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Best card readers for small businesses in the UK

4-minute read

Jessie Day

Jessie Day

11 October 2022

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Cards and contactless methods are now used for more than half of the UK’s payments, according to data from UK Finance. And there are around 2 billion debit card transactions a month in the UK with a spend of around £50 billion.

But which is the best card machine for business, and how do you start taking card payments? Read on for a comparison of three of the best card machines for small UK businesses.

Our comparison of 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. Card payment machines are commonplace in stores and have become a crucial tool.

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 easily.

What is a POS system?

Something to consider when choosing a card reader is the point-of-sale (POS) system. A POS system makes it possible for you to complete sales with your customers. It will usually be an app on a tablet or smartphone that lists all of your products and their prices while also tracking your sales. It then connects to the hardware (e.g. a card reader), works out the price of a transaction, and processes the payment.

In the past, a POS system would have been the cash register where you take payment. Nowadays, most POS systems are digital and offer more flexibility in how you complete a sale with a customer, like being able to take card payments over the phone.

It’s worth noting that not every card reader works with every POS system. So when you buy a card reader, make sure it’s compatible with your POS system and will let you take a card payment.

What features should I look out for?

Most of the newer, app-based card machines are user friendly and contactless so we’ll assess them on their:

  • affordability (without a complex contract or fee structure)
  • app-based function
  • portability

Best card machine for small business in the UK

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.

iZettle Reader 2

One of the UK’s most popular mobile credit card machines, iZettle’s latest card reader is popular with many small businesses.

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 per cent longer battery life than other readers.

There’s 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:

  • 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

Potential downsides

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.


The iZettle2 costs £29 (plus VAT) for your first card reader and then £59 for each additional contactless card reader. You’ll need to pay extra for the dock and add-ons, plus factor in a 1.75 per cent fee for each transaction.

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You can choose between a few Square hardware options – they also have an impressive all-in-one terminal and an iPad stand – but the reader is popular 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 £16 as standard.

Top features:

  • just £16 + 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

Potential downsides

Any bad reviews for Square tend to come down to account suspensions. To avoid this, industry advice is to make sure your business type fits within their guidelines. Luckily their customer service has an excellent reputation in case you need their help.


The Square Reader is priced at £16 + 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%.

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

Potential downsides

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.


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

Alternative card readers

If you wanted to look at alternative card readers to see if they’re more suited to your business, these are popular choices:

  • Shopify WisePad 3 card reader – this card reader is integrated for ecommerce businesses that use Shopify as their platform. If you use Shopify, this is a good option that is user-friendly and has reasonable transaction fees
  • takepayments A920 – a card machine with hardware that compares to the three readers we suggested above but has hidden costs that make it less affordable
  • WorldPay mobile card reader - a much more expensive option in comparison to the other readers on this list but has the best security. A good option if you sell more expensive products in your business
  • Barclays Anywhere card reader - a basic card reader that works best for Barclays business account holders. It offers very low transaction fees that will suit businesses that make lots of small transactions

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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Jessie Day

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Jessie Day

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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