- Highs: Affordable, fixed transaction rate. No other ongoing costs.
- Lows: No phone support on Sundays or late evenings. Not many app features.
- Buy if: You need an affordable and easy solution for taking card payments.
SumUp’s wireless Air card reader connects to your mobile device via Bluetooth, processing payments securely over the internet while your data are stored in the cloud.
The card reader accepts chip (PIN or sign) and contactless NFC payments from any credit or debit cards with the Visa, V PAY, Mastercard, Maestro and American Express logo displayed. Apple Pay and Google Pay are accepted too.
SumUp is a no-fuss service with only the essential tools you need to take face-to-face payments very easily, without entering into a contract. You just sign up, purchase the card reader and pay only a fixed transaction fee for the card payments you accept. It has no fixed monthly fees or required minimum sales volume.
How to get started
SumUp has made it very easy to get started, but you’ll have to wait about a week to receive the card reader before you can accept any payments.
You sign up on their website, filling in basic information about yourself and your business. Like any other payment provider, they perform a check against the business details you provide, but as long as you are not classed as a “restricted business”, and your bank account is the one used for your business takings, they will most likely accept it all pretty swiftly.
During the sign-up, you can order the SumUp Air reader. The card reader will be sent from Germany and arrive within five working days, but when we placed the order, it stated “5-7 working days” in our confirmation email which is different from the “3-5 business days” stated on the website. We received ours after four working ways.
Box contents of our SumUp Air delivery. Photos: Emily Sorensen, Mobile Transaction.
While you wait for the card reader, you can download the free SumUp app on an iOS or Android device with an internet connection (WiFi, 3G or 4G) and start adding items to the product menu.
Once your card reader arrives, you only need to switch it on, enable Bluetooth on your phone or tablet and go to the Payment Methods section in the app where you can set up the card reader (it really only takes a few steps, and it’s done).
After this, the card reader will automatically switch on when it’s in the vicinity of the mobile device with the SumUp app open and you select card payment at checkout. It’s all very automatic and intuitive from here on. Just make sure you have the card reader charged when you need it.
How it works
The payment process is simple: the main screen of the app shows the product menu (only really useful if you’ve preentered products already) and the option to manually enter an amount in pounds. If you enter an amount, you have the option to type a description of the purchased item/service. You can enter more than one amount manually, if you want to list all the items being purchased.
When ready to pay, you go to the checkout and tap “Charge”. If you’ve enabled cash payments in your SumUp account, you can enter the amount paid in cash. If choosing card payment, the transaction amount will be sent to the card reader (provided it is connected and nearby) and switch on the card reader display prompting the customer to insert or tap their card or phone.
Once the payment has gone through, an email or text receipt can be sent to the customer, or you can print a receipt via a compatible Bluetooth printer connected to the mobile device with the app.
The SumUp Air card reader is operated from an app on a smartphone or tablet. Photo: SumUp.
For contactless cards, the customer can just tap for amounts up to £30 without entering a PIN, but the card machine will require authentication for amounts above that. There’s no transaction limit on Apple Pay and Google Pay payments.
SumUp initiates payments – minus the transaction fee, which they keep – to your bank account daily, although it takes 2–3 business days to credit these to your account. You can also choose to be paid weekly or monthly on a schedule.
Affordable, fixed transaction fee
Like its competitors iZettle and Square, there are no ongoing or monthly fees with SumUp – you only pay a flat rate of 1.69% per transaction. The recommended retail price for its Air card reader is £29 excl. VAT.
The transaction fee is the lowest fixed rate currently available on the mobile card machine market in the UK. Their biggest competitor iZettle charges 1.75%, while services like PayPal Here or the Barclaycard Anywhere terminal for mobile devices will set you back significantly more.
An added feature of SumUp is the option to take phone and SMS payments. These are, however, charged at 2.95% + 25p. SumUp is currently one of only two providers in the UK who can offer card-not-present transactions without a mandatory monthly charge (the other one is Square).
|Card payment method||Rate|
|In person with card machine||1.69% (any card)|
|SMS payments||2.95% + 25p (any card)|
|Telephone payments / virtual terminal||2.95% + 25p (any card)|
Just beware that you need to contact customer support to get the virtual terminal for phone payments and SMS payments activated, as these will not automatically be available in your account. The support team will then review your details and account as a whole, and if all looks acceptable, they will enable the requested feature.
