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10 min read

Choosing a mobile card payment machine

With card payments recently overtaking cash payments for the first time, every business needs to think about accommodating customers paying by card and mobile. A relatively new way to process these cash-free transactions is by having a mobile card payment machine. We’re going to look at and compare the different card readers available and help you to choose the right option for your business.

What is a mobile card payment machine?

A mobile card payment machine is a hand-held device connected to the internet via a mobile phone that allows you to take credit card and debit card payments.

Unlike more traditional payment terminals, the major advantage is that you’ll able to process payments on the go – as long as you’re connected to an internet network.

Most devices accept contactless and Chip and PIN card payment from all the major providers such as VISA and Mastercard, as well as the likes of Google Pay and Apple Pay. 

Advantages of using a mobile card payment machine

We’ve already mentioned the most obvious advantage which is the ability to take payments on the move, but there are many other benefits. 

In today’s increasingly cashless society, your business will avoid losing any sales by not being able to take payment from customers who don’t carry cash. This is essential if you’re selling at trade fairs, pop-up shops and street markets.

It can also help you keep your business accounts accurate and in good order, as all transactions are recorded. As well as the admin benefits, you’ll also lessen the security risk of handling large amounts of cash on-site or off-site. 

Perhaps most enticingly, there’s evidence to suggest that customers are willing to spend more when they can pay by card.  

“When you vary the payment method, people are willing to pay more. You’re not forking over a dollar bill, so there is less sensation of loss.”

Duncan Simestor, a professor of marketing at M.I.T

What do I need to think about when choosing a mobile card payment machine?

Choosing the right device and provider will depend on the size of your business, how many transactions you make each month, and whether you want employees to use it. The transaction rates are likely to be the single most important thing you make your decision on, but there are other important considerations too.

  • Are you frequently on the move, or selling to people in unusual locations?
  • Are you mostly deskbound or in a bricks-and-mortar shop?
  • Are you in a restaurant, café or hotel where customers might not always be in the same place?
  • How are your customers most likely to pay?
  • Do they want to use contactless? (If you’re selling to young audiences, the answer is likely to be ‘yes’.)
  • Do some of your customers use American Express? Not all of the card readers accept it.

If you are already using online accounting software, you’ll want to check that your mobile card reader is compatible with it and it may make sense to go for a product from the same provider, if there is one. Or, if you already have point of sale hardware, you’re also likely to want to ensure the card reader will match. 

It’s probable that you’ll be using your mobile phone to operate the app that the mobile card readers operate on, so you will need a signal where you are taking the payments.

How do the different card readers compare?

We’ve picked out eight of the most popular small business card readers to help you narrow it down. Whilst they all mostly offer the same basic functionality, there are subtle differences for you to consider both in terms of fees and features available. 

Here’s a headline summary of how they compare. You can find more detailed information on each card reader further down the page.  

  • Barclaycard Anywhere
    Barclaycard Anywhere

    Well-known brand and premium security features.

  • i-Zettle
    i-Zettle

    Accepts the widest range of credit cards.

  • PayPal Here
    PayPal Here

    Ideal if you expect to make lots of transactions.

  • SumUp
    SumUp

    No charges for declined cards or payments that don’t go through.

  • Shopify
    Shopify

    Ideal if you are planning on operating pop-up shops.

  • Square

    No further fees or subscriptions past the flat rate fee.

  • Fattmerchant
    Fattmerchant

    Cash payment tracking, track invoices, analytics dashboard.

  • Quickbooks GoPayment
    Quickbooks GoPayment

    Best if you are already using Quickbooks.

Barclaycard Anywhere

Key information:

  • Upfront cost: £29 ex VAT
  • Transaction fees: 60% for debit and credit cards; 75p per refund
  • Accepts: Visa and Mastercard
  • Available on: iPhone and Android
  • Accepts contactless? Yes
  • Monthly fees? No

Additional benefits:

  • Quick application process, usually within 15 minutes
  • Fraud protection: proactive security plus advanced card verification services
  • App enabling tracking of payments away from the desk and in real-time
  • Connects using Bluetooth
  • Fixed transaction costs so you know what you’re paying

What it doesn’t do:

  • Doesn’t accept American Express
  • Not suitable for phone or email payments

Trustpilot: Unavailable

Find out more about Barclaycard Anywhere

i-Zettle

Key information:

  • Upfront cost: £29 ex VAT. App is free
  • Transaction fees: 1.75%. E-commerce fee is 2.75%. Invoicing is 2.5% per paid invoice
  • Accepts: Credit cards, debit cards and American Express. Also accepts Apple Samsung and Google Pay
  • Available on: Apple and Android
  • Accepts contactless? Yes
  • Monthly fees? No, for the basic product

Additional benefits:

  • Contactless payments take 5 seconds to process
  • Deposits payments within 1-2 business days, regardless of which card is being processed
  • 8 hours active battery life

 Add-ons:

  • Go-Plus means you can sell online and whilst on the move, £29 a month
  • Pro is for the service industry (restaurants, cafes etc): £29 a month with lower transaction fees of 1.25%

Trustpilot: ★★★★ (1,037 reviews)

Find out more about i-Zettle

PayPal Here

Key information:

  • Upfront cost: £45 ex VAT
  • Transaction fees: 2.75% up to £1,500, 1.75% up to £6,000, 1.5% up to £15,000, 1% over £15,000
  • Accepts: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, plus GooglePay and ApplePay
  • Available on: iPhone, iPad, Android
  • Accepts contactless? Yes  
  • Monthly fees? No

