Compare card payment machines

Find out how card readers work and how to choose the best card payment machine for your business.

Table: sorted by transaction cost, promoted deals first
Name Product Initial cost Monthly cost Transaction cost Payment methods Networks Key benefits Link
Square Terminal
£149
£0
1.75%
Contactless, Chip and Pin, Magnetic swipe
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
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View details
Square Reader
£16
£0
1.75%
Contactless, Chip and Pin
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
Go to site
View details
takepayments Plus
£0
£25
0.3% - 2.5% (subject to status)
Contactless, Chip and Pin, Magnetic swipe
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
Read review
View details
takepayments Portable
£0
Subject to status
0.3% - 2.5% (subject to status)
Contactless, Chip and Pin
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
Read review
View details
takepayments Mobile
£0
Subject to status
0.3% - 2.5% (subject to status)
Contactless, Chip and Pin
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
Read review
View details
takepayments Countertop
£0
Subject to status
0.3% - 2.5% (subject to status)
Contactless, Chip and Pin
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
Read review
View details
Dojo One
£0
£20
1.3% + 3p
Contactless, Chip and Pin, Magnetic swipe
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
Read review
View details
Dojo Go
£0
£20
1.3% + 3p
Contactless, Chip and Pin, Magnetic swipe
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
Read review
View details
SumUp 3G and Printer
£149
£0
1.69%
Contactless, Chip and Pin
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
Read review
View details
SumUp Air
£29
£0
1.69%
Contactless, Chip and Pin
google pay iconapple pay iconamerican express iconvisa iconmastercard icon
Read review
View details
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As more and more people use card payments over cash, it’s increasingly important to find the right card payment machine for your business.

Card payment machines come in a range of shapes and sizes, with different machines designed for different businesses. Here’s how to find the right one for you.

What are card payment machines?

Card payment machines, also called card readers, are handheld devices that can be used to accept payments either by chip and PIN or contactless. They might also be able to accept payments using a smartphone or mobile device.

In an increasingly cashless society, card payment machines are becoming essential for businesses. And as their popularity rises, there are an increasing number of card machines for businesses to choose from. Different card readers have different features, fees and upfront costs, so it’s important to compare your options carefully.

What are the different types of card payment machines?

There are 3 main types of card payment machines – countertop, portable and mobile.

Countertop card payment machines are for use at till points in stores and are best suited for businesses with fixed payment points, such as small retailers. They are not portable, but they usually have good connectivity. They can accept both chip-and-PIN and contactless card payments as well as payments through Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Portable card payment machines are designed for businesses with multiple points of sale and enable you to take the card reader directly to the customer. This can make them ideal for restaurants and cafes. Portable card readers use Wi-Fi technology to process payments, and both chip-and-PIN and contactless transactions can be carried out.

Mobile card readers are small, battery-powered devices and use GPRS technology to process payments so that you can take card payments wherever you happen to be. They come with a built-in SIM card and can process both chip-and-PIN and contactless transactions. Because of their ease of use and portability, they are ideal for pop-up stores, tradespeople and markets.

How do card readers work?

Card readers work by extracting information from a customer’s debit or credit card, either when the card is inserted into the machine or tapped against the terminal (for contactless payments). This information is transmitted to the payment processor and information is collected from the customer’s bank. If there are sufficient funds in the account, the transaction will be approved.

The customer’s bank then puts a hold on those funds and the transaction is marked as pending. Over the next few days, the funds are moved across to the merchant’s bank account, processed and deposited into the account.

Why should my business get a card reader?

According to UK Finance, cash was used for just 17% of all payments in the UK in 2020. Meanwhile, the number of contactless payments rose by 12% to 9.6 billion payments and accounted for more than a quarter of all UK payments. The use of mobile phones and smartwatches to make payments is also growing.

All of this means that it’s becoming increasingly important that your business is able to accept card payments if you don’t want to risk losing out on sales.

UK card readers

Below is a list of some of the best UK card readers available:

Barclaycard

The Barclaycard Anywhere card reader enables you to take credit, debit and digital payments in-store or on the move. It comes with a pay as you go contract and there’s a one-off rental fee of £29 plus VAT. It has a transaction fee of 1.6%.

You’ll be able to manage payments in real-time with the Barclaycard Anywhere app on your mobile device, and you can then connect your card reader via Bluetooth. The app allows users to export data to make accounting easier, check sales, issue e-receipts and give refunds from your online dashboard as well as add multiple users on a single account.

The Barclaycard Flex card reader has a monthly rental fee of £20 plus VAT and comes with an 18 month contract. You can choose between a pay-as-you-go option, which is useful if you’re a seasonal trader or your annual card turnover is less than £200,000. You can also choose a tailored pricing package for your business if you take more than £200,000 in card payments annually.

SumUp

SumUp has 4 different types of card reader. They come at different costs but all have a transaction fee of 1.69%.

SumUp Air and SumUp Air and Cradle are the most compact, and the cheapest options at £29 and £39, respectively. Both work together with the free SumUp app and both connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet. SumUp Air can be a good option for businesses in-store and on the go for deliveries.

SumUp Solo is a standalone device with a touchscreen interface and comes at a cost of £99. It works with Wi-Fi and also has free unlimited mobile data with a built-in SIM card. In addition, it comes with a charging station to keep your card reader constantly charged.

