At MobileTransaction, we have spent the last ten years testing and comparing card machines so you don’t have to. The models in shops and on my desk used to be clunky, but now there are many sleek 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 £200k per month. I’ll reveal which one I wish I had when working in retail full-time, but depending on your needs, another one might suit you better.

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. I like them because they have no contract, are 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 buying 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.

Card payment machines for small businesses:

Company Card
machine*
Costs Editor’s view

SquareSign-up:
Short online form, quick acceptance
See offer

£19–£149 (purchase) No monthly fee
No lock-in

Transaction fee
1.75%
“Square consistently improves its products and has the most extensive free POS and payment tools for all situations”
(4.3/5)

TakepaymentsSign-up:
Get quote, personalised onboarding
See offer

£7.50 – £25/mo (rental) 1 or 18-month contract
Mix of costs
Tailored transaction fees
“Takepayments’ tailored packages and friendly service are among the best for a card turnover above £2k+/mo”
(4.2/5)

SumUpSign-up:
Short online form, quick acceptance
See offer

£39–£139 (purchase) No monthly fee
No lock-in

Transaction fee
1.69%
“SumUp sells some of the cheapest card readers with a low fixed rate, and I love how simple and accessible the add-ons are”
(4.2/5)

DojoSign-up:
Get quote, start within a week
See offer

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

Transaction fees
1.4%-1.8% + 5p
“Dojo is better for businesses making over £10k+/mo. The contracts are very short for the excellent terminal you get”
(4/5)

WorldpaySign-up:
Tailored quote and onboarding
See offer

£17.95+/mo (rental) 18-month contract
Mix of costs

Tailored transaction fees
“Worldpay is a trusted provider for companies making £250k+/year. It’s not the most cutting-edge platform, though”
(3.9/5)

myPOSSign-up:
Online registration with verification steps
See offer

£39–£229 (purchase) No monthly fee
No lock-in

1.1%-2.85% + 7p transaction fees
“myPOS has many additional tools and account features with its new, flexible card machines that work across the EEA”
(3.9/5)

ZettleSign-up:
Short online form, quick acceptance
See offer

£29/£59-£199 (purchase) No monthly fee
No lock-in

Transaction fee
1.75%
“Zettle still sells the most ergonomic terminals for a small business, but features have stopped developing in the last few years”
(3.8/5)

BarclaycardSign-up:
Get quote, online sign-up
See offer

£15+/mo (rental) 12-18 months’ contract
£150 setup fee

Tailored transaction fees
“Barclaycard Business is only worth considering as an existing Barclays customer with high turnover. The products aren’t the best”
(3.6/5)

*Prices exclude VAT.

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

Square – excellent free point of sale tools

Square
Our rating:
(4.3/5)

>> Our review

Square offers

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 (recently improved) and freestanding Square Terminal with a touchscreen and receipt printer.

You only need to pay for the card machine upfront and a fixed 1.75% per transaction. There is no monthly fee or contract lock-in.

Square Reader Square Terminal
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi)
Price (purchase) £19 + VAT £149 + VAT
Offer
Transaction fee 1.75%
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts 1-2 working days in bank account, instant for 1% fee
Square Reader Square Terminal
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi)
Price (purchase) £19 + VAT £149 + VAT
Offer
Transaction fee 1.75%
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts 1-2 working days in bank account, instant for 1% fee

Square Reader is the smallest, most lightweight 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: MobileTransaction

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 1.4% + 25p for UK-issued cards and 2.5% + 25p for all non-UK 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. Apart from the above accepted cards, you can add Clearpay (buy now, pay later solution) as an option in store and online.

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

Every time I use Square, I notice new features have been added to the payment app or back office account, or the software on the terminal runs smoother. You can tell they take product development seriously.

