Paymentsense and iZettle are two very different services. Paymentsense is a traditional merchant service provider that opens a unique merchant account for you to process payments through. They will charge monthly fees, transaction fees and other costs, and you commit to an ongoing contract.

iZettle, using the aggregator model, processes payments through a shared merchant account and has no contract. There are no monthly fees for their basic service – just the flat, transparent transaction fee. But can the pocket-sized iZettle Reader really compete with a sturdier, conventional card machine?

Paymentsense mobile card machineiZettle Reader 2 small
PriceMonthly fees – vary£59 £19 via this link – one-off card reader purchase
Rental fees
Fixed monthly feesYes, variousNo
Transaction feesDepends on card, package, volume and business type1.75%
SoftwareInbuilt in card machineControlled by iZettle Go app
on connected mobile device
MeasurementsIngenico iWL221
150 x 78 x 44 mm
285 g
iZettle Reader 2
110 x 70 x 20 mm
125 g
Contract length12 months – 5 yearsNo contract
Accepted cardsVisaVisa ElectronMastercard
MaestroAmerican Express
VisaVisa ElectronV Pay
MastercardMaestroAmerican Express
Diners ClubJCBUnion PayDiscover
ContactlessContactlessApple PayGoogle PayContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay
Paymentsense mobile card machineiZettle Reader 2 small
Monthly fees
– vary
£59 £19 via link
– one-off purchase
Rental fees
Fixed monthly fees
Yes, variousNo
Transaction fees
Depends on
Built in to card machineiZettle Go app
on connected
mobile device
Ingenico iWL221
150 x 78 x 44 mm
285 g
iZettle Reader
110 x 70 x 20 mm
125 g
Contract length
12 months –
5 years
No contract
Accepted cards
VisaVisa ElectronMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressVisaVisa ElectronV PayMastercardMaestroAmerican ExpressDiners ClubJCBUnion PayDiscover
ContactlessApple PayGoogle PayContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay

Traditional vs. app-based card machine

Paymentsense offers a selection of Ingenico and Spire terminals, classed into whether it’s a stationary, portable or mobile model. iZettle only has one card machine, the iZettle Reader 2.

Of Paymentsense’s mobile terminals, Ingenico iWL221 is the smallest one offered. It can be used anywhere with a 3G/GPRS connection as it functions via an inbuilt SIM card. It comes ready to use immediately, with unlimited data provided by Paymentsense, software installed and account set up before it arrives in the post. The terminal has a receipt printer built in, which Paymentsense provides receipt printer rolls for. You can use the card machine independently from a point of sale.

Similarly, iZettle Reader 2 functions through a mobile network provider or WiFi, but through a Bluetooth-connected mobile phone or tablet running the iZettle Go app. The card reader does not function on its own – it is auto-activated when you tap for checkout in the mobile app and the card reader is in the vicinity of the phone. For this to work smoothly, you pair the card reader with the phone in advance of the first payment.

The card reader is smaller than Paymentsense’s, but this is because iZettle does not have an inbuilt receipt printer and relies on the software and hardware of the connected mobile device. Although an improvement from the first-generation iZettle Reader, the Reader 2 is not as hard-wearing in busy environments as Paymentsense’s more traditional terminals, so in a busy café, for example, it would have to be replaced sooner, perhaps after 1-2 years.

Costs and fees – two very different deals

iZettle is a pay-as-you-go system with no contract or lock-in. Paymentsense, on the other hand, requires you to enter a contract of up to 5 years, and the only way to leave before the contract ends is to pay a heavy cancellation fee, typically several £100s. We’ve actually seen reports of people being charged the equivalent of paying the remaining contract months upfront, which can easily be over £1000.

That said, Paymentsense claims to have low fees compared to similar providers, so you should (hopefully) not want to leave them after committing.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen many customer reviews highlighting the many hidden and spontaneously added – sometimes unexplained – fees you notice only after signing up. Expect to pay over £70-£80 a month at least for just the basic charges before transaction fees, including fees for third party providers, receipt roll refills, 24-hour terminal replacement, capped rates, performance reports, etc. (quite a few more than listed in table below), even when you’re not using any of these.

You will need to pay for PCI compliance on a monthly basis, with penalty charges if you do not complete the necessary PCI DSS paperwork by the first two months, plus extra fees if you need help setting it up.

Card machine upfront costRental-style plan£59 £19 through link – machine is yours to keep
Setup feeNone for terminal, other setup fees may applyNone
Transaction feesCustom quote1.75% per card (any)
Chargeback fee£28Free coverage for up to £250 a month
Cancellation feeVaries, typically £250-£1200None
PCI DSS compliance£4.95/month for PCI Management (required)No fees
Receipt printingInbuilt receipt printer in card machine, receipt rolls cost extraMust buy separate receipt printer + receipt rolls yourself if needed
No upfront device cost – rental-style£59 £19 one-off device cost – yours to keep
Setup fee
None for terminal, others may applyNone
Transaction fees
Custom quote1.75% per card (any)
£28Free for up to £250/mo
Cancellation fee
Varies, typically £250-£1200None
PCI DSS compliance
£4.95/month for PCI Management (required)No fees
Receipt printing
Inbuilt receipt printer in card machine, receipt rolls cost extraMust buy separate receipt printer + receipt rolls yourself if needed

As for transparency, iZettle is definitely the better choice with all their few costs and fees shown on their website. Paymentsense requires talking to a sales rep for a quote. This is partly because card fees vary between business types and monthly sales volumes, but also because it depends on which merchant account provider they set up for you and what kind of contract you choose.

