Read on to find out the 10 best card machines for small business.
Best Card Machines for Small Businesses
Selling goods and services is the whole purpose of any business. So, by providing customers with a variety of ways to make a payment, you can entice more customers into making a purchase from your business.
Traditionally, payments were made using cash. However, the majority of people now use debit and credit cards to purchase goods, sometimes paying over time for good, requiring businesses to possess the correct hardware and software.
A key item required is a card machine, or a card reader, which is used to process customer payments with your merchant account. But, finding the best card reader for your small business can be difficult, resulting in high transaction fees that you were unprepared for.
In this article, we will explore the variety of card readers available to provide you with the 10 best card machines for small business.
|1. Revolut Card Reader||★★★★★||Click Here|
|2. Barclaycard Card Reader||★★★★★||Click Here|
|3. Zettle Card Reader||★★★★★||Click Here|
|4. Square Card Reader||★★★★★||Click Here|
|5. Barclaycard Smartpay Anywhere||★★★★★||Click Here|
|6. Dojo Card Reader||★★★★★||Click Here|
|7. Worldpay Card Reader||★★★★★||Click Here|
|8. Tyl by NatWest||★★★★★||Click Here|
|9. SumUp Card Reader||★★★★★||Click Here|
|10. Elavon Business Booster||★★★★★||Click Here|
What Is a Card Machine for Small Business?
A card machine for small businesses is a card reader that processes a customer transaction.
When a customer buys goods or services in your business, a card reader ensures that your customer can pay using a credit or debit card.
Without a card machine, customers will be limited to paying for goods and services with cash. Implementing a cash-only policy could alienate and discourage some customers from making purchases in your business.
Providing a card machine in your business increases convenience for your customers and encourages a higher volume of sales. However, using a card machine will cost your business money as the service provider deducts a percentage of the purchase value.
A traditional card reader will be mounted next to the cash register, although handheld card readers are becoming more common. You can also find mobile card readers with a built-in GPRS SIM card to connect and process customer payments wherever you are.
Compare Best Card Machines for Small Business — Our Reviews
Which card machines are the best option for your small business?
Take a look at our expert review so you can compare the best card machine options available:
1. Revolut Card Reader — Best for Low Transaction Fees
- Compatible with major currencies
- Numerous integrations
- Accepts credit and debit cards
- Zero monthly costs
- Card reader cost: £49 + VAT
- Card reader transaction fee: 0.8% + 2p
- Online transaction fee: 1% + 20p
Revolut offers a white Revolut card reader that is compatible with all major currencies. You can add numerous integrations to your Revolut account, such as web-based accounting software, to automatically update accurate records.
Customers can make payments with debit and credit cards when using Revolut, being charged a low transaction fee of only 0.8% of the transaction value, as well as a 2p fixed fee. This is one of the lowest transaction fees and fixed fees available from card reader providers in the UK.
Your customers can also pay online as their preferred payment method for a transaction fee of only 1%, plus a fixed fee of 20p.
To purchase the Revolut card reader, you will need to pay a cost of £49 for the hardware. However, this is a one-off cost with zero monthly costs applicable to your account.
2. Barclaycard Card Reader — Best for Reliability
- Contactless and chip and PIN acceptance
- 18 month contract
- Zero cancellation fees
- Monthly card reader rental cost: £15 + VAT
- Transaction fee: 1.6% of the purchase value
The Barclaycard card reader is a reliable choice that rests on the reputation of one of the biggest service providers in the world.
Customers can choose to pay with their credit cards or debit cards to process contactless or chip and PIN transactions.
This card reader from Barclaycard costs £15 plus VAT each month and you must sign up to an 18 month contract. However, zero cancellation fees apply.
When a payment is processed, a transaction fee of 1.6% of the purchase value is applicable.
3. Zettle Card Reader — Best for Zero Monthly Costs
- Battery life: 8 hours
- Compatible with major currencies
- PCI compliance
- Accepts credit and debit cards
- Zero monthly costs
- Card reader cost: £59 + VAT
- Charging dock: £39 + VAT
- Card reader transaction fee: 1.75%
- Payment link transaction fee: 2.5%
- QR code transaction fee: 1%
The Zettle card reader is one of our favourite choice of card reader for small businesses. Each card reader possesses a battery life of 8 hours, and can be purchased in a choice of black or white colours.
