10 card payment machines ideal for small business

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In an increasingly cashless society, if you don’t have card payment machines, you risk losing out on sales.

There are countless card machines aimed at small businesses on the market today, and most enable you to take chip & pin, contactless, and mobile payments.

But there are differences in features, fees and upfront costs which will make some more or less suitable for your business than others.

This article will break down the hardware and functionality of the best payment machines currently on the market to help you choose the one that’s right for you.

You can jump straight to a particular card machine or read on to find more info on the 10 best card payment machines for small UK businesses in 2023.

>See also: 40% of the UK’s micro businesses do not accept card payments

Card payment machines

  1. SumUp Air
  2. Zettle Reader 2
  3. Square Reader
  4. MyPOS Go
  5. Dojo Go
  6. Barclaycard Smartpay Anywhere
  7. TakePayments
  8. Tyl (by Natwest)
  9. Paymentsense
  10. Shopify WisePad Reader 3

How much does a typical card payment machine cost?

Card payment machine costs are made up of the cost of the device and the cost of payment processing fees.

Device cost

Mobile card readers generally cost between £15 and £30, countertop card machines cost between £150 and £200.

You can either buy the device outright or rent the device for a monthly cost. This changes from provider to provider.

>See also: How to optimise cash flow with cashless payments


Transaction fees are taken by your card payment provider as a percentage of every payment made through your card machine. They’re typically between 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent of the value of the transaction.

So, if the customer buys an item costing £25, and your transaction fee is 1.75 per cent, you’ll be charged around 43p by your card payment provider.

Card payment providers will also advertise a card not present (CNP) transaction. A CNP transaction occurs when neither the cardholder or their card are present for the transaction – in other words, an online or phone payment, or a recurring payment.

CNP fees are usually around 2.5 per cent. They’re higher for the simple reason that there’s a greater risk of fraud during these kinds of payments.

Countertop vs portable vs mobile card readers

There are three types of card payment machine: countertop, portable, and mobile.

Countertop card machines are designed to be used at designated till points in your store. Although they don’t offer any portability, they’re usually very reliable in terms of their connectivity. They’re best for businesses with a fixed payment point such as a grocery or small retailer.

Portable card machines are battery-powered devices that use Wi-Fi to take card payments anywhere on your site. They’re best for cafes and restaurants.

Mobile card readers are even more compact, battery-powered devices that use a GPRS (3G or 4G) signal to take card payments wherever you are. They also usually have Wi-Fi functionality as well. They’re great for pop up shops, markets, festivals, street food vans – anywhere really.

This article will predominantly focus on mobile card readers, as they’re the most affordable and offer the most flexibility to growing small businesses.

Most of the providers below also sell other hardware such as charging docks, receipt printers, countertop systems and tills.

You only need the card payment device to start taking payments, but these items allow you to enhance your POS system as your business grows.

>See also: 8 payment systems for festivals, pop-ups and street food markets

Card payment machines – the options

The 10 card payment machines below are great options for small businesses, offering competitive fees and great features.

Sum Up Air

SumUp Air Card Reader

Device cost £39 (£44 with charging dock)
Transaction fee 1.69%
CNP fee 2.5%
Key features ● 500 transactions per charge
● Contactless & Chip & PIN
● Payments settled in 2-3 business days
● Accepts all major payment types including Google and Apple Pay, Amex and Diners Club, and contactless
● Email and SMS receipts

Thanks to its ease of use and practicality, this stylish and lightweight portable card reader is currently one of the popular card readers for small businesses.

It’s easy to set up and start using. All you need to do to start accepting contactless, Chip & Pin, and mobile payments from all major providers is to pair the device with your smartphone, which takes minutes.

You can then start using the SumUp Air anywhere with Wi-Fi or data coverage, and it can process 500 transactions on a single charge – at 12 hours, it’s probably the best battery life on the market.

Available for a one-off cost of just £39, and with a fixed 1.69 per cent transaction fee, it’s also very affordable. The only real downside of the SumUp Air is that it can take two-to-three business days for payments to settle in your account, longer than the average of around one-two days.

However, if you bundle a SumUp Air with a business account, payments are received with one day and the transaction fee is slashed to just 1.49 per cent.

You also get access to a handy smartphone app, with a dashboard that allows you to view your product catalogue, track sales, and send digital receipts.

Compare card payment machine quotes

Zettle Reader

Zettle Reader 2

Device cost from £59 + VAT (Zettle Dock 2 £39)
Transaction fee 1.75%
CNP fee 2.5%
Key features ● 8 hour battery life (100 transactions)
● Accepts all major payment types including Google and Apple Pay, Amex and Diners Club, and contactless
● Payments settled in 1-2 business days
● Email and SMS receipts

The Zettle Reader 2 is another lightweight (just 130g) device that you can pair with your Apple or Android smartphone and start using within minutes using the Zettle app.

