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
SumUp Air: £14.50
Lowest contract-free transaction rate
Square £19 Unbeatable free POS features
iZettle £19 (full: £59) Stylish, all-round card reader with POS app
Worldpay Custom quote Competitive for more established merchants
Handepay Custom quote Can buy you out of another terminal contract

*Prices exclude VAT.

Top Terminal
SumUp Air: £14.50
3G: £89
Square £19
iZettle £19 (full: £59)
Worldpay Custom quote
Handepay Custom quote

*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.

SumUp – simplest card reader with or without mobile app

Our rating
  • No ongoing fees, fixed transaction rate

  • Two models: with or without app

  • Settlement takes 1-3 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, but also WiFi.

Photo: Emily Sorensen, Mobile Transaction

mobile hairdresser card machine

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 1-3 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. It is very easy to figure out, with a product library for adding your services or hair 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 the client’s card is American). The terminal is lightweight, fits into regular pockets and can be paired with an optional SumUp Printer.

The SumUp App lets you send payment links, accept QR code payments, create a basic online store and send invoices – all for 2.5% per successful transaction. All SumUp merchants can use this without monthly fees, regardless of whether you have the SumUp Air or SumUp 3G.

Accepted cards

VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressDiners ClubUnion PayDiscoverContactlessApple PayGoogle Pay

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 weekends, 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

Price: £14.50 (offer here)

SumUp 3G: Simplest possible card machine for anywhere

Price: £89 (offer here)

Square Reader – smallest terminal, most POS features

Our rating
  • No monthly fees, just a card rate

  • Works with POS app on mobile device

  • Next-day settlement

  • 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.

Photo: Square

Square Reader is very small and lightweight, so it’s easy to bring at clients’ houses and back to your desk.

The transaction rate is 1.75% for chip and contactless cards regardless of the card accepted. In addition, you get Square Invoices, a Virtual Terminal (for over-the-phone payments), ecommerce and payment links as free extra tools without monthly fees, just a 2.5% for all keyed-in payments. 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 keyed-in rate too (neither SumUp nor iZettle 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 Square Online Store 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.

Accepted cards

VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

For example, you can receive alerts when stock levels are low, get customer feedback through the digital receipts and refund custom amounts.

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.

Learn more: Square review: tiny card reader with wealth of POS features

Square Reader: £19

iZettle Reader – stylish card reader with free POS features

Our rating
  • 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

mobile hairdresser card machine

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).

Accepted cards

VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressDiners ClubJCBUnion PayDiscoverContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

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.

Learn more: iZettle Reader review – leading card reader with POS app

iZettle Reader: £19 (normally £59)

Worldpay – best with a long-term, steady card turnover

Our rating
  • Choice of price plans

  • 24/7 customer support