Our rating(4.2/5)
The wireless Zettle Reader accepts cards via any phone or tablet with the Zettle app.
Zettle by PayPal’s (previously known as iZettle) low-cost card reader and free payment app make it easy for entrepreneurs and small businesses to start taking cards. There are no monthly fees, commitment or hidden costs, just a 1.75% rate per transaction.
  • Highs: Great mobile app. No contractual obligation. Accepts many cards incl. Amex. Competitive rate. Remote payments.
  • Lows: No inbuilt receipt printer. Phone support only on weekdays. Slow to add new features.
  • Buy if: You want an easy card payment solution that comes with handy extras to grow your business.


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Get the Zettle Reader 2 for only £19* (regular price £59). No monthly fees or contract.

* Offer for new business users.

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Lowdown

Zettle’s compact card machine works in tandem with a clever mobile app, making it possible to take payments anywhere. You just need a tablet or smartphone with a WiFi or 3G/4G connection – then you can use the Zettle Go app whilst connected with the card reader through Bluetooth.

Zettle Reader 2

Zettle Reader 2 (initially called iZettle Reader 2) was launched in November 2018. With the main distinguishable difference being the green button instead of a blue one, we consider it a minor upgrade from the first iZettle Reader.

While the previous reader is still portrayed in some pictures, this review has been updated to reflect changes with Reader 2.

The company was previously called iZettle with an ‘i’, but it has rebranded to Zettle by PayPal – or Zettle, for short.

The system operates a pay-as-you-go model, which has been the main driver of Zettle’s popularity in the UK. You simply purchase the card reader, then use it however frequently or sporadically you need to.

There’s only a fixed transaction rate for card payments accepted – no monthly fee.

In addition to the app, merchants get payment links, invoicing, gift cards, reporting and sales analytics tools. Zettle customers can also apply for small business financing based on sales history. Small food businesses can upgrade to the Food & Drink POS app.

Zettle accepts one of the broadest ranges of credit and debit cards among card readers in the UK. Visa, Mastercard, Visa Electron, V Pay, Maestro, American Express, JCB, Diners Club, UnionPay and Discover are all accepted, as are the mobile wallets Apple Pay, Google Pay (formerly Android Pay) and Samsung Pay.

Zettle Reader 2 accepts contactless and chip and PIN (or signature for some cards) payments.

Cards accepted

VisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressUnion PayDiners ClubJCBDiscoverContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

Costs and fees

As well as being transparent with no hidden costs, Zettle fees are on the low side compared with similar payment solutions.

The transaction fee is a fixed 1.75% for all card reader transactions regardless of card type, brand, country of issue and sales volume, e.g. foreign and premium cards cost the same to process as domestic Visa Debit cards.

Email invoices and payment links are included as complimentary tools, costing 2.5% per card payment. QR code payments via PayPal cost just 1% per transaction until May 31, 2021 – it will be 1.75% after that.

Charges
Zettle Reader 2 £59 £19 + VAT
Zettle Dock 2 £39 (or £58 incl. Reader 2 through link) + VAT
Ocean Reader & Dock £98 + VAT
Shipping Free
Contract  No contractual lock-in
Monthly fee None
Chip & contactless payments 1.75% per transaction
QR code payments 1.75% 1% per transaction
Invoices & payment links 2.5% per transaction
Payouts in bank account Free
Refunds Free
Chargebacks Up to £250 chargebacks/month covered for free
Charges
Zettle Reader 2 £59 £19 + VAT
Zettle Dock 2 £39 (or £58  incl. Reader 2 through link) + VAT
Ocean Reader & Dock £98 + VAT
Shipping Free
Contract  No contractual lock-in
Monthly fee None
Chip & contactless payments 1.75% per transaction
QR code payments 1.75% 1% per transaction
Invoice & payment links 2.5% per transaction
Payouts in bank account Free
Refunds Free
Chargebacks Up to £250 chargebacks/month covered for free

The card reader itself is excellent value at £59 excl. VAT (exclusive offer: £19 excl. VAT through this link). The limited-edition Ocean Reader, made of recycled plastic with the same tech specs as Zettle Reader 2, can be purchased with the Ocean Dock for £98 + VAT.

There are no monthly fees, rental charges, monthly minimums or other fixed costs that traditional payment providers normally charge.

ZETTLE

Zettle Ocean Reader

The special-edition Ocean Reader is made of 75% recycled plastic sourced from the ocean.

Since there’s no contractual commitment, “early terminal fees” do not apply either. Refunds are free to process, and you also get the transaction fee refunded.

Funds are cleared in your bank account within 1-2 working days of each transaction, minus the transaction fee. Whether it’s the following weekday or two weekdays after depends on your bank’s processing times. You can also receive payouts directly in your PayPal account or benefit from detailed payout breakdowns if connected to a Starling Bank business account.

