There’s a much wider choice of card machines today than just a few years ago. While before, you had to do with a chunky chip and PIN machine stationed at a counter, small businesses can now take advantage of mobile card readers that work just as well.

In this shortlist, we look at contactless payment machines suitable for businesses with card transactions of less than £40k per month.

Three of the options are more traditional card machines for a till, table-side payments or mobile use. They are rented on a monthly basis with contractual lock-in, but then you get fees tailored for your business.

The others are mobile card readers that work with or without an app. These are no-contract, affordable and without complicated fees – making it much easier for new or small businesses to start accepting cards. They have no monthly fees, just a fixed rate per transaction after purchasing the card machine.

A card machine, also called PDQ machine, is an electronic payment terminal that accepts debit cards, credit cards and mobile wallets through chip and PIN, contactless (NFC) or swipe (magnetic stripe).

Card payment machines come in different types and sizes.

The cheapest ones are card readers that connect with an app on a smartphone or tablet – they are reliant on the mobile device’s internet connectivity.

Traditional card machines with push-buttons come in countertop, portable and mobile variations and work without additional software.

Smart POS terminals with a touchscreen have more features, making them suitable as portable checkouts.

Best card payment machines for small businesses:

Company Card
machine
Costs Sign-up Key facts

SumUp


SumUp info

£29–£129* (purchase) No monthly fee
No lock-in

Transaction fee
1.69%
Short online form, quick acceptance:

Cheapest standalone terminals and lowest fixed rate

Zettle


Zettle info

£19–£199* (purchase) No monthly fee
No lock-in

Transaction fee
1.75%

Short online form, quick acceptance:

Popular choice for small businesses, ergonomic terminals

Square


Square info

£16–£149* (purchase) No monthly fee
No lock-in

Transaction fee
1.75%
Short online form, quick acceptance:

Best free POS and payment features, great for online selling

Takepayments


Takepayments info

Rental from £7.50*/mo 1- or 12-month contract
£0-£150 setup fee

Transaction fees
0.3%-2.5% + flat fee
Get quote, personalised onboarding:

Short contracts, tailored package, friendly service

Dojo


Dojo info

£20*/ mo (rental) 1- or 6-month contract
Monthly min. charge applies

Transaction fees
0.3-2% + 4p
Get quote, start within a week:

Short contracts and good, freestanding terminal

Worldpay


Worldpay info

Rental from £17.95*/mo 18-month contract
Mix of costs

Tailored transaction fees
Tailored quote, personalised onboarding:

Better fees for £250k+ annual sales, 24/7 support

Barclaycard


Barclaycard info

Rental from £15*/mo 18-month contract
£150 setup fee

Transaction fees
1.5%-2.5% + fixed fee
Get quote, online sign-up:

Better for existing Barclays customers with high turnover

*Prices exclude VAT.

How we rate card machines

We personally test the card machines with specific rating criteria in mind.

The most important criteria for card machines is whether it does its job well: accept card payments in person. We also give higher scores for a wide range of accepted payment methods, long battery life and features beyond the bare essentials. We assess:

  • The quality and features of the card machine
  • Whether pricing is fair and affordable and payout times are short
  • Whether the sign-up is easy and costs transparent
  • Value-added services, e.g. if online payments are part of the package
  • The quality and availability of customer support and the company’s user reviews
  • Contract length and cancellation process

SumUp – great value for money

SumUp
Our rating:
(4.4/5)

>> Our review

Pros:

  • Choice of 3 card payment machines

  • With business account and card

  • No contract, no monthly fees

  • Free multichannel payment tools

Cons:

  • Shipping and support can be slow

  • Few integrations available

SumUp sells three card machines: the SumUp Air card reader that connects to a phone app, small and independent SumUp Solo and standalone SumUp 3G and Printer that prints receipts too.

SumUp has the lowest fixed card rate and there is no setup fee or shipping charge. You just pay for your choice of card machine, then a fixed 1.69% fee for chip and contactless payments.

