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Need a contactless card machine? These are our top 3

4-minute read

Jessie Day

2 July 2020

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Cards and contactless methods are now used for more than half of the UK’s payments, according to recent data from UK Finance. But which is the best card machine for a small business, and how do you start taking card payments? Here are our top three options for 2020.

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Our best card machines for small UK businesses are based on price (including fees), but also features like fast deposits into your business bank account and simple set-up. We also expect them to be portable, and ready for contactless payments with one tap of a mobile.

Do I need a new card machine?

The days of cash payments only, and even clunky countertop hardware, are disappearing fast. With cash giving way to contactless well before the coronavirus onset – we use it for less than a quarter of all payments in the UK – maybe your business was set up and ready for the spike in card payments we’ve seen in the period between April and June.

Technology has moved on, however, along with choice. Solid chip and PIN machines are available, but many small businesses are opting for mobile card readers, which work from almost any site or premises and give customers the option to pay contact-free.

What features should I look out for?

The newer, app-based card machines are usually contact-free – perfect for businesses adjusting to the government’s advice around social distancing when reopening.

As well as contactless, the best card machines will be:

  • affordable (without a complex contract or fee structure)
  • app-based or come with an app function
  • portable and countertop-friendly

Covid-19 support may also be available, and two of the card machines on our shortlist feature a coronavirus-specific discount or contract freezing option.

Who makes the top 3?

We’ve scoured the market and rated these three card machines top of the pack. We looked into value for money, simplicity and point of sale (POS) features. We also prioritised flexibility – lots of businesses need a portable machine that can also be stationed on a countertop, for example market traders, or businesses running a workshop.

In no particular order, here are the best card machines for UK small businesses in 2020.

iZettle Reader 2

One of the UK’s most popular mobile credit card machines, iZettle’s latest card reader is hard to beat. It accepts all major credit cards, deposits money in your account within 1-2 business days and owners love its sleek look and feel. It also boasts 30% longer battery life than other readers.

There’s also a special package for hospitality businesses, with iZettle Pro, and custom pricing for businesses taking over £10,000 in card payments every month.

Top features:

  • reduced fees for Covid-19
  • simple to set up and use
  • no monthly fees
  • accepts all major credit cards and contactless
  • 5 second contactless payments
  • deposits money within 1-2 business days
  • 30% longer battery life than other readers

Covid-19 support?

iZettle are charging reduced fees on their online payment features, as part of their Covid-19 support package. Read more on their Community hub.

Watch out for

Some reviewers of the iZettle have said that their limited customer support hours can be a source of frustration. However, many customers have said that the simplicity of the device and its software means you rarely need to get in touch with them.

Pricing

The iZettle2 costs £59 (plus VAT). You’ll need to pay extra for the dock and add-ons, plus factor in a 1.75% fee for each transaction.

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Square

You can choose between a few Square hardware options – they also have an impressive all-in-one terminal and an iPad stand – but we like the reader for its simplicity and size. You’ll be set to accept chip and PIN, contactless payments, Apple Pay and Google Pay, and the machine itself costs £19 as standard.

Top features:

  • option to pause any subscription during Covid-19
  • just £19 + VAT for Reader machine
  • simple to set up and use
  • free POS app
  • 5 second contactless payments
  • deposits money next working day
  • no monthly fees

Covid-19 support?

Square have introduced the option to pause your subscription, particularly useful if your business is shut for Covid-19 and you’re not using your machine. You can pause for up to three months, and start up again at any time. They are charging reduced fees on their online payment features, as part of their Covid-19 support package. Read more on Square’s Covid-19 response hub.

Watch out for

Any bad reviews for Square tend to come down to account suspensions, and industry advice is to ensure your business type fits within their guidelines, to avoid this. Luckily their customer service is top of the league in case you need their help.

Pricing

The Square Reader is priced at £19 + VAT when bought directly from their website, with a 1.75% transaction fee.

SumUp Air

Again, there are a few different machine options with SumUp, but we’ve picked the Air for its discounted price at £39 + VAT (usually £59). Along with the discount, it also comes with a lower transaction fee, at 1.69%.

We can’t see any special support for Covid-19, but equally there’s no fixed contract.

Top features:

  • no fixed contract
  • lower 1.69% transaction fee
  • deposits money within 1-3 business days
  • sign up in 5 minutes
  • accepts all major credit cards and contactless
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • no monthly fees

Covid-19 support?

Nothing specific, but lots of general guidance and resources on their Covid-19 hub.

Watch out for

SumUp can take slightly longer to deposit your money than iZettle or Square, and the Air doesn’t boast the same lightning-fast processing for contactless payments. Their lower transaction fee might make up for this though, if you’re not in a hurry for these flashier features.

Pricing

Right now, you’ll pay £39 + VAT for the SumUp Air when buying direct, plus the 1.69% transaction fee.

Are you using one of our three best card readers? Has it made life easier? Let us know in the comments below.

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