Finally, SumUp 3G and Printer costs £149 and works without a smartphone. It comes with a built-in SIM card and free unlimited mobile data and Wi-Fi connectivity. It can also print receipts and the printer functions as a charging base.

Square

Square Reader costs just £16 and has a transaction fee of 1.75%. The card reader accepts chip-and-PIN cards, contactless cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay, and it connects wirelessly. Its compact nature makes it easy for transactions on the go, and the app enables you to enter sales quickly and have access to real-time inventory and reporting.

Square Terminal is a larger device that enables you to take payments and print receipts. It is also portable and includes a powerful battery, allowing you to take payments anywhere in your store or restaurant. It comes at a cost of £149 plus VAT and has a 1.75% transaction fee.

Zettle

The Zettle Card Reader 2 is a straightforward device that costs just £29. There is also a 1.75% transaction fee. When paired with one of Zettle’s point-of-sale apps, the reader accepts all credit cards and contactless payments and can be set up quickly. You’ll also be able to send digital receipts, send online invoices and issue full or partial refunds. It also enables you to track staff productivity.

The Zettle Terminal is a larger device than the Zettle Card Reader 2 and allows you to add a receipt printer and docking station if needed, making it a good choice for stores and restaurants with a professional workstation. It comes at a cost of £149 plus VAT and has a 1.75% transaction fee.

takepayments

There are a number of different card readers to choose from with takepayments. All of them come with 12-month contracts and no set-up fees, but prices are personalised depending on your requirements.

  • The touchscreen card machine has, as the name suggests, a touchscreen for ease of use and enables you to add up to 6 users.
  • The countertop card machine is ideal for those who need to take payments behind a till or reception point. It plugs directly into your broadband or phone line.
  • The portable card machine uses wireless Bluetooth technology so that you can take payments at the table. It’s small and light and has a long-lasting battery. /li>
  • The mobile card machine uses 3G to connect to a GPRS signal via a SIM card so that you can accept card payments anytime, anywhere. It’s light and portable and has an integrated printer.

There’s also takepaymentsplus, which costs £25 a month and allows you to access real-time reporting and accountancy-ready sales reports. It also gives you up-to-date reporting on the stock you sell.

Dojo

Dojo offers two types of card reader – the Dojo Go which is a standalone, on-the-go device and the Dojo One which is an integrated, countertop terminal. Both card machines cost between £15 and £20 per month, depending on your business’s annual card turnover and a variable transaction cost of 1.3% +3p to 2.3% +3p depending on card type and payment method.

How to choose the best card reader

To find the best card reader, follow the steps below:

  1. Work out what you need from a card reader. Think about whether you’ll need a card reader that’s portable – for example, if you run a cafe with tables outside or if you drive around to visit customers – or whether your business has a fixed payment point, in which case a countertop card reader would be suitable. Consider, too, whether you need one that allows you to print receipts and so on.
  2. Find the providers that offer the type of card reader you’re after. Next, take a look at the providers that offer the type of machine you need, including whether they can be linked to an app. Make sure the app offers everything you need it to – for example, if you can track your payments and send invoices.
  3. Compare different card machines. Once you’ve got your list of suitable providers, make sure you compare exactly what’s on offer and how much each one costs – both for the device itself and the transaction fees.
  4. Pick the card machine you want. Finally, once you’ve found the card machine you want, click through to apply online or give the provider a call to get your application up and running.

How to compare card reader machines

Fees and charges

Card machines feature a range of fees and charges. Some of the most common include the following:

  • Initial or monthly costs. There will usually be an upfront fee for buying the card reader outright (or renting it in some cases) or a monthly fee for renting it. Check whether VAT is included.
  • Transaction costs. These can range between 1.6% and 1.75% and are charged each time a transaction is carried out.
  • Card not present transaction costs. Some card readers might charge separate fees for transactions taken over the phone.
  • Chargeback costs. You may have to pay a fee if a customer disputes a transaction and the card payment is returned.
  • Refund costs. If you’re signed up to a contract and want to get out of it early, there may be a fee to pay.
  • Cancellation costs. You may have to pay a fee if a customer disputes a transaction and the card payment is returned.
  • Contract. Depending on the provider, you might be charged a monthly contract fee.

Features

  • Connectivity. Check whether your card reader needs to be connected to a phone or tablet, whether it only uses Wi-Fi or whether it can also use GPRS technology.
  • Payment methods. Check whether the card reader can take chip-and-PIN and contactless payments as well as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay.
  • Settlement in working days. Check how soon the money from a transaction will reach your account. This is often between 1 and 3 working days.
  • Battery life. How many transactions can the card reader carry out before needing to be recharged?
  • Warranty period. Check whether it comes with a 12-month or 24-month warranty if there are any issues with the device.
  • Money back guarantee. Will you get your money back if you’re not satisfied with your card reader? Check how long you have to return the device to qualify.
  • Cashback. Some card reader providers offer benefits such as cashback, so factor this into your comparison.

Add-ons

  • Printer. Some card readers come with an in-built printer, which can be handy for receipts.
  • Barcode scanner. Consider whether your business would benefit from having a barcode scanner on the device.
  • Dock. Check whether the device comes with a dock for easy charging.

Pros and cons of card readers

Pros

  • Flexible pricing
  • Several different options to suit your business needs
  • Convenient for both you and your customers
  • Immediate and secure transactions

Cons

  • Fees can be high
  • Delay in receiving funds compared to cash

Frequently asked questions

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

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