Zettle by PayPal gives you chargeback protection for up to £250 per month if you follow best practice for taking card payments. So if, for example, a customer signs for a payment, you should compare the signature with the one on the card and ask for a valid ID.

There are transaction limits, but these are unlikely to affect most business accounts where the daily limit is £200,000. The lowest transaction amount possible is £1.

Mobile Transaction

iZettle Reader and iPad connected by Bluetooth

Zettle Reader connects to a tablet or mobile phone via Bluetooth pairing.

Technology and accessories

In contrast to conventional POS terminals using landlines or a GPRS SIM card, Zettle’s card reader utilises the processing power of your mobile device and internet, eliminating the need for expensive equipment.

Zettle’s newest card reader, Zettle Reader 2, looks very similar to the old one but has some important improvements.

Emmanuel Charpentier (EC), Mobile Transaction

It’s pretty straightforward to insert a chip card at the bottom.

The current model is slightly prettier, more energy-efficient and with a coating that makes it more resistant to dirt. Beneath it, you have two rubber “sausages” to keep it firmly on a countertop. You get the sense that you can just throw it on the ground without inflicting damage (of course we do not recommend trying this – we’ve seen examples of broken displays!).

We love the minimalist design and the fact it comes in white or black, giving you the freedom to pick one that blends in with your environment.

EC, Mobile Transaction

The power button at the top is hard to press by accident.

Internet connection: To process a payment, the Zettle app connects to its servers using your mobile device’s WiFi, 3G or 4G connection. In the past, we’ve seen reports from users that they’ve had no problems using slower connections such as EDGE, so it appears the system is robust enough to work even on weak connections.

Mobile devices: In addition to the card reader and payment app, you’ll need a compatible iPhone, Android smartphone, iPad or Android tablet. We have noticed that Zettle tends to release new features in the iOS app for Apple devices first. For example, it took some time before the Android app began supporting contactless payments, but new features seem to find their way to both apps eventually.

Battery: The card reader is charged with a micro USB cable. It will automatically go into sleep mode when not in use, and the battery therefore lasts longer than older models that received complaints about short battery life. Battery life is on average 8 hours with a transaction every 5 minutes, or 250+ transactions from one charge.

Businesses selling from a fixed location would want to use the card reader with a Dock (for Zettle Reader) or Dock 2 (for Zettle Reader 2) – a small stand with an inbuilt charger. Placed in the dock, the card reader is automatically charged. The Dock 2 for Zettle Reader 2 is more stable than the old one which some users say is a bit flimsy.

ZETTLE

Zettle POS hardware

Zettle is compatible with a wide range of POS equipment.

Receipt printers: Unlike chunky, traditional chip and PIN machines, Zettle Reader doesn’t have an inbuilt printer, so you have to buy that separately if you want to offer paper receipts. Fortunately, Zettle is compatible with a range of Star Micronics receipt printers, both stationary and mobile. The compatible printers connect either wirelessly or by cable.

Other accessories: Zettle is also compatible with select barcode scanners and cash drawers, making it suitable for a busy, counter-based till point. Stationary iPad setups will also benefit from the Zettle tablet stand, which – apart from protecting the iPad – gives a professional feel to your customer-facing environment.

Signing up

Signing up is easy. In contrast to the strenuous application processes required by traditional payment processors, you just go to Zettle’s website to fill in some basic details to get started.

Upon signing up, Zettle performs a “unique risk assessment” involving a credit check to verify your identity, business and bank account. Only bank accounts in your company’s or company director’s name will be accepted. Sole traders and partnership businesses may need to submit additional documentation. When we tested registering as a sole trader, the automatic checks went smoothly without the need to submit more information.

We should emphasise: you can only have only one Zettle account per business or sole trader, so if you’ve already registered your name or company with Zettle, it won’t be possible to create a new account under that name.

Mobile Transaction

iZettle review

Box contents of an iZettle Reader 2 delivery.

After the sign-up, you can order the card reader. It usually takes 1-3 working days to receive this by post. We got it two days after placing the order. DHL sent a text message the day before, saying when it would arrive and that a signature will be required. The package was neatly wrapped up in a padded envelope, and the card reader was ready to use immediately.

Taking payments

Before accepting the first payment, the card reader has to be paired with a Bluetooth-enabled mobile device. This is done swiftly by following simple instructions from the Settings tab in the Zettle Go app. You may have to repeat the Bluetooth pairing several times over a day if you’re not using the Zettle app actively.

Then you can take a payment by entering the amount in the app and tapping “charge”. Transaction details are sent wirelessly to the card reader through Bluetooth. The customer can insert their card in the card reader and key in the PIN on its PIN pad, or tap it with a contactless card or mobile wallet.

Inventory items can be preprogrammed, complete with names, prices, descriptions and even images. Tapping a product image in the app adds it to the checkout bill. As such, Zettle is more than just a payment terminal – the free app is a POS system in its own right with the mobile device working as a cloud-based cash register.

black Zettle Reader

The black Zettle Reader in the charging dock blends in well with dark countertops.

