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Contactless Card Readers for Android & iPhone ms payment logos

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Contactless Card Readers for Android & iPhone

Small businesses with low card payment turnover have the option to use a contactless card reader with a mobile app, rather than a stand alone credit card machine with a point-of-sale (POS) system. Mobile card readers allow merchants to accept card payments from any location, without needing a traditional chip and pin card machine or merchant account.

How do mobile card readers with apps work?

Card machine providers like Square, SumUp and Zettle offer merchants basic, low-cost mobile card readers for iPhone, iPad and Android-based devices with clear transaction charges and no contractual obligations.

A mobile card reader connects with an accompanying app on an IOS or Android-based device over a Bluetooth connection. The app sends a transaction request to the card reader, then the customer inserts their payment card and enters their PIN into the reader or taps it on the contactless sensor.

The card reader app functions as the merchant’s main POS system. Some providers offer basic apps but others have additional features including payment links, product libraries and staff accounts.

Mobile card readers typically do not come with monthly subscriptions, complex pricing, or long contracts. The merchant simply buys the card reader and pays the provider fixed per-transaction rates. This can be a convenient option for small merchants that are just getting started with taking card payments. 

However, the transaction fees can be higher than those offered by payment processing companies, making them the most expensive option for most UK small businesses. 

Compare card readers for iPhone or Android

When choosing a mobile card reader for your business, you will want to consider:

  • Card reader functionality
  • App features
  • Transaction fees
  • Availability of other tools and accessories to expand the system

The best choice for you will depend on your budget and the features you need. Keep in mind that the cheapest card readers to buy upfront may not work out the cheapest overall due to the transaction fees. 

If you take in excess of around £25,000 in card payments annually, it is normally cheaper to have your own merchant account and lease a card machine from the merchant service provider.

DeviceCost excl. VATTransaction feesFeatures
SumUp Air£391.69%

Range of payment & business tools

Virtual terminal

Next-day payouts

Square Reader£16+VAT

1.75% in person

2.5% remote

1.4% + 25p for online transactions with UK cards

2.5% + 25p for online transactions with non-UK cards

Virtual terminal

Range of POS features and integrations

Variety of accessories

Zettle Reader 2 £29
£59 for each additional device

1.75% in person

2.5% remote

Stylish device with choice of colours

Wide range of hardware & software integrations

Instant payouts available

Revolut Reader£49

0.8% + 2p for UK consumer cards

2.6% + 2p for international & commercial cards

Fast payouts to Revolut Business account

Lowest rate for UK consumer cards

Barclaycard Anywhere£29

1.6%

2.5% for CNP transactions

Low flat rate

Ideal for seasonal businesses

Shopify Wisepad Reader 3£49

Basic: 1.7% in person & 2% + 25p online

Shopify: 1.6% in person & 1.7% + 25p online

Advanced: 1.5% in person & 1.5% + 25p online

Enables omnichannel services for Shopify eCommerce users

Card readers with phone apps

1. Square: Widest range of features and integrations

Pros

Cons

Square’s card reader is the smallest and lightest option but its mobile app includes the widest range of features.

The device does not have a PIN pad, so the customer enters their PIN into the mobile app. The Square Reader is compatible with iOS and Android devices.

It accepts Chip & PIN and contactless cards, as well as digital wallets. Magnetic stripe (magstripe) payments require a separate device or one of Square’s larger card machines. There is no contract sign-up required or additional charges.

The free Square Payments POS app features real-time inventory and sales reporting, a product library, order management, eCommerce payments, a virtual terminal, invoicing and staff management.

The app also features end-to-end encryption, active fraud prevention and data security. An additional Square Team app integrates with the POS app to provide more advanced features. The app also enables merchants to accept online payments, create payment links, generate QR codes and accept electronic gift cards. Square integrates with a variety of third-party software apps, including eCommerce, accounting and online ordering.

Fees

Device

Cost excl. VAT

Monthly charges

Transaction fees

Square Reader

£16

£0

1.75% in person

2.5% remote

1.4% + 25p for online transactions with UK cards

2.5% + 25p for online transactions with non-UK cards

The Square Reader costs £16 excluding VAT. There is a charging dock that keeps the device in place for countertop transactions available for £25 + VAT, and other accessories such as receipt printers, kitchen printers, a cash drawer and a barcode scanner. The OtterBox uniVERSE case for the iPhone XR mounts the Square Reader onto the phone.

Square offers a simple fixed pricing structure for transaction processing and does not have additional fees or lock-in contracts. Merchants can see their transaction rates on their account dashboards.

Square charges 1.75% for in-person payments, 2.5% for CNP transactions and 1.4% + 25p for online transactions with UK cards. Cards issued outside the UK incur a 2.5% + 25p fee.

Merchants that process over £200,000 in annual sales may be eligible for custom pricing.

