- Highs: Best mobile app. Widest card selection. Very competitive 1.75% rate for all cards.
- Lows: Receipt printers are extra. No phone support after 5 pm unless you pay a monthly fee.
- Buy if: You want an easy solution for taking payments that comes with tons of free extras to grow your business.
You get more than payment processing
As consumers carry less and less cash, debit and credit cards have quickly become the way to pay, only challenged by mobile payments like Apple Pay.
Put simply, not accepting cards and mobile payment methods means lost sales. Many entrepreneurs and small businesses find traditional point of sale (POS) solutions too costly, however. Application processes also have a reputation for being overly strict and slow.
iZettle promised to change all that, and it has. Its compact card readers work in tandem with a clever smartphone app, meaning sellers can take payments just about anywhere, any time. The system operates on a pay-as-you-go model – which has been the main driver of iZettle’s popularity in the UK.
Yet iZettle offers more than card processing. Several free tools are included. In addition to the point of sale app, which works as a touch screen POS system, merchants get marketing, bookkeeping and sales analytics tools. iZettle customers can also get access to small business financing based on sales history.
Before accepting your first payments, the only cost is purchasing the card reader, which has a list price of £59. iZettle even used to offer a basic card reader absolutely free to lure those wary of signing up, but we find the current iZettle Reader well worth its price.
On paper, iZettle appears to be the card payments solution that sole traders, entrepreneurs and start-ups alike have been waiting for. But does iZettle live up to its promise to level the payments playing field in the UK?
iZettle – the low-down
A pioneer in mobile point of sale (mPOS), iZettle has introduced several card readers with features that are ahead of the competition. The newest one, simply called iZettle Reader, boasts improved battery time, faster payment processing and contactless payments.
iZettle accepts a very broad range of credit and debit cards – Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron, V pay, Maestro, American Express, JCB, Diners Club, and Union Pay – but also Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay.
The rates offered by iZettle are rather competitive in today’s POS marketplace. There are no monthly fees, and the transaction fee is just 1.75%.
It’s not all roses though. iZettle cannot print receipts, only send them by email or SMS. Receipt printers are available but cost extra.
Phone support is not available after 5 pm weekdays or on weekends, unless you pay extra for that privilege. Then again, phone support might not be able to solve a problem immediately anyway – we have seen that some entrepreneurs add redundancy by purchasing two competing card readers, cheap as they are.
How does the iZettle Chip and PIN machine work?
iZettle’s card readers are easy to use: the merchant sets the amount to be charged in the app and hands the card reader over to the customer, who inserts the payment card and keys in their PIN number.
Inventory items can also be pre-programmed, complete with names, prices, descriptions and even images. Clicking on a product image allows items to be charged quickly. As such iZettle is more than a payment terminal – the free app is a POS system in its own right with the iPad working as a cash register.
To make the system more useful for accounting purposes, cash sales can also be recorded in the system the same way
iZettle charges: How hard does iZettle hit you in the pocket?
iZettle’s fee structure is simple and straightforward – and best of all, relatively low when compared with other mPOS systems in the marketplace.
Until September 2017, iZettle’s fee system operated on a sliding scale, with transaction rates starting at 2.75% and dropping for sales over £1,500.
The rate is now very simple: 1.75% for all cards.
The card reader itself is extremely good value. The wireless iZettle Reader costs only £59.00 excl. VAT. (Exclusive offer for our readers: £25 excl. VAT through this link).
The charging cradle, iZettle Dock, costs £39.00 excl. VAT in the iZettle accessories store, or can be purchased in a bundle with the iZettle Reader for new customers.
There are no monthly fees, rental charges, monthly minimums, or other fixed costs.
There are no fees for refunds, and there is no added charge for foreign cards.
Funds are deposited daily. They are credited to the seller’s bank account one to three banking days after the transactions took place.
In addition to its default package, named “Go”, iZettle recently added a “Go Plus” package. For £20 monthly, one gets access to staff-level sales reports, making it possible to evaluate performance for various staff members and across different locations.
The Go Plus package also includes extended phone support until 8pm and on weekends too. A final perk is lifetime warranty for the iZettle Reader – hardly worth much considering the low replacement cost of the device.
iZettle also provide you with a chargeback protection up to £250 per month if you follow “best practice” for taking card payments. That means, that if a customer signs for a payment rather than confirms with a PIN code, you should compare the signature with the one on the card. You should also verify the identify of the card owner of a signed for transaction with a valid ID. Contactless payments up to £30 do not require any additional verification.
No merchant account required
A big bonus with iZettle is that there is no need for a merchant account or separate contract with a merchant services provider. All you need is a bank account registered in the name of your business.
iZettle does have transaction limits, yet these are unlikely to affect most business accounts, as the daily limit is £200,000. Transactions made using the magnetic stripe are subject to a daily limit of £100. The minimum transaction possible with iZettle is £1.
How does iZettle’s payment technology stack up?