It accepts all major debit and credit card payment types and has a decent eight-hour battery life – though this only lasts for around 100 transactions, which is no match for SumUp’s 500.

Where the Zettle Reader 2 really seeks to differentiate itself is in its focus on security. Claiming to be one of the safest card readers on the market, Zettle’s tamper-proof device adheres to the highest industry standards, and is fully encrypted by HSMs cryptographic servers.

And if you do spot a suspicious charge, Zettle’s transaction protection covers up to £250 in chargebacks per month.

As with the SumUp Air, there are no monthly fees – you just pay a flat rate per transaction, though at 1.75 per cent, this is slightly higher than its rival.

But at £59 + VAT, the Zettle Reader 2 is dearer than the SumUp Air, and the in-dock charger will cost another £39 + VAT on top.

Compare card payment machine quotes

Square Reader

Square Reader

Device cost £19 + VAT
Transaction fee 1.75%
CNP fee 2.5%
Key features ● All day battery
● Weighs just 56g
● Accepts chip and PIN cards, contactless, Apple Pay and Google Pay
● Funds deposited the next business day

The Square Reader is the most sleek, simple and affordable card reader on the market. This appropriately square-shaped device costs just £19 + VAT, much lower than competitors.

And weighing in at just 56g, it’s not just the price that’s low. All you have to do is sync it to your phone via Bluetooth and start selling. You can then monitor and manage all your sales from Square’s free app. All funds are deposited the next working day.

Nifty features include specially-designed POS dashboards for restaurants, restaurants and mobile businesses who need to make appointments, such as hairdressers or masseurs.

And Square also has a whole arsenal of other payments kit you can buy to create a full POS setup including terminals, registers, and other hardware and accessories.

At 1.75 per cent, the transaction fees aren’t the lowest, but you’ll still struggle to find a more lightweight and cost-effective way to start taking payments.

And businesses that take more than £200,000 a year in card sales pay a lower transaction fee.

Compare card payment machine quotes


Device cost £19 + VAT
Transaction fee 1.10% + 7p
CNP fee n/a
Key features ● Digital receipts via email or SMS
● Instant access to funds
● Accepts all major payment types including Google and Apple Pay, Amex and Diners Club, and contactless
● Tracks individual staff performance and splits tips
● Tactile keyboard

Weighing 180g, its design isn’t as sleek and stylish as rivals, but under the hood, MyPOS Go 2 is another highly functional and compact mobile card reader.

Like Square Reader, the device costs just £19 + VAT, but its transaction fee of just 1.10 per cent + 7p can be much lower (depending on the amount you’re taking).

The Android-driven MyPOS Go 2 card reader has several other features that set it apart from competitors. You get a free e-money merchant account, with a dedicated IBAN in 14 currencies, making it easy to take international payments.

>See also: 6 of the best payment systems for accepting US dollars

Unlike the days you might have to wait with other providers, card payments are settled in your account in less than three seconds, and you get instant access to funds via your VISA business card.

We also like the multi-operator mode, which allows you to monitor individual staff performance and split tips accordingly.

Compare card payment machine quotes

Dojo Go

Dojo Go

Device cost £15-£20pm + VAT monthly rental
Transaction fee 1.4% + 5p on all transactions
CNP fee 1.9% + 5p
Key features ● 10-hour battery life
● Accepts all major payment types including Google and Apple Pay, Amex and Diners Club, and contactless
● Payments settled by 10am the next working day
● Built-in thermal reader

Dojo Go describes itself as the “ultimate all-rounder”, a small business card machine that’s just as handy as a mobile (operating on 3G/4G connectivity) and a portable (using Wi-Fi) device.

Dojo Go’s big selling point is its speed: the company claims its device can take card payments in around two seconds – 80 per cent faster than the industry average. And you can keep track of all those payments in real time using the Dojo Go app.

Dojo is supremely confident in its product – so much so that, if you’re switching from an existing provider, it will pay your exit fees up to a value of £3,000. (You have to share your recent statements with another provider with Dojo before it decides on the transfer value.)

We also admire Dojo’s help and support, which is available 24 hours a day. And if you can’t get things fixed over the phone, Dojo can take over your device remotely to investigate.

All payments are transferred in your account at 10am the next working day, which it claims is faster than any other provider as standard.

There are two tiers of transaction fees: 1.4 per cent + 5p per transaction plus £20 per month terminal rental, if your annual card turnover is below £150,000; if you’re above £150,000 then your credit and debit card rate will be less than 1.4 per cent, while the monthly terminal rental fee drops to £15 per month.

Pro tip: Dojo sets a minimum £24.95 monthly charge for customers who have not taken card payments before, which is the minimum cost you must pay in transaction fees each month – even if you have zero takings. This is on top of the monthly £20 terminal rental. After six months, the contract flips to monthly rolling.