Being compatible with all major currencies, you will have the versatility to adapt payment options to meet your customer needs. Furthermore, Zettle is a card reader from PayPal so you can count on PayPal’s reputation.
When purchasing the Zettle card reader, you will pay no monthly fees, keeping your business costs low. However, adding PCI compliance to your package will ensure that your business is meeting all of its required obligations.
To purchase the Zettle card reader, you will pay a one-off cost of £59 plus VAT. You will also need to purchase the charging dock to re-charge your card reader once the 8-hour battery life has expired. The charging dock will cost you a one-off cost of £39 plus VAT.
When a customer makes a payment using the card reader, a transaction fee of 1.75% of the purchase value will be charged to your business.
If your customer pays using a QR code, a lower transaction fee of 1% of the purchase value will be charged. However, a transaction fee of 2.5% is applicable if a customer makes a payment using a payment link.
This card reader for small business accepts all debit and credit cards so you know you can always accept payments from customers.
4. Square Card Reader — Best for Fast Transfers
- Transfers funds the next working day
- 8-hour battery life
- Accepts credit and debit cards
- Contactless transactions only
- Zero monthly costs
- Card reader cost: £19 + VAT
- Charging dock cost: £25 + VAT
- Card reader transaction fee: 1.75%
- Online transaction fees: 1.4% + 25p for UK cards
- 2.5% + 25p for non-UK cards
The Square card reader ensures that you receive the funds from customer payments the next working day. This card reader will cost a hardware fee of £19 plus VAT.
Customers can use their credit cards and debit cards to pay for purchases using the Square card reader. However, this is a contactless-only card reader with no keypad, so the reader does not process chip and PIN transactions.
You will receive an 8-hour battery life for your card reader device, with a cost of £25 plus VAT to pay for the charging dock.
Transaction fees for payments using this card reader are 1.75% of the purchase value, a typically average transaction fee. However, when online transactions are processed, a transaction fee of 1.4% of the purchase value is charged for UK cards, along with a 25p fixed fee.
Non-UK cards face a transaction fee of 2.5% of the purchase value, however, when an online transaction is processed. This is in addition to the standard 25p fixed fee.
5. Barclaycard Smartpay Anywhere — Best for Pay-As-You-Go
- Barclaycard brand
- Pay-as-you-go option
- Zero monthly fees
- Card reader one-off cost: £29 + VAT
- Transaction fee: 1.6% of the purchase value
The Smartpay Anywhere card reader from Barclaycard is a great pay-as-you-go option with zero monthly fees. The service provider behind this card reader is Barclaycard, a company you know you can rely on.
To purchase this card reader, you will need to pay a one-off cost of £29 plus VAT. This is the only cost you will need to pay to set up the card reader with no monthly costs to pay. However, this is a pocket-sized, pay-as-you-go card reader that you can use in many areas of your business.
When a customer makes a purchase from your business, you will need to pay a transaction fee of 1.6% of the purchase value. This is an average transaction fee that many card reader providers charge.
6. Dojo Card Reader — Best for Clear Prices
- 6-month contract
- 10-hour battery life
- Receive funds in one working day
- Monthly cost: £20 per month
- Transaction fee: 1.4% + 5p
The Dojo card reader requires a 6-month contract, much less than other service providers who typically ask for 18 month contracts.
The pricing structure of the Dojo card reader is clear so you know where your business stands. The card reader possesses a 10-hour battery life so you can take payments through the entire working day.
Funds from payments processed by the card reader will be sent to your business account in one working day.
Transaction fees for purchases made by the card reader are 1.4% of the purchase value. However, a fixed fee of 5p is also applicable for every transaction processed.
7. Worldpay Card Reader — Best for Choice
- Worldpay Business Dashboard integration
- Choose a monthly plan or custom plan
- Additional add-ons to tailor your package
- Large touchscreen reader
- 18-month contract
- Monthly plan: £49.99 per month plus transaction fees of 1% to 2.75%
- Custom plan: £19 per month plus transaction fees of 2.75% and 20p fixed fee
The Worldpay card reader service offers a reliable and comprehensive card reader service that can be tailored to your business needs. Choose from a monthly plan or a custom plan with Worldpay.
