In today’s day and age, the number of choices for mobile card machines has increased substantially, from only a few years ago. Earlier, the options were limited to a chunky chip PIN machine, installed at the counter. The options are much greater now, as the advantages of mobile card machines are made available to small businesses.
As opposed to the traditional card machines, those available now are hassle-free in the sense that they are not bound by any contracts, they don’t have any fee that can prove to be complicated and above all, they are affordable. All of these factors combined with the minimal cost of entry make these card readers ideal for small businesses.
The list that we have compiled makes a note of the top five card machines that best suit the needs of small businesses that don’t have card transactions of more than £2,000 every month.
All the options that have been mentioned below work in coalition with an app. These apps are installed in an iPad, iPhone or Android device that is connected to the internet via 4G/3G or WiFi. These options fall in the category of a mobile card payment machine or a portable card machine but can also fulfill the need for a stationary counter-type setting.
These mobile card machines function on a pay-as-you-go format, with transaction fees being levied upon the card payments that you process. They are bereft of any contract or monthly fee, and only require you to purchase the machine which proves to be a one-time investment. The transaction fees that are levied vary depending upon the service provider that you have opted for.
How do the mobile card machines function?
• Bluetooth is utilized by mobile card machines to connect itself to the smartphone or tablet.
• There is an app which has to be pre-installed on the smartphone, which is used to operate the card machine.
• All that the customer needs to do is tap their card or enter their PIN on the reader of the card machine.
iZettle Reader is the leader in the market of app-based mobile card machines in the UK. It is a very versatile machine and comes in either black or white, adorned with a suave looking PIN pad which is tamper-proof. There is no added setup or shipping fees associated with this machine. iZettle has accumulated the highest customer ratings in both Google Play and App Store, as well as Trustpilot UK.
It is very easy to sign up for the iZettle Reader. All you need to do is visit their website and enter preliminary details pertaining to your business, some information about your bank account and that’s it. The company carries out a credit check and verifies your identity; and once those formalities are satisfied, you can order your machine straight away.
iZettle Reader is considered one of the most versatile mobile card machines for a reason. It accepts chip and signature, chip and PIN, swipe (foreign cards) and yet charges the same transaction fee for all, including premium or foreign cards. American Express, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, Diners Club, Visa, MasterCard, V Pay, Visa Electron, Maestro, JCB, Union Pay, and Apple Pay are all accepted by this card reader.
The card machine has simple mechanisms, whereby it has a PIN and display which only requires the customer to enter their PIN number or add a tip, in case the tipping option is turned on. All that is required for the transaction to be accepted and the payment to be processed is that the card machine is connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth.
The iZettle app is so famous and loved owing to its user-friendly and feature-abundant UI. There are further lucrative and advanced options, that you can subscribe to if you so wish, available on the app.
There is also an option of accepting remote payments from clients via invoices through email, at a transaction fee of 2.5%.
It takes only 1-2 days for the payments to get credited to your bank account, post the deduction of the transaction fees. Refunds are just as easy to make, which can be done for free through the app. In case of a refund the transaction fees deducted is given back.
SumUp Air is an app-based card reader which can be regarded as the most economical in the UK. Its transaction fees are the lowest in the market, making it one of the most suitable mobile card machines for small business. Its app has all the fundamental functionalities that are prerequisites in a debit or credit card reader. The card reader does not include any extra cost for setup or shipping, apart from the one-time buying cost and transaction charges for every transaction.
Signing up for SumUp is a quick process, post which the card can be ordered from the company’s website. It has a longer shipping period as compared to the other card machines on the list, and it can take up to one week for the machine to reach your doorstep.
Chip and PIN, contactless, chip and signature cards are all accepted by SumUp; with the only exception being cards which require swiping. Businesses which have a large number of customers who use foreign cards with magnetic stripes would not find this card reader suitable for them.
The build of the mobile card machine is sleek and durable, with a sturdy body. The display and keypad of the reader have a shiny flat surface over it, which is both user-friendly and simplistic to use. Contactless cards can simply be tapped over the display of the card reader.
The free payment app provided by SumUp is easy to use with the option of adding a custom amount or tapping to include an item listed in the product library to the shopping cart. The option of paying via card or cash can be selected on the checkout page.
The app has the functionality of connecting to the card machine through Bluetooth automatically on being prompted to charge the card of the customer. On tapping to charge the customer’s card the display of the card machine displays the necessary instructions required to complete the payment to the customer.
SumUp Air takes almost 2-3 days to credit the processed payments to your bank account and the transaction fees are deducted even in the case of refunds, given the transaction has already been paid.
Post special activation, SumUp also offers the option of accepting payments over-the-phone, at no extra monthly cost. The transaction fee for such transactions is 2.95% + 25p.
Amongst all the card reader in this list, Square Reader is the smallest and lightest card machine, weighing only 56 grams. Being so small it is the ideal portable card machine. The card reader does not feature a PIN pad, as PINs are directly entered on the free payment app provided by the company at the point of sale. The payment app is installed in a tablet or smartphone and only requires the card machine to be connected to it via Bluetooth in order to process the payments. The card reader is a small plastic square-shaped device, with an all-white body. It might be small but the technology that it uses is secure and efficient, alike the other card machines on this list.
The signing up process is easy and similar to the aforementioned devices. All one needs to do is fill in some details and sign up on the company’s website. It takes at least four days for the company to verify your bank details, but you can start accepting payments even before that. Contactless, chip and signature, chip and PIN and mobile wallets are all accepted by Square Reader. The packaging also includes a magstripe reader which can be connected to the smartphone or tablet via the headphone jack. It can be used to accept cards featuring magnetic stripes, common in foreign cards.