Merchants can receive payouts the following business day for no additional charge or instant transfers within 20 minutes with a 1% charge. The minimum amount for an instant transfer is £50 and there is a maximum transfer limit of £2,500 per day.

Merchants can order the Square Reader online and receive it in 3-5 working days. The card reader has a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one-year hardware warranty. UK customer service is available 9 am-5 pm on Monday to Friday over the phone and 24/7 by email.

Accepted card types: Visa, Visa Electron, V Pay MasterCard, Maestro, American Express, Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Verdict

Square provides a full range of payment features in its POS app to go with its lightweight and simple to use mobile card reader. Merchants can accept online and phone payments and integrate the device with the Square ecosystem of hardware and software offerings. Square has one of the most comprehensive offerings for a card machine with no monthly fees.

 

2. SumUp: Competitive processing fees

Pros

Cons

The Air card reader from SumUp is a sleek, compact device that comes with one of the lowest flat transaction fees in this category. 

There is no contract and SumUp does not charge additional fees. The Air has a long battery life, processing more than 500 payments on a single charge.

The device accepts all major debit and credit cards using Chip & PIN, contactless or magnetic swipe, as well as mobile wallets.

The Air is easy to set up in a few minutes with the free iOS/Android SumUp App. The app is a simple dedicated POS system with a dashboard and reporting to track finances, user accounts, a product library, a sales overview, payout reports and an option to accept payments online. 

Merchants can set up a basic online shop from the app, accept card reader phone payments through a virtual terminal, email customers payment links and invoices, generate QR codes, and accept electronic gift cards.

SumUp can deliver the card reader in 2-3 days for free. The device comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one-year hardware warranty. SumUp’s UK customer service team is available 9 am-5 pm on Monday to Friday over the phone and also provides email support.

Fees

Device

Cost excl. VAT

Monthly charges

Transaction fees

SumUp Air

£39

£0

1.69% in person

2.5% remote

 

At the time of writing the SumUp Air costs £39+VAT, or £44+VAT bundled with a charging station. Unlike some of its competitors, SumUp does not offer a range of accessories. 

The fixed transaction fee for card-present (CP) transactions is 1.69%, while card-not-present (CNP) transactions are charged at 2.5%. QR codes are free to use. 

The SumUp App can also accept cash payments with no transaction charge. Merchants with a card turnover of more than £10,000 per month can negotiate bespoke pricing.

The Air comes with a free optional SumUp business account, in which merchants can receive their payments the following day. They can also receive unlimited free bank transfers on incoming and outgoing payments. Payouts to a merchant account typically take 2-3 days.

Accepted card types: Visa, V Pay, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, Discover, Diners Club, UnionPay, Apple Pay, Google Pay

Verdict

SumUp offers an easy-to-use card payment system with lower transaction fees than competitors like Square and Zettle. Unlike some providers, it allows merchants to set up an online shop from the app and accept phone payments using its virtual terminal. But the POS app has fewer integrations and accessories than some of its competitors.

3. Zettle Reader 2: Fastest payments

Pros

Cons

Zettle, which was acquired by PayPal in 2018 and rebranded from iZettle in 2021, was one of the first providers to offer a low-cost card reader without a monthly contract.

The Zettle Reader 2 is a lightweight, stylish reader that comes with a choice of black, white or ocean colour schemes.

The device processes payments in as little as five seconds and can run for eight hours, or 100 transactions, on a single charge. It features a tamperproof design and encrypts payment data to keep customers’ data secure.

Zettle can accept Chip & PIN and contactless payments from the widest range of debit and credit cards, as well as mobile wallets. Zettle has removed the magnetic stripe option for card payments for security. The device meets PCI DSS requirements.

Fees

DeviceCost excl. VATMonthly chargesTransaction fees
Zettle Reader 2£29 (£59 for
each additional device)
£0

1.75% in person

2.5% remote

The Zettle Reader 2 costs £29 plus VAT, with an option to buy additional devices for £59 each. The card reader comes with a USB charging cable and a charging dock is available as an add-on for £39 to keep the reader in place on a countertop.

Zettle charges a flat rate of 1.75% per transaction for any card type, including premium and non-UK cards, and accepts cash payments with no daily limit. There are no monthly fees and no fees for refunds. 

The Zettle Reader 2 works with the free Zettle Go iOS and Android POS app. Zettle Go includes a product library, basic sales reporting, online invoicing, payment links, and the ability to generate digital receipts, payment links, QR codes and gift cards. 

A tap-to-pay feature accepts contactless payments directly from an Android smartphone. The app includes staff management and daily analytics reports. Merchants can build an online shop connected with the Zettle Go app and upload the product library.

The Zettle Reader 2 can connect with a till drawer, barcode scanner and receipt printer to create a compact countertop till system. The Zettle Reader 2 integrates with other POS apps and systems such as Vend, Lightspeed, Revel and Tabology. It also works with accounting platforms such as Xero and QuickBooks, as well as eCommerce platforms including Shopify and BigCommerce.

