The Best Mobile Card Readers for Small Businesses in 2021

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 16 March 2021

Read up on the five best card readers in the UK – and mobilise your business


Card readerReader priceTransaction feeMonthly feeBest for
SumUp Air£19 – £29 (excl. VAT)1.69%£0Low fees
Zettle 2£29 – £59 (excl. VAT)1.75%£0Dynamic point of sale solutions
Square£29 (excl. VAT)1.75%£0Quick payouts
PayPal Here£45 (excl. VAT)1 – 2.75%£0User-friendly mobile payment app
Barclaycard Anywhere£29 (excl. VAT)/td>1.6%£0 – £15Online sales reporting
Worldpay reader£39.99 (incl. VAT)1.95 – 2.75%£0 – £5.99Flexible pricing plans

Mobile card readers are turning the payments industry on its head. Why? Because – for small businesses, at least – they’re the cheapest new way of accepting contactless and card transactions. All you need is the card reader, a half-decent wifi connection, and your smartphone (with a free app installed). It’s that easy.

So why go mobile? Well, mobile card readers don’t just give your customers a quicker, simpler way to pay; they also provide real-time reporting on your transactions. So you can monitor what’s selling, and grow your business – all with a gadget that’s small enough to fit in your trouser pocket.

There are five mobile card reader providers on the market for UK SMEs. We’ve reviewed each one. We’re talking pros, cons, prices, features… and benefits for your business. Dive into our table for prices, start comparing quotes, or jump to our readers’ FAQs.


The best mobile card readers for UK businesses in 2021

When it comes to finding out how much card machines cost, it’s not always that straightforward. You’ve got monthly and transaction fees to think about, plus the cost of actually buying your card machine.

That’s why we’ve compared not only the best features of each mobile card machine, but the costs – hidden and transparent – included with each. The best mobile card machines come from SumUp, Zettle, Square, PayPal, Barclaycard, and Worldpay.

Let’s find out why.


SumUp Air

Best for low fees

With no monthly fees and no setup costs, the SumUp Air card reader is as affordable as it is good looking. Its transaction fees of 1.69% aren’t just simple – they’re some of the cheapest mobile card reader rates on earth. This breezy little device pairs with your iPhone or Android for ultimate ease of use – no pricey equipment needed. What’s more, SumUp is both a hassle-free and risk-free option for your business. Why? Because you can sign up online in the time it takes to make a cup of tea – and get a 30 day money-back guarantee, too. Add in free PCI compliance that's all taken care of for you, industry-leading cardholder data encryption, and some excellent ecommerce features, and SumUp is our best mobile card reader pick for UK businesses.

For more information, browse our SumUp review.

Expert Rating:

Pros:

  • Impressive customer approval ratings
  • Mobile card reader itself is fantastic value
  • Straightforward design looks good on your countertop

X Cons:

  • Takes longer than some rivals to pay out funds to your business bank account

At a glance

Highly rated by its customers, SumUp offers your small business an inexpensive, stylish way to take contactless payments.


Zettle 2 card reader

Best for dynamic point of sale solutions

At a glance

Zettle is a big – if not the biggest – name in the mobile card reader market. Though its customer support lacks somewhat, it’s still highly rated by small businesses across the country.

Arguably the most famous of the UK's best mobile card readers, Zettle’s card reader is ever present on the countertops of small businesses nationwide. And with low, straightforward pricing and lightning fast payment processing, it’s not hard to see why. Zettle (formerly iZettle, before it was acquired – and subsequently rebranded – by PayPal) also offers intuitive, dynamic ways to expand your point of sale system, with solutions for receipt printing, barcode scanning, cash scanning – even social distancing! Buy your card reader outright for just £29 per month (excl. VAT), and benefit from a flat 1.75% fee for in-person transactions. Zettle accepts all major credit and debit cards, too – and not just at the till. With Zettle, you can take payments online, and create and send invoices in seconds – just don't expect a virtual terminal!