If you’re switching from a different card processor, Paymentsense promises to beat or match your current prices – and amazingly, they also offer to help with the cost of leaving an existing contract for theirs (this is not guaranteed, though).

iZettle has the same fee for all users, up until you sell for over £100k a year. At that level, the terms will change and processing fees will be customised to your business. At all times, you can just leave iZettle without consequences. Your fees are literally just the upfront card reader price, plus 1.75% transaction fee for all card reader payments. If you don’t use it, you don’t pay anything. Refunds are also free, and chargebacks of up to £250 a month are free.

Paymentsense’s fees are capped throughout the entire contract, which can be good or bad. You’ll essentially be committing to the same fees for the duration of your contract without the option to lower them if your business makes more money. However, you might feel safe knowing that they wouldn’t raise fees during the contract period.

Both can accept American Express, iZettle for 1.75% per transaction, while Paymentsense offers it as an “optional” card to accept. Transaction fees will vary greatly between Paymentsense’s customers, but typically, Amex incurs premium transaction rates exceeding 3% for low-volume businesses.

Since Amex usually requires a special contract for acceptance, you can expect a setup fee for this too. Again, iZettle does not charge you anything extra for taking Amex or any other international or premium cards.

Getting started is easy for both

Both providers make it easy to get started. iZettle just requires you to fill in a few pages online to sign up and then order the card reader. It can all be done in a few minutes without phoning them. They will perform some background and security checks on your bank account to ensure it’s the one used for your business, and that your business is not on their list of restricted trades (e.g. travel agencies, betting, alcohol).

There is no extra cost associated with PCI DSS compliance – but you will still be expected to comply with basic rules around card security and privacy.

Paymentsense claims to be the “only provider who can set up a card machine in 3 days”. They also make it easy to switch provider where they handle the transfer for you. It will be necessary to talk to Paymentsense on the phone for a quote, after you have filled in basic details online about your requirements and sales volume. On this call, be prepared to ask questions and get all the stated terms and prices in writing before agreeing anything, as we have seen many users saying that they fail to mention important small-print details (even lying to the customer), contract terms and hidden fees.

It is also necessary to comply with PCI DSS within the first two months, after which – if you do not submit the required compliance documentation – you will be liable to pay penalty fees.

Can integrate with POS, one more than the other

Paymentsense can integrate with most EPOS systems, whether it’s one you’re using already or a new one you choose. They call this service Connect. Hence your integration options are wide, and you can create just the POS system you need with their card machines.

iZettle has a free POS application called Go, and iZettle Pro with advanced features specifically for food and hospitality businesses. It can also integrate with the Xero and QuickBooks accounting systems. Furthermore, other cloud-based POS systems like Lightspeed allow you to use iZettle Reader with their systems.

Ingenico mobile card machine

Paymentsense’s mobile card machine is an Ingenico model with inbuilt receipt printer.

Stark vs. so-so concerns about customer service

One of Paymentsense’s strengths, according to themselves, is their customer service, particularly at the start. It’s quick to get set up and receive your terminal, but customer reviews online indicate it is then hit-and-miss whether your concerns are dealt with adequately.

They do have 24/7 customer support, so you can phone them any time about your terminal or any questions. Should your machine cease to work, they will try to fix it over the phone first. If they can’t, they send you a new terminal within 24 hours.

But if you’ve been oversold or there’s an issue, you may need to go back and forth with them to resolve it. Many Paymentsense users have complained they signed on to something they later realised was not needed or they didn’t want, and that they kept being charged for something they could not afford as a business.

Despite the poor customer reviews, Paymentsense scores an average 7.9 out of 10 on Trustpilot UK.

Reportedly, Paymentsense’s sales reps are commission-based so it pays to be prepared for what exactly you need, and what to ask, in advance of contacting for a quote.

iZettle gets 8.5 out of 10 on Trustpilot UK and is generally a favourite among small UK businesses. Of the poor reviews, some complain that settlement should be faster, some have had problems with their iZettle account and transactions, while others were not satisfied with the customer service.

It is hard to generalise the iZettle issues beyond this, as it seems they are highly individual to the affected account holders. Several users complain about things that iZettle does not claim to be suitable for in the first place, e.g. card-not-present transactions not being supported and the transaction fee not being ideal for high-volume sales. So we recommend reading about what exactly iZettle can offer before signing up for a potential disappointment.

iZettle’s card machine comes with a standard 12-month warranty and customer support on weekdays within working hours only.

iZettle Reader looks discreet on a counter. With the Dock, you can keep it in place all day while the battery is charging. Photo: iZettle

Our verdict

Considering that most small businesses fail within a year (or a few), it’s important to gauge how confident you are about your future sales when you pick a payment processor. You don’t want to be locked into a 5-year contract of monthly fees exceeding what you’re able to pay, just because a sales rep didn’t give you the whole story. Reportedly, Paymentsense’s sales reps are commission-based so it pays to be prepared for what exactly you need, and what to ask, in advance of speaking to them. iZettle is easier to approach, since you simply sign up online and get all the fees and terms.

Pick Paymentsense if you

  • know what you want and are prepared to deal with sales reps motivated to hide the contract’s true length, terms and fees.
  • can enter into a long contract with hidden fees and an early cancellation cost.
  • want a conventional PDQ machine with inbuilt printer.
  • want a bigger choice of POS systems.

Pick iZettle if you

  • are an SME uncertain of where you are in the next few years.
  • don’t want to be bound by a contract.
  • want transparent fees and only want to pay in line with usage.
  • are okay with getting a separate receipt printer (if needed).
  • want an affordable POS system that’s easy to use.