How do you accept contactless payments tapped on your phone without an external card reader? Is that possible in the UK?

A Google search yields many articles about your phone’s mobile wallet as a payment method, tapped on a dedicated card terminal – the other way around. But using your smartphone as a contactless terminal to accept physical cards from others is a whole other topic called Tap on Phone, Tap to Phone, Tap to Pay or “SoftPOS” in tech speak.

SoftPOS (Software Point of Sale) is an app that transforms your phone into a payment terminal. If your smartphone has the near-field communication (NFC) technology built in, it has the capacity to accept NFC cards (all cards with the contactless logo) as long as you have an app facilitating exactly that.

As a rule, all phones with Google Pay (Android) or Apple Wallet (iPhone) are NFC-enabled.

contactless NFC

Contactless logo.

Tap-on-phone apps have been trialled for years, but are now getting more recognition.

So far, the following are all the tap-to-phone apps in the UK with a significant user base:

Solution in UK Device Cost
Square Tap to Pay (offer) Android, iPhone 1.75% per transaction
SumUp Tap (offer) Android, iPhone 1.69% per transaction
Revolut Tap to Pay iPhone 0.8% or 2.6% + 2p
Zettle Tap to Pay Android, iPhone 1.75% per transaction
Dojo Tap to Pay iPhone 1.4%-1.8% + 5p
Tyl by NatWest Tap to Pay Android, iPhone From 1.5%
myPOS Glass Android, iPhone 1.6% + £0.07 per transaction,
or less with monthly fee
Worldline Tap on Mobile Android, iPhone Custom
Viva Wallet Android, iPhone From 1.69%
Stripe Tap to Pay Android, iPhone
(SDK* only)
Variable rates
Adyen Tap to Pay iPhone
(SDK* only)
Variable rates

*Software development kit (SDK) for integrating tap-on-phone in your own payment app.

While Square, SumUp and Zettle all offer tap-on-phone, or ‘Tap to Pay’, as it’s often called now, this is hardly advertised on their website. That’s because the feature is regarded as a complimentary payment method, used alongside their card readers. The same applies to Dojo, Worldline and Tyl by NatWest who offer card machines primarily.

Stripe and Adyen require merchants to build their own solution, whereas myPOS Glass offers a plan with a monthly fee for a lower processing rate. Revolut’s Tap to Pay on iPhone is available for all Revolut Business holders signed up for a Merchant Account too. Viva Wallet’s tap-to-phone has been fully launched on both iPhone and Android, but is less familiar in the UK.

Let’s dig into the individual solutions.

Image: Viva Wallet

Viva Wallet Tap On Phone payment.

Square Tap to Pay (Android and iPhone)

Best known for its square-shaped card reader, Square Tap to Pay was launched last year as a supplement to the company’s already-broad range of free payment methods.

The tap-on-phone option works in the Square Point of Sale app on most NFC-enabled Android phones with Android 9 or later installed and iPhone XS and newer models. Registered companies, charities and sole traders alike can sign up online for an account in a few minutes.

Each transaction costs 1.75% for any type of card or contactless mobile wallet. It takes about 1-2 working days for funds to settle in your bank account.

SumUp Tap to Pay (Android and iPhone)

Curiously, SumUp only advertises ‘Tap to Pay on iPhone’ prominently, not its ‘SumUp Tap’ feature for Android launched months before the news of an iPhone version.

As will Square, accepting cards directly on your smartphone is intended as a supplementary feature alongside SumUp’s well-known card readers. Still, you can sign up for a SumUp account in a few minutes and (theoretically, at least) start taking accepted contactless payments through SumUp App straight away.

Every tap transaction costs 1.69% regardless of the card type or mobile wallet, and there’s no monthly fee or commitment. Payouts are either processed to your bank account in 2-3 working days or the next day in your complimentary, online SumUp Business Account.

Zettle Tap to Pay (Android and iPhone)

Last of the small-business card reader companies is Zettle by PayPal. Zettle does not encourage companies to sign up just to use this feature – it is mainly for businesses who also have a Zettle Reader or Terminal.

The tap-to-phone option can be activated in a few minutes in the Zettle Go app on NFC-enabled iPhone XS models or above or Android devices with Android 8+. Of course, you’ll first need a Zettle account that you can sign up for online in a few minutes as well.

All contactless transactions on your Android phone or Zettle card reader alike cost 1.75% regardless of the card brand. No monthly fee or lock-in applies, and payouts take 1-2 working days to reach your bank account.

Revolut Tap to Pay (iPhone only)

Revolut ‘s Tap to Pay works exclusively on iPhone.

To use it, you first need to sign up for any of Revolut’s Business plans for freelancers or companies. Then, there’s a separate registration for a Merchant Account allowing you to accept card payments. It can take a couple of days to get accepted for this, and documentation may need to be submitted to prove your business status (we were several times required to submit documents).

If all goes well, you’ll be able to create impromptu payment requests to accept tap-on-phone transactions via the Revolut Business app on iPhone. It’s not entirely intuitive to navigate the payment request options, but it doesn’t take much to get the hang of it.

Funds go to your Revolut Business account within 24 hours (on average). There is no monthly fee for payment acceptance, just the business account if you opted for a paid subscription (free plans are available). You pay 0.8% + £0.02 for UK consumer cards or 2.6% + £0.02 for any other card transaction via contactless.

Image: Mobile Transaction

Revolut Business app screens for Tap to Pay on iPhone

Revolut Business app flow for accepting Tap to Pay on iPhone.

Dojo Tap to Pay (iPhone only)

Dojo is a popular card machine provider in the UK, catering to most kinds of small businesses with a high footfall. Its Tap to Pay on iPhone feature is, however, not the main reason you should sign up for it, since it’s only available for merchants using Dojo’s PAX card terminal.