Similar to more traditional POS systems, central to the iZettle platform is a credit and debit card reader, known as a “Chip and PIN” machine. Several models of iZettle machines have been available over the years – including the “Pro” contactless reader and the simplified “Lite” variant – but in the summer of 2016 iZettle replaced them with what it simply calls “iZettle Reader”.
In addition to the card reader itself, you’ll require a compatible smartphone or tablet on which to run the iZettle app. The app is free and available for Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android platforms. iZettle seems to bring new features to the iOS app first, and it took some time before the Android app began supporting contactless payments, for example, but new features seem to find their way to both apps eventually.
Connect to WiFi or 3G with iZettle
iZettle’s card machine connects to the smartphone or tablet being used, and therefore, the Internet, via Bluetooth. The earlier Lite version connected via cable, but it has been discontinued in favor of the faster Bluetooth option. The iZettle app can connect to iZettle’s servers using either WiFi or 3G/4G. However, we’ve also seen reports from users indicating they’ve had no problems using slower connections, such as EDGE.
Ease of processing
The iZettle reader is not a stand-alone machine – it uses your smartphone or tablet to actually process the payments. This is the essence of the iZettle solution: in contrast to conventional POS terminals that use landlines or a GPRS sim card, iZettle’s card reader smartly utilises the processing power and Internet connection of your smartphone or tablet, meaning there is no requirement for complicated custom hardware.
Charging with USB cable or iZettle Dock
The card reader is charged via a micro USB cable. It will go automatically into sleep mode when not in use, and the battery therefore lasts longer than the older versions, which received complaints for short battery life.
Businesses selling from a fixed location or a desk would want to use the card reader with iZettle Dock, a cradle which charges the reader. This will eliminate all battery worries, as the card terminal is charged when it rests in the cradle. We found that the iZettle Dock makes the iZettle check out experience even more impressive.
Not only does this make the iZettle system portable for use almost anywhere, but it also reduces overall POS costs significantly.
Whom is iZettle suitable for?
The iZettle platform is suitable for all trades and sectors: it’s currently being used by a range of merchants, from plumbers to barbers, book shops, street vendors, hair dressers, taxi drivers to coffee shops.
The mobility iZettle offers is especially useful when taking payments at trade fairs, markets, pop ups and car boot sales. Here, in fact, iZettle’s Chip and PIN machines really come into their own.
Many sole traders use iZettle, but the app also allows for unlimited staff accounts with individual restrictions, so it is suitable for businesses with employees as well.
iZettle is not yet offering table lay out plans, split tenders or tipping options, which might be required by full service restaurants, but it is definitely suitable for smaller food and beverage outlets such as coffee shops.
Expanding to a full Point of Sale system
For most businesses the functionality in the iZettle app is sufficient. If inventory control and more advanced POS features are required, iZettle integrates with iPad POS systems like Intelligent POS, Vend and Lightspeed, which would start at an additional £29 per month.
The most seamless experience is likely found with Intelligent POS, which was acquired by iZettle in 2016.
After an iZettle transaction is processed, there’s an option to send a receipt via email or text message. Printed receipts are also possible, although you’ll need to invest in one of several receipt printers compatible with iZettle. The system can also be expanded with a cash drawer and barcode scanners.
Businesses selling from a till will probably opt for using an iPad or Android tablet with on a tablet stand.
A sleek card machine; also an accounting system
iZettle keeps a record of all sales, and full sales reports are available – including cash sales, if they are recorded via the app. Free analytics tools are included to help keep track of inventory and identify repeat customers, as well as helping to spot business trends, such as revenue growth and top-selling products. All reports are able to be exported to Excel or csv files.
For those who require bookkeeping beyond what the iZettle backend can offer, the system can be integrated with cloud accounting system Xero and the invoicing and accounting system Debitoor.
Integrate with Xero
To take accounting a step further, iZettle can be fully integrated with the online accounting software, Xero. Offering all the standard features of an accounting system, it also includes payroll.
Read more: Xero integration with iZettle
Changing the way small businesses take card payments
Given the ingenuity of its payment model, it’s not surprising that iZettle is not the only company to have introduced a mobile card reader. The card reader craze kicked off in the US with Square, before rapidly spreading to Europe and the UK. Since then, card readers connected to smartphones or tablets have radically changed the way small businesses take card payments. Competition in the UK is now fierce (see our comparison chart).
The card reader market has come on in leaps and bounds, even when compared to just two years ago. Rates have declined, apps are more feature-laden and there are a bunch more providers to choose from.
Previous iZettle reviews we read suggested the Swedish company was quick to become the “go-to” option in the UK. User feedback appears to back up this opinion.
Despite iZettle’s success, German SumUp became a formidable contender for most popular card reader system in the UK. Its flat 1.95% rate was quick to see rapid uptake amongst small businesses. Yet in 2017, iZettle appears to have again taken the upper hand. Having been the first card reader provider to offer contactless payments in 2015, the latest iZettle Reader processes payments faster and has longer battery life than PayPal Here and SumUp Air.
With the backing of MasterCard, American Express and Santander among others – and with funds of more than £153m raised so far – iZettle should be a safe and stable bet in the years to come.