Charities have traditionally accepted cash donations in person, but this is increasingly hard when many only carry a payment card. This has prompted many fundraisers to look for card readers – but what are the options?

Getting a card machine as a non-profit organisation, individual fundraiser or community group is less straightforward than for a business. Not all card machine companies sign up charities, but some do.

What do you need to know as a non-profit user, and what are the best card payment machines for a charity, fundraiser or volunteer?

Which card machine providers accept charities?

Card machine companies always have a list of restricted business types that they don’t accept.

While most registered companies and sole traders would fall under the “accepted merchant” category, not-for-profit organisations, community groups and individual fundraisers may not. That is why you can’t assume that any card machine you compare online is suitable for your cause.

Pay-as-you-go card readers

Let’s first look at the most popular card reader companies in the UK: SumUp, Zettle and Square. Their card readers are cheap, commitment-free and come with no monthly fees or hidden charges. You only pay a fixed rate per donation accepted (1.69% or 1.75%).

Square

Because Square advertises its products to businesses and sole traders primarily, we had to contact the company to know if they accept charities. The response was yes, Square accepts charities and non-profit organisations.

To sign up with Square, a trustee or authorised representative of the charity needs to select the “Partnership” option on the sign-up form in the ownership structure section. They can then enter their name and registration details of the charity organisation and proceed to ordering a card reader.

The person signing up is the Account Owner in Square – this cannot be changed later, so make sure the right person takes charge of this.

A bank account has to be linked to receive donations. This can either be in the name of the charity or Account Owner, in which case it can be a personal, UK-based current account that accepts Direct Debits.

With Square Reader (£16 + VAT), the associated Point of Sale app lets you track donations and collect donor information. With different user logins, you can also let volunteers and fundraisers use the same Square account to collect donations.

Photo: Square

Square Reader tap payment

Zettle by PayPal

Zettle does not advertise its card reader (£19 + VAT) to charities or not-for-profits, so we had to ask the company about this. The company’s public terms state merchants can’t take donations, but according to Zettle, this only applies to card/customer-not-present transactions (i.e. payment links are not allowed for donations).

Zettle donations are in fact allowed when the cardholder is present, through Zettle Reader.

You can sign up as a registered charity on the website. A bank account linked to the charitable organisation is required to receive payouts.

Alternatively, you can sign up with PayPal as a registered not-for-profit organisation or charity, and order a Zettle Reader linked to your new PayPal Business account (Zettle is a PayPal company). A PayPal Here reader used to be available, but this is discontinued.

Photo: Zettle

SumUp

SumUp accepts charitable or non-profit organisations, with these criteria:

“…they must at all times comply with applicable financial sanction regime regulations. SumUp products and services must in no way be used for raising funds in violation of financial sanction regime regulations, including but not limited to financing terrorism and/or use involving sanctioned countries.”

As with other card readers, SumUp lets you sign up easily online, inputting your non-profit or charity registration details as well as a bank account in the same name.

SumUp Air (£29 + VAT) is the main, cheapest card reader. It works with an app that allows you to enter donation amounts and accept QR code payments in person. If you sign up through Give A Little, you get charity-focused features on top of SumUp’s payment tools.

Photo: SumUp

SumUp Air tap payment

None of these card reader companies accept private individuals for independent use. This means that in general, personal users who just want to raise casual donations in their personal bank account can’t create a card reader account, unless they register as a representative or staff member of a charity or non-profit. This is a normal restriction when getting a card machine in the UK.

BestZettle vs SumUp vs Square

Merchant service providers

Some merchant service providers and acquirers (that rent out card machines for businesses) accept registered charities, but these packages require commitment and ongoing fees. That said, the transaction fees can be competitive, and you get a high-end card machine model.

Merchant service providers that accept charities and non-profits:
  • Worldpay
  • Wireless Terminal Solutions
  • Elavon (requires a Santander charity current account)

Other merchant service providers may offer plans for charities, but non-profit users are generally classed as higher risk and therefore often rejected.

