Disclosure: Our editorial staff write reviews independently. We may be compensated if you sign up for a service through our affiliate links.

Square’s idea was a stroke of genius in its simplicity: use your smartphone or tablet to accept credit and debit card payments.

But in the US, businesses looking for mobile credit card processing solutions can choose between an increasing number of companies like Square with their own apps.

PayPal’s card reader solution might be the best-known, but other players have entered the market too. Some, like Flint and Amazon Local Register, have shut down.

Here, we list the most viable alternatives to Square.

Provider Price Ongoing costs To site
SumUp From $35 No monthly fees
Pay as you go
PayPal Zettle $29 No monthly fees
Pay as you go
Intuit QuickBooks $49 $20/mo, or pay as you go
Clover $99 $0-$39.95/mo
Cancelable contract
PayAnywhere  Free – $49.95 Pay as you go, but $3.99/mo after 12 months’ inactivity
Brand Pricing Link
SumUp Terminal: From $35
No monthly fees
Pay as you go
PayPal Zettle Terminal: $29
No monthly fees
Pay as you go
Intuit QuickBooks Terminal: $49
$20/mo or pay as you go
Clover Terminal: $99
$0-$39.95/mo
Cancelable contract
PayAnywhere Terminal: $0-$49.95
Pay as you go, but $3.99/mo after 12 months’ inactivity

SumUp – low cost, simple fees

SumUp offers an all-in-one swipe, dip and tap card reader called SumUp Plus Card Reader with long battery life and a PIN pad. It costs just $35, making SumUp the cheapest option for all-in-one readers.

The transaction rate is 2.75% for magstripe, chip and contactless cards. There’s no additional fee for foreign cards, no contract lock-in and no monthly fees.

You’ll be able to take Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express, Discover and Diners Club, as well as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

SumUp Plus in hand

SumUp Plus Card Reader accepts swipe without a separate swipe reader and has a PIN pad.

App features are basic compared to Square’s, but those who do not plan on running a food and beverage place – or require integrations with third-party software – will in most cases be satisfied. SumUp lets you key in transactions, send payment links, generate QR codes, electronic gift cards and email invoices.

  SumUp charges
SumUp Plus Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap) $35
Swipe, dip & tap transaction rate 2.75%
Keyed rate (virtual terminal) 3.25% + 15¢
Online rate (payment links, QR codes, invoices) 2.9% + 15¢
SumUp
charges
SumUp Plus Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap) $35
Swipe, dip & tap transaction rate 2.75%
Keyed rate (virtual terminal) 3.25% + 15¢
Online rate (payment links, QR codes, invoices) 2.9% + 15¢

If you’d rather have a credit card reader that works without an app, SumUp Pro ($69) or SumUp Solo ($99) are great alternatives. They accept tap and chip cards and come with unlimited data for 4G as well as WiFi connectivity.

SumUp is ideal for sporadic use since you’re not committing to a long-term contract and pay the same rate regardless of card type.

Like Square, bank account deposits take 1-2 days. To get the card reader, you complete the 5-minute sign-up form online, then pay $35 (if ordered through our link).

Full review of SumUp

PayPal Zettle – payouts in online account

PayPal Here has managed to stay in business, offering a pay-as-you-go card reader with no monthly fee or contractual commitment.

The latest card reader, PayPal Zettle, was originally designed in Europe and has now replaced the old PayPal Here offering. PayPal Zettle reader is an elegant card reader with a PIN pad, contactless and chip card acceptance.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

PayPal Zettle card reader in charging dock

The PayPal Zettle reader can be used on the go or as a modern countertop checkout.

Payouts go into your online PayPal Business account. If you don’t mind manual transfers to a bank account, then PayPal Zettle offers a fairly competitive way to take cards in person. The PayPal Business Debit Mastercard enables you to spend the card earnings straight from the online PayPal account.

The accompanying Zettle app comes with useful POS features like a product library, stock counts, barcode scanning, sales reports and discounts.