To learn more, check out our Zettle review, updated for 2021.

Expert Rating:

Pros:

  • Quick payout times – funds deposited within two days
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Superb Trustpilot ratings

X Cons:

  • No weekend phone support for basic plan users

Square card reader

Best for quick payouts

At a glance

The Square Reader looks good on your countertop, has great online customer reviews, and pays out within one working day – what’s not to like?

Square supports card payments online, over the phone, and face-to-face with the Square Reader. It’s an absolute pocket rocket of a mobile card reader, and transaction fees are fixed at a cool 1.75%– although for ecommerce transactions you’ll pay a tad more. This is all great, but what we love the most is the speed with which Square pays out. Expect to see the takings from your till sitting in your business bank account the next working day. There’s no contest – for speed, this card reader has its rivals beaten fair and Square.

To help you decide whether this particular mobile card reader is right for your business, we've written a Square review. Go check it out!

Expert Rating:

Pros:

  • Intuitive real-time analytics and sales reporting
  • Slick look and minimal branding that’ll sit seamlessly within your point of sale
  • Refreshing app interface is easy on the eye

X Cons:

  • No weekend phone support

PayPal Here card reader

Best mobile payment app

At a glance

PayPal Here comes with a sweet record of success, and the backing of a global payment powerhouse. But businesses with lower sales volume might find the high fees leave a bitter aftertaste.

PayPal launched the Here card machine to challenge the likes of Zettle and SumUp. So how does it compare? Well, there’s not too much in it in terms of functionality. PayPal Here is a speedy, straightforward card machine supplied by a true industry giant. And the free app it’s paired with is both stunning and easy to operate. There’s also not too much to separate it in terms of upfront cost; the Here can be bought outright for £45 (excl. VAT). Transaction fees, though, are a different story. PayPal charges between 1% and 2.75%, based on total sales volume.

To learn more about PayPal, explore our guide to the best merchant accounts for ecommerce – and find out why PayPal's service makes the list!

Expert Rating:

Pros:

  • Won’t rope you into a fixed-term contract
  • Small, effective mobile card reader device
  • Funds deposited into your PayPal account immediately

X Cons:

  • Online reviews – on the whole – are less favourable than those of its competitors
  • Expensive for small businesses and start-ups

Barclaycard Anywhere

Best online sales reporting dashboard

At a glance

Barclaycard Anywhere has some of the lowest per transaction rates of any mobile card reader doing business in the UK. You won't be using it to take online payments, but its online reporting services, at least, are genius.

The Barclaycard ‘Anywhere' – the well-known high street bank's foray into the mobile card payment space – offers micro-merchants and remote traders the opportunity to take more flexible payments. At 1.60% per transaction, it trumps SumUp, Square, and Zettle's rates entirely, though isn't equipped to accept online payments (for that, you'll require one of Barclaycard's dedicated merchant accounts, which you can learn more about in our Barclaycard merchant services review). Better than its low rates, though, is the Barclaycard Anywhere's personalizable online reporting dashboard. From there, you can view real-time insights into your sales and transactions, add staff members with user permissions, and export data with ease – anytime, anywhere!

Pros:

  • UK-based phone support available 16 hours per day, Monday to Sunday
  • Offers a lightning-quick payout time of just two hours
  • Accepts 100 currencies

X Cons:

  • PCI compliance at an extra cost, which can be as much as an additional £15 per month
  • No virtual terminal, or options to take payments through invoices or payment links

Worldpay Reader

Best for flexible pricing plans

At a glance

Serving over 300,000 UK businesses, Worldpay is well-attuned to the needs of homegrown businesses, and offers a powerful card machine to boot.

The Worldpay card reader is a dynamic mobile card payment processor, designed solely for small businesses. Its flexible pricing means you can pay as you go, or commit to a monthly fee and pay less. This savvy little card reader accepts all major credit and debit cards, offers 24/7 UK-based support for businesses, and even contains a built-in virtual terminal for taking payments over the phone.

