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Credit Card Machines for Small Businesses - 2018 Guide

A credit card machine, otherwise known as PDQ machine or credit card terminal, allows businesses to accept card payments electronically. The ability to pay via credit or debit card is now expected by UK consumers, so it is something that all small business owners can't afford to ignore any longer.

Are you looking for a credit payment machine for your small business? This article explains everything you need to know about card machines including how much they cost, the different types and the best suppliers for your business needs.

Expert Market also allows you to compare tailored quotes from leading card machine providers, for free! Read on to discover more.

What Do I Need to Get Started?
Types of Credit Card Machine
Best Small Business Card Machines
Pros and Cons of Accepting Credit Cards
How Much Do Credit Card Machines Cost?

What is a Credit Card Machine?


Getting Started: Small Business Credit Card Machine Essentials

With chip and pin and contactless transactions on the rise, now even small business start-ups require a credit card processing to make purchasing products easier for their customers.

What do I need to get started?

There are several steps that a small business must take to start accepting credit card transactions. If you haven’t already, you must purchase and install an EPOS system to pair with the credit card reader. Next, set up a small business merchant account with a qualified bank. This is where payments made by card will come through. Then you need a payment gateway, which you can apply for separately to get a deal, or accept the one used by your merchant account provider. Finally, choose the best credit card machine for your business.

1. Merchant Account

The first step for any small business taking card payments is to identify and set-up your merchant account. identify and set-up your merchant account. A merchant account is a special bank account that allows your business to accept credit and debit card payments. The merchant account can be provided most commonly by a bank, or by special arrangement with a PSP (payment service provider).

The merchant account acts as a sort of 'holding pen' for the customer's money while the payment is authorised. After authorisation is complete, the merchant provider passes the funds to your business bank account - ready for you to spend or save!

Take a look at our list of the best small business merchant services providers in the UK. Then get in touch with Expert Market for free quotes and advice.

2. Payment Gateway

You also need a payment gateway in order for your merchant account to receive the money. A payment gateway is an online service that authorises a customer's payment and checks for potential issues like fraud or lack of funds.

Usually, your acquiring bank or PSP will offer a payment gateway as part of their merchant account package. Find more information on payment gateways here.

3. Card Machine

For brick-and-mortar businesses, make sure you have the best card machine or payment terminal for your requirements.

The software and hardware you will need for your business will depend on your industry and size. A PDQ machine for a small business can be a single static till, or a smartphone card reader that can work anywhere there is WIFI. Our suppliers are PCI compliant, and we can help you decide which option will work best for your small business.

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Types of Card payment machines

Pick a Card Machine Type..
mobile card machineswireless card machinesCountertop card machinesVirtual Terminal card machine

Mobile Card Machines

mobile card machine

Mobile credit card readers process credit cards through your smartphone or tablet by using an add-on for your device, which works with a wireless connection.

They are perfect for UK small businesses who want to accept payments on the go without the need for expensive hardware.

Most mobile card readers require downloading and installing a card reader app. The customer can then enter their details which will become encrypted and passed to the account provider instantly.

Hardware can also be added should one wish to include a swipe facility on a portable device.

Benefits of mobile card machines include:

✔ Portable - Great for small businesses not fixed in a single location

✔ Quick set-up - It is faster to get started with mobile card machines than traditional models

✔ No extra hardware needed other than the card reader

✔ No long-term contract required with some companies, like iZettle

✔ Great for mobile hairdressers, beauticians, builders and many other businesses

Take extra care not to lose a phone enabled with this technology and hardware since information, even when encrypted, can often be retrieved once stolen.

Wireless/Portable Card Machines

Wireless card machine

Portable card machines allow users to move with the terminal, which is perfect for industries such as restaurants or bars, where the point-of-sale is often at the customer’s table. This helps your business to provide better customer service.