You can accept payments via cash, cards (Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, Amex, Discover, JCB, UnionPay), mobile wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay), invoices, payment links, QR codes and gift cards.

PayPal Zettle charges
PayPal Zettle card reader (chip, tap) $29
Dip & tap transaction rate 2.29% + 9¢
Cross-border fee +1.5%
Keyed transaction rate 3.49% + 9¢
PayPal
Zettle
charges
PayPal Zettle card reader (chip, tap) $29
Dip & tap transaction rate 2.29% + 9¢
Cross-border fee +1.5%
Keyed transaction rate 3.49% + 9¢

The standard rate for EMV and contactless card payments is 2.29% + 9¢. Keep in mind that for international cards issued outside the US, you pay an additional cross-border fee of 1.5%. The PayPal Zettle app allows you to take key-in card transactions for 3.49% + 9¢ if you haven’t got the card reader handy.

Full review of PayPal Zettle

Full comparison with Square

QuickBooks GoPayment – best accounting integration

QuickBooks GoPayment (previously called Intuit GoPayment) is the mobile payment solution from Intuit, best known for their accounting software. If you use or plan on using QuickBooks, choosing GoPayment might make sense as it integrates perfectly. You also get a full-fledged merchant account without contractual commitment.

To get GoPayment, download the free app available on Android and iOS devices (but not Windows or Blackberry devices). You can take payments immediately by keying in card details which the customer can sign for in the app.

The latest QuickBooks card reader (accepting chip and contactless) costs $49.

Photo: QuickBooks

QuickBooks Card Reader tap payment

Unique-looking QuickBooks Card Reader accepts tap and EMV cards, but not swipe.

QuickBooks Online subscribers can purchase the card reader and use it on a pay-as-you-go basis with a tap and chip rate of 2.4% + 25¢ and keyed rate of 3.4% + 25¢ per transaction. While the rates are competitive, a hidden monthly cost of $9.95 for PCI-DSS compliance does apply.

If you’re subscribed to a QuickBooks Desktop plan, there’s a monthly plan for $20 per month. This lowers your transaction charges to 1.6% (tap, chip) and 3.3% (keyed) plus a fixed fee of 30¢. Otherwise, the pay-as-you-go rates for Desktop users would be 2.4% + 30¢ for tap and chip or 3.5% + 30¢ for keyed cards – more expensive than what QuickBooks Online users pay.

QuickBooks charges
QuickBooks Card Reader (chip, tap) $49
Pay as you go (w/QuickBooks Online) $0/mo
Chip, tap: 2.4% + 25¢
Keyed: 3.4% + 25¢
+ $9.95/mo PCI compliance
Monthly plan (w/QuickBooks Desktop) $20/mo
Chip, tap: 1.6% + 30¢
Keyed: 3.3% + 30¢
GoPayment
charges
QuickBooks Card Reader (chip, tap) $49
Pay as you go (w/ QuickBooks Online) $0/mo
Chip, tap: 2.4% + 25¢
Keyed: 3.4% + 25¢
+ $9.95/mo PCI compliance
Monthly plan (w/ QuickBooks Desktop) $20/mo
Chip, tap: 1.6% + 30¢
Keyed: 3.3% + 30¢

The card reader accepts credit and debit cards via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. There used to be swipe acceptance, but this has been phased out with the new card reader.

Full review of QuickBooks GoPayment

Clover Go – with merchant account

Clover Go’s card reader looks similar to Square Reader, but accepts swipe as well as EMV chip and contactless cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. It connects through Bluetooth with your cell phone’s Clover Go app.

Clover used to only offer their services through partners like Bank of America (each with different rates), but now sell Clover Go directly from their website for standard fees.

Photo: Clover

Clover Go card reader

Clover Go looks a bit like Square Reader, but it accepts all types of cards.

The card reader costs $99, and then you have a choice of plans. The Payments option is for payments only – this has no monthly fee. If you want inventory management features, you pay a monthly subscription for the Clover Go app ($9.95/month for Essentials with basic features, $39.95/month for Register with advanced features) and card rates according to the monthly plan.