Transactions are cleared to the merchant’s bank account within 1-2 working days.

Accepted card types: American Express, Mastercard, Maestro, Visa, Visa Electron, JCB, UnionPay, Discover, Diners Club, V Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay

Verdict

The Zettle Reader 2 comes with a choice of colours and accepts the widest range of payment methods. It is one of the fastest options, processing payments in seconds and depositing funds within 1-2 working days. The Zettle Go app has a wide range of features and the card reader integrates with various accessories. The flat rate will make it one of the cheapest card readers for merchants that often take payments from premium and international cards.

4. Revolut Reader: Fastest payouts

Pros

Cons

Revolut Business account users can apply for a Revolut merchant account to accept card payments online and order a card reader. The keypad-less Revolut Reader is a functional, retro-style compact device. It accepts chip & PIN and contactless payments from debit cards, credit cards and digital wallets.

Merchants receive payouts in their Revolut Business account within 24 hours. The Revolut Business app can create a product library and generate payment links to send via email or social media. The app currently only integrates with Nobly POS, but Revolut says that more integrations are coming soon.

Fees

Device

Cost excl. VAT

Monthly charges

Transaction fees

Revolut Reader

£49

£0

0.8% + 2p for UK consumer cards

2.6% + 2p for international & commercial cards

The Revolut Reader costs £25 excluding VAT, plus a £5 delivery charge. The basic Revolut Business account has no monthly fee, but there is also a premium subscription option with additional business tools.

Revolut offers the lowest transaction fees for domestic consumer cards at 0.8% + 2p, but fees for non-UK and commercial cards are higher at 2.6% + 2p. 

Merchants with high monthly transaction volumes can negotiate custom plans specific to their business needs. There are no extra charges for different currencies, next-day settlement or fraud monitoring.

Where Revolut falls down is in its customer service — there is chat support available for Revolut Business account customers but support agents offer limited help and it can take days or even weeks to resolve issues.

The Revolut Reader has a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one-year hardware warranty.

Accepted card types: Visa, Mastercard and Maestro, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Verdict

Revolut is a relatively basic option, so it is best suited to merchants that need a simple way to accept card present transactions and send payment links, with transactions cleared quickly to their Revolut business account.

Revolut offers the lowest transaction fee for UK-issued consumer cards, but charges more than its competitors for commercial and international cards.

5. Barclaycard Anywhere: Lowest transaction fees

Pros

Cons

Barclaycard’s offering is ideal for small and seasonal businesses. The card reader is lightweight and compact and works with iOS and Android. There is no monthly contract and no additional charges. However, the Miura M010 model is an older design with a basic accompanying app. 

The reader accepts chip & PIN, contactless and magnetic stripe transactions from Visa, Mastercard and JCB cards and also takes Apple Pay and Google Pay transactions.

The Barclaycard Anywhere app is basic compared with its competitors and has not been updated for a few years. There is no product library or sales monitoring. There is an online personalised dashboard where merchants can access real-time transaction data and export functionality, issue digital receipts and refunds, and manage employees. Multiple users can have access to selected features from a single account.

Fees

Device

Cost excl. VAT

Monthly charges

Transaction fees

Barclaycard Anywhere

£29

£0

1.6%

2.5% for CNP transactions

The card reader costs £29 excluding VAT. Transactions from debit and credit cards are charged at 1.6%, while CNP transactions are charged at 2.5%. Payouts can take from two working days to up to a week. Barclaycard charges 75p to process refunds

Other card reader providers do not charge for refunds processed straight after payment. And unlike other readers, Barclaycard’s device does not connect with receipt printers, cash drawers or barcode scanners.

The Barclaycard Anywhere card reader comes with a one-year hardware warranty. UK customer service support is available by phone from 8 am to midnight seven days a week.

Accepted card types: Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Verdict

Barclaycard Anywhere offers one of the cheapest card readers with lower fees for in-person transactions than most of its competitors. The basic app is better suited to small and seasonal businesses than merchants that require advanced POS functionality.

6. Shopify Reader

Pros

Cons

eCommerce platform Shopify has expanded into offering a card reader with a POS app. The WisePad 3 Reader is a compact portable device that comes with a USB charging cable. It uses a customer-facing display and has an integrated PIN pad. Although the POS app is compatible with iOS 13 and above as well as Android devices running version 7 or higher, the card reader itself only works with iOS-based devices. The card reader is PCI DSS compliant.

The WisePad 3 Reader accepts Chip & PIN and contactless payments from Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards but does not support magstripe payments. Apple Pay and Google Pay are also supported. 

The device is region locked and cannot take payments outside of the region where it was purchased. It takes 3-4 hours to charge fully and can take 500-600 transactions on a single charge.