Emily Sorensen portrait   Emily Sorensen, Senior Editor at MobileTransaction

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 – competitive contracts with good terminal

Pros:

  • Cheap, monthly plan available

  • Versatile card machine selection

  • Tailored fees for small businesses

  • Friendly, efficient onboarding

Cons:

  • Pricing not transparent, quote required

  • 18-month contract on most plans

Takepayments is a popular merchant service provider in the UK, with a monthly rolling or 18-month contract. Regardless of your choice of plan, Takepayments is most beneficial with a monthly card turnover of at least £2,000.

Takepaymentsplus The Easy Deal
Card machine Mobile touchscreen terminal (PAX A920)
Cost (rental) £25 + VAT/mo £7.50 + VAT/mo
Contract 18 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-
plus
The Easy Deal
Card machine Mobile touchscreen terminal (PAX A920)
Cost (rental) £25 + VAT/mo £7.50 + VAT/mo
Contract 18 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 most popular plan, Takepaymentsplus, includes the smart POS terminal PAX A920Pro with a large touchscreen, tactile sticker (for the visually impaired) and built-in SIM card with mobile data.

It has a complete – and easy to use, in our tests – till app that’s ideal as a mobile checkout, with the ability to add a product library and monitor sales by staff members. The package costs £25 + VAT per month and has an 18 months’ contract.

For £7.50 + VAT monthly (Easy Deal) and a £150 + VAT one-off charge, you only get basic payment software on the same 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.

Credit: MobileTransaction

Takepayments card machine

The rental cost of mobile, portable and countertop Ingenico or Verifone card machines starts at £10 + VAT on a year’s contract. These are traditional models with push-buttons.

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 accepts high transaction values. You also pay fees for refunds and chargebacks.

We’ve always had a positive impression of the Takepayments customer service team. They clearly take a smooth onboarding seriously and will go out of their way to offer the best possible solution for your business.

Emily Sorensen portrait   Emily Sorensen, Senior Editor at MobileTransaction

On an annual plan, we were given 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 during the initial term. 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

VisaVisa ElectronMastercardMaestroAmerican 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. For more extensive POS features, you can opt for a tPOS package with a touchscreen register and EPOS software tailored to your industry.

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.

SumUp – great value for money

SumUp
Our rating:
(4.2/5)

>> Our review

SumUp offers

Pros:

  • Choice of 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

Purchased upfront, SumUp Air is a flat-surfaced card reader that connects with a phone app. For a higher price, the independent SumUp Solo comes with or without the most beautiful, ergonomic receipt printer we’ve tried.

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 Solo & Printer
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, 4G) Standalone terminal with receipt printer (WiFi, 4G)
Price (purchase) £39 + VAT £79 + VAT £139 + 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 Solo
& Printer
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, 4G) Standalone terminal with receipt printer (WiFi, 4G)
Price (purchase) £39 + VAT £79 + VAT £139 + 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

The new standalone terminal SumUp Solo and Printer is the cheapest card machine with a receipt printer in the UK. It features a black and white touchscreen that’s visible in bright daylight, with basic software for accepting tips, chip and contactless cards. It doesn’t have a product library or much to impress, but we find it effective for simple transactions nonetheless.

The printing cradle doubles as a power bank, ideal for both countertops and on the go. It works with WiFi or 4G, since it has a SIM card built in free of charge.

You can also buy SumUp Solo with just a desktop charging stand. Either way, Solo can be taken out of its cradle or printer and put in your pocket for the most compact setup.

Credit: MobileTransaction

SumUp card readers in 2023

Alternatively, the cheap card reader called SumUp Air has been a trusted option for years in the UK. 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 normally takes 2-3 working days for payments to reach your bank account, minus the transaction fee, or the new SumUp One subscription transfers funds the next day. You can also receive payouts in the complimentary SumUp Business Account the following day, even on weekends, and spend it with the free Mastercard.

SumUp prioritises ease of use and being able to access features on your phone – even building an (extremely basic) online store is done in SumUp App. Those least techy will appreciate how simple their products are.

Emily Sorensen portrait   Emily Sorensen, Senior Editor at MobileTransaction

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.