The chip, tap and swipe transaction fee is 2.6% + 10¢ on the cheaper plans and 2.3% + 10¢ on the Register plan. Keyed transactions stay at 3.5% + 10¢ regardless of the plan.

Clover Go charges
Clover Go card reader (swipe, chip, tap) $99
Payments plan $0/mo
Swipe, tap, chip: 2.6% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢
Essentials plan $9.95/mo
Swipe, tap, chip: 2.6% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢
Register plan $39.95/mo
Swipe, tap, chip: 2.3% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢
Clover Go
charges
Clover Go card reader (swipe, chip, tap) $99
Payments plan $0/mo
Swipe, tap, chip: 2.6% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢
Essentials plan $9.95/mo
Swipe, tap, chip: 2.6% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢
Register plan $39.95/mo
Swipe, tap, chip: 2.3% + 10¢
Keyed: 3.5% + 10¢

Alternatively, Payline offers a personalized deal with fees based on the card and transaction type accepted.

This card reader is a good choice for existing Clover merchants, since more features and integrations are available within Clover’s ecosystem. It also comes with your own merchant account by First Data/Fiserv, which some businesses might prefer for account stability.

Full review of Clover Go

Payanywhere – free reader, but monthly fee may apply

The Payanywhere website might lead you to think you are dealing with a technology startup, but the company is a subsidiary of Wells Fargo. On the surface, their rates look transparent and simple.

Photo: Payanywhere

PayAnywhere 3-in-1 card reader

Payanywhere’s 3-in-1 card reader accepts swipe, EMV chip and contactless cards.

The system works with iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

Businesses making less than $10k a month can be on the pay-as-you-go plan which comes with no monthly fee or setup cost, and you get a free 2-in-1 magstripe and EMV card reader (if in stock). Make sure you get the 3-in-1 reader for $49.95 if you want to accept NFC contactless payments too.

Payanywhere charges
2-in-1 Credit Card Reader (swipe, chip) First one free, then $29.95/each
3-in-1 Credit Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap) $49.95
Card reader transaction rate 2.69%
Keyed transaction rate 3.49% + 19¢
Inactivity fee $3.99/mo
Payanywhere
charges
2-in-1 Credit Card Reader (swipe, chip) First one free, then $29.95/each
3-in-1 Credit Card Reader (swipe, chip, tap) $49.95
Card reader transaction rate 2.69%
Keyed transaction rate 3.49% + 19¢
Inactivity fee $3.99/mo

Note: if you haven’t processed a card sale for 12 months, an “inactivity fee” of $3.99 is charged every month until you next accept a card.

On pay-as-you-go, each swipe, dip and tap transaction costs 2.69%, and keyed transactions cost 3.49% + $0.19. Those making over $10,000 a month can ask for custom pricing.

This looks all and good, but users have complained of hidden fees including a monthly fee on the pay-as-you-go plan and an early terminal fee ($249 has been quoted). We therefore suggest asking upfront about these before signing any contract from Payanywhere.

Full review of Payanywhere

Summary

Among Square competitors, there’s a big difference in card fees and terminal prices, the latter sometimes provided free of charge.

Monthly costs can rack up with GoPayment, Clover Go and Payanywhere if you don’t use them every month, making them best for committed merchants with a steady turnover. While GoPayments makes sense for QuickBooks users, Clover is better if you might expand with Clover POS equipment later on.

The pay-as-you-go solutions from PayPal Zettle and SumUp have similar card rates, with SumUp leading as the cheapest and best value upfront.

It’s clear that wireless mobile card readers and Bluetooth connectivity are the norm. Swipe acceptance is gradually being phased out in favor of the more secure contactless and EMV technologies. It’s also clear that manufacturers are unafraid of new designs – square-shaped readers are no longer the norm.

As for Square, it still leads as the most innovative payment provider with the broadest offerings for small businesses. Square Reader is now just one of several terminals able to integrate with many more tools and features than ever.