These terminals work through Bluetooth or wireless technology, connecting the terminal to the payment portal. The batteries will need to be charged intermittently to maintain smooth running, however battery power can last for up to 150-200 transactions with particular terminals.

Another factor to consider is the distance. The terminals can generally operate to up to 200 ft from the charging point, however this is generally more than enough to cover the premises.

Benefits include:

✔ Bring the card terminal to your customer, saving you both valuable time

✔ Compact, space-saving size

✔ Wireless or Bluetooth connections possible

✔ Ideal for hospitality small businesses

Note that these terminals are often referred to as mobile - meaning payment can be processed anywhere where there is a mobile phone connection is available - and should not be confused with mobile card machines that work via a smartphone or tablet.

Countertop Card Machines

Countertop Card Machine

One of the most traditional card machines used by small businesses is the hard wired credit card terminal. This is a stable option that allows small businesses with one transaction point to process cards quickly and efficiently.

These terminals are electronically linked, usually through a telephone line, to your merchant account. They work on the basis of chip and PIN, or an electronic swipe facility that instantly records a customer's details, allowing the transaction to be processed providing there are sufficient funds in their account.

This type of credit card machine can either be obtained through one's merchant account provider or from independent companies online. Costs will vary depending upon the make and model, but competition between suppliers is strong so it is worthwhile comparing them. Fill in the form at the top of this page to compare quotes.

Advantages of countertop card machines:

✔ Easy to use and reliable

✔ Secure

✔ Improves business credibility

✔ Ideal for convenience stores, independent retailers and takeaway stores

Virtual Terminal Card Machines

Virtual Terminals

Virtual terminals are needed when a business has to take a high-volume of payments virtually, usually over the phone, rather than face-to-face with the customer in-store This is known as a MOTO transaction (Mail Order / Telephone Order).

Traditionally, virtual terminals were used in call centres. However, a growing number of small businesses are taking advantage of the improvement in digital technology and are using virtual terminals in their own brick-and-mortar stores.

Advantages of virtual terminals for small businesses include:

✔ Portable - If you're connected to the internet you can accept payment anywhere

✔ No hardware costs - No need for physical equipment like POS systems or card readers

✔ Reporting - Reporting with virtual terminals is instant, which helps small businesses keep a close eye on their cash flow

Contactless Card Machines

Accepting Contactless Card Payments

Just as chip-and-pin replaced magstripe as the most common method of payment, customers now expect to be able to pay using contactless, without inputting their PIN. If the average value of your transactions is relatively low, it is well worth investing in a card machine that takes contactless. Most small businesses today can support contactless transactions of up to £30, so it is important not to look outdated.

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Best Credit Card Terminal Models for Small Businesses

When choosing a specific credit card processor, consider carefully the needs and requirements of your business. Below, we've broken down the best UK card machines by terminal type. All are compatible with major UK card providers, such as Barclaycard and Natwest.

Best Mobile Card Machine

iZettle card reader

iZettle logo

iZettle Reader

If you’re looking for a cost-effective card payment solution then this one’s for you. iZettle has shaken up the mobile payments industry and become known as a leading light in the mPOS (mobile Point of Sale) industry. Their card reader works in tandem with the iZettle App to allow businesses to take payments via their smartphone or tablet. For many small businesses, iZettle's card reader is the solution they've long been waiting for.

Overall Rating:

Key Features

  • Accepts a wide range of credit and debit cards
  • No monthly fee. Repeat: there are no monthly fees
  • Battery life - up to 8 hours
  • No set-up fees
  • Card reader costs £59
  • UK-based support
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Best Countertop Card Machine

Igenico iCT220

Igenico iCT220

The iCT220 from Ingenico is a great example of an all-around countertop unit, especially for high sales volume shops. The iCT220 is well-built and sturdy with excellent display clarity. We loved the extra large buttons which will inevitably reduce PIN code errors.

