to jump back to our little form, and don’t waste any more time.