SumUp Air SumUp Solo SumUp 3G & Printer
SumUp Air card reader SumUp Solo SumUp 3G Printer Cradle
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, 4G) Standalone terminal with receipt printer (WiFi, 3G)
Price (purchase) £29 + VAT £79 + VAT £129 + VAT
Website
Transaction fee 1.69%
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts Next day in SumUp Business Account, 2-3 working days in bank account
SumUp
Air
SumUp
Solo
SumUp 3G
& Printer
SumUp Air card reader SumUp Solo SumUp 3G Printer Cradle
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, 4G) Standalone terminal with receipt printer (WiFi, 3G)
Price (purchase) £29 + VAT £79 + VAT £129 + VAT
Website
Transaction fee 1.69%
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts Next day in SumUp Business Account, 2-3 working days in bank account

SumUp 3G and Printer is the cheapest standalone card machine with receipt printer in the UK. We liked the feeling of its simplified keys for PINs (makes it easy to use), and contactless cards can be tapped over the display in a few seconds.

Its printing cradle doubles as a charging stand that’s ideal for countertops. Otherwise, you can use SumUp 3G – with or without the receipt printer attached – anywhere with a WiFi, 3G or GPRS connection, since it has a SIM card built in free of charge.

There is also the new standalone SumUp Solo that, like SumUp 3G, comes with a SIM card and works with WiFi and mobile connections. Solo fits in your pocket and features a touchscreen with basic software built in to accept chip and contactless cards.

Credit: Mobile Transaction

SumUp 3G card machine

But perhaps the most popular option is the cheap card reader called SumUp Air. It works with a user-friendly app that has a wide range of features including a product library and cash acceptance.

The app also gives access to payment links, email invoices and a basic online store creator at no monthly cost, just a 2.5% transaction fee. SumUp Virtual Terminal is available for eligible merchants for 2.95% + 25p per transaction.

SumUp accepts mobile wallets and most card brands.

Accepted cards

VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressDiners ClubUnion PayDiscoverContactlessApple PayGoogle Pay

It takes up to 3 days for payments to reach your bank account, minus the transaction fee. You can also receive payouts in the complimentary SumUp Business Account the following day, even on weekends, and spend it with the free Mastercard.

It’s quick to sign up on SumUp’s website, after which you can order a card machine. Shipping takes up to a week, which is a bit longer than the other options on this list.

Zettle – all-round safe choice

Zettle
Our rating:
(4.3/5)

>> Our review

Pros:

  • Best, most ergonomic card reader

  • Widest range of accepted cards

  • No contract, no monthly fees

  • Easy sign-up, very user-friendly

Cons:

  • Only weekday support

  • Online tools quite basic

Zettle sells two card machines from its website: the UK market leader Zettle Reader 2 (previously ‘iZettle Reader 2’) and standalone Zettle Terminal.

There’s no setup or shipping charge, monthly fees or contractual commitment, so all you’re paying is the upfront card machine price and a fixed rate of 1.75% per transaction. Refunds are free to process, and there’s no monthly minimum charge.

Zettle Reader Zettle Terminal
Zettle Reader 2 Zettle Terminal card tap
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, 4G)
Price (purchase) £19 + VAT Without barcode scanner:
£149 + VAT
With barcode scanner:
£199 + VAT
Offer
Transaction fee 1.75%
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts 1-2 working days in bank account
Zettle Reader Zettle Terminal
Zettle Reader 2 Zettle Terminal card tap
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, 4G)
Price (purchase) £19 + VAT Without barcode scanner:
£149 + VAT
With barcode scanner:
£199 + VAT
Offer
Transaction fee 1.75%
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts 1-2 working days in bank account

The tamper-proof Zettle Reader comes in black or white, with a simple push-button keypad and display asking the customer to add a tip (if relevant) or enter their PIN. You have to keep the card payment machine connected, via Bluetooth, to a smartphone or tablet with the Zettle Go POS app to take payments.

The Zettle app is user-friendly with important POS features for most businesses. We found it extremely efficient for straightforward payments when testing it, but it is likewise too basic for complicated product ranges.

Credit: Mobile Transaction

Zettle Reader box contents

Alternatively, you can opt for the latest card machine that feels like a smartphone: Zettle Terminal (£149 + VAT). It works without a phone or tablet, and features a touchscreen with Zettle’s free POS app installed. The built-in SIM card connects directly to 3G or 4G if not using WiFi, and you can get it with a built-in barcode scanner (£199 + VAT) or receipt printer attachment.

If you need to charge clients remotely, you can send payment links or email invoices so the customer can pay on their phone. These key-in transactions cost 2.5%. QR codes can be shared with customers who can pay through their PayPal app.