Those who are subscribed to Dojo and actively use their terminal can download the complimentary Dojo for Business app on iPhone (not Android) and accept contactless payments on their phone. This is a useful backup option if the card machine breaks down or when you don’t have access to it.

Fees for these transactions are 1.4%-1.99% + 5p for Mastercard and Visa cards or custom with an annual card turnover above £150k.

Tyl by NatWest Tap to Pay (Android and iPhone)

As with Dojo, NatWest’s Tap to Pay is intended for existing customers, i.e. those signed up with a card machine from Tyl by NatWest. This may involve a 12-month contract and monthly fees, but then you may only pay 1.5% per transaction.

The Tap to Pay app doesn’t have any extra fees, just the transaction rate. If your annual card takings exceed £50k, you can get custom rates.

myPOS Glass (Android and iPhone)

An Android or iPhone app for tap-on-phone is myPOS Glass. It is offered by a European e-money and payments platform called myPOS.

To get started, you have to create a business account through the website. The sign-up is completed in several steps with documentation required. But once you’re accepted with an online business account, you can download the Android app and accept tap payments on your phone.

An advantage of myPOS Glass is the app’s item library where you can add the products or services you sell. This makes them quick to add to a bill before the payer taps their card or mobile wallet on the back of your phone.

Payouts go directly into your online myPOS account, and a complimentary Visa debit card is provided so you can spend it straight away. Transactions cost 1.6% + £0.07 for domestic Visa and Mastercard payments on the free plan, or 1.1% + £0.07 on the £4.90-per-month plan. Other fees apply including higher charges for foreign cards.

Worldline Tap on Mobile (Android and iPhone)

A lesser-known merchant service provider in the UK, Worldline, offers tap-to-phone on Android devices and iPhone.

Worldline has two options: a standalone Tap on Mobile app for smaller merchants, or an integration so you can build the function into your own point of sale software (mainly for large businesses). Costs are tailored to your size of business.

Viva Wallet (Android and iPhone)

A European company accepting tap-on-phone is Viva Wallet. This payments and e-money institution offers a Viva Terminal App on both iPhone and Android devices with NFC functionality.

To get started, you have to sign up for a free Viva Wallet Business Account, which only takes a few minutes. You can then download the  app from Google Play or App Store on your mobile device.

In the app, you enter the payment amount and let the customer tap their card or mobile wallet on the back of your phone to finalise it. An email or text receipt can be sent afterwards, or you can print a paper receipt from a Bluetooth printer. Transactions settle in your online Viva Wallet Business account the following day.

Viva Wallet charges 1.69% per Tap On Phone transaction with a domestic consumer card from Visa, Mastercard, Discover or Diners Club (including through Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay). Other fees apply to specific account activities like ATM withdrawals and chargebacks.

Stripe and Adyen: both custom solutions

We list Stripe and Adyen last because they’re the most complicated to set up for an individual merchant.

Both Adyen and Stripe Tap to Pay are offered as an integration for retailers or other companies to code into their apps or point of sale (POS) software. A developer needs to implement the SDK/APIs (codes), but then the payment experience can be customised.

Stripe’s offering is part of the Stripe Terminal, the platform’s suite of in-person payment options. It has no monthly fee, just a charge of 1.4% + 10p per UK-/EEA-issued card or 2.9% + 10p for other card transactions via contactless. Custom rates are available for those with a high turnover.

Adyen’s costs are customised for everyone, and the platform is geared towards large businesses with a high turnover.

Others in development

Alternative tap-to-phone apps are on the market, notably for charities looking at simple ways to receive donations. Other options are typically:

  • Not for UK users
  • Rarely updated (essential for app performance and security)
  • Have very small user bases
  • Only offers the backend technology, i.e. lacks a merchant-facing app

Many of these are listed by Visa. For example, MagicCube’s i-Accept technology is ready to implement in existing banking or payment apps, but cannot be downloaded as a standalone tap-on-phone app for merchants.

As a rule of thumb, you should go for an app that is regularly updated and has a proven track record of successful transactions. The Viva Terminal App has over 1 million downloads (albeit across Europe) which is good, but the average user rating is only just above 3 stars (not great). In comparison, Pomelo Pay was last updated many months ago and only has a thousand or so downloads, meaning it’s not taken off.

Then there are all the many options not yet launched on the British market saying that a tap-on-phone feature is “coming soon”.

It’s hard to tell what is meant by “soon” when someone like the big acquirer Worldpay has been trialling this feature since 2017. We have yet to see this app launched for more than a small group of merchants.

Alternative ways to accept cards with your phone only

Sometimes, it is better to use another payment method in person – and you have options here too:

  • QR codes: The app generates a QR code for customers to scan with their phone camera. A web page then opens up on their phone where they enter details to finalise the transaction. For QR code payments, see PayPal Business, Revolut Business, Square Point of Sale, SumUp App, Zettle Go

  • Keyed entry/virtual terminal: Manually enter card details in the payment app. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘virtual terminal’. For keyed payments, see Square Point of Sale, SumUp App

  • Payment links/pay-by-link: You send a payment URL to a customer who then enters their card payment on a web page to finalise the transaction. For payment links, see Revolut Business, Square Point of Sale, SumUp App, Zettle Go

  • Taking a picture of card within app: The app allows you to take a picture of a customer’s card, rather than key in card details, to process a payment in person. No longer widely used

Otherwise, getting a cheap card reader that connects with your phone is a sure-fire way to accept contactless card payments with a phone. The benefit of this is familiarity for customers. Most people trust a card reader, but may not – yet – trust the novelty of a smartphone as a payment terminal.