When you need a mobile card payment machine (aka a card reader), you have two choices:
The best choice is normally determined by your:
As a rough guide, mobile card readers from PayFacs only make commercial sense for SMEs with a relatively low card turnover and/or a low average transaction value.
|Type||Renting (excl VAT)||Buying (excl VAT)|
|Mobile card reader||–||£16 – £149|
|Countertop PDQ||£15 – £50/month||£250 – £450|
|Portable PDQ||£15 – £80/month||£250 – £450|
|Mobile PDQ||£50 – £125/month||£200 – £255|
Before we get into which option may be right for your business, let’s cut to the chase and list the best card readers in the “relatively high transaction fees in exchange for no monthly contracts” category. Their main qualities are quick approvals and ease of use.
Recommended in this category: Square – The best overall mobile card reader for small businesses
The table below lists the most popular no contract/pay-as-you-go card readers for SMEs. You can see the cost of the devices are low and quite similar thanks to perpetual special offers and competitor price matching.
It’s best to pay little attention to the cost of the device and focus on their transaction fees, functionality, speed and customer support when comparing them.
|Device||Device Cost |
|Transaction Fee||Card Not Present|
Zettle Card Reader 2
|1.75%||2.50%||To Site >|
Square Card Reader
|1.75%||2.50%||To Site >|
|1.69%||2.50%||To Site >|
|1.60%||1.60%||To Site >|
|1.10% + 7p||1.30% + 10p||To Site >|
Prices correct as of August 2021
Now you’ve seen a summary of the best card read readers let’s look at them in a bit more detail.
The Square Reader connects wirelessly to Android and iOS devices, allowing you to accept A decent range of cards are accepted, including Visa, V Pay, Mastercard, Maestro and American Express as well as Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
The Square dashboard provides you with sales reports, based on real-time data, so you can see all your transactions and deposits easily in one place. Payments are received in your bank account within 3-5 business days or only 20 minutes if you pay to upgrade to instant deposits.
Read our comprehensive Square Card Reader review here.
Verdict: Square provides one of the most feature-rich mobile card readers and payment systems available without having to pay a monthly fee. It also integrates seamlessly with the Square ecosystem of ePOS software and hardware.
The Zettle 2 is the Square Reader’s biggest competitor with with each reacting to each other’s price reductions and tech improvements. Since Paypal bought out iZettle in 2018 (breaking competition rules as a result) they have retired their Paypal Here card reader and focused on the recently rebranded Zettle range of card readers (previously iZettle).
Zettle’s mobile card reader supports contactless and Chip & PIN payments at same fixed rate of 1.75% even for foreign and premium cards. Visa, V Pay, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, JCB, Diners Club, UnionPay, Discover, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay are all accepted.
A key selling point with Zettle’s reader is speed. It quickly boots up within 2 seconds, processes payments in as little as 5 seconds and you get roughly 8 hours of active use from a single charge. This makes Zettle 25% faster than most mobile card readers currently on the market when it comes to accepting payments and your money will be deposited in your bank within 1-2 business days – also faster than most of the competition.
Read our comprehensive Zettle review here.
Verdict: Zettle’s card reader offers some of the fastest payment processing in the industry right now, along with extensive support for credit cards and mobile payment platforms. The company also offers a wider range of online payment solutions, making Zettle a good option for SMEs that sell to customers face-to-face and over the internet.
SumUp have responded to the price drop of their main competitors and currently matching their device cost. Their transaction fees are also slightly less than charged by Square & Zettle.
This tiny card reader needs to connect to the Sumup App on a smartphone or tablet via bluetooth to work and supports payments by contactless (NFC) and Chip & PIN, as well as Apple Pay and Android Pay. All major credit cards are accepted and payouts to your bank account should be completed within 2-3 days.
They also offer the Sumup 3G for £89+VAT or £119+VAT if bundled with the printer which can work where there is a WiFi, 3G or GPRS connection, since it has a built in SIM. This is a fully standalone reader and does not need to be paired with a smartphone or tablet.
