Compare portable card machines

Find out how portable card machines work and how they could benefit your business.

Compare portable card readers

Name Product Initial cost Monthly cost Transaction cost Contract Networks Key benefits Link
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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Square Terminal
£149
£0
1.75%
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takepayments Plus
Subject to status
Subject to status
Subject to status
12 month
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Dojo Go
£0
£20
1.4% + 3p
1 month minimum
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Portable card machines have made it even easier for businesses such as restaurants to accept credit and debit card payments from customers. Queuing up at a till point to pay by card is no longer a requirement, since portable card machines can easily be taken to customers at the table.

What is a portable card machine?

A portable card machine is a lightweight card reader that can easily be carried around by staff. It can be suitable for businesses with multiple points of sale or those that wish to take the machine straight to the customer.

Portable card machines can be convenient for both businesses and customers. After all, if you run a café, customers can pay their bill without needing to leave the table.

Portable devices tend to have a long battery life, so you don’t need to constantly charge them, and they often include a printer, enabling you to easily hand receipts to customers.

Examples of portable card machines

Some examples of portable card machines include Square Terminal, Paymentsense portable card machine, and the Handepay portable card reader.

Top 10 portable card machines

  1. Square Terminal
  2. Paymentsense portable card machine
  3. Handepay portable card machine
  4. Dojo Go
  5. Takepayments A920 card machine
  6. Tyl by NatWest Clover Flex
  7. Barclaycard Payments Smartpay Touch
  8. Ingenico AXIUM DX4000 Portable
  9. Tide Card Reader Plus
  10. Verifone V400m

How do portable card machines work?

Portable card machines usually use a Wi-Fi connection so you can take payments wherever your customers are. They can typically be used within a 50- to 100-metre range when using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Some devices might also include mobile SIM connectivity, so you can still use your device when Wi-Fi connectivity isn’t available.

Customers can pay using their debit or credit card by inserting their card into the device and entering their PIN or by paying contactlessly. Many card readers also accept payments with Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Payments are usually transferred into your bank account within 1 to 3 working days.

Portable card machines usually come with a base or dock to charge up your machine when needed. Many also include a printer, so you can print out receipts, and some will link to your mobile phone or laptop to help you keep track of transactions.

Why use a portable card machine?

Portable card machines can be ideal if you want your customers to be able to pay where they are rather than paying at a fixed till point. This can be particularly beneficial if you’re a restaurant with outdoor seating, but you might also find it useful if you run a hair salon, florist or guest house, for example.

Using a portable card machine means you don’t need to worry about any wires getting in the way when you take payments and ensures you don’t lose out on sales if your customers don’t carry cash.

Portable card machine costs

Exact costs depends on the provider you choose and whether you pay an upfront cost or a monthly rental fee.

Upfront costs can range between £79 to £179, while monthly rental fees might be around £25 to £30 plus VAT. So you’ll need to compare carefully.

On top of this, you’ll usually pay transaction fees of around 1.5% to 2%, depending on the device. If you accept Amex payments, the fee is often higher.

If you’ve paid for your card reader upfront, transaction fees are often fixed. But if you’re renting your card reader, transaction fees might depend on your sales volumes, contract length and size of business.

In addition, you might need to pay:

  • Chargeback costs. A fee might apply if a customer disputes a transaction and the card payment is returned.
  • Refund costs. Some card readers charge you for refunding a customer for a purchase.
  • Set-up fees. In some cases, a set-up fee will be charged.
  • Early exit fee. If you’re tied into a contract and want to leave early, you might be hit with a penalty fee.
  • Shipping costs. Some providers charge a small fee for sending out the device.

Pros and cons of portable card machines

Pros

  • Easy to carry round with you to take card payments from customers
  • Immediate and secure transactions
  • Range of models and features to choose from
  • Lightweight and convenient

Cons

  • You’ll need to pay a range of fees
  • Delay in receiving funds compared to cash

Who are portable card machines best for?

Portable card machines are a good option for any business that doesn’t want a fixed till point and has an accessible Wi-Fi signal. This might include:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Cafés
  • Hair salons
  • Beauticians
  • Florists
  • Takeaway restaurant
  • Convenience stores

What is the best portable card machine for small businesses?

There’s no one best portable card machine. Instead, you’ll need to compare the different devices to consider what works best for you.

Look at factors such as the overall cost, the features the device offers, connectivity and range and which card payments it accepts.

How to compare portable card machines

When comparing portable card machines, it’s worth considering the following:

  • Costs. Look at whether you’ll pay an upfront fee for the device or a monthly rental cost. Also, consider whether transaction fees are fixed or based on your business size and volume of sales.
  • Contract length. Will you be tied into a contract, and if so, for how long?
  • Payment methods. Check whether the card reader can accept chip-and-PIN and contactless payments as well as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay.
  • Battery life. Check how many transactions the card reader can carry out before it needs to be recharged.
  • Warranty period. Many devices come with a warranty, but check how long this lasts for.
  • Settlement period. Check how long it takes for money from a transaction to reach your account. This is typically 1 to 3 working days.
  • Features. If you need a printer, make sure your card reader has one.
  • Wi-Fi range. Check that the Wi-Fi range is sufficient for your needs.

Bottom line: Are portable card machines any good?

Portable card machines can be a useful way for businesses to accept card payments without the need for customers to spend ages queuing at the till.

As well as making the payment process more convenient for the customer, it also enables staff to multi-task – they can take payments on the go while also dealing with other customer queries, making your business more efficient.

However, it’s important to compare fees and features carefully to be sure you choose the right card reader for your business.

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