Square Reader accepts Visa Electron, Visa, MasterCard, V Pay, American Express and Maestro; along with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay.
The Point of Sale app provided by Square is decked with features, probably the most in a free card machine app. It is very simple to add a custom amount or include products from the library into the shopping cart, before selecting the method of charging the customer. Upon selecting the method, the mobile device connects to the card machine automatically via Bluetooth, after having been paired with the card reader. The card reader can start accepting cards thereafter.
Getting invoices and a virtual terminal in the browser for payments over the phone is also available for Square Reader users at no extra cost, apart from a transaction fee of 2.5%. This charge is relevant for swipe and other keyed-in payments as well.
Payments made via Square Reader are usually credited to the bank account within one day. This time varies depending upon the processing time taken by different banks. For refunds Square processes the refund payments free of cost, along with refunding the transaction fee that had been deducted at the time of payment.
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The PayPal Here card reader is available only in black and accepts all forms of cards; be it contactless, chip and signature, chip and PIN or swipe. Your PayPal business account is integrated with the card machine to provide a comprehensive touch to all the transactions that you might accept, either face to face or online through PayPal.
Having a registered PayPal account is a must in order to obtain this card reading machine. It needs to be ordered online from the PayPal website and the PayPal Here app needs to be downloaded on your smartphone or tablet in order to start accepting payments. PayPal usually verifies your bank account very quickly, except for some rare scenarios whereby further documentation is required from your end in order to get the job done.
Unlike other card reading machines which transfer the processed payment directly to your bank account, PayPal Here transfers the amount of payment to your PayPal account. This transfer is almost immediate, but it requires you to manually transfer the accumulated amount to your bank account that has been registered in your PayPal account.
The PayPal Here card reader machine accepts only major credit or debit cards. These include a small list of MasterCard, American Express, Visa Electron, Maestro and Visa. It also accepts mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay and of course PayPal. Over-the-phone payments and sending invoices via electronic medium is also accepted by this card reader but the transaction fee levied on such payments is higher than the normal chip and contactless payments.
The transaction fee system of PayPal here is pretty complicated and requires elaboration in order to make it simple. A sliding fee is levied upon transactions processed through PayPal Here which is dependent on the amount of transaction that has been processed in a month. The base fee is 2.75%, which reduces to 1.75% after a transaction of £1,500 in a month. If the amount of sales in a month crosses the £6,000 limit this fee further reduces to 1.5%, and 1% on crossing the limit of £15,000. Since this fee is calculated on a per-month basis the charge that is levied on the present month is dependent on the amount of sales in the previous month. Depending on the amount of payments you process in the present month the charges levied for your next month will be decided.
Chip and contactless cards from Amex are always charged 2.75%, 3.4% + 20p is charged for manual entry and swipe cards, and all foreign cards have more additional charges added over them. Since these charges vary depending on sales and type of card, the cost of the transaction fee varies from month to month.
SmartTrade App is quite different from all the other options that have been mentioned above. This app is primarily designed for traders and does not require a card reader machine in order to process payments. The app functions on the science of your smartphone being able to scan the cards of your customer and function as a subsidiary debit or credit card reader. This app also allows you to transfer the transaction fees for processing the payment to your customers, thereby not letting you have to pay for anything. This app offers all kind of payment procedures, including the orthodox face-to-face, as well as the unorthodox emailed invoice and over-the-phone payments.
Unlike the aforementioned options, SmartTrade App offers monthly contracts based on your business needs which need to be subscribed to. These options range from 2.15% + 20 p fee (£9.99/ month) for a single user, 1.85% + 20p fee (£26.99/month) for up to 15 users; to 1.75% + 20p fee (£89.99/month) for up to 50 users. Remember, whatever be the amount of payment a transaction fee of 20p is always levied upon each transaction; so if your business includes receiving a lot of small payments all these 20p charges can actually add up to become a lot. There is also the option of choosing the 0% per card transaction scheme. This scheme allows you to transfer all the transaction fees into the bill of the customer.
Since there is no mobile card machine involved, there is no cost that is required to be paid upfront for the SmartTrade App. A 30-day free trial is also offered by the company to check out its functionality before contract charges are levied. The contract that has been opted for can be canceled at any time.
SmartTrade App does not require a credit card reader, has the option of creating customized professional invoices, being able to send electronic invoices to customers and getting them accepted with one click and also opting for the 0% transaction fee policy. SmartTrade App MasterCard, Visa, Amex, and all major foreign cards.
SmartTrade App is ideal for tradespeople who don’t like carrying card readers along with them, and for merchants who process few high-value payments throughout the month. However, it might not be ideal for merchants who accept many small payments in a month as the 20p charge can prove to be very costly in the long run.
A final word – If you companies turnover is over £2,000, you need a different type of card machine. You can compare the cost of traditional card machines and card processing costs here
Products which didn’t make the cut….
Another mobile card machine that employs the same features as the PayPal Here portable card machine is the Barclaycard Anywhere. However, this card reader machine has been left out of the list since it offers subpar services along with a high rate of the transaction fee. These two together do not make an endearing combo, which is further escalated by a buggy and slow app which has not received any kind of updates for almost over a year.
Another card reader in the market is the Shopify POS card reader. However, this card reader can only be used by people who have a Shopify package. These packages come in the basic version of £22/month and the retail version of £37/month. Although it has a low transaction fee of 1.7% which can seem to be attractive, it actually makes proper sense for businesses which have a high volume of online sales or for people who already use the Shopify packages.
Some businesses like Intuit Pay, Zinc, Paytrader and WorldPay have already gone out of business and does not measure up to the high standards set by the top five that has been listed in this article. After all, it is the fit which survive in a business and it is nothing but good news for people with small businesses.