Compare card payment machines

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

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Square Virtual Terminal logo

Accept payments anywhere

  • Secure payments
  • No long term contracts
  • Cash flow management
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Transaction fees apply. Prices from £19 + VAT.

Our Barclaycard top picks

Best for pos system
Barclaycard Payments Smartpay Touch logo
Barclaycard Payments Smartpay Touch
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1.6% Transaction fee
No upfront costs
All-day battery life
Accepts card, digital and telephone payments
Best for flexible connectivity
Barclaycard Payments Flex Mobile logo
Barclaycard Payments Flex Mobile
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1.6% Transaction fee
Low monthly fee
Flexible connectivity
Accepts up to 700 sales a day
Best for portable
Barclaycard Smartpay Anywhere logo
Barclaycard Smartpay Anywhere
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1.6% Transaction fee
Travel friendly
No monthly cost
Manage payments via the app

Table: sorted by transaction cost, promoted deals first
1 - 10 of 49
Name Product Initial cost Monthly cost Transaction cost Contract Networks Key benefits Link
Square Terminal
£149
£0
1.75%
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OFFER
Tide Card Reader
£89
£0
1.5%
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Get £100 cashback when you receive £500 in payments with your Tide Card Reader within 60 days of opening an account. Use code CARDREADER100 when you sign up. T&Cs apply.
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Barclaycard Smartpay Anywhere
£29
£0
1.6%
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OFFER
Barclaycard Payments Smartpay Touch
£0
£14.50 + VAT*
1.6%
12 month
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*50% off card reader rental fees until 31 December 2024. Apply by 30 April 2024. T&Cs apply.
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OFFER
Barclaycard Payments Flex Mobile
£0
£7.50 + VAT*
1.6%
18 month
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*50% off card reader rental fees until 31 December 2024. Apply by 30 April 2024. T&Cs apply.
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Square Reader
£19
£0
1.75%
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OFFER
SumUp Air
£39
£0
1.69%
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When you buy a SumUp card reader with a SumUp business account, get reduced transaction fees from 1.69% to 1.49%.
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OFFER
SumUp Solo
£79
£0
1.69%
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When you buy a SumUp card reader with a SumUp business account, get reduced transaction fees from 1.69% to 1.49%.
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takepayments Plus
Subject to status
Subject to status
Subject to status
12 month
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takepayments Countertop
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Subject to status
Subject to status
12 months
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As card payments are the most popular way for consumers to make transactions, it has become crucial for businesses to choose a card payment machine that fits its needs the best.

With a vast range of different sizes, shapes and features available, there are specific machines designed for various types of businesses. In this guide, we’ll help you select the best card machine for your business.

What are card payment machines?

Card payment machines, sometimes referred to as card readers, are devices that allow you to accept credit and debit card payments via chip and PIN or contactless methods. They might also be able to accept payments using a smartphone or mobile device.

With society moving toward a cashless environment, card payment machines have become an indispensable tool for businesses. And as their popularity rises, there are an increasing number of card machines for businesses to choose from. Different card readers come with various features, fees, and upfront costs, so it’s essential to compare options carefully to find the right one for your business.

What are the different types of card payment machines?

There are 3 main types of card payment machines – countertop, portable and mobile. Depending on the size of your business, whether you’re a small pop-up business or a larger restaurant chain, there are different types of card machines designed for your needs.

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.

Image of bank card along a stat: 91% of card transactions in 2022 were contactless, according to a Barclays study

Why should my business get a card reader?

According to UK Finance, in 2022, contactless payments accounted for 37% of all transactions in the UK, while cash transactions constituted 14%. This marks a significant increase from 19% in 2019, highlighting the growing importance of businesses being equipped to accept card payments to avoid missing out on sales.

UK card readers

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

Revolut

Revolut has recently expanded its product line and launched its first card machine – the Revolut Reader. Like with most card readers, the Revolut point-of-sale (POS) terminal accepts instant and secure transactions whether they are made using debit cards, credit cards or contactless payment methods.

According to Revolut, the Revolut Reader can take payments in under “5 seconds” and with it’s competively low transaction fees, what’s there not to like? Well if your customers’ favour American Express, you might want to consider a different machine, as the Revolut Reader does not currently support payments from an Amex.

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 £7.50 plus VAT and comes with an 18 month contract. Start-ups and small businesses that take lower volume or low-value transactions will be charged a 1.6% fee for each transaction. Bigger businesses that take high volume or high-value transactions will have a variable monthly cost per transaction and a personalised pricing plan.