Because you’re tied into a six-month contract if your card turnover is below £150,000, Dojo Go is better for scaling small businesses with consistently high monthly takings.

And, if your business needs cash quickly, Dojo offers a merchant cash advance powered by YouLend, which is repaid through a percentage of your card takings. Dojo charges a fixed one-off fee for this cash facility.

Compare card payment machine quotes

Barclaycard Anywhere

Barclaycard Smartpay Anywhere

Device cost £29 + VAT
Transaction fee 1.6% on pay as you go, but personalised pricing plans available to meet bigger business needs
CNP fee n/a
Key features ● Contactless and Chip & PIN
● Accepts major payment providers including Visa, Mastercard, Google, Apple Pay, Diners Club (Discover), Union Pay, JCB and Amex
● Payments settled the next business day for transactions taken before 7pm
● Email receipts
● Free FreshBooks account
● Powered by a feature packed app for iOS and Android optimised for both mobile and tablet
● Includes access to a web portal giving real time access to sales reports and dashboards

Barclaycard Smartpay Anywhere is aimed at hospitality and retail businesses, with the “app” turning it into a POS solution. It does not connect with cash drawers, or barcode scanners – but does connect to wireless printers and an app and web portal.

It has next-working-day settlement and, in addition to the standard Mastercard and Visa, accepts Amex and Diners Club (Discover).

With a transaction fee of just 1.6 per cent, this is the lowest of any major provider.

It’s also powered by a feature filled app as well as access to a web portal providing real time data and insight into your business performance. If you need support there is a 24/7 customer support team, and it is PCI compliant without fees or the need for attestation.

However, unlike some rivals, when applying for Smartpay Anywhere, you have to go through an online vetting process checking financial and borrowing history to be approved for a device, which Barclays says ensures the device is suitable for your business before you pay for it.

The pros are that it’s a compact and affordable card reader with low transaction fees and payments settled the next business day.

Compare card payment machine quotes


Device cost from £7.50 + VAT
Transaction fee Based on business turnover but between 0.3%-2.5% + flat fee
CNP fee Dependent on payment service provider
Key features ● Shorter contract lengths
● No setup or exit fees
● Payments settled next working day
● Customisable dashboard
● Realtime inventory tracking
● Accepts all major payment types including Google and Apple Pay, Amex and Diners Club, and contactless

Stockport-based TakePayments has provided card terminals and online payment solutions for over 30 years. It is one of the fastest-growing card payment companies in the UK, with nearly 64,000 customers signed up.

Its new mobile card reader is a rebadged PAX A920 card machine that accepts cards via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or 4G with a 10-hour battery life with a countertop dock for when it’s not in your hand. There is also a built-in receipt printer.

Takepayments pricing

TakePayments offers two monthly subscription packages:

  • Easy Deal: £7.50pm + VAT (monthly contract)
  • Takepaymentsplus: £25 + VAT monthly (annual contract)

Easy Deal is aimed at small businesses on the move with only basic card payment software but not inventory tracking. There is a £150 + VAT setup fee.

Takepaymentsplus waives the setup fee and includes an integrated product library, sales and inventory reports and itemised receipts.

Even if you go for the annual Takepaymentsplus contract, this is still shorter than the industry norm of 18-60 months.

However, because of the way its transaction fees are structure, TakePayments is better suited for small businesses with bigger ticket prices, such as car dealerships, white good sellers and restaurants, as opposed to, say, corner shops.

Own POS system

TakePayments uses its own EPOS system called tPOS, which cannot be downloaded onto an iPad or other tablet and has its own tablet register.

To get the full package, there is a version for retail (£45-£55 + VAT monthly) or hospitality (£55-£65 + VAT) plus a £250 + VAT setup fee.

One drawback though is that unlike competitor Dojo, it cannot be used for payments made over the phone or via email. And it does not embed into your website either, which means you can’t use it for online sales, just in person.

On the other hand, you can also use the Epos Now POS system, which is suitable for beauty, hospitality and retail.

Compare card payment machine quotes

Tyl (by NatWest) Clover Flex

Device cost £14.99 + VAT monthly (Wi-Fi only), £16.99 + VAT monthly (4G + Wi-Fi)
Transaction fee 0.2%-3.5% + 20p-40p dependent on sales volume
CNP fee N/A
Key features ● 12-month contract
● 8-hour battery life
● Payments settled within one business day
● Accepts all major payment types including Google and Apple Pay, Amex and Diners Club, and contactless

Weighing in at 453 grams, Tyl’s Clover Flex card reader is at the chunkier end of the mobile card reader market.

Although it still utilises Wi-Fi and 4G, allowing you to use it anywhere, it’s still significantly heavier than the other devices, which does affect its portability.