Dojo – simple, short-contract package

Dojo
Our rating:
(4/5)

>> Our review

Dojo offer

Pros:

  • Versatile, mobile touchscreen terminal

  • Next-day payouts

  • Can buy out your existing contract

Cons:

  • Quote and monthly fees required

  • 6-month contract if low turnover

  • Better fees require £150k+/yr turnover

Dojo is a relatively new product powered by Paymentsense. For merchants making under £150k annually in card payments, the Dojo Go subscription has a 6-month contract and no setup fee. After the 6 months are up, it becomes a monthly, rolling contract.

Those with a card turnover above £150k annually can get a monthly contract from the start.

If you are locked into another card machine contract, Dojo can pay up to £3,000 of the exit fees to your old payment provider.

Dojo Go
Card machine Mobile, standalone touchscreen terminal (PAX A920)
Cost (rental) Below £12.5k/mo card turnover: £20 + VAT/mo
Over £12.5k/mo card turnover: custom fee
Transaction fees 1.4%-1.8% + 5p or custom
50p refund fee
£28 + VAT per chargeback
Contract Monthly or 6 months
No setup fee
£24.95 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) Below £12.5k/mo card turnover: £20 + VAT/mo
Over £12.5k/mo card turnover: custom fee
Transaction fees 1.4%-1.8% + 5p or custom
50p refund fee
£28 + VAT per chargeback
Contract 6 months (1 month for some merchants)
No setup fee
£24.95 monthly min. charge
Early termination fee applies
Payouts Next day in bank account (free)
Offer

There’s a monthly rental fee (max. £20 + VAT) for Dojo Go, plus transaction charges and a few other costs.

The plan is best suited for businesses with a consistent sales volume, because you’ll have to pay a minimum of £24.95 per month towards transactions (“monthly minimum service charge”).

Credit: MobileTransaction

Transaction fees depend on the brand and type of card accepted. Consumer debit and credit cards from Visa, Mastercard and Maestro cost 1.4% + 5p per transaction. Business, premium and corporate cards cost 1.8% + 5p per transaction. Amex has their own (typically higher) fees that are custom to your business.

Above an annual card turnover of £150k, Dojo customises your rates which may fall between 0.3%-2% plus a fixed authorisation fee.

You get free next-day payouts with Dojo – including Bank Holidays and weekends – which is faster than most payment providers can guarantee.

Accepted cards

VisaMastercardMaestroDiscoverDiners ClubAmerican 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. Ecommerce integration and payment links are also available for slightly higher transaction fees.

I see small shops, market stalls and cafés using Dojo everywhere in London, so Dojo must be doing something right. My own testing of their terminal showed me it’s a good product, but the software features are quite basic.

Emily Sorensen portrait   Emily Sorensen, Senior Editor at MobileTransaction

Overall, Dojo is a great option for staffed businesses that consistently make several thousands of pounds a month and need a quality card machine for 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

Worldpay quote

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 from 1.5%
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 from 1.5%
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: MobileTransaction

Worldpay card machines

Card machine rental starts at £17.95 + VAT for a standard model (Ingenico Desk/5000), and then you have transaction charges and merchant account fees on top. While 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 most cards, though American Express requires a separate agreement. Next-working day settlement is available.

Worldpay is more traditional in its approach to product development. Although the card machines are high quality, the backend software is still behind when it comes to design and usability.

Emily Sorensen portrait   Emily Sorensen, Senior Editor at MobileTransaction

Email invoicing, an online payment gateway (for ecommerce), virtual terminal for phone payments and payment links have an additional monthly cost.

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

myPOS card machines – with flexible business account

myPOS
Our rating:
(3.9/5)

>> Our review

myPOS offers

Pros:

  • With online business account

  • Many add-on features available

  • Works across European borders

Cons:

  • Bank account payouts cost extra

  • Inactivity fee and other hidden fees

  • Sign-up not immediate

myPOS is a European payment company that sells card machines with a whole range of extras. This includes an online business account with accompanying prepaid Visa card, online payments and the ability to use the card machine across Europe.