Those who need to accept multiple payments of the same amount quickly, for example street musicians or charity fundraisers, can request access to Zettle’s Repeat Payments feature. This is not a default option in the app, so Zettle will need to grant you access.

Repeat Payments allow you to set a fixed amount to be charged via contactless, chip and PIN card or wearable tech without having to enter the amount over and over again. Customers can simply just pay and go without your needing to touch the card reader or app during the process.

POS app features

The free point of sale (POS) app, Zettle Go, has enough features to work as a self-sufficient till system. Here’s a snapshot.

Product library and inventory: Add products – complete with image, description, types, barcode, and more – to a visually intuitive menu in the app, enabling you to just tap items to add them to the bill. Add a stock count to each item to help you to keep track of stock levels.

iZettle inventory tracking

You can choose to track inventory and get alerts when stock levels are low.

VAT and discounts: VAT can be added to receipts at the rates of 20%, 12.5%, 5% and 0%, and customised discounts can be applied to individual products or the transaction total as a percentage or amount in pounds.

Tipping: Zettle has a tipping option in the app to satisfy food and drink businesses. You only need to enable this in your settings, then customers will be asked directly on the card reader display if they want to add a tip. If they pick ‘yes’, they can enter the tip amount manually before paying.

iZettle Reader tipping screens

Tipping is a useful feature in the POS app, here shown on the first-generation iZettle Reader.

Accepting cash: Cash sales can be registered in the app for free to make the system more useful for accounting. If you’re selling at a fixed till point, you can connect a cash drawer with a standard 24V or RJ11 plug, but it needs to be connected to a receipt printer to open.

Receipts: After each transaction, there’s an option to send an e-receipt via text or email. Customise what to include on this receipt in your Zettle account. Printed receipts are also possible, but you’ll need to invest in a compatible receipt printer to provide these.

Refunds: Refunds can be processed for the full transaction amount or by picking an individual item from the list of products on the receipt. Currently, there is no option to refund custom amounts, nor can you refund tips.

Barcode scanning: Use your phone camera as a barcode scanner, eliminating the need for a separate scanner. We tried this on iPhone, and it works smoothly. There is currently no option to use the scanner for internal audits, so this is purely for scanning items at checkout (barcodes should be registered in the product library beforehand).

Invoicing: Zettle allows you to invoice customers by email through the app. The customer can then pay securely by card directly through the emailed invoice. Regulars can even be added in a customer library so you only need to create a transaction, search for the customer and tap to send the invoice.

Zettle Go app

Zettle Reader with the Go app on iPad.

In the backend, i.e. Zettle account in a browser, you have extra features not available in the Zettle Go app. For example, the Customers section shows email addresses so you can invite customers to join your mailing list, and you can add staff members with different logins to separate their sales in the analytics section.

Payment links and QR codes

Zettle has a pay-by-link option, which is the ability to send a unique link via text or various apps (e.g. Facebook Messenger, email, WhatsApp), which the customer can click to pay through from their end. Payment links are different from email invoices because they only register in your system once they are paid, there’s no payment due date and the customer is not obliged to pay.

MOBILE TRANSACTION

iZettle QR code

Zettle QR code.

The only information the seller needs to enter before requesting a payment is the name and contact detail of the customer.

Payment links have proven to be a flexible tool for business to get paid by customers during the coronavirus pandemic, for example by cafés and restaurants offering takeaway. The fee for payment links is 2.5% per transaction.

The latest addition to Zettle’s remote payments is a QR code payment option. At checkout, you just choose PayPal as the payment method, after which a QR code is generated and shown on your mobile screen. The customer then has to use their PayPal app on their phone to scan the QR code and complete the transaction. The merchant does not need to have a PayPal account to enable this, but the customer does because they’re paying through PayPal.

POS upgrades and ecommerce

Many small businesses will find the free POS features sufficient, but Zettle Go is not the only POS system that can be used with the card reader.

Cafés, food trucks and small bars would be interested in the Zettle Food & Drink iPad system with features like portion sizes and different VAT rates for eat-in and takeaway orders. This app does not have table plans or very advanced features, so it is unsuitable for establishments with a coordinated table service.

More advanced POS systems for both retailers and hospitality are available through integrations. You can, for example, use Zettle Reader with Vend, Revel, Goodtill, Tabology and Lightspeed. These have monthly costs charged through the chosen EPOS platform, while card payments are charged through Zettle.

Zettle E-commerce used to be offered as a way to build and run an online store from within the Zettle platform, but this has now been discontinued and taken over by Selz. Other ecommerce integrations are available including BigCommerce, PrestaShop, Shopify and Shopware.

EMILY SORENSEN (ES), MOBILE TRANSACTION

Beaut Box hairdressers using iZettle Reader

Zettle Reader is a popular choice for small beauty salons and hairdressers, here pictured at Beaut Box, London.