As a self-employed hairdresser, barber or stylist, you don’t want to be stuck with the wrong card machine. The wrong setup can complicate transactions, bookkeeping and just be too expensive – but there are several very affordable card machines for hairdressing sole traders.
We have picked the five best UK payment companies offering card terminals for self-employed stylists, hairdressers and barbers. All these options are mobile too, ideal for events and home visits.
|Company||Terminal price*||Best for||Offer|
|iZettle||Stylish, all-round card reader with POS app|
|Lowest contract-free transaction rate|
|Square||£19||Unbeatable free POS features|
|Worldpay||Custom quote||Competitive for more established merchants|
|Handepay||Custom quote||Can buy you out of another terminal contract|
*Prices exclude VAT.
Before we cover the options, consider your needs. Perhaps you work your flair in a salon, but what if you’re visiting clients? What if you sell your own styling products? How do you manage commissions? Can card sales be linked to accounting? Key questions:
Do you want to itemise transactions into services and products?
If you offer your own styling products, then it’s easier to use a payment app. iZettle, SumUp Air and Square come with a POS app with product library so you can itemise products on receipts and manage stock better. You can even list your services in the app even though they are not physical products. Traditional card terminals only deal with transaction amounts entered manually, unless linked to an external POS system.
Are you receiving or paying commission from your sales?
If you get commission from products sold in a salon, the salon’s card machine should process those transactions. The payments will go to the salon’s bank account, and it is the owner’s responsibility to pass on commissions to you.
If you are renting a chair, room or booth in a salon and, instead of paying a fixed amount, you are paying the salon a commission from your transactions, there are two ways to go. Either you have your own card machine, in which case you receive payments in your bank account, then pass on commissions to the salon. Or you use the salon’s card machine and rely on the owner to keep the commission and give the rest to you. Card machines can only be linked to one business and bank account, not multiple.
What reporting functions do you need?
If you need to export sales to Excel, most of the below solutions can do that for free. Integrating with Xero and other accounting software can cost extra.
Can you commit to a long-term contract and do you anticipate a steady card turnover?
Worldpay and Handepay have lock-ins of 1-3 years. These contracts give you the best rates with a history of existing card turnover and steady income. If sales are less predictable and you can’t tell how much freelance work there’ll be, SumUp, iZettle or Square have very competitive fees while also allowing you to accept a wide range of cards without a contract.
No monthly fees, only fixed card rate
Works with POS app on mobile device
Settlement takes 1-2 working days
No contractual commitment
iZettle Reader is ideal for merchants wanting a cool-looking, pocket-sized card reader that can also pass as a mini POS system. The card reader connects via Bluetooth to the iZettle Go app on your smartphone or tablet, accepting payments over the mobile device’s internet connection.
Photo: Emily Sorensen, Mobile Transaction
The black iZettle Reader is used by stylists in Kennaland hair salon in Hackney, London.
iZettle has no monthly fees, no minimum sales requirement, no setup fee – you only pay a 1.75% transaction fee per card reader payment. If you don’t sell anything, you pay nothing. There’s no contractual commitment either.
The POS app comes with a nice product library where you can add individual products and services, thereby track what’s been purchased. You can also send invoices and payment links, which have a higher transaction rate, 2.5%.
The software includes reporting tools, viewed fully in your iZettle account from any web browser. It integrates with Xero and Debitoor for more accounting tools, if exporting sales to Excel does not cut it for your books.
Payouts automatically go to your bank account within 1-2 working days, which is a bit faster than many competitors.
As to customer service, you can phone iZettle between 9am-5pm on weekdays, or email any time (although replies only happen during weekday work hours).
Small businesses and self-employed professionals speak highly of iZettle for its easy of use and affordability (we have tested it and talked with iZettle customers, so we know). That said, recent negative reviews online complain about customer service and issues not being dealt with promptly. Overall, many merchants find iZettle the best-value solution for face-to-face services.
No ongoing fees, fixed transaction rate
Two models: with or without app
Settlement takes 2-3 working days
No contractual lock-in
SumUp is popular, not least because it has the lowest card rate of all contract-free card machines, i.e. 1.69% per transaction. There are two card reader models: SumUp Air that works with a payment app on a connected smartphone or tablet, and SumUp 3G with an inbuilt SIM card enabling it to work independently via (you guessed it) 3G.
Photo: Emily Sorensen, Mobile Transaction
SumUp Air is one of several card readers used at Martin James Hairstylists, London.
There’s no setup fee, monthly fees, monthly minimum sales charge or other ongoing costs. It’s simple to sign up, buy the card reader and start accepting cards once connected to your bank account. Payouts automatically reach your bank account within 2-3 working days of each transaction.
The app-based card reader, Air, is the cheapest because it needs the SumUp payment app on a Bluetooth-connected phone or tablet. The app features are similar to iZettle’s, and just as user-friendly, but there are fewer of them. For example, you can’t charge clients via email invoices or track stock levels. But it does have a product library for adding your services and add-on products for clients.
The 3G card reader works independently, so it’s pricier upfront, but then you don’t need a phone to authorise payments. You simply enter the amount, then let the customer enter their PIN for a chip card or tap to pay by contactless (or swipe if your client’s card is American). The terminal is lightweight and fits into regular pockets.
Although reporting tools are available in the online dashboard, SumUp is the only solution on this list that does not integrate with external accounting software. You can analyse sales, receive payout reports by email and export to Excel, though.
Customer support is available between 8am-7pm on weekdays and 8am-5pm on Saturdays, which is the most support hours offered by a commitment-free card reader.
Overall, SumUp is a great low-cost card machine for mobile hairdressers who are not ready to commit to a contract or know what their freelance income will be over the next year.