They also offer payment links that can be emailed or included within their invoice template but payments via this method have an increased transaction fee of 2.5% (they are higher risk as the card holder is not present).
Read our comprehensive Sumup review here.
Verdict: A solid choice but the Sum Air and associated app is not quite at the level with the 2 card readers above.
The most affordable entry on this list is most suitable for small and seasonal merchants. This card reader accepts Visa, MasterCard, JCB, Apple Pay and Google Pay payments.
With Barclaycard Anywhere, merchants can send digital receipts to their customer’s email addresses. It has a card slot and a swipe slot for different methods of taking card payments. The card reader accepts chip and PIN, contactless and magnetic stripe transactions.
Very lightweight and compact, Barclaycard Anywhere comes with its own app that works with Android and iOS systems and connects with the card reader via Bluetooth.
The merchants that use Barclaycard Anywhere have access to a dedicated online portal where they can view and export their transactions, add or delete employees.
Verdict: Cheap, no-frills, pocket-sized card reader with transaction fees undercutting its rivals.
MyPOS Go is another no contract card reader that is targeted at those who don’t need all the bells and whistles of some payment solutions and are looking for simplicity at a low price.
The card reader is not going to win any design awards but it’s sturdy and those considering buying it are likely to do so because of its competitive transaction fees.
It includes an unlimited data plan, valid across Europe and charges a commission of about 1.75% 0.99% on Mastercard and Visa transactions. It offers a free e-money merchant account with dedicated IBANs in 14 currencies, instant access to accepted funds and free access to the iOS and Android myPOS mobile app.
In terms of functionality, it can accept contactless payments via most debit / credit cards or mobile wallets but this Go version can not print receipts and does not have a touchscreen. Therefore a customer’s email address or mobile number will need to be typed in on the key pad if they want it sent by text or email.
If you are looking for more advanced functionality they also have myPOS Mini (£119+VAT) and the myPOS Smart N5 (£299+VAT).
Verdict: Overall, this would suit a small business or sole trader who is looking for a cheap no contact card reader that has lower than average transaction fees. However, the £3 per transfer to UK bank accounts may put off some.
For those businesses looking to offer their customers receipts, Square and Sumup also offer mobile card readers with built in printers whilst Zettle bundles in a bluetooth battery operated printer. As you can see below, this significantly increases the price of the hardware.
|Device||Device Cost |
Zettle Store Kit
View Reader >
|1.75%||View Reader >|
|1.69%||View Reader >|
Square Terminal comes with a power adapter and its cable, a receipt paper roll as well as the optional hub. It accepts Chip + PIN and magnetic stripe cards as well as contactless payment options such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and more.
There are no long-term commitments or monthly fees associated with this payment solution which also has Square Point of Sale built in. Its per-transaction pricing structure means there are no fees for account activation, early termination, chargebacks, refunds, account inactivity, PCI compliance etc.
The well-designed device has a 5.5’’ touch display, WIFI and Ethernet connectivity. At 417g, it’s one of the lighter terminal options on the market.
Square Terminal is compatible with plenty of third-party hardware accessories such as barcode scanners and receipt printers.
Verdict: Square Terminal is easy to set up and use and, as such, is a great solution for merchants that want to manage and accept their payments quickly. It is suitable for small and mid-sized merchants and those already using the Square Card Reader and would like an upgrade.
Suitable for small businesses on the move, SumUp 3G Card Reader uses Bluetooth and WIFI connectivity but also has a built-in SIM card with free and unlimited data so you don’t require internet connectivity to process card payments.
It is paired with a printer making it useful for processing card payments and printing receipts on the go. The set-up is a simple 4-step process.
The SumUp 3G Card Reader accepts NFC, chip and PIN and contactless payments, as well as all major debit and credit cards like Visa, Maestro, Mastercard, American Express and more.
There are no monthly fees or contractual obligations with the SumUp 3G Card Reader. A standard percentage fee is charged on a transaction to transaction basis (you only pay when you get paid). Verdict: With no hidden or monthly fees, multiple payment options accepted and payments accepted into your bank account from 1-3 days, SumUp 3G is one to shortlist if you are looking for a mobile pay as you go card reader with printer functionality.
myPOS Carbon is powered by Android 9.0, has a 1.4 GHz high-speed processor and a high-speed thermal printer.