Accepted cards

VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressDiners ClubJCBUnion PayDiscoverPayPalContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

Zettle accepts contactless, chip and PIN (or signature), all costing the same fixed percentage even for foreign and premium cards. Visa, V Pay, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, JCB, Diners Club, UnionPay, Discover, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay are all accepted.

Payments are credited to your bank account within 1-2 working days, minus the transaction fee.

Signing up is straightforward: on Zettle’s website, you just fill in some details about your business and bank account. They will verify your identity and perform a credit check to ensure everything is in order. In most cases, you are accepted straight away and can order the contactless payment machine immediately.

Square – excellent free point of sale tools

Square
Our rating:
(4.3/5)

>> Our review

Pros:

  • Smallest reader, best free POS app

  • Many payment tools and integrations

  • No contract, no monthly fees

  • Easy sign-up, very user-friendly

Cons:

  • Only weekday support

  • Customer support can be slow

Square sells two card machines from its website: app-based Square Reader and freestanding Square Terminal with a touchscreen and receipt printer.

You only need to pay for the card machine upfront, then pay a fixed 1.75% per transaction. Refunds are free to process, should your customers request it.

Square Reader Square Terminal
Square Reader Square Terminal front
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi)
Price (purchase) £16 + VAT £149 + VAT
Offer
Transaction fee 1.75%
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts 1-2 working days in bank account, instantly for 1% fee
Square Reader Square Terminal
Square Reader Square Terminal front
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi)
Price (purchase) £16 + VAT £149 + VAT
Offer
Transaction fee 1.75%
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts 1-2 working days in bank account, instantly for 1% fee

Square Reader is the smallest, most light-weight card machine on this list, but it does need a Bluetooth connection to the free Point of Sale app on your phone or tablet. It is literally a square-shaped, plastic card machine that’s white all over, but the technology makes it just as reliable as push-button PIN pad machines.

When a transaction is entered in the iOS/Android app, your mobile device communicates with the card reader to accept the tap or chip card. Lacking a keypad, PIN codes are entered on your mobile screen in the POS app, which we didn’t have any trouble with.

The app makes it simple to add items from your product library to the shopping cart or enter a custom amount at checkout, before choosing a payment method.

Credit: Mobile Transaction

Square Terminal and Square Reader next to coin

Frankly, Square Point of Sale has the most POS features out of all the free card machine apps. Specialised till apps for retail, restaurants and professional services are also offered by Square, including add-on subscriptions for customer loyalty, email marketing and team management.

If you prefer a standalone credit card machine, Square Terminal connects directly with a WiFi network. It has a touchscreen with Square Point of Sale features built in – perfect as a portable checkout on your premises.

You can also send e-invoices, accept phone payments and enter card details in the app for 2.5% per transaction. Transactions through Square’s online store, payment links and QR codes cost 1.9% for UK-/Europe-issued cards and 2.9% for international cards.

Accepted cards

VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

Square accepts contactless cards and mobile wallets, chip and PIN, and chip and signature cards. This includes Visa, V Pay, Mastercard, Maestro and American Express as well as Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

Payments are usually deposited in your bank account the day after each transaction. Immediate payouts are also possible for an added 1% fee per transaction.

To get started, you complete an online sign-up form, then order the chosen card machine. It takes a few days to get your bank account verified, but you can start taking payments before that.

Takepayments – cheapest monthly contract

Pros:

  • Cheap, monthly plan available

  • Versatile card machine selection

  • Tailored fees for small businesses

  • Friendly, efficient onboarding

Cons:

  • Pricing not transparent, quote required

  • 12-month contract on some plans

  • Limited reporting options

Takepayments is a popular merchant service provider in the UK, its main selling point being the monthly rolling or relatively short 12-month contracts. If you are going to have contractual commitment, but can’t be sure of how your business fares beyond the next year, then Takepayments is one of the few that offers card machine rental with less than 18 months’ lock-in.