Additional benefits:

  • Paypal’s leading global security reputation
  • Variable fees depending on volume, outlined above
  • Add multiple users – up to 200, with separate IDs and passwords
  • Manage inventory and generate reports

 Add-ons:

  • Integrated software from £20 a month
  • Range of POS solutions
  • Accessories – e.g card reader cradle, mounting solutions, printer

Trustpilot: ★★★ (7 reviews)

Find out more about PayPal       

SumUp

Key information:

  • Upfront cost: £29 ex VAT ex shipping
  • Transaction fees: 1.65%. Per Virtual Terminal, 2.95% + £0.25
  • Accepts: All debit and credit cards, plus GooglePay and ApplePay
  • Available on: Apple, Android
  • Accepts contactless? Yes
  • Monthly fees? No

Additional benefits:

  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Sign up ‘in seconds’
  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Only pay for successful transactions
  • No charge for card payments that are declined
  • No charge for cash payments. No VAT on transaction fee
  • Online support

Add-ons:

  • SumUp 3G Card Reader, which costs £99.00 ex VAT, inc shipping

Trustpilot: ★★★★ (923 reviews)

Find out more about SumUp

Shopify

Key information:

  • Upfront cost: $29 per month (Basic Shopify)
  • Transaction fees: 2.2% +20p
  • In-person credit card rates 1.7%
  • Additional fees using all payment providers other than Shopify Payments: 2.0%
  • Accepts: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover
  • Available on: Apple, Android
  • Accepts contactless? Yes
  • Monthly fees? Yes, see above

Additional benefits:

  • Card reader is free
  • 14-day free trial
  • Basic product gives two staff accounts
  • 24/7 support
  • Centralised inventory, secure payments
  • Shopify’s focus appears to be on businesses establishing pop-up stores, with the card reader as an intrinsic part of this

What it doesn’t do:

  • For UK customers, Shopify appears very US-focused with prices in dollars and US support numbers, even on the UK site
  • The card reader is an extension to existing Shopify services, not standalone

 Add-ons:

  • Shopify for growing businesses: $79 a month. Five user accounts, and set up a permanent shop with a cash drawer and receipt printer. Transaction fees 1.9% + 20p. In-person credit card rates 1.6%. Additional fees using all payment providers other than Shopify Payments 1%
  • Advanced Shopify: $299 a month. 15 user accounts, advanced report builder, third-party calculated shipping rates. Transaction fees 1.6% + 20p. In-person credit card rates 1.5%. Additional fees using all payment providers other than Shopify Payments: 0.5%

Trustpilot: Unavailable

Find out more about Shopify

Square

Key information:

  • Upfront cost: £29 + VAT
  • Transaction fees: 1.75%
  • Accepts: Visa, Mastercard, American Express. Chip and PIN cards, ApplePay, GooglePay, and other mobile devices, phones and watches
  • Available on: Apple and Android, wirelessly via Bluetooth
  • Accepts contactless? Yes
  • Monthly fees? No

Additional benefits:

  • Processes payments ‘in seconds’ and is ‘among the fastest’ on the market
  • No further fees or subscriptions past the flat rate fee
  • Battery lasts ‘all day’

What it doesn’t do:

  • No further reductions on the flat rate transaction fee of 1.75%

Add-ons:

  • Docks, stands and carry cases are also available

Trustpilot: ★★★★★ (666 reviews)

Find out more about Square

Fattmerchant

Key information:

  • Upfront cost: Subscription cost of $99 a month (if processing under $500,000 a year)
  • Transaction fees: Minimal transaction costs of 8c per transaction plus interchange fee (the amount charged by the card issuer)
  • Accepts: Magstripe and EMV cards. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay
  • Accepts contactless? Yes
  • Monthly fees? Yes, see above

Additional benefits:

  • Cash payment tracking, invoice tracking, inventory and catalogue management, analytics dashboard
  • Send invoices, set up recurring billing
  • Support team
  • No markup fees, cancellation fees or batch fees
  • Encrypted customer data

Add-ons:

  • Enterprise platform is $199 a month for processing more than $500,000 a year
  • Integrated analytics report for $20 a month
  • Data breach protection available on enterprise platform

 What it doesn’t do:

  • Again for UK customers, it is US-focused

Trustpilot: ★★★★★ (150 reviews)

Find out more about Fattmerchant

Quickbooks GoPayment

Key information:

  • Upfront cost: $19
  • Transaction fees: 2.4% + $0.25 or 3.4% + $0.25 for keyed entries
  • Accepts: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover
  • Available on: ioS and Android.
  • Accepts contactless? No, except in the premium version (see below)
  • Monthly fees? As part of Quickbooks software

Additional benefits:

  • Fully compatible with existing Quickbooks software and also compatible with Quickbooks Desktop
  • If you are already a Quickbooks customer the card reader may be free.
  • Charged via USB, and connectivity via Bluetooth
  • Charge lasts ‘a week or longer’, depending on usage. A fully charged reader will process 115 transactions or 16 a day.
  • EMV encrypted for added fraud protection

What it doesn’t do:

  • Premium product (see below) is not compatible with Quickbooks desktop software.
  • US focus may be unattractive to UK customers

Add-ons:

  • All-in-one reader is $49 and accepts Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay and other contactless cards

Trustpilot: ★★★★ (1,124 reviews)

Find out more about Quickbooks GoPayment

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