A monthly plan will cost you a regular monthly fee of £49.99 in addition to transaction fees that vary between 1% and 2.75%. The transaction fees payable will vary, according to the number of sales made.
A custom plan will cost a lower monthly fee of only £19 per month, saving a considerable amount of cash over time. However, transaction fees will be charged at a higher rate of 2.75% of the purchase value, in addition to a 20p fixed fee for each payment processed.
Typically, Worldpay will require an 18 month contract for you to access the large touchscreen card reader. Add-ons and integrations are also available, such as a Worldpay Business Dashboard integration for only £4.99 per month.
Payments can also be taken over the phone with a virtual terminal at a cost of £9.95 per month.
8. Tyl by NatWest — Best for Freelancers
- Flexible contract
- 8-hour battery life
- Receive funds by one working day
- Monthly cost: £14.95 + VAT
- Transaction fees: 1.5% of the purchase value
The Tyl card reader from NatWest is a great choice for freelancers and sole trader businesses, offering flexible contracts to meet your own needs.
You will receive the Tyl card reader complete with an 8-hour battery life, relying on the secure reputation of NatWest to provide a good service provider for your business.
Typical monthly costs for this card reader is £14.95 plus VAT, with no other costs payable until a customer makes a purchase from your business.
When a customer does make a purchase and their payment is processed by the Tyl card reader, you will pay a transaction fee of 1.5% of the purchase value. Additionally, funds paid by your customers will clear to your account within one working day, much faster than many other service providers.
9. SumUp Card Reader — Best for Low Sales Volumes
- Suitable for online business
- Own 3G connection
- No contract
- Card reader cost: £29 + VAT
- Transaction fees: 1.69% to 2.5% of purchase value
The SumUp card reader is a great choice for online businesses and businesses whose sales volumes remain typically low.
No contract is required to purchase the SumUp card reader, increasing the flexibility available to your business.
Furthermore, when used with a SIM card, this card reader has its own 3G connection so makes payment transactions straightforward.
The transaction fee for purchases processed with the SumUp card reader is 1.69% of the purchase value. Furthermore, transaction fees of 2.5% are payable for invoice transactions.
10. Elavon Business Booster — Best for Established Businesses
- Portable card reader
- Receive money the next day
- Technical support 24/7
- Monthly cost: £18 per month
- Transaction fee: 0.99% of the purchase value
The Elavon card reader offers different options for your business which are suitable for established businesses. Whichever option you choose, you will receive technical support 24/7.
The Business Booster Tetra Move plan offers you a portable card reader that can process wireless payments. You will receive the funds from customer transactions the next working day.
The monthly cost for this plan is £18 per month whilst the transaction fee for payments to be processed are charged at 0.99% of the purchase value.
At a Glance, Pros and Cons
What are the pros and cons of using a card machine in your small business:
✔️ Chip and PIN payments — Your business can accept chip and PIN credit card payments from customers with the correct card reader.
✔️ Contactless payments — Many card readers accept contactless payments to be processed, providing a fast transaction.
✔️ Customer choice — When using a combined card reader, your customer can choose whether to pay with a contactless transaction, a chip and PIN transaction, or a cash payment, opting for countertop or mobile card machines.
✔️ Automation — Your card reader will automatically provide a record of the purchases made using the card machine.
❌️ Set-up costs — Your card reader service provider might charge you a set-up cost of up to £50 before you even use the card machine.
❌️ Contracts — Some service providers will require that you agree to a contract for up to 18 months, tying you to their card reader and transaction fees.
❌️ International payments — Some service providers charge a higher fee for international cards and currency conversion.
❌️ Fixed fees — As well as paying a transaction fee for every purchase.
How Does a Card Machine for Small Business Work?
A card machine for small business works by connecting to your business merchant account to process a customer’s payment.
The customer will use their credit or debit card to pay for goods or services, tapping the card reader with their card or inserting their card and entering their PIN.