 

The Shopify POS Lite app is free, but there is an option to upgrade to the Shopify POS Pro app for additional omnichannel features such as Click & Collect. The Lite app has a range of features, such as product and order management, staff accounts and customer profiles, and works well for sales on the move, while the Pro app is better suited to a full POS system in a retail location.

 

Fees

Device

Cost excl. VAT

Monthly charges

Transaction fees

WisePad 3 Reader

£49

Basic: £19

Shopify: £49

Advanced: £259

 

Basic: 1.7% in person & 2% + 25p online

Shopify: 1.6% in person & 1.7% + 25p online

Advanced: 1.5% in person & 1.5% + 25p online

 

The card reader costs £49 plus VAT and requires a monthly Shopify Payments subscription, so it is only cost-effective for merchants that use Shopify for their online presence.

There are three monthly subscription tiers:

  • Basic costs £19 and charges 1.7% for in-person debit and credit card transactions. Online transactions cost 2% + 25p
  • Shopify costs £49 and in-person payments are charged at 1.6% with online transactions charged at 1.7% + 25p

Advanced costs £259 and charges 1.5% for in-person payments, while online transactions cost 1.5% + 25p

Merchants receive payouts within six working days, which is slower than the other providers.

Shopify has a 30-day money-back guarantee and a standard one-year warranty. The POS Pro subscription comes with an extended two-year hardware warranty. Shopify provides 24/7 customer support and has online help guides.

Accepted card types: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Apple Pay and Google Pay

Verdict

Shopify’s card reader is really only suitable for merchants that use its eCommerce platform and want to integrate it with a card reader to provide customers with an omnichannel experience. The card reader is only available as part of a Shopify Payments subscription, so merchants need to pay a monthly fee.

Card reader apps comparison

The functionality of the apps that accompany mobile card readers varies widely from Barclaycard Anywhere’s basic payment app to Square’s full-featured POS app with product library, real-time inventory and sales reporting, order management, eCommerce payments, virtual terminal, invoicing and staff management.

Advanced apps like Square’s also incorporate end-to-end encryption, active fraud prevention and data security. SumUp’s app allows merchants to set up a basic online shop, as well as a virtual terminal option.

Smaller or occasional merchants looking for a basic option for receiving payments may not want an advanced POS system and may prefer Revolut or Barclaycard Anywhere’s stripped-down options.

AppProduct libraryOnline payment toolsIntegrationsUpdates
SumUp AppYesWide rangeManyFrequent
Square PaymentsYesWide rangeManyFrequent
Zettle GoYesWide rangeSomeFrequent
Revolut BusinessYesLimitedLimitedFrequent
Barclaycard AnywhereNoNoneNoneRare
ShopifyYesLimitedManyFrequent

Best mobile card readers

Mobile card readers cost between £16 and £49 for the device, with some providers offering accessory bundles at extra cost. Transaction fees range from Revolut’s 0.8% for UK consumer card payments to 1.75% for in-person payments.

SumUp, Square and Zettle offer competitive rates for their compact mobile card reader packages, with a variety of features. 

Square has the widest range of features in its POS app as well as a more extensive list of potential software and hardware integrations.

Zettle boasts the fastest payments from its device, while Revolut offers the fastest payouts. Revolut also has the lowest transaction fees for UK payment cards, but higher rates for other card types. Along with Barclaycard Anywhere, Revolut offers the most basic device with limited integrations. Barclaycard Anywhere has the lowest flat transaction rates at 1.6%.

Shopify is best suited to merchants that already have a subscription to its eCommerce platform. Shopify takes up to six working days to clear payments, which is the longest of the providers.

The cheapest card readers overall will depend on the payment methods the merchant needs to accept and their typical transaction volumes.

Mobile card readers are good options for small businesses with an annual card turnover of less than £25,000 per year. However, high transaction fees make them a poor choice for most businesses.

Merchant Savvy can help you choose the best mobile card reader

If you need more advice to decide which card reader is right for your business, fill in our form to request a quote. We compare payment processors and can help you get the best deal.

We look at the following key factors when deciding what card machines to include in our list of the best card machines.  

  • Features: we look at the type of payments the card machine can accept (e.g. EMV Chip & PIN, contactless, magstripe, digital wallets and QR payments)
  • Battery life: If it’s a mobile or portable card reader. 
  • Processing speed: This is normally determined by the processing chip used. 
  • App functionality: what actions can be performed and what reporting is available.
  • Ease of integration: How easy is it to integrate the machine with tills and other EPOS systems within and outside the same ecosystem?

For fixed-price terminals offered by payment facilitators we also factored in:

  • Device cost: This is a relatively minor factor as the main fees will come from transactions.
  • Transaction fees: What % of each in-person and card-not-present (CNP) transaction is charged as a fee?
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