There’s no lock-in contract or ordinarily a monthly fee. That said, a couple of inactivity fees amounting to £15 monthly kick in after 10 months of no transactions, so you do have to cancel the account by then to avoid those charges.

myPOS Go 2 myPOS Pro
Card machine Independent card reader (GPRS, 3G, 4G) Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, GPRS, 3G, 4G)
Price (purchase) £39 + VAT £229 + VAT
Offer
Transaction fees 1.1%-2.85% + 7p
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts Instant in e-account, then can transfer to bank account
myPOS Go 2 myPOS Pro
Card machine Independent card reader (GPRS, 3G, 4G) Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, GPRS, 3G, 4G)
Price (purchase) £39 + VAT £229 + VAT
Offer
Transaction fees 1.1%-2.85% + 7p
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts Instant in e-account, then can transfer to bank account

myPOS sells a choice of card machines to meet the needs of any merchant. They all come with a built-in SIM card connecting with the local mobile network anywhere in the UK and EEA to process chip, swipe and contactless card payments.

The lowest-cost option is myPOS Go, which is in fact the cheapest standalone card reader in the UK. The latest version (myPOS Go 2) looks simple, but it exceeds even SumUp in its ability to accept preauthorisation payments and sell mobile top-ups. If you get the bundle that includes a charging and printing dock (£179 + VAT), you can print receipts too. It does not, however, work with WiFi.

Credit: MobileTransaction

myPOS Pro and myPOS Go 2 next to a myPOS card

myPOS Pro (top) and myPOS Go 2 (bottom) are independent terminals that include a debit card.

myPOS Pro, on the other hand, works with WiFi and network connections like 4G. Featuring all-day battery power and a large touchscreen, its selection of optional apps elevates it from a simple card machine to portable POS system. It comes with a built-in receipt printer too.

Accepted cards

VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroJCBUnion PayAmerican ExpressContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

Transaction fees are 1.1% + 7p for domestic or EEA consumer Visa or Mastercard cards, 2.45% + 7p for Amex and 2.85% + 7p for all other debit and credit cards.

Transactions settle automatically in the complimentary business account, whereafter you can manually transfer (or schedule) funds to your bank account for £1.50 per payout. Other charges apply to certain account activities like cross-border transfers and chargebacks.

On paper, myPOS holds great promise with its cross-border account features and highly flexible products. But for UK businesses, it’s not one of the quickest (or cheapest) card machines to get started with.

Emily Sorensen portrait   Emily Sorensen, Senior Editor at MobileTransaction

myPOS’s sign-up process is a bit longer than other pay-as-you-go services, as you’ll need to submit documentation and complete a video identification call. When ordering a card machine, myPOS also adds a £6 shipping charge.

Zettle – good-looking card readers

Zettle
Our rating:
(3.8/5)

>> Our review

Zettle offers

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
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, 4G)
Price (purchase) First one:
£29 + VAT
Extras:
£59 + VAT
Without barcode scanner:
£149 + VAT
With barcode scanner or printer:
£199 + VAT
Transaction fee 1.75%
Contract No lock-in, no monthly fee
Payouts 1-2 working days in bank account
Zettle Reader Zettle Terminal
Card machine Card reader connected to phone/tablet app Standalone touchscreen terminal (WiFi, 4G)
Price (purchase) First one:
£29 + VAT
Extras:
£59 + VAT
Without barcode scanner:
£149 + VAT
With barcode scanner or printer:
£199 + VAT
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: MobileTransaction

Zettle Reader box contents

Zettle Reader and its box contents that we unpacked.

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.

Credit: MobileTransaction

Zettle Terminal in a dock

Zettle Terminal in the optional printing-and-charging dock.

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 many card brands – whether contactless or chip and PIN – for the same fixed percentage even for foreign and premium cards. 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.