It contains a cloud-based cash register, SIM with free data as well as WIFI and Bluetooth connectivity.
You can track incoming payments through the myPOS mobile app, while the full business-in-a-box solution comes with a free IBAN number and merchant account and a free standard business VISA card that is linked to the myPOS merchant account.
You can use your myPOS account to make bank transfers, send payment requests and manage your business cards and other devices.
With its durable, water-proof and shock-proof design, it is suitable for use even in hazardous workplaces such as construction sites, repair services, petrochemical industries and transportation. It can withstand heat and blasts without causing secondary fires.
Verdict: The myPOS Carbon terminal is ideal for small and medium businesses that require physical receipts (shops, bars and restaurants, workshops etc.). The built-in Cash register app also helps you apply discounts, accept different payment options, upload and track your products and manage inventory using a cloud-based service.
If you are transacting more than about £2,000 per month on card, it is often cheaper to sign up to a merchant acquirer or Independent Sales Organisation (ISO) and then select the card machines they have available. When your card turnover exceeds a certain level the payment processor you work with will make far more of a difference to your bottom line and stress levels than the card machine you use.
If you are processing above this £2K per month level, or expect to, then we can help find you the best payment processor for your specific business.
Fill in our short form below and we’ll recommend who we think would be best for your business and get better rates than you’d get if you went direct.
When you sign up with an merchant acquirer or ISO and want to take face to face payments you’ll need to select a PDQ (process data quickly) machine that are typically made by Verifone, Ingenico, Pax Technology, Clover, Spire Payments, Datecs or Miura Systems. They will fall into one of the following categories (we are discounting POS systems as they fall into a different subset):
Countertop card machines are usually a part of the tills’ point of sale (POS) system. They work by connecting to the internet or a phone line. Countertop credit card machines are suitable for shops that take payments at the checkout or till.
They’re generally the cheapest range of card machines on the market and they’re also the fastest, thanks to connecting directly to your phone or broadband line – so payments are processed in seconds.
They’re also hooked up to your main power supply, which means countertop card machines are always on when you need them, without having to worry about charging your devices.
The only real downside to countertop card machines is they’re not very portable due to their wired connections. Whether this is a problem for you or not depends on how your business operates.
Portable card machines are best suited for hospitality businesses, like cafes, bars and restaurants, as they can process payments at the customer’s table. Portable credit card readers work via a Bluetooth or WIFI connection.
As the same suggests, portable card machines give you a little more room to work with when it comes to accepting payments. These are your best option if you want to accept payments from customers at their table so they can continue enjoying the end of their evening with minimal interruption.
Portable PDQ machines aren’t all that more expensive than countertops either, which means they’re still an affordable option for relatively small and midsize establishments.
However, there’s a limit to how much portability you get from their Bluetooth connections and you need to stay within range to accept payments. You also need to keep an eye on batteries to make sure you don’t fall short of power at the crucial moment.
Mobile card machines work via a SIM card (GPRS/GSM). As they don’t need a WIFI or Ethernet connection they’re ideal for businesses that need to get take payments on the go such as plumbers, taxi drivers and builders.
Fully mobile PDQs give you the freedom to accept payments anywhere without worrying about cables or connections getting in your way.
For sales reps travelling the country, delivery services or sole traders who need to visit customers in their homes, these are the machines you want. As long as there’s a 3G mobile signal, you can collect payment from customers in any location and these are widely used at events where traditional connection methods can be a little tricky.
Flexibility is the obvious benefit but you’ll have to pay significantly more to buy or rent fully mobile PDQs compared to countertops and portable machines. You also have to accept a slight drop in performance, too, as accepting payments over a mobile connection will obviosuly take a little longer than those using cables or wireless broadband.
Copyright © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2021
Merchant Savvy is a division of VUBO Ltd (Company Number 09017066).
Address: Spaces, 9 Greyfriars Rd, Reading, RG1 1NU.
Compare Payment Processors