Overall Rating:

Key Features

  • Multi-merchant capability (ideal for multiple self-employed workers sharing one terminal)
  • Ethernet connection available
  • Backlit keypad
  • Large buttons
  • Built-in receipt printer - 18 lines/second

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Best Portable Card Machines

Ingenico’s iWL series

ingenico logo

Ingenico’s iWL series

These handheld terminals are small, lightweight, and relatively feature-heavy. The mobile terminals connect with either GPRS or 3G technology, but can fall back on Bluetooth or wifi (depending on the model selected). They also print receipts quickly and most have a swipe reader as well.

Overall Rating:

Key Features

  • Up to 650 transactions on a single charge
  • Built-in receipt printer - 30 lines/second
  • Weighs 300g

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Pros + Cons of Card Machines for Small Businesses

Advantages of Accepting Credit Cards

Higher Revenues - Research has proven that people in the UK spend much more on plastic than they do with paper. So if you want higher revenue and a boost in your sales volume, don’t waste anymore time without a card machine.

Increased Credibility - Accepting debit and credit card payments makes any small business seem more professional and provides a better end-to-end shopping experience for your customers. Customers who trust your business are more likely to part with their money for your product or service.

Time Saving - A quick tap or swipe of a credit card is much more convenient than laboriously counting cash, particularly with the rise in contactless payments. With debit and credit cards, the chance of human error when giving change is eliminated too.

Better Cash Flow - For small businesses hoping to secure a bank loan, cash flow is one of the main factors lenders will analyse. By accepting credit cards, your business can receive payments much quicker than with other methods (like cheques), thus improving your cash flow.

Less Security Issues - Handling large amounts of cash can pose an obvious security risk to your business. Reduce this risk by accepting payments electronically. Plus, the EMV computer chip in modern cards makes them difficult to clone.

Disadvantages of Accepting Credit Cards

Costs and Transaction Fees - Unfortunately, all the benefits outlined above come at a price. Businesses must pay their merchant account provider a transaction fee, the amount is often variable dependent on sales volumes and your provider. Other costs may include joining fees or fixed monthly payments.

Chargebacks - Dealing with chargebacks can be a long and arduous process for small business owners whose time and resources are often limited. Customers have the right to challenge any card charges they see on their statement, which can sometimes mean business owners have to pay back the money they received, plus a chargeback fee. Multiple chargebacks can damage your business bank account.

Fraud - Fraudulent transactions may be few and far between, but when they do occur it is usually the merchant who loses out.

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While there are some potential pitfalls to be aware of when investing in a card machine for your small business, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Not only will accepting card payments add value to your business, but it will boost your credibility and save you time!

Need more information? We've partnered with some of the UK's leading merchant services providers who can get you free, tailored quotes in minutes. Just fill in the form at the top of the page.

Small Business Card Machines

How Much Do Credit Card Machines Cost?

Credit card machine costs can vary widely depending on the type of terminal, the model and whether you choose to rent or purchase the machine outright.

For most small businesses, the vast majority of the costs that come with accepting card payments will be from the fee per-transaction charged by your merchant account provider. For every purchase made to you via debit or credit card, your merchant account provider will take a percentage of the transaction plus a set fee. Some charge a monthly fee. For more information on the costs see the table below. Most providers offer three payment solutions...

Type of CostWhat Is It?Price
Initial CostThe upfront fee you will pay to purchase your card terminal units.Rental costs - £20-30/month per terminal
Outright purchase - A one-off cost of £50 to £300 per terminal depending on the model
Transaction FeesA fee you pay per transaction - so your costs will vary from month-to-month dependent on the volume and value of your transactions.% of transaction - typically between 2% & 5%
Set usage fee - typically between 5p & 40p per transaction
Minimum Usage FeesA fee paid if you do not meet a minimum spend threshold on your card machines.£0 - £50/month

Looking To Secure a Merchant Account?

Compare quotes from the top UK merchant services providers. See how much you could save on your small business merchant account. Start below.

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