Zettle’s card readers are still among the best in terms of quality and how easy it is to use them, but since PayPal’s takeover of the company, the products have not really been improved.

Emily Sorensen portrait   Emily Sorensen, Senior Editor at MobileTransaction

While Zettle used to be the leading card reader company in the UK, it has had to give way to Square and SumUp competing in the same segments. The two latter has added more functionality in recent years, and SumUp’s transaction fee is the best in market for new businesses.

Barclaycard Business – better for bigger companies

Barclaycard
Our rating:
(3.6/5)

>> Our review

Barclaycard quote

Pros:

  • Trusted merchant account provider

  • Integrates with many POS systems

Cons:

  • Pricing not transparent, quote required

  • 12-18 months’ contract, with setup fee

  • No web portal for reports

Barclaycard Business is one of the UK’s biggest credit card processors (competing with Worldpay). Many of its card machine contracts are sold through independent sales organisations, but you can also set up a merchant account and rent card payment machines directly from Barclaycard.

Barclaycard Business
Card machines Countertop, portable and mobile models
Cost (rental) £15-£29 + VAT/month
Transaction fees 1.6% fixed rate, or custom fees
Fees apply to refunds and chargebacks
Contract 12 or 18 months
£150 setup fee
Monthly min. charge applies
£115 + VAT early termination fee
Payouts 1-7 working days in bank account (free)
Barclaycard Business
Card machines Countertop, portable and mobile models
Cost (rental) £15-£29 + VAT/month
Transaction fees 1.6% fixed rate, or custom fees
Fees apply to refunds and chargebacks
Contract 12 or 18 months
£150 setup fee
Monthly min. charge applies
£115 + VAT early termination fee
Payouts 1-7 working days in bank account (free)

Barclaycard offers a range of card machines for portable, stationary and mobile use. They can be integrated with many POS systems or used on their own.

A contract for a mobile Ingenico Move 5000 terminal is 18 months long for a £15 + VAT monthly rental fee. Their recently-launched Smartpay Touch (PAX A920 terminal) with built-in POS features costs £29 + VAT per month to rent on a 12-month contract.

On top of this, you get a merchant account with separate, ongoing costs.

Barclaycard card machines

Businesses with a card turnover of less than £200k per year pay a fixed rate of 1.6% for any card accepted. For those with a higher turnover, rates will be tailored and depend on the type of card, transaction value and sales volume.

A monthly minimum service charge may apply when your turnover does not reach an agreed threshold.

The only way to know about all costs is to ask the bank. Only existing, high-volume Barclays merchants can get lower, custom rates. The application process is a bit stricter than others, since your borrowing history and financial circumstances are assessed. This means new or financially risky businesses may be rejected.

Accepted cards

VisaMastercardMaestroDiners ClubDiscoverJCBUnion PayAmerican ExpressContactlessApple PayGoogle Pay

The sales reps are not pushy like many merchant service providers, but new account holders need to stomach a £150 setup fee and accept an early termination fee of £115 + VAT at least (which is actually lower than most providers’ exit fees). Other fees for PCI-DSS compliance, refunds, chargebacks and more apply.

You can accept online payments through Barclaycard’s payment gateway and mail order and telephone (MOTO) payments through their virtual terminal, but these incur separate costs.

Barclaycard is still used by many businesses, but the bank has been slow to take their software into the 21st century. For example, they still promote a card reader with a very outdated app.

Emily Sorensen portrait   Emily Sorensen, Senior Editor at MobileTransaction

A standard agreement includes acceptance of Visa, Mastercard, Diners Club and Discover whereas American Express requires an additional agreement. Settlement takes up to 7 working days with a non-Barclays bank account or 1-3 working days with a Barclays account.

Up-and-coming alternatives

Sometimes, the best card reader the one designed for your business account.

We considered including Revolut Reader and Tide Card Reader on our shortlist above, but we’re not convinced that the products deserve our full approval yet. Let’s have a brief look at them.

