Disclosure: Our editorial staff write reviews independently. We may be compensated if you sign up for a service through our affiliate links.
When the iPhone was first introduced, few thought it would stimulate growth for small businesses, but that is exactly what happened. Now, even food trucks and cash-strapped merchants can afford to accept credit cards on iPhone.
To take credit card payments on iPhone, you need:
- Apple device (iPhone or iPad) connected to WiFi or cell phone coverage
- Credit card reader by a mobile payment provider
- Credit card processing app downloaded on the mobile device
Choosing the right service is essential, as monthly fees and transaction charges can sneak up on you. We’ve pinpointed the six best credit card apps with the most bang for the buck.
Square – lots of POS and payment tools
|No contract, no monthly fees|
|Reader for Contactless & Chip: $49
Reader for Magstripe: First one free
|Swipe, EMV & tap fee: 2.6% + 10¢
Keyed rate: 3.5% + 15¢
Square stands out with its comprehensive, easy-to-use free tools and back office. Merchants have no obligations and no need to sign a contract. You pay only a single fee of 2.6% + 10¢ per swipe, dip and tap payment through any of Square’s card terminals or 3.5% + 15¢ per keyed transaction. Square is also one of the few mobile card reader companies that do not require a credit check.
Square transfers the amount the next business day if the transaction takes place before 5pm – otherwise, you get it the following business day. There is also an Instant Transfer option for immediate bank account payouts (1.5% fee applies), or you can order the free Square Debit Card for real-time access to funds.
Square’s best credit card reader for iPhone – Reader for Contactless & Chip – costs $49 and comes with a free magstripe reader with a Lightning plug for newer iPhones or audio plug for older models.
Image: Mobile Transaction
Pocketable Square Reader works with the best free POS app available in the US.
Apart from a beautiful product library with detailed product information, you can add several staff accounts (advanced permissions cost extra), add discounts, track inventory and much more with the free software. Square can be expanded with more advanced POS systems for retail and restaurants, booking systems, marketing, customer loyalty tools, ecommerce and many partner apps.
It’s recommended you use the most recent app for iOS for the best app performance. The most frequent complaint about Square has been lackluster customer service, leading people to look for alternatives to Square.
SumUp – cheapest 3-in-1 card reader
|No contract, no monthly fees|
|SumUp Plus Card Reader: $39|
|Swipe, EMV & tap fee: 2.75%
Keyed rate: 3.25% + 15¢
SumUp card readers have no monthly fees, minimum sales requirements or other ongoing costs. You only pay $39 for the SumUp Plus Card Reader (the lowest price for any credit card reader with contactless, chip and swipe functionality), then a fixed 2.75% for all payments through it.
SumUp merchants can also get a free virtual terminal for remote payments, usable in the app or web browser, for 3.25% + 15¢ per transaction.
Photo: Mobile Transaction
SumUp Plus Card Reader is a high-performing, cheap terminal from SumUp.
The app is free to use, including backend dashboard analytics and basic sales reports for any business. Transactions are paid in to your chosen bank account within 1-2 business days.
Although simple, SumUp has useful features like a product library, the option to create different user accounts for staff, and e-gift cards. You can also process refunds and connect the card reader with compatible receipt printers if emailing or texting receipts is not enough.
PayPal Zettle – payouts in online account
|No contract, no monthly fees|
|PayPal Zettle card reader: $29|
|EMV & tap fee: 2.29% + 9¢
Keyed rate: 3.49% + 9¢
Other costs: 1.5% cross-border fee, 3% currency conversion fee
PayPal is already popular for online payments, and with PayPal Zettle (replacing the old PayPal Here), the company possesses a slice of the mobile payments market too.
The PayPal Zettle app allows merchants to accept payments from most credit cards for 2.29% + 9¢ per swipe and 3.49% + 9¢ per manually entered card. For foreign cards, there is a 1.5% additional cross-border fee plus a 3% currency conversion fee if relevant.
The PayPal Zettle terminal is an elegant credit card reader with a PIN pad and small display. It can be purchased in black or white for $29.
Photo: Mobile Transaction
PayPal’s credit card reader works with a user-friendly iOS app.
All transactions are automatically deposited in your online PayPal account and have to be transferred manually to your bank account. Alternatively, you can get the PayPal Business Debit Mastercard to spend funds directly from the e-money account.
Besides the ability to record cash sales in the app, PayPal Zettle merchants can accept gift cards, QR code payments and send invoices and payment links to customers. There is also a product library with images and stock levels, sales reports and discount options.
The main advantage is the ability to integrate the account with the online payment features available on the PayPal Business platform.