SumUp

SumUp has 3 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 £39 and £44, 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 £79. 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 £129 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 £19 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, plus VAT. 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.
  • 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.

Top 4 best mobile card readers for UK small businesses April 2024

The best mobile card reader for your small business will ultimately depend on how much you can afford to spend on a card reader and whether you’re happy to be tied into a contract. We’ve outlined some of our top choices for small businesses below:

Best for flexible connectivity

Barclaycard Payments Flex Mobile

1.6%

Transaction fee

£7.50

Monthly fees

18 month

Contract

700 sales

Battery life

This multi-purpose device accepts all payment types and has flexible connectivity so that you can keep trading wherever you are. It can switch between Bluetooth, GPRS, WiFi and mobile data networks. The card reader can accept up to 700 sales a day on a full charge and comes with a monthly rental fee of £10, plus VAT. There's also a 1.6% transaction fee for small businesses that take lower volume transactions - this cost is variable for bigger businesses.
  • Low monthly fee
  • Flexible connectivity
  • Accepts up to 700 sales a day
  • Variable transaction fee
  • 18 month contract
  • Battery life
Initial cost £0
Monthly fees £7.50
Transaction fee 1.6%
Contract 18 month
Networks Amex
Visa
Mastercard
Connectivity SIM card
Bluetooth
WiFi
Payment method Contactless
Chip and Pin
Magnetic swipe

Best for battery life

Dojo Go

1.4%

Transaction fee

£20

Monthly fees

1 month minimum

Contract

10 hours

Battery life

This sleek device offers mobile 4G connectivity and has a 10-hour battery life, making it ideal for small businesses with on-the-go transactions. Minimum contract terms start from 1 month. You’ll pay a terminal fee of £20 a month if you make less than £150,000 in annual card turnover, or £15 a month if you make more than £150,000 in annual card turnover. Transaction fees also vary.
  • Long-lasting battery
  • 4G connectivity
  • £20 monthly fee
  • Transaction fees vary
Initial cost £0
Monthly fees £20
Transaction fee 1.4%
Contract 1 month minimum
Networks Amex
Visa
Mastercard
Connectivity SIM card
WiFi
Payment method Contactless
Chip and Pin
Magnetic swipe

Best for no monthly fees

Zettle Card Reader 2

1.75%

Transaction fee

£29

Initial cost

No contract

Contract

100 sales

Battery life

This mobile card reader takes quick card and contactless payments for in-store and on-the-go sales. There’s no monthly fee, just an upfront payment of £29, plus VAT, and a 1.75% transaction fee. You’ll need to pair it to your mobile device and it works with a range of point-of-sale apps and you can scale it as your business grows.
  • No contract
  • Pairs with mobile device
  • Fixed transaction fee
  • Suited for small businesses
  • Higher transaction fee compared to others
Initial cost £29
Monthly fees £0
Transaction fee 1.75%
Contract No contract
Networks Amex
Visa
Mastercard
Connectivity Bluetooth
WiFi
Payment method Contactless
Chip and Pin

Best for on-the-go sales

takepayments Mobile

12 month

Contract

All day

Battery life

No

Cashback

You’ll be able to take card payments anywhere, any time with this portable device. This can be a great choice if your business is in the hospitality industry and you regularly serve customers outside. It’s easy to set up and has a long lasting battery, plus a fast integrated printer. It comes with a SIM card and will connect to the strongest GPRS signal available through 3G. Prices are tailored to your business and you’ll need to sign up to a 12 month contract.
  • No set-up fees
  • Integrated printer
  • Long lasting battery
  • Prices vary
  • 12 month contract
Contract 12 month
Networks Amex
Visa
Mastercard
Connectivity SIM card
Bluetooth
WiFi
Payment method Contactless
Chip and Pin

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 and whether you’re happy to be tied into a contract.
  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. Check the battery life too.
  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. The size of your business and the volume of transactions typically made will alter what card reader will work best for you. For example, some payment machine platforms charge a higher transaction fee for a lower volume of sales. So if you are a small business looking for your best card machine, make sure you read the T&Cs before you commit.

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 2.5% 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. Some card readers will also charge you if you need to refund a customer for a purchase.
  • Cancellation costs. If you’re signed up to a contract and want to get out of it early, there may be a fee to pay.
  • 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.

Not all card readers accept American Express payments and those that do will often charge higher transaction fees. Make sure you consider this when comparing card readers for your business.”

Rachel Wait, financial journalist

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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