Revolut Reader – low domestic rate, good business account

The black and white card reader from Revolut (£49 + VAT) connects wirelessly with the Revolut Business app. Our experience of testing it has been mixed, with bugs and slow customer support to begin with, but it’s gradually improved.

For example, more point of sale (POS) features have been added to the app, but it took me some time to get used to finding the card reader function when I needed it. This was complicated by Revolut withdrawing the function repeatedly, asking me to resubmit proof of my business. So I’d say Revolut Reader probably works best if you’re using it often enough to get used to it.

Revolut Reader

Revolut Reader with MobileTransaction card

Pros:

  • Low card rate for domestic consumer cards (0.8% + 2p)
  • Convenient for impromptu payments through the Revolut Business app

Cons:

  • Only works with a Revolut Business Account
  • Design and build feel a bit cheap, with a visibly pixellated screen
  • Payment flow feels a bit tedious (no dedicated payment app)
  • If not used actively, you might have to verify the account repeatedly

Tide Card Reader – most affordable standalone terminals

Tide offers two freestanding card terminals (though each business is only allowed to purchase one): a small, smartphone-like card reader with very basic payment features (£49 + VAT), and a larger touchscreen terminal with receipt printing and more software features (£79 + VAT).

Our experience is that the product is still under development with important limitations, so it’s only worth considering as a Tide account holder.

Tide Card Readers

Pros:

  • The card machines are quite cheap for standalone models
  • Low fixed transaction rate (1.5%)
  • Free SIM for mobile connectivity included

Cons:

  • Only works with Tide Business Account
  • Only 4 months’ warranty
  • Transactions have to be a minimum of £5 each
  • Processing refunds has to be done by a Tide employee
  • Can only own one terminal

Types of terminals

Listing merchant service providers is not always helpful when you have a particular type of card machine in mind, irrespective of brand.

So let’s look at what type of payment terminals we have, to have a better idea of which are suitable for your needs. We consider these the key aspects:

  • Is it freestanding? This refers to whether it works on its own, without connecting with an external POS system or mobile device app.
  • Does it connect with WiFi? If it does, it is basically wireless, portable and suitable for carrying around premises with a secure WiFi network.
  • Does it connect with 3G or 4G? If it does, it is classed as a mobile card terminal. This typically comes with its own SIM card with data included.
  • Does it print receipts? Most card machines can send email or text receipts, but not all have a receipt printer built in or attached.

Card readers linked with a mobile device

Let’s start with the card readers that don’t work on their own:

App-based reader Free-
standing
WiFi 3G/4G Receipt printer
Square Reader No Via mobile device Via mobile device Integrations available
SumUp Air No Via mobile device Via mobile device Integrations available
Zettle Reader No Via mobile device Via mobile device Integrations available
App-based
reader
Free-
standing
WiFi 3G/4G Receipt
printer
Square Reader No Via mobile device Via mobile device Integrations available
SumUp Air No Via mobile device Via mobile device Integrations available
Zettle Reader No Via mobile device Via mobile device Integrations available

Square Reader, SumUp Air and Zettle Reader are operated through a phone/tablet app wirelessly linked to the card reader via Bluetooth. They do not accept cards independently. This makes them cheaper, with the added value of a free app that works as a portable POS system.

As a downside, you’ll need a stable Bluetooth connection to pair a phone with the card reader. We know some users (not all) of Zettle Reader and SumUp Air have frequently had to reconnect with the phone to take a card payment, which can be awkward when customers are waiting.

Independent, receipt-printing terminals (purchase less than £200)

In contrast, myPOS Go 2, SumUp Solo and Zettle Terminal are freestanding terminals purchased with or without a receipt printer attachment. The SumUp and myPOS printers double as a mobile power bank, whereas Zettle’s has to be plugged in to charge the card reader and printer.

