Taking a closer look at one of the coolest little card readers on the market
It was April 2010. David Cameron was a month away from power, and a few weeks later, England would surprise no one by crashing out of the FIFA World Cup to the Germans. But elsewhere, across the seas in Sweden, a company called Zettle was quietly unfurling its wings.
Over a decade later, Zettle (though you probably know it as iZettle) now processes billions of pounds in payments across 12 countries. Its slick, stylish mobile card readers have ushered in a new generation of payment processing, empowering swathes of small businesses to start accepting card payments.
But is Zettle (which was acquired by PayPal in 2018) the right fit for the needs of your business? Let’s find out.
- Supports all 25 major currencies
- Decent reviews across the board
- No setup or card reader rental fees
- Affordable rates of just 1.75% per face-to-face transaction
- No monthly costs
- Wide range of POS (point of sale) equipment on offer
- Plenty of integrations to choose from
- Free app
- Well-suited to businesses with smaller sales volumes, or more sporadic trade
- The company is still going through ‘teething’ problems as a result of its acquisition by PayPal
- Ecommerce services are only available via a third-party integration with Selz
- No weekend or evening customer support
- You’ll need to purchase the tablet or smart device that Zettle works with separately
What does Zettle do?
Zettle provides payment processing services for small businesses in the UK and abroad.
These include a card reader for face-to-face payments, point of sale (POS) extras for your countertop, ecommerce services for selling online, and a free app, which comes with a variety of additional stock and staff management features.
Scroll on for our detailed breakdowns of each service.
The Zettle ‘Card Reader 2’ is the company’s flagship product.
To operate it, you’ll simply need to pair it with a free app on your smart device (tablets work best).
To pay, you simply ring up the sale on the app, and confirm the amount you want to charge. Then, the customer either taps or inserts their credit or debit card to pay.
Then, well… that’s it! You’re done. You can now email a receipt to your customer, or use an additional USB or Bluetooth-enabled printer to give them physical proof of their purchase.
Better still, the Zettle ‘Card Reader 2’ accepts all major card brands – even Maestro and VPay – as well as mobile wallets, such as Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
Basically, Zettle’s card reader – in our opinion, at least – is one of the best credit card machines for small businesses in the UK. Full stop!
POS (point of sale)
Make no mistake – if you have the card reader, a tablet or smart device to operate it from, and Zettle’s free app installed, you don’t actually need anything else to start taking payments.
But, with Zettle’s extensive range of POS equipment, you’ll certainly want a little extra. The below devices sit on your counter to form a complete retail toolkit, allowing you to do everything from scanning barcodes and printing receipts to tracking sales and issuing gift cards.
Of course, you don’t have to buy these POS devices through Zettle. If you’ve grown attached to your current POS setup, chances are good that Zettle’s card reader and software will integrate with it.
Zettle ‘Dock 2’
For an extra £39 (excl. VAT), you can get your hands on the dock – a kind of ‘seat’ for your card reader, which also acts as a charger. Considering the amount of use you’ll get out of it, this one’s worth the money.
Zettle offers a tablet stand, which houses your iPad in a way that makes it easy to ring up sales, while also maintaining eye contact and building rapport with your customer.
It costs £99 (excl. VAT).
SafeGuard Social Distancing Screen
This perspex screen attaches to the surface of your countertop, putting a COVID-19-friendly barrier between your staff and the customer – keeping all involved protected.
It retails for £139 (excl. VAT).
Zettle’s range of receipt printers start from £199 (excl. VAT) for a small, standard machine, and reach £319 (excl. VAT) for the ‘Star mPOP’. This one boasts Bluetooth compatibility, an LED display, and a small cash drawer for notes and coins. There’s even a handy space on top for your tablet stand to sit!
If you’re in the hospitality trade, you can get your hands on a receipt printer that’s tailor-made for kitchen environments. It costs £229 (excl. VAT). A fully portable receipt printer (pictured) – which looks like a pager from the 90s, crossed with a Tamagotchi – is available for £189 (excl. VAT).
You can also buy spare rolls through Zettle’s site, for between £35 and £39 (excl. VAT); the price is dependent on the model you select.
Small, straightