Which card reader is best for my business in 2020?

which reader is the best

If you run a small business and are looking at ways to take card payments you will of heard about the explosion of card readers available in the market? There are a variety of card readers out there that will certainly do the job for you. SumUp, PayPal Here, iZettle and Square are some examples which will all allow your customers to pay for your product with a quick tap, swipe or chip and pin – but which is the best option for you?

It can feel like a minefield, but the following run-down will help you weigh up the pros and cons so that you can assess which option is the best for your business.

Which card reader costs the least?
Upfront cost

Saving money where you can, especially when you run a small business is important and it is first chief to know that utilising card readers will come with a cost. There are two financial matters to consider: the initial cost of purchasing the card reader and payment processing costs for each transaction made. Overall, purchasing a card reader will not break the bank and you can get your hands on one for as little as £29 – or less if you shop around or use an affiliate link.

The table below ranks the leading card readers on the market by their initial cost:

Card ReaderHow much does it cost to buy?
PayPal Here£45

Although in a lot of cases cheapest doesn’t always mean best, the SumUp reader makes a pretty good attempt at showing that is not necessarily the case. Its functionality is outstanding, even in comparison to some of the more expensive brands, with its screen and 13-button keypad – it really has everything that a small business could need.

Payment processing fees
The other cost that you need to consider when selecting a payment processor is the payment processing fee. This is the percentage of the transaction which the card reader company keeps, each time a customer makes a purchase from you. For example, say the processing fee was charged at 1.5% and someone paid £10 with their card, the payment processor company would keep £0.15.

Find out below, which card reader will cost you the most to process each transaction:

Card ReaderPayment processing fee per transaction
PayPal Here1.00% – 2.75%
Shopify1.5% – 1.7%

If you are looking for a card reader with a standardised processing fee, which won’t change depending on how much cash you make each month, then SumUp, iZettle and Square are your best options. SumUp comes up trumps again in this instance and will cost you the least, per transaction.

For Shopify and PayPal Here, however, things are a little more complicated. Shopify offers a tiered service, which charges monthly subscription fees that increase as the processing fees are slightly reduced. The entry product, Shopify Basic, costs £29 per month and has a 1.7% transaction fee, the mid-tier Shopify option costs £79 per month and charges 1.6% on transactions and the Enterprise Shopify tier costs £299 per month and charges 1.5% on transactions. As you can see, Shopify costs will only prove competitive to other card readers if you have a high volume of monthly card payments, which may not make it cost-effective for small businesses.

PayPal Here has its own system and offers a payment scale which varies in cost, depending on your card reader payment volume. Let’s have a look at whether this could benefit your business:

Total sales made in a monthPayment processing fee per transaction
£0 – £1,5002.75%
£1,500.01 – £6,0001.75%
£6,000.01 – £15,0001.5%
£15,000.01 – £25,0001.0%

This looks to be a great option if your business takes around £180,000 a year, just from card payments alone and if this is the case, the PayPal Here is probably the card reader for you. However, if you’re making this much money, then it may be equally or more cost effective to rent a traditional card reader. If your small business doesn’t quite make these financial heights, then PayPal Here probably isn’t for you.

Although it is clear here which is the cheapest and the most expensive card reader option, it is important that you do your own research before purchasing. Reading online reviews from other business owners can help you work out if the card reader is suitable for you and will help you assess other factors, such as durability.

The lowdown on card readers in 2019

Is the iZettle card reader the best for my business?

How much does it cost?RRP: £59 (£29 exclusive on our site
What is the credit/debit card transaction fee?1.75%
How long is the settlement period?1-2 business days
Which card schemes are supported?Visa, Mastercard, UnionPay, American Express, JCB, Discover/Diner’s Club
Which NFC payments are supported?Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay

Although the RRP is currently £59, you can often purchase the iZettle card reader for much less through affiliate links, averaging at around £29. As one of the first card readers to become available, iZettle is well known amongst businesses and has a reputation for being one of the market leaders. Its accompanying app makes a convenient point of sale (POS) and is easy to use.

In order to keep up with its competitors, iZettle recently overhauled its sliding-scale transaction fee model to provide its customers with a simpler, fixed fee transaction cost. Now its transaction fee remains static at 1.75%, with the exception of online payments, invoices and virtual terminal payments, where the fee rises to 2.5%.

iZettle’s success has allowed it to develop further products for businesses including cash drawers, receipt printers and complete POS systems – meaning that its loyal customers can deck at their entire cash desks with the brand. The card reader has great reviews online, rated 4/5 on Trustpilot and Capterra, plus it is known for being robust and reliable – with the flexibility to cover most small business’ needs.

Is the SumUp card reader the best for my business?

How much does it cost?RRP: £29
What is the credit/debit card transaction fee?1.69%
How long is the settlement period?1-3 business days
Which card schemes are supported?Visa, Mastercard, American Express
Which NFC payments are supported?Apple Pay, Google Pay

SumUp is the cheapest card reader on the market – but is it the best choice for you? Launching to the public back in 2012, the UK brand focuses on optimising just a few products, including two card readers and a POS system.

You can usually get the card reader even cheaper than £29, if you purchase through an affiliate link or via our price comparison engine. If you fancy upgrading and going app-free, SumUp also offers a device called SumUp 3G, which doesn’t require an app to process payments but will set you back £99.

Once you have purchased your card reader and are up and running, SumUp will charge you 1.69% to process each transaction – with the exception of magnetic stripe and virtual terminal payments, which will cost you 2.95%. Overall the affordability of the service that SumUp provides, makes it an excellent choice for small business owners.

Is the Paypal card reader the best for my business? 

How much does it cost?RRP: £45
What is the credit/debit card transaction fee?1% – 2.75%
How long is the settlement period?2 hours
Which card schemes are supported?Visa, Mastercard, American Express
Which NFC payments are supported?Apple Pay, Google Pay

PayPal, a global brand familiar to millions of individuals and businesses who use their online payment processing services every day, launched their card reader in 2012. To this day, the company uses a device from a third party company named Miura (also used by iZettle pre 2016), which is pebble-shaped, easy to use, but in 2019 is starting to look a little outdated.

That being said, you can link your online PayPal account to your card reader so that you can manage all of your finances in one place – which is pretty handy. PayPal Here also stands out from its competitors because of its unique sliding scale of transaction fees, which mean that companies who make more money, pay less. What’s more, PayPal Here also offers two different payment plans:

The Blended Plan – More predictable pricing (a set rate regardless of the fees charged by cards like Visa and Mastercard)

The Interchange Plus Plan – More variable pricing (your card provider’s interchange fee – a handling fee, usually between 0.2% and 2.0%, plus PayPal’s fee)

Here’s what this will look like against your monthly transactions:

Total sales made in a monthBlended Fee PlanInterchange Plus Plan
£0 – £1,5002.75%IC + 2.5%
£1,500.01 – £6,0001.75%IC + 1.5%
£6,000.01 – £15,0001.5%IC + 1.25%
£15,000.01 – £25,0001.0%IC + 1.75%

If you currently take card payments that amount to over £6000 every month, than you will be able to take advantage of competitive transaction fees with PayPal Here. If however, this is not reflective of your business currently, you may be better off choosing another card reader.

Is the square card reader the best for my business?

How much does it cost?RRP: £39 (£29 exclusive on our site
What is the credit/debit card transaction fee?1.75%
How long is the settlement period?1-2 business days
Which card schemes are supported?Visa, Mastercard, American Express
Which NFC payments are supported?Apple Pay, Google Pay

Square has a unique process in which payments are taken. The customer must place their card in a slot on the reader and then enter their pin number into the accompanying app displayed on the merchant’s phone or tablet. The device itself is very small – hence no buttons or screen – and was actually one of the very first card readers on the market. It has only recently become recognisable in the UK because Square was originally launched in the US.

Although the Square card reader is one of the more cheaper to buy and can be found even more affordable by shopping around online, its processing fees are some of the more expensive and so there are definitely more cost-effective options out there for your business.

Is the Shopify Card Reader the best for my business?

How much does it cost?RRP: £79
What is the credit/debit card transaction fee?1.5% – 1.7%
How long is the settlement period?1-2 business days
Which card schemes are supported?Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Europay
Which NFC payments are supported?Apple Pay, Google Pay

The most expensive card reader to buy out of the ones we have looked at, Shopify is a giant in the eCommerce world and in 2017 turned to physical retail. It’s Bluetooth enabled card reader is a nifty way for eCommerce brands to take their shops offline and onto the highstreets or to events.

Just like its eCommerce platform, Shopify offline has three tiers for merchants to choose from:

Tier NameCost Per MonthPayment Processing Fee
Basic Shopify£291.7%
Advanced Shopify£2991.5%

The bottom line with Shopify is that, if you already use it for your eCommerce platform, then it probably is worth investing in the card reader to take to events or pop-up shops. If however, you are new to payment processing then Shopify probably isn’t the one for you as monthly costs and the expensive initial up-front payment will have you paying above and beyond.

Is the Smart Trade app the best for my business?

How much does it cost?N/A
What is the credit/debit card transaction fee?1.65% + £0.20 – 2.15% + £0.20
How long is the settlement period?7 days
Which card schemes are supported?Visa, Mastercard, American Express
Which NFC payments are supported?N/A

One option that we are yet to explore so far is the Smart Trade app, which is slightly different from the rest of our contenders. With Smart Trade, there is no chip and pin device, all you need is a phone or a tablet and the app. The process works by scanning a customer’s card using the device camera and then the customer manually inputs their card’s expiry date and CVV2 number.

The app can also conveniently be used for eCommerce purposes and phone payments, which is an innovative solution for modern businesses. Sounds great right? The downside is that it can become rather expensive to use. Again, there is a tiered process in place which determines how much your business will pay per month and per transaction:

Tier NameCost Per MonthPayment Processing Fee
Sole Trader£9.992.15% + £0.20
Business£26.991.85% + £0.20
Enterprise£89.991.75% + £0.20

If you like the idea of being completely phone or tablet sufficient within your business, with no need to carry a card reader around then this is the payment processor for you. You will just have to pay more for the privilege.

So, overall, which mobile card reader should i choose for my business?

This bit is down to you. With all the information now at your fingertips, we hope that the decision of which card reader to choose has been made a little easier.

For some business owners, one card reader will be the perfect answer, but the same device could be less suitable for somebody else. To make the decision as less overwhelming, the table below will sum up the key points about each card reader.

Card ReaderKey Points
iZettleDependable, best established, reader can initially be expensive to purchase
SumUpCheapest to purchase, great for small businesses, cheap processing fees
PayPal HereCheapest rates but only if your business makes enough money, ability to merge records with current online PayPal accounts, speedy payment processing time
SquarePin entered straight into app, device very small, app with increased functionality
ShopifyGreat addition if already using Shopify for eCommerce purposes, otherwise cheaper options are available
Smart Trade AppNo card reader, no initial payment for device, easy to use, will be costly per month and per transaction

Now, it’s over to you! Always remember if you can compare the cost of leading card readers and traditional card machines on our price comparison engine

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