Takepayments – general The Easy Deal
Ingenico Move 3500 PAX A920
Card machine Countertop (Ingenico iCT250), portable (Ingenico iWL250), mobile (Ingenico Move/3500 or PAX A920) Mobile touchscreen terminal (PAX A920)
Cost (rental) From £10 + VAT/mo £7.50 + VAT/mo
Contract 12 months
No setup fee
Monthly min. charge from £10
Early termination fee applies
Monthly contract
£150 + VAT setup fee
No monthly min. charge
Cancel with 30-day notice
Offer
Transaction fees 0.3%-2.5% + flat fee
30p refund fee
£9 per chargeback
Payouts Next day in bank account (free)
Takepayments
– general
The Easy Deal
Ingenico Move 3500 PAX A920
Card machine Countertop (Ingenico iCT250), portable (Ingenico iWL250), mobile (Ingenico Move/3500 or PAX A920) Mobile touchscreen terminal (PAX A920)
Cost (rental) From £10 + VAT/mo £7.50 + VAT/mo
Contract 12 months
No setup fee
Monthly min. charge from £10
Early termination fee applies
Monthly contract
£150 + VAT setup fee
No monthly min. charge
Cancel with 30-day notice
Offer
Transaction fees 0.3%-2.5% + flat fee
30p refund fee
£9 per chargeback
Payouts Next day in bank account (free)

The rental cost of the mobile, portable and countertop Ingenico or Verifone card machines starts at £10 + VAT on a year’s contract.

Alternatively, the smart POS terminal PAX A920 with a large touchscreen can be used as a mobile checkout, also with a year’s lock-in. It costs £25 + VAT per month with a complete (but simple) till app on the device, allowing you to add a product library and monitor sales by staff members.

For £7.50 + VAT monthly (Easy Deal) and a £150 + VAT one-off charge, you only get basic payment software on the terminal so you can accept cards. This doesn’t have a minimum monthly service charge, includes PCI compliance, and only has a contract of 30 days that is cancellable any time with a month’s notice.

We tested the PAX terminal with the Epos Now software offered by Takepayments, which turned it into a more sophisticated table-service terminal.

Credit: Mobile Transaction

Transaction fees depend on your average transaction value, turnover and cards accepted, ranging between 0.3%-2.5% + flat fee. The quoted rates are better if your business usually accept high transaction values. You also pay fees for refunds and chargebacks.

On the annual plans, you get the following extra fees.

Firstly, an early cancellation fee equivalent to buying out the contract applies if you do not give an exit notice of two months – otherwise, it auto-renews. If you make less than an agreed amount during a month, there’s also a monthly minimum service charge. Monthly or annual fees for PCI-DSS compliance apply.

Accepted cards

VisaMastercardAmerican ExpressContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

Takepayments actually signs you up for two contracts – one for themselves and one for Barclaycard Business who provides your merchant account for card processing. Next-day settlement with Barclaycard is free.

For an additional cost, remote payments can be added, such as pay by link, telephone payments, QR codes for table-service, and an online payment gateway for ecommerce. Card machines can be integrated with Epos Now as part of a monthly package – no other POS systems currently connect.

Signing up requires talking to a Takepayments sales rep, most likely in connection with a physical visit to your premises. After onboarding, you have access to customer support over the phone every day within working hours.

Dojo – simple, short-contract package

Dojo
Our rating:
(4/5)

>> Our review

Pros:

  • Versatile, mobile touchscreen terminal

  • Next-day payouts

  • Can buy out your existing contract

Cons:

  • Quote and monthly fees required

  • 6-month contract

  • Monthly plan only for some users

Dojo is a new product powered by Paymentsense. At the moment, there is just one card machine subscription called Dojo Go. Merchants new to card payments get a 6-month contract, whereas businesses who were previously locked into another card machine contract can get a monthly, rolling subscription. In addition, Dojo can pay up to £3,000 of your exit fee applicable to your old payment provider.

Dojo Go
Card machine Mobile, standalone touchscreen terminal (PAX A920)
Cost (rental) £20 + VAT/month
Transaction fees From 0.3%-2% + 4p
50p refund fee
£28 + VAT per chargeback
Contract 6 months (1 month for some merchants)
No setup fee
£20-£40 monthly min. charge
Early termination fee applies
Payouts Next day in bank account (free)
Offer
Dojo Go
Card machine Mobile, standalone touchscreen terminal (PAX A920)
Cost (rental) £20 + VAT/month
Transaction fees From 0.3%-2% + 4p
50p refund fee
£28 + VAT per chargeback
Contract 6 months (1 month for some merchants)
No setup fee
£20-£40 monthly min. charge
Early termination fee applies
Payouts Next day in bank account (free)
Offer

There’s a monthly rental fee of £20 + VAT for Dojo Go, plus transaction charges and other costs. The plan is best suited for businesses with a consistent sales volume, because a monthly minimum service fee applies, which could be £20-£40 per month depending on your business.