The card machine sends the customer’s details to the merchant account for verification, and then the card machine will indicate whether the transaction has been authorised.
How Does a Card Reader Process a Payment?
The process undertaken by a card reader when a customer makes a payment lasts just a few seconds, yet is a complicated procedure.
Here are the steps a card reader follows to process a card payment:
The customer will either tap their card on the card reader for a contactless payment, or they will insert the card into the card reader so the machine can read the data stored on the chip.
The customer will then enter their PIN into the card reader keypad.
- Verifying the card – The business’s merchant account will contact the issuer of the card, such as a Visa credit card to verify the card.
The issuer of the card is the bank or building society who has given the card to the customer.
- Authorising the payment – Once the card issuer has verified the card, they will check how much money the customer has in their bank account to determine whether they can afford the purchase.
- Confirming the purchase – As soon as the card issuer has checked whether the customer has enough money to pay for the purchase, the card issuer informs the merchant account that the transaction can be approved.
The card reader will state that the transaction has been ‘approved’ or ‘declined’.
Are There Different Types of Card Machines?
How can you take card payments in your business?
Here are three different types of card machines that you could consider for small business.
1. Countertop Card Reader
Countertop readers are fixed to the premises next to the cash register. They will be connected to the main power and will require an internet connection.
These card readers will usually be used to process chip and PIN payments, where the card is inserted into the reader, as well as contactless payments where the card taps the reader.
2. Portable Card Reader
Portable card machines can be carried around by the employee and passed to the customer when payment is required. This is common practice in restaurants so the customer can pay whilst seated at their table.
Portable card readers are battery powered and will use the premise’s WiFi.
3. Mobile Card Reader
A mobile card reader will possess its own battery that can be charged for at least 8 hours of use. It will also have its own GPRS SIM card so you can attain an internet connection wherever you are.
This type of card reader is typically used when businesses sell goods or services at outdoor locations, such as at food festivals.
How Does a Contactless Card Reader Work?
A contactless card reader relies on an internet connection and wireless capabilities, known as Radio Frequency Identification, to work efficiently.
You must ensure that the contactless card reader is connected properly and that there is a strong internet connection. You also need to ensure mobile card machines have sufficient battery life.
The customer will tap their card onto the card payment machine when they want to make a payment. When a successful connection is made, the card reader will signal a ‘beep’ within seconds to show that the transaction is approved.
The same process takes place with contactless transactions, however, even though it seems to occur within a shorter time. Once the customer taps their card onto card payment machines, a fast signal is sent to the card issuer from the merchant account to verify the card and seek authorisation.
A signal is then sent back from the card issuer to the card payment machine to highlight whether the transaction is approved or declined.
A customer can also make a contactless payment using their digital wallet, such as Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. This works in the same way as a contactless credit or debit card, yet the data and card information are stored inside the customer’s mobile phone device.
The customer will transfer the card data into their mobile phone device’s digital wallet. Many different cards and card types can be stored in one digital wallet including expense cards, travel money cards, and fuel cards.
When a customer wants to make a contactless transaction using their digital wallet, they will open the digital wallet application on their mobile phone device and choose the card they want to pay with.
They will then tap the contactless card reader with the mobile phone device and the merchant bank seeks verification and authorisation from the card issuer.
The card issuer will then send a signal back to the contactless card reader to state whether the purchase has been approved or declined.
What Are the Benefits of Contactless Transactions?
Flexible contactless transactions are fast and are so much more efficient for both the customer and the business. The customer does not need to insert their credit card or debit card into card payment machines and so a PIN is not required.
A simple tap of the card on the card payment machine saves time and reduces queuing times for many businesses. Your business can increase satisfaction as a result, allowing for higher sales volumes in the business.
However, contactless transactions can decrease security. If your card is lost or stolen, a thief can use your credit card or debit card without entering the PIN into the card payment machine.
Many card issuers allow a £100 contactless limit, so a thief could make numerous expensive purchases without a PIN until you cancel the card with your bank or building society.
However, if contactless transactions are made using a digital wallet such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay, you can add biometric authentication to your card details.