Card machine Freestanding WiFi 3G/4G Receipt printer
myPOS Go 2 Yes Yes Yes Yes, with attachment
SumUp Solo Yes Yes Yes Yes, with attachment
Zettle Terminal Yes Yes Yes Yes, with attachment
Square Terminal Yes Yes No Yes, built in
Card
machine
Free-
standing
WiFi 3G/4G Receipt
printer
myPOS Go 2 Yes Yes Yes Yes, with attachment
SumUp Solo Yes Yes Yes Yes, with attachment
Zettle Terminal Yes Yes Yes Yes, with attachment
Square Terminal Yes Yes No Yes, built in

The cheapest independent card reader is myPOS Go 2, but the optional receipt printer bumps up the price considerably.

Square Terminal is the odd one out, because it comes with a receipt printer built in, so no additional attachment is required. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with mobile networks so you can only use it around fixed premises with a secured WiFi network.

PAX A920 touchscreen terminal (rental only)

Of the more sophisticated touchscreen terminals, PAX A920 is a recurring model offered by Takepayments, Dojo and Barclaycard. This is a popular terminal with a receipt printer, adaptable POS features, WiFi and mobile connectivity.

PAX A920 rental plan Freestanding WiFi 3G/4G Receipt printer
Takepayments (Plus, Easy Deal) Yes Yes Yes Yes, built in
Dojo Go Yes Yes Yes Yes, built in
Barclaycard Smartpay Touch Yes Yes Yes Yes, built in
PAX A920
rental plan
Free-
standing
WiFi 3G/4G Receipt
printer
Takepayments (Plus, Easy Deal) Yes Yes Yes Yes, built in
Dojo Go Yes Yes Yes Yes, built in
Barclaycard Smartpay Touch Yes Yes Yes Yes, built in

The real difference between the providers is the software installed on PAX A920. Every solution comes with its own app that varies in complexity, but they all take card payments anywhere.

Takepaymentsplus and Barclaycard Smartpay Plus include the most advanced on-screen POS features with a product library, whereas Takepayments Easy Deal and Dojo Go only really take card payments with a basic or no optional transaction description.

Other high-end card machines (for rental or purchase over £200)

What about other high-end terminals? The more sophisticated model, myPOS Pro, rivals PAX A920. It has a receipt printer and lots of optional apps for e.g. selling mobile top-ups and gift cards.

Card machine Type WiFi 3G/4G Receipt printer
Worldpay Ingenico Axium DX8000 Mobile, touchscreen, independent, optional till integration Yes Yes Yes, built in
Worldpay Ingenico Desk 5000 Stationary, with cable, push-buttons, optional till integration Yes Yes Yes, built in
myPOS Pro Mobile, touchscreen, independent Yes Yes Yes, built in
Barclaycard Ingenico Move 5000 Mobile, push-buttons, independent Yes Yes Yes, built in
Card
machine
Type WiFi 3G/4G Receipt
printer
Worldpay Ingenico Axium DX8000 Mobile, touchscreen, independent, optional till integration Yes Yes Yes, built in
Worldpay Ingenico Desk 5000 Stationary, with cable, push-buttons, optional till integration Yes Yes Yes, built in
myPOS Pro Mobile, touchscreen, independent Yes Yes Yes, built in
Barclaycard Ingenico Move 5000 Mobile, push-buttons, independent Yes Yes Yes, built in

Worldpay offers its own touchscreen terminal: Axium DX8000. It has a simple payment app for contactless and chip and PIN acceptance, but the model – along with its Ingenico Desk 5000 – also integrates with POS systems.

Barclaycard offers the cheapest push-button card machine: Ingenico Move 5000. But we’re noticing payment providers phasing out push-button models in favour of portable touchscreen terminals such as PAX A920, so Ingenico Move (or Desk) 5000 may not be around for much longer.

Fees and contracts

Never mind the hardware – what about cost? Too often, small businesses have been lured into a contract with extortionate fees. You should therefore consider what monthly price and fees will be worth it at your particular transaction level.