Card machine solutions geared towards charities

A better option may be one the many companies that specialise in payment solutions for charity donations.

Many of these offer more than just a card reader. For example, card readers may be attached to a tablet or stand with big visuals advertising your cause. This, unfortunately, also makes it more expensive and require monthly fees on top of an upfront setup or purchase cost for the contactless station.

Others offer a simple card reader with an app – this is generally cheaper.

Charity-focused companies that offer card machines include:

Charity solution Upfront cost Ongoing fees
GiveTap
(via Square)
Square Reader + iOS app:
£16*
No monthly fee or contract
2.5% + 1.75% per donation
Give A Little
(via SumUp)
SumUp Air + Android app:
£17*
£0-£50*/mo
No lock-in
1.69% per transaction
GiveStar
(prev. TapSimple)
Clip-on reader for phone:
£49*
No monthly fee or contract
2.25% + card processing fee per donation
PayaCharity Card machine or contactless station:
From £49* (rental) or £95* (purchase)
From £3*/mo
12-48 months’ lock-in
2.95% + 10p per donation
GoodBox Card reader or donation station:
From £125*
£12.50-£30/mo
1-36 months’ lock-in
2.5% + 10p per donation
GWD Donation station:
From £695* + £50* setup
From £15*/mo
2.95% per donation
LibertyPay
(via PayaCharity)
Card machine or contactless station:
Quote on request
Quote on request
Various contract lengths
Purple Pot
(via PayaCharity)
Contactless station:
Quote on request
Quote on request
Various contract lengths
Tap for Change
(via LibertyPay)
Contactless station:
Quote on request
From £24.95*/mo
Various contract lengths
Rates quoted on request
JustGiving
(via LibertyPay)
Contactless station:
Quote on request
Quote on request
Various contract lengths

*Excluding VAT.

Charity
solution
Upfront
cost
Ongoing
fees
GiveTap
(via Square)
Square Reader + iOS app:
£16*
No monthly fee or contract
2.5% + 1.75% per donation
Give A Little
(via SumUp)
SumUp Air + Android app:
£17*
£0-£50*/mo
No lock-in
1.69% per transaction
GiveStar
(prev. TapSimple)
Clip-on reader for phone:
£49*
No monthly fee or contract
2.25% + card processing fee per donation
PayaCharity Card machine or contactless station:
From £49* (rental) or £95* (purchase)
From £3*/mo
12-48 months’ lock-in
2.95% + 10p per donation
GoodBox Card reader or donation station:
From £125*
£12.50-£30/mo
1-36 months’ lock-in
2.5% + 10p per donation
GWD Donation station:
From £695* + £50* setup
From £15*/mo
2.95% per donation
LibertyPay
(via PayaCharity)
Card machine or contactless station:
Quote on request
Quote on request
Various contract lengths
Purple Pot
(via PayaCharity)
Contactless station:
Quote on request
Quote on request
Various contract lengths
Tap for Change
(via LibertyPay)
Contactless station:
Quote on request
From £24.95*/mo
Various contract lengths
Rates quoted on request
JustGiving
(via LibertyPay)
Contactless station:
Quote on request
Quote on request
Various contract lengths

*Excluding VAT.

Many of these options do not show their pricing on the website. Instead, they will ask for details about your charity when you inquire about costs. It’s unlikely they accept anyone who’s not employed by, or an official representative of, the charitable or not-for-profit organisation you want to use the card machine for.

Alternative card payment methods for charities

If you just need to receive donations and don’t necessarily want a card reader, consider these options:

  • Text-to-donate (e.g. Donr, DONATE, InstaGive)
  • QR code payments (e.g. SumUp, Square)
  • Payment links (e.g. Starling Bank, Monzo)
  • Refer people to a fundraising page (e.g. JustGiving, Square, PayPal)