However, more does in this case mean more. The Clover Flex acts as an all-in-one POS system that allows you to both take payments and manage your business from one device, including inventory and customer management, itemised receipts and more.

It has a decent eight-hour battery life and a high-res 5’’ touchscreen, which enables you to use a variety of the 150 apps on the Clover App Market. However, while it’s handy to have this functionality in one place, we’d wager most people don’t mind switching to their phone for these functions if it means having a smaller device.

Also, it’s not the most affordable option for small businesses. You’ll pay £16.99 per month for the 4G mobile version before transaction fees are even factored into the equation. And the terminal is sold in conjunction with a merchant account that can require a four-year commitment with additional fees.

This makes the Clover Flex better for larger small businesses with a large, consistent sales volume.

Compare card payment machine quotes


Device cost Prices available upon request
Transaction fee Prices available upon request
CNP fee Prices available upon request
Key features ● Day-long charge
● Paid next working day
● Accepts all major payment types including Google and Apple Pay, Amex and Diners Club, and contactless

Paymentsense is a well-established brand with more than 70,000 UK customers. It makes durable and functional mobile card readers.

Unlike most of its competitors, Paymentsense’s mobile devices only have GPRS SIM and not Wi-Fi connectivity, which is fine for most users when out and about. It accepts all major card and payment types, and you should see funds deposited in your account the next working day.

Paymentsense’s pricing is all tailored to your business – how many devices you need, how much you’ll be taking in card payments etc – so the only way you can find out pricing is to enquire for a free personalised quote.

Compare card payment machine quotes


Shopify WisePad 3 Reader

Device cost £49 + VAT
Transaction fee 1.5%-2% online + 25p/1.5%-1.7% in person
CNP fee 2.5%
Key features ● Fully integrated with Shopify POS
● Payment within 6 working days
● 4-hour full charge for 500 transactions
● Accepts all major payment types including Google and Apple Pay, Amex and Diners Club, and contactless

Although only available for Shopify customers, we think it’s worth highlighting Shopify’s WisePad 3 Reader.

It’s lightweight (130 grams) and accepts all major payment cards and types. You have to subscribe to Shopify though to be able to use it and it only works with an iPad or through your iPhone.

Shopify subscriptions

Shopify has three subscription levels for its Wisepad 3 card reader: Basic, Shopify and Advanced. Basic costs £19 a month, Shopify £49 per month, and Advanced £259 a month. All are billed annually.

Basic (£19pm)

Credit card rates

  • 2% +25p online
  • 1.7% + 0p in person

What’s included in Basic

  • Basic reports
  • Up to 1,000 inventory locations
  • 2 staff accounts

Shopify (£49pm)

Credit card rates

  • 1.7% +25p online
  • 1.6% + 0p in person

What’s included in Shopify

  • Professional reports
  • Up to 1,000 inventory locations
  • 5 staff accounts

Advanced (£249pm)

Credit card rates

  • 1.5% + 25p online
  • 1.5% +0p in person

What’s included in Advanced

  • Custom report builder
  • Up to 1,000 inventory locations
  • 15 staff accounts

However, there is no contractual obligation you have to sign with Shopify, so you are not tied in for months or years. Plus there is a 14-day free trial period for you to try out the Wisepad 3 card reader.

There are also slick addons to the Shopify Wisepad 3, including a tablet stand (£130), a barcode scanner (£199) and a Bluetooth receipt printer (£259).

However, with a £49 purchase price (compared with, say, £39 for the SumUp Air card reader), plus monthly subscription fees, Shopify Wisepad 3 works out as one of the most expensive readers on the market.

That said, if already use Shopify as your POS system, this would be a no-brainer.

Compare card payment machine quotes

Which is the best card payment device?

By now you’ve either discovered the card reader that’s right for your business, or you’ve left bamboozled by a dizzying range of different card payment machines, fee structures and additional features.

If it’s the latter, don’t worry. For most small businesses, we’d recommend SumUp. It’s an affordable device with one of the lowest transaction fees on the market, and as it’s a flat rate, it’s predictable and transparent. We were also impressed by its long battery life, which can process more than 500 payments on a single charge.

MyPOS Go also really stands out to us as another great option for small businesses. As well as very competitive transaction fees, it has great added features like multi-operator mode, which make it a great choice for cafes and restaurants. It’s also great that you can access funds instantly.

That said, we’ve selected all the above card payment machines for their flexibility, simplicity and practicality, and each one would be a great option for your small business. Happy selling.

Need a card payment device quote?

Want to compare prices from all the best card payment devices we’ve listed above? Why not use our free comparison tool to be matched with the most suitable provider for your needs.

Simply fill in our free quote-finding form, and answer a few questions about your business (it takes less than a minute). We’ll match you with the most appropriate card payment provider.

Further reading

Best payment processors for UK small businesses – 11 of the best


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