This means that facial recognition or a fingerprint is required to use the cards stored in your digital wallet to make a contactless transaction. This adds an extra level of security finances when card payments are made.
How Does a Chip and PIN Card Reader Work?
A chip and PIN card reader can be fixed to the countertop or it can be mobile.
Depending on the type of chip and PIN card reader, it might be connected to the mains power and premises WiFi, or it could have its own battery supply and a GPRS SIM internet connection.
When a customer wants to make a purchase using a chip and PIN card payment machine, they will insert their card into the card reader and then enter their PIN.
The data stored in the card chip and the PIN will be sent from the merchant account to the card issuer to seek verification and authorisation. The card issuer will inform the merchant bank of whether the transaction has been approved or declined.
What Are the Benefits of a Chip and PIN Card Reader
A chip and PIN card reader is much more secure than contactless transactions as a PIN is required.
You can be sure that if your card is lost or stolen the thief will not know what your PIN is and so cannot make purchases from your account, helping to prevent bank fraud.
The value of chip and PIN transactions is also much higher than contactless transactions, and are in fact limitless as long as you have sufficient money in your bank.
However, making a chip and PIN transaction does take a few seconds longer than a contactless transaction as you must insert your card and enter your PIN. This may result in long queue times and decrease customer satisfaction.
A further issue with a chip and PIN card reader is that damage to the card chip will prevent the data being read and the transaction being successful.
Should I Choose a Contactless or Chip and PIN Card Reader for My Small Business?
The type of card reader that will suit your business depends on the nature of your business and the type of transactions your customers make.
For example, if you are a travelling business who sets-up in different locations, a mobile card reader is the best choice as you can take the card reader to any location. The card reader will require a battery supply and a GPRS SIM card.
You might decide that a contactless-only card reader suits your business, particularly if transactions are of a low value, such as a street food truck business.
However, if you are selling high value clothing in a permanent store, countertop chip and PIN card payment machines will be the best choice for you. Customers will approach your counter to make a purchase so you do not need to be able to move around with the card machine.
Also, purchases may surpass the typical £100 contactless limit. Therefore, a chip and PIN card reader is the only option, unless you are a cash-only business.
However, consider a combined contactless and chip and PIN card reader, increasing options for your customers so they can choose how to pay. Combination card readers will cost more to rent each month although you could see an improved difference in sales volume.
The most expensive type of card reader may also offer your business built-in printed receipts, or can be integrated to send text or email digital receipts.
What Other Features Should I Look for in a Card Reader?
Whichever type of card reader you choose for your business, look out for one of these additional features:
Many merchant account card readers offer integrations with other software applications to make your life easier when working in business.
Relevant integrations include cloud based software such as Xero web-based accounting software or QuickBooks being linked to your card reader and merchant account.
Everytime a customer makes a purchase using the card reader, Xero or QuickBooks will automatically receive the information of the transaction. Your accounting records will be automatically updated.
Integrations with accounting software reduces the amount of time you spend on admin tasks in business, yet increases the accuracy of your information. There is no chance of human error or omission in your accounting records, providing reliable and trustworthy information.
Most businesses will accept contactless and chip and PIN payments from customers, as well as cash payments and online purchases. Depending on your business, you might also accept telephone payments.
Integrating an omni-channel solution into your processes will combine all transactions automatically so you can accurately record purchases, regardless of the payment method. This is substantially beneficial for your business for improving accuracy of your records.
Depending on the service provider you choose, you could receive 24/7 support and assistance. This includes problems that arise with a card reader, or with customer purchases.
How Much Is a Card Machine for Small Business?
A card payment machine for your small business will vary in price, depending on the service provider you choose and the plan you opt for.
Every card reader will charge your business a transaction fee for every purchase made. This is typically between 1% to 5% of the purchase value, meaning that you might pay a transaction fee of £1 to £5 when the customer makes a £100 purchase.
A fixed fee is sometimes also charged for every transaction processed, and is usually an amount of between 10p and 40p for each payment.
In addition to transaction fees and fixed fees for purchases made by customers and processed by the card reader, you might need to pay a one-off set-up cost as well as a monthly rental fee. Again, this varies according to the service provider and the plan you have picked for your business.