The virtual terminal rate is definitely more attractive than what you’ll get with PayPal’s at 3.4% + 20p per transaction and a monthly fee of £20, but higher than Square’s who only charges 2.5% for all keyed-in payments.
But especially for businesses making £5,000 or less per month in card payments, SumUp remains an affordable option together with iZettle and Square.
SumUp’s app, along with the Air reader, is a self-sufficient system for accepting card and cash, but users needing a feature-rich point-of-sale (POS) system will probably struggle with the limitations. Let’s see what SumUp can and cannot do.
Checkout features: The app accepts cards via the SumUp Air reader and cash. It does not accept manual card entry, vouchers, cheques, gift cards or other special payment types. You cannot add tips or accept partial payments in cash and card. Taxes can be shown on the receipt, as enabled in your settings. After each transaction, you have the option to send a receipt via email and text or print a paper receipt.
Product management: You can predefine products, complete with images, variants and prices. The products you add will be shown in the app menu so you can just tap to add them to checkout. It’s possible to create different category labels, e.g. “Hot Drinks” and “Food”, shown as separate tabs on the screen which you can switch between. However, SumUp does not track stock levels or allow you to add more than one level of variants per product.
Reports and analytics: The online dashboard nicely shows an overview of the basic sales information within the period of time selected. You can export the sales history from a particular day, week or month as a CSV file for accounting. Payout reports are sent via email when settlements are completed.
Image 1: The product menu is user-friendly on an iPad. Image 2: You can add products from the SumUp app, with one level of variants. Image 3: Staff accounts can have refunds and transaction overviews restricted. Photos: Emily Sorensen, Mobile Transaction.
Staff accounts: SumUp gives you the option to create multiple staff logins with basic restrictions. The only two things you can restrict are whether the staff member can view all transactions and whether they are allowed to process refunds. In the SumUp account, you can sort transactions according to user to monitor the sales by each.
Refunds: SumUp allows you to refund a complete transaction amount via the original payment method. You can also refund a partial transaction amount, although only in the browser account. If the customer paid by card, the refund will be processed to that card. Refunds can only be processed if there is enough balance, i.e. outstanding payouts currently underway to your bank account, to fund the refund.
As your business grows, SumUp does offer more extensive POS systems aligned with your needs. To learn more, you’ll have to fill in a contact form on their website to request a call-back. What we do know is that SumUp partners with POS specialists like Vend and Kounta, so what you get via SumUp will probably be a mash-up of what these partners already offer. The point is, you shouldn’t be afraid to start with the really simple SumUp app if all you want is to receive payments now (and SumUp is what you prefer), but later anticipate growth.
Technology and hardware
SumUp Air is compatible with most Android tablets and smartphones using at least Android 4.4. iPhone 4s and all newer models, as well as 3rd+ generation iPads, are compatible provided you have iOS 8.0 or higher downloaded. You’ll also need Bluetooth 4.0 to connect the mobile device with the card reader.
The Air comes with a free micro USB cable, which you can plug into a computer or power supply when the card machine needs charging. At full charge, it will last you about 500 transactions. Busy stores may want to opt for SumUp’s charging station, which not only keeps the Air charged all day – it also looks good and keeps the reader in place on a countertop.
Image 1: SumUp Air from the top, showing chip card slot and power button. Image 2: SumUp Air from the bottom, showing charging socket. Photos: Emily Sorensen, Mobile Transaction.
The card reader itself is quite stylish with a glass surface and plastic base that’s nice to hold in the hand. It’s tamper-proof, meaning any external effort to manipulate its technology will shut it down so you can’t use it any more. That’s great for security, but you need to make sure you don’t hold it near highly magnetic fields, which could inadvertently deem it permanently unusable.
It’s possible to link several SumUp Air readers to your main account, but you can’t link any other brand of card machine to it. The SumUp app does not directly connect to cash drawers, barcode scanners or any other POS hardware than the following receipt printers.