Company Contract Purchase* Monthly fee* Transactions
Square None £19–£149 None 1.75%
SumUp None £39–£139 None 1.69%
Takepayments 1-18 months n/a £7.50-£25 Custom
Dojo 1-6 months n/a £20 or custom 1.4%-1.8% + 5p or custom
Worldpay 18 months n/a £17.95-£23 Custom
myPOS None £39–£229 None 1.1%-2.85% + 7p
Zettle None £29–£249 None 1.75%
Barclaycard 12-18 months n/a £15-£29 1.6% or custom

Fortunately, card machine contracts are no longer allowed to be more than 18 months, but most of our recommendations have either no or a shorter contract anyway.

New and very small businesses (e.g. single-person traders) are best off with a commitment-free card reader without a monthly fee, if unsure of the long-term success of the business, frequency of payments and transaction volume.

Typically, you get customisable and lower transaction rates with a contract. So even though fees are not transparent on a provider’s website, it’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as the tailored rates are presented clearly and in full when getting a quote.

What’s the best card machine? Questions answered

Any of these card machines can be considered ‘best’ for some businesses, so it’s important to consider your priorities.

Do you want the cheapest card payment machine without a contract?

Then choose an app-based card machine: Zettle Reader (most ergonomic), SumUp Air (glass surface) or Square Reader (smallest). These connect with a mobile device via Bluetooth, and the accompanying point of sale (POS) apps are great, simple tills for a lot of small businesses.

The cheapest standalone terminal is the new myPOS Go 2 with a free SIM card and data for card processing anywhere.

Don’t want to depend on an app for card payments, but can’t commit to a contract?

Then choose myPOS Go for the cheapest model, Zettle Terminal for the best mobile terminal with or without a barcode scanner/printer, or SumUp Solo for the cheapest card machine with a receipt printer.

Square Terminal suits those who need the best online tools, but it only works with WiFi, not mobile networks.

Takepayments or Dojo are other low-commitment solutions, the latter able to buy you out of an existing card machine contract. They have all the payment software built into a high-performance, standalone terminal.

Do you want the best card machine package, even if it means a contract?

Takepayments, Dojo, Worldpay and Barclaycard are the best long-term choices for established merchants. Their card machines are high-end, customer service is good, and you get a full-fledged merchant account with the best available rates for your business.

That said, Takepayments leads with better fees for small businesses above a £2k monthly sales threshold, whereas Dojo gets cheaper with a monthly turnover above £12.5k. Barclaycard and Worldpay are only good value with a turnover of at least £250k annually (over £20k/month).

Summary of solutions:

Card machine Description
Square
Visit site
  • Card reader with app & standalone WiFi terminal
  • £19–£149 + VAT
  • No contract or monthly fees
  • 1.75% per transaction
Takepayments
Visit site
  • Mobile, portable & countertop machines
  • Terminal rental + merchant account
  • 1- or 18-month contract
  • Custom fees
SumUp
Visit site
  • Card reader & mobile, standalone model
  • £39–£139 + VAT
  • No contract or monthly fees
  • 1.69% per transaction
Dojo
Visit site
  • Mobile card machine
  • Terminal rental + monthly min. fee
  • 1- or 6-month contract, no setup fee
  • Custom fees
Worldpay
Visit site
  • Mobile, portable & countertop machines
  • Terminal rental + merchant account
  • 18-month contract
  • Custom fees, different price plans
myPOS
Visit site
  • Mobile & portable card machines
  • Terminal purchase + online account
  • No contract or monthly fees
  • 1.1%-2.85% + 7p per transaction
Zettle
Visit site
  • Card reader with app & standalone terminal
  • £29–£199 + VAT
  • No contract or monthly fees
  • 1.75% per transaction
Barclaycard
Visit site
  • Mobile, portable & countertop machines
  • Terminal rental + merchant account
  • 12- or 18-month contract
  • £150 + VAT setup + other fees