For example, to rent a Barclaycard card reader, you will pay a monthly rental fee of £15, plus your VAT amount. However, there are no set-up costs to pay.
Alternatively, the Zettle card reader requires zero monthly costs although a set-up cost of £59 plus VAT is required, along with a £39 plus VAT cost for the card reader charging dock.
Can I Get a Card Machine for Small Business With No Contract?
Numerous card machine service providers that offer plans with no contract.
For example, the SumUp card reader is a contract-free plan that requires no monthly rental fees. A set-up cost of £29 plus VAT is required, but afterwards, you will only pay a transaction fee once a customer makes a purchase.
There is no contract so if you decide to stop using the card reader or change to another card reader service provider, you can do so immediately without incurring further costs.
How Do I Set Up a Card Machine for My Small Business?
To set up a card reader for your business, contact a service provider directly and negotiate what you want from their service. When you have found the plan that suits your business needs, make an agreement with the provider.
You might agree to a monthly plan with a contract, or a pay-as-you-go plan with no contract. Ensure that you are clear as to the set-up costs involved as well as transaction fees and fixed fees applicable to customer purchases.
You will then receive your card reader in the post. Take the card reader out of its packaging and charge the card reader immediately. You may receive a charging dock, or you may be able to plug the card payment machine into a power source to charge it.
Once the card reader is ready to go, you need to establish an internet connection. Connect the card reader to the premise’s WiFi, or set up the GPRS SIM if the card reader has its own internet connection.
It is important to read the manual that comes with the card reader so you can troubleshoot any problems and provide the best possible service for your customers.
How Much Are Transaction Fees?
The transaction fees you will pay for each purchase to be processed will vary according to your service provider and the plan you have chosen to follow.
Typically, transaction fees will cost you between 1% and 5% of the purchase value, although this varies greatly.
For example, Revolut offers card reader transaction fees as low as 0.8% of the transaction value, in addition to a flat fee of 2p. An online transaction with this Revolut plan will cost you 1% of the purchase value as well as a flat fee of 20p for each transaction.
These fees are very low and would mean that you will pay a fee of 82p for a customer transaction of £100 using the card reader. An online transaction of £100 will cost you £1.20 in fees. To set-up this Revolut plan, a set-up cost of £49 plus VAT is required, however.
However, a Worldpay custom plan at £19 per month for an 18 month contract will charge some cards a transaction fee of 2.75% plus a flat fee of 20p for each transaction. This will mean a £100 purchase by a customer will cost your business £2.95 in fees in total.
Do I Need a Business Bank Account to Use a Card Machine?
You do not need a business bank account to use a card machine in your business. You do need a merchant account, however, which is used to process payments when a purchase is made using the card reader.
The merchant account acts as an intermediary between your business and the customer’s bank or building society. The merchant account safeguards your customer’s data and your own data, storing the funds in the middle of the transaction until the purchase has been approved.
Leading Mobile Card Machines for Small Business UK: The Verdict
There are many service providers out there so shop around to find the best deal to suit your business. If you make a high number of sales on a regular basis, try to find a low transaction fee. However, it is essential that you do not tie yourself into a contract so you are free to move to a different provider so new offers and deals become available.
10 Best Card Machines for Small Businesses: FAQs
Which is the cheapest card payment machine?
The cheapest card payment machine varies, depending on whether you are looking for a low set-up cost, low monthly rental fees, or low transaction fees.
Revolut offers the cheapest transaction fees of only 0.8% of the purchase value plus a flat fee of 2p. However, you will need to pay a card machine cost of £49 plus VAT, although this is a one off cost. There are no monthly rental fees to pay.
If you do not want to pay a substantial set-up fee, you can pay a lower monthly cost of £14.95 plus VAT with Tyl by Natwest. However, the transaction fee rises to 1.5% of the purchase value if you adopt this plan.
Can I use payment links with my card reader?
Ask your service provider if payment links are compatible with your preferred card reader. However, payment links and QR code payments may come with a higher transaction fee than contactless and chip and PIN payments.
What happens if my card payment machine stops working?
Most service providers ensure that you have excellent customer support should anything go wrong with your card payment machine.
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