For those who want to offer paper receipts, compatible receipt printers are available at an extra cost. The most affordable stationary option is Star Micronics TSP100 (LAN), available in white, putty or grey. It is the most affordable receipt printer on the market at around £125, but will still set you back significantly more than the card reader.
The Star Micronics TSP143 (LAN) is the other compatible option for countertop use, available some places for around £170 + VAT.
Of the portable options, there’s the small Bluetooth printer Bixolon SPP-R210iK/BEGE that weighs only 266 g including the paper roll. This is the printer that SumUp recommends and sells directly from your SumUp account. It costs £249 + VAT including a belt clip and power supply.
The slightly bigger Bixolon SPP-R200IIiK/BEGE connects to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.
The Bixolon SPP-R210iK/BEGE – here seen with the SumUp app – won the Good Design Award by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design in 2014. Photo: SumUp.
It’s a rugged, yet lightweight, portable printer that can either be fixed to a belt or slid into a bag. You can get it for a bit less than SPP-R210iK/BEGE. The Star Micronics SM-L200 (Bluetooth) is the only other mobile printer compatible with SumUp, costing £170 + VAT.
Who is SumUp suitable for?
SumUp is made for sole traders, entrepreneurs and small businesses requiring an extremely user-friendly card machine solution with no inessential extras. As a rule of thumb, SumUp is good if your business only needs a single mobile card reader and your products or services don’t need a complicated POS system with room for detailed analyses or things like stock level tracking. For lower-volume traders, SumUp’s flat fee is very competitive.
From 2017, SumUp started to offer complete point-of-sale solutions suitable for small retailers as well as food, beverage and service industries. If you opt to use this particular software, however, you’ll need to pay a recurring monthly fee.
Only registered sole traders and businesses can use SumUp – they don’t accept not-for-profit organisations. They used to accept accounts for private individuals, but their website now states that they only accept bank accounts listed in the name of the company you’re signing up as.
Contactless payments flow particularly well with the charging dock available to purchase from SumUp. Photo: SumUp.
There are certain business types SumUp will not support, such as multi-level marketing, any kind of adult entertainment, door-to-door sales, and unlicensed counselling.
For those travelling abroad for business – to trade shows, for example – SumUp offers the flexibility of use abroad if you’ve made prior arrangements with their customer service team. This arrangement is available in all countries SumUp offers services to, which means most European countries, the US, Brazil and Chile.
Customer service and user feedback
SumUp’s support section on their website will answer the majority of users’ questions. Should you need to contact customer support, emailing is encouraged, although a phone number is also provided for registered customers.
I tried messaging them on a Saturday via their in-account contact form. Three days later, I did it again since I hadn’t received a response or acknowledgement. A further two days passed to no avail, so I emailed, and four days after the email, I finally got an email response answering my question. So it took me over a week to get a simple question answered, but it was also during the public holidays, so it could be an anomaly.
SumUp users can also call them on weekdays between 8am and 7pm and Saturdays 8am to 5pm, which should get your urgent questions dealt with. If you trade on Sundays, you’ll have to wait until Monday to phone.
Users tend to rate SumUp highly compared to several other mobile card readers. On Trustpilot UK, the average rating is 7.2 out of 10 (green, or “great” score). Some of the negative reviews we’ve seen are from people who have had the service shut down because they traded within one of the restricted business areas, hence why it’s important to be aware of what they consider to be restricted business models.
There’s no doubt SumUp is ideal for low-volume merchants who just need to start accepting cards, for example in a shop, café, bar, market stall or on the go. SumUp has a low barrier of entry with the cheap, one-off cost of the card machine (and it’s your forever), no contract and only the pay-as-you-go fee for transactions. It means the app is economical with just the essentials you need, without compromising on efficiency and build quality.
SumUp will likely stay competitive in the years to come, having launched in many countries since it was first established in 2012. It has been a successful recipient of venture capital, and its backers include BBVA Ventures, Groupon and American Express.
Bottom line: Particularly for small businesses, SumUp’s app-based card machine should definitely be considered with its low flat rate and no-fuss model.