To find out why Worldpay's virtual terminal tops our list of the best virtual terminals in the UK, head over to our bumper guide to the country's top suppliers.

Expert Rating:

Pros:

  • Intuitive dashboard lets you be your own accountant
  • Highly trusted and well-respected provider
  • App lets you track what you sell, as you sell

X Cons:

  • One of the more expensive mobile card readers available

Is a mobile card reader right for your business?

Jump into the video below to find out more about what a mobile card reader does, and if it's well-suited to your business and industry.


Next steps

Five mobile card readers. Five simple, inexpensive ways to take your small business to the next level. What’ll it be – Barclaycard for reporting? Square for speed? Or Zettle for building a smooth, stylish point of sale system?

There’s a mobile card reader out there for your business – all you have to do is pick your favourite.

Luckily, we’ve made that easy to do. Just fill in our short webform, add a couple of small details about your business, and we’ll match you with tailored quotes from top mobile card reader suppliers – for free.

Compare Quotes From Mobile Card Reader Providers and Save
It takes just 30 seconds...
1. Do you already have a merchant account? YES NO

FAQs

How do credit card machines for iPhone work?

First off, the mobile credit card reader provider you choose will send you the reader. You’ll set it up on your counter (or wherever you plan to sell), and download the free app onto your iPhone, Android, or tablet.

Pair the card reader to the app on your device via Bluetooth, or a cable that goes into the audio jack. When Joe (your first customer) comes along for a cup of coffee, you’ll enter the transaction value into your smartphone. The card reader gets the signal, Joe taps his card on the reader, and hey presto. You’re £2.85 richer, and Joe gets his morning caffeine hit.

Is a mobile card reader right for my business?

If you’ve read this far, then chances are that it is. Mobile card readers are ideal for businesses that operate in more remote locations, or tend to move from place to place. And their low fees have made them a hit with microbreweries, pop-up shops, and market stalls across the UK.

However, mobile card readers aren’t right for all businesses. If you’ve got a dodgy internet connection or dubious 3G, then you should reconsider. And if you’re taking lots (we’re talking £10,000+) of card payments a month, it will pay to go with a more traditional PDQ machine provider.

Traditional card readers from merchant account providers such as Handepay and First Data connect to your phone line to provide a fast connection you can rely on. If your business operates on a fixed premises, a traditional card reader may be a better option.


Our methodology

How we analyse and rate mobile card reader providers

At Expert Market, it’s our aim to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date, and transparent product and service reviews possible. So, to help you better understand the best merchant account options out there, we’ve conducted in-depth, extensive research into the payments industry and its top companies.

Here’s how we did it:

Independent researchers

We worked with two independent researchers over 60+ hours to rate 13 different merchant services providers – eight traditional (dedicated) merchant account suppliers, and five payment facilitators.

Our project assessed four separate varieties of payment methods, as well as nine specific features. Using a bespoke, industry-style algorithm, we rated each provider across four key metrics.

Ratings

  • Help and support: we assessed the level of customer support (such as email, phone, or live chat), as well as its availability (24/7, or weekdays only?), to provide a weighted score for each merchant account supplier.
  • Affordability: our affordability algorithm took into account the specific transaction and monthly fees for various transaction types, as well as any one-off costs. Our analysis also included contract length, package type, the flexibility of each providers’ pricing structures, plus the price of any hardware required.
  • Features: we assessed each supplier on up to eight specific features. We then weighted these scores, and translated them into a point value system. This allowed us to form accurate ratings for each merchant account provider, and make specific recommendations to you.
  • Customer approval: we assigned each provider a ‘customer score’, which involved seeking opinions from within the community, as well as feeding data aggregated from online sources into a unique algorithm. This allowed us to calculate overall customer approval scores for each merchant account supplier, in real time.

survey

We take the integrity of our research seriously. If you’ve got any questions at all about our research process, feel free to get in touch with Rob, our financial services specialist, at rob.binns@expertmarket.co.uk.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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