QuickBooks GoPayment – good accounting integration
|QuickBooks subscription required|
|QuickBooks card reader: $49|
|QB Online users: Pay as you go, but $9.95/mo PCI compliance required
Tap/dip rate: 2.4% + 25¢
Keyed rate: 3.4% + 25¢
QuickBooks GoPayment (previously Intuit GoPayment) was among the first players targeting small businesses with the option to accept payments any time, anywhere.
The credit card payment app can be used without a monthly subscription, as long as you’re subscribed to a QuickBooks Online or Desktop accounting package.
QuickBooks Online subscribers can use the GoPayment app on a pay-as-you-go basis, in which case card reader payments cost 2.4% + 25¢ and keyed transactions cost 3.4% + 25¢.
With a QuickBooks Desktop plan, you can opt for a $20 monthly subscription, reducing contactless and EMV transaction fees to 1.6% + 30¢, whereas keyed transactions are 3.3% + 30¢ each. There is also a pay-as-you-go option for Desktop users, with the higher rates of 2.4% + 30¢ for EMV and contactless or 3.5% + 30¢ for keyed-in card payments.
GoPayment’s card reader accepts EMV (chip) and NFC (contactless) cards, but not swipe.
PCI compliance costs $9.95 per month on any pay-as-you-go plan, but is included on the monthly plan for Desktop subscribers.
POS features include personalized digital receipts and up to 50 user accounts, which means all your employees can accept payments on the go.
Since Intuit is the maker of QuickBooks accounting software for small businesses, one of the notable features is the automatic synchronization with QuickBooks, although this requires an additional subscription.
Clover Go – comes with merchant account
|$0-$39.95 monthly fee|
|Clover swipe, chip & tap reader: $99|
|$0/mo or $9.95/mo plan: 2.6% + 10¢ per card reader payment
$39.95/mo plan: 2.3% + 10¢ per card reader payment
All keyed cards: 3.5% + 10¢
Clover offers a full range of point of sale (POS) products that can be adapted to most checkouts, spanning from an iPhone credit card reader (Clover Go) to full-fledged hardware and POS software. All the Clover products come with a merchant account for stable mobile credit card processing.
The fees have been simplified a little in recent years. Before, you had to get a contract through partner banks like Bank of America. Now, you can subscribe on the Clover website for no monthly cost (Payments plan) for payments only, $9.95 a month for basic inventory features (Essentials plan) or the markedly higher $39.95 per month for advanced inventory management (Register plan).
Essentials and Payments have a higher transaction rate at 2.6% + 10¢. The Register subscription has more POS features and the lower card rate 2.3% + 10¢ for EMV, swipe and NFC (contactless) payments. The card reader costs $99 regardless of the plan. All plans charge 3.5% + 10¢ for key-in card payments.
Clover Go accepts tap, swipe and chip and keyed-in transactions from customers not present.
You can also get an offer with a monthly (cancelable) subscription from Payline, where rates are based on the specific payment card accepted. Payline requires a monthly minimum charge of $25 in card processing fees, so this option is better suited for those with a consistent sales volume.
Essentials provides handy features like employee management (e.g. payroll, work shifts, permissions), refunds and dashboard reports. The Register app can process exchanges, send coupons in response to customer feedback, add gratuity to checks and more.
Payanywhere – competitive for low-volume merchants
|Pay as you go, but $3.99 monthly fee after 12 months of inactivity|
|Swipe & chip reader: First one free
Swipe, chip & tap reader: $49.95
|Swipe, EMV & tap fee: 2.69%
Keyed-in cards: 3.49% + 19¢
Payanywhere’s pay-as-you-go app for businesses doesn’t cost anything monthly, and even comes with a free EMV and swipe reader (if in stock). The 3-in-1 card reader that also accepts contactless is $49.95. The rate for swipe, dip and tap payments is 2.69% on this plan, while keyed transactions incur a fee of 3.49% + 19¢.
If you have not had a single transaction in the last 12 months, you pay a monthly inactivity fee of $3.99. This fee stops applying as soon as you take the first payment again.
Payanywhere card readers connect wirelessly to your cell phone via Bluetooth.
The pay-as-you-go plan is only suitable for businesses with a monthly card turnover of less than $10k. If you reach this limit, Payanywhere has been known to automatically roll you into a different merchant contract with new fees and terms.
Transactions processed before 5pm are deposited in to your bank account the next business day for free; those processed after 5pm may reach your bank account the weekday after. There’s also a same-day transfer option for an additional 1% fee.
The Payanywhere app has some great reporting functions where you can customize analytics to focus on sales, payment methods and employee performance. You also get open tickets and tabs, invoicing, inventory features and more. Overall, Payanywhere is good value for money.