It’s easier than ever to accept credit and debit cards in the UK. Forget the costly card machines of yore. Instead, check out these contactless card readers that process payments with a smartphone or tablet through easy-to-use, free point of sale (POS) apps.

In 2019, the race between the most popular mobile card readers in the UK is close. On our top three list, Square has replaced PayPal Here, as it simply offers more features at better rates. For cost-conscious start-ups, SumUp has the lowest card fee, while iZettle and Square have the most superior free payment apps.

iZettle Reader 2
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SumUp Air small
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Solution typeCard reader + mobile appCard reader + mobile appCard reader + mobile app
Card reader price£59 £19 excl. VAT (offer)£29 £19 excl. VAT (offer)£29 excl. VAT (offer)
Transaction fee1.75%1.69%1.75%
Transaction fee, card not presentInvoicing, payment links, ecommerce: 2.5%Virtual terminal: 2.95% + 25pKey-in, invoicing, virtual terminal: 2.5%
Monthly feeNoneNoneNone
Min. sales volume?NoneNoneNone
Cards accepted  Visa Visa Electron V Pay Mastercard Maestro American Express Union PayDiners ClubJCBDiscover  Visa Visa Electron V Pay Mastercard Maestro American ExpressUnion PayDiners ClubDiscover Visa Visa ElectronV PayMastercard Maestro American Express
ContactlessContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung PayContactlessApple PayGoogle PayContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay
Bank acc. settlement1-3 working days2-3 working days1-2 working days
PIN padOn card readerOn card readerIn app on phone/tablet screen
Compatible receipt printersStar Micronics, Epson, AirPrintStar Micronics, Bixolon, AirPrint, Cloud Print ServiceStar Micronics, Epson
Text & email receipts
Staff accounts
Basic free, £3/mo per staff account for advanced permissions
Product library
AccountingCSV/Excel, Xero or Debitoor integrationTransaction and payout reportsCSV/Excel, Xero or Enterpryze integration
Use abroad
To site
To site
To site
iZettle logoSquare logo

All three systems share characteristics that make them very attractive to small businesses. Setup costs are very low, and there are no fixed, monthly fees and no minimum transaction volume required.

SumUp Air, iZettle Reader (both 1st- and 2nd-generation) and Square Reader are therefore all suitable for infrequent use, and for processing many transactions daily as your primary POS solution.

It is possible to use any of the card readers with more complex POS software, so you are not limited to the free apps included. Only iZettle has their own fully integrated E-commerce platform available at a monthly cost, while Square can be used in conjunction with a number of ecommerce partners.

Cards and charges

As opposed to traditional card machines, you purchase the card readers for a low price with no future rental charges or lock-in to worry about.

iZettle currently accepts the most payment cards. On top of Visa, Mastercard and American Express included by all three, iZettle can handle Diners Club, JCB, Discover and UnionPay. SumUp also accepts Diners Club, Discover and UnionPay, but not JCB.

iZettle and Square only charge a fixed percentage (1.75%) for all chip and contactless card transactions. SumUp offers the lowest card fee at a fixed 1.69%, beating iZettle and Square by 0.06 percentage points.

However, iZettle and Square will deposit your funds in your bank account slightly faster – expect them to appear within one or two business days. With SumUp, you are more likely to get your funds after three working days.

The iZettle and Square apps are ahead of the game, with more features than SumUp’s app. That said, SumUp is the only one with free customer support six days a week (Monday-Saturday) – you can only phone Square and iZettle on weekdays.

For more information on these mobile card readers, read our comprehensive reviews on each: iZettle, Square and SumUp.