SumUp Air with app: Cheapest no-contract card payments on the go
£29 £19 (offer here)
£99 £69 (offer here)
No monthly fees, just a card rate
Works with POS app on mobile device
No contractual commitment
If you’re going for most features, the deceptively plan-looking Square Reader is your best card reader-with-app solution. It accepts chip (PIN on mobile app screen) and contactless cards. The lack of PIN pad means it’s the smallest of all card readers, and the most lightweight. It connects via Bluetooth to the Square Point of Sale app on your smartphone or tablet, using the mobile device’s data/internet connection when authorising card payments.
Square Reader is very small and lightweight, so it’s easy to bring at clients’ houses and back to your desk.
Square has the same card rates as iZettle, i.e. 1.75% for chip and contactless cards and 2.5% for key-in payments. The free Square Invoices app charges the key-in rate for successful transactions. You can also manually enter card details in the POS app if you’ve forgotten the card reader and you’re with the client and payment card, incurring the key-in rate too (neither iZettle nor SumUp allow this in their apps).
There are no monthly or other charges apart from the fixed card rate applicable to any of the accepted cards. Square offers several additional tools at a monthly cost, but these are relevant mainly for ecommerce and if you have employees. If you need scheduling, accounting or nearly any other tools, you can integrate with a big range of partner platforms to connect sales and features.
For an additional 1% on top of the transaction rate, you can get instant payouts to your bank account, otherwise transactions will take one (max. two) working days to reach your bank account.
The free POS app has the most product and payment features out of all app-based card readers.
For example, you can receive alerts when stock levels are low, get customer feedback through the digital receipts and refund custom amounts. There’s also a complimentary Virtual Terminal for over-the-phone payments, accessed from any browser.
Overall, Square is excellent for its ease of use and the quick, online sign-up. It only offers 9am-5pm customer support on weekdays, but most merchants would not need help given the user-friendly interface and lack of complicated terms. There’s no fixed contract, so you can simply stop using it any time, then resume when you need it next.
Choice of price plans
24/7 customer support
2-3 working days’ settlement
18 months’ contract
Worldpay is a large merchant service provider in the UK, offering a wide range of card machine plans with varying charges depending on your turnover, type of business and cards accepted. All but the pay-as-you-go plan comes with an 18-month contract that costs a significant early termination fee if you decide to leave sooner. The pay-as-you-go plan costs £150 + VAT to set up, but then you can leave any time.
The Ingenico Move 5000 model is Worldpay’s choice of mobile card terminal for mobile hairdressers.
The mobile card machine is a standard Ingenico-branded terminal which your clients will be familiar with from shops. It is high-performing, but won’t fit in your pocket (unless large). With its built-in SIM card, you’re able to accept cards on the go through the local 3G/4G network.
It does not link to POS features or a product library – it just accepts card payments. The backend dashboard shows your transactions, but expect to pay a monthly fee for decent reporting tools, or an integration cost if linking to accounting software.
Worldpay may be the better deal if you’re an established professional with a history of card payments, and you’re willing to negotiate card fees for a good quote before signing on to a contract. If you’re clueless about card machine contracts or fees, it may be best to start with a commitment-free solution like iZettle, SumUp or Square.
You get 24/7 customer support with Worldpay, but historically speaking, large companies are prioritised more than self-employed merchants at a payment provider like this.
The range of cards accepted are decent, but you need a separate agreement with American Express to accept Amex, which will cost you more. This is common with a traditional payment company like Worldpay, as Amex works a bit differently than other card brands.
If your terminal works and you have no questions about unexpected fees on your statement, then you could thrive with Worldpay. To get the best card rates, you need a steady stream of card payments within one of the 18-month contracts.
Monthly fee covers transactions
24/7 phone support
Payouts take 3 working days
12-36 months’ contract
Handepay is an independent sales organisation (ISO) offering traditional Spire card machines to small businesses including sole traders. The mobile terminal model has an inbuilt SIM card i.e. works independently via 3G. It won’t fit in a regular pocket, but it’s definitely portable and will appeal to those who prefer a traditional card machine. It does not link to a product library or POS tools – it merely accepts amounts manually entered on the terminal.
Handepay’s mobile Spire terminal is heavier than the small card readers, but it’s good quality.
If you prefer paying the same price every month instead of mixed fees, Handepay could be a good option since they offer fixed monthly costs that cover a certain number of transactions per month. There are other costs of course, as with any traditional merchant service provider, but Handepay has made an effort to reduce the cluster of fees.
For instance, there is no setup fee, minimum monthly service charge, authorisation fee (fixed fee typically added to card rate), PCI compliance or non-compliance fees or charges for reporting access (expect basic reporting tools, while accounting integrations cost extra).
You can, however, expect early cancellation fees, and must cancel a contract in writing three months before the end of any contract – otherwise, you auto-commit to another 12 months. And like Worldpay, expect to pay for a separate contract if you want to accept Amex.
If you’re stuck in another card machine contract, Handepay will try to beat your current fees – or pay £1,000 if they can’t. Claiming this reward can be a little convoluted, but it shows confidence in their rates to publicise this offer.
Handepay’s customer service is spread across a terminal rental company, Merchant Rentals, and the merchant account provider, Evo Payments or Worldpay. We’ve seen customer complaints that this has complicated issues further, since you’re dealing with disconnected teams. If you rent from Worldpay, more of the services are handled in-house because they provide the merchant accounts directly.
This is a solution that’s only really competitive with a consistent card turnover, as fees will be based on this. If you don’t make any money during some months, you still pay the monthly fee that covers a certain number of card payments, so even if there are no minimum monthly turnover fees, the monthly cost is essentially a replacement for that.