Credit: Mobile Transaction

This is the minimum amount that Dojo requires you to pay in transaction fees a month, so it will be charged even if you haven’t sold enough to reach that level.

The transaction rates are personalised and depend on the card brand, type and country of issue. The rates could range between 0.3%-2% plus a fixed authorisation fee of 4p that applies to all payments. Foreign cards have an additional cost of 0.05%-1.45%.

You get next-day payouts with Dojo for free, which is faster that most payment providers can guarantee.

Accepted cards

VisaMastercardDiscoverAmerican ExpressContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

The card machine is a PAX A920 model with a large touchscreen and user-friendly interface. It comes with a built-in SIM card for mobile connectivity but works with WiFi. Add to that the long 10-hour battery life and you have a mobile card machine that’s ideal for use anywhere on the road, for table service and many other scenarios. It also integrates with most major POS systems, if you’re not using it on its own.

We found it tedious that you can’t add a description to transactions, though. It’s therefore not suitable for inventory tracking or checking what was sold, but a Dojo app does allow you to check sales figures remotely.

Overall, however, Dojo is a great option for staffed businesses that consistently make several thousands of pounds a month and need a quality card machine that works in most situations. If onboarding goes smoothly, you should be up and running with Dojo Go within a week.

Worldpay card machines – best on custom fee plan

Worldpay
Our rating:
(3.9/5)

>> Our review

Pros:

  • High-quality card machines

  • 24/7 customer support

  • Good range of accepted cards

Cons:

  • Pricing not transparent, quote required

  • 18-month contract

  • Fees not great for sales below £20k/mo

A major credit card processor in the UK, Worldpay continues to be a popular choice for traditional card machines. You can choose to rent a countertop, mobile or portable card machine with a contract of 18 months.

Worldpay can offer a fixed transaction rate (Simplicity plan) for businesses with an annual turnover below £100k in card payments. There is a Custom plan, but this is geared towards businesses with a monthly turnover of at least £20,000.

Worldpay
Card machines Countertop (Ingenico Desk 5000), portable or mobile (Axium DX8000)
Cost (rental) £17.95-£23 + VAT/month
Transaction fees Custom or fixed rates
Contract 18 months
No setup fee
Monthly min. charge depends on plan
Early termination fee applies
Payouts 1-3 working days to bank account (free)
Offer
Worldpay
Card machines Countertop (Ingenico Desk 5000), portable or mobile (Axium DX8000)
Cost (rental) £17.95-£23 + VAT/month
Transaction fees Custom or fixed rates
Contract 18 months
No setup fee
Monthly min. charge depends on plan
Early termination fee applies
Payouts 1-3 working days to bank account (free)
Offer

Additional fees may apply, like a monthly minimum service charge if you don’t make enough money one month. The Custom fee plan is overall better value than Simplicity, but it’s not available for lower-earning businesses.

To receive a quote on fees, you just need to sign up online and await a callback from a Worldpay consultant. Card machine packages are unique to your business, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all arrangement.

Credit: Mobile Transaction

Worldpay card machines

Card machine rental starts at £17.95 + VAT for a standard model, and then you have transaction charges and merchant account fees on top. While Zettle by PayPal, SumUp and Square use their own merchant account for card processing, Worldpay gives you a unique merchant account that is better for payments stability.

Beware that Worldpay may not be transparent about all fees, so make sure you get them to explain all the costs and responsibilities involved. For instance, PCI-DSS compliance is required for a cost of £5 + VAT monthly on the Custom plan.

Accepted cards

VisaMastercardMaestroJCBDiners ClubDiscoverUnion PayAmerican ExpressContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

The contactless card machines are high-quality models by Ingenico. There’s a stationary chip and PIN machine for the countertop (Desk 5000), but the portable and mobile smart POS terminal with a touchscreen (Axium DX8000) is ideal for most merchants. Having tested both, we felt the Axium DX8000 model feels more premium and versatile with its software options, but the physical PIN pad of Desk 5000 may be preferred at the till.

Worldpay accepts Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, Diners Club, Discover, UnionPay, JCB, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, and optionally American Express with a separate agreement. Settlement takes up to three working days.

Email invoicing, an online payment gateway (for ecommerce), virtual terminal for phone payments and payment links are available from Worldpay at an additional cost.

A great thing about Worldpay is the free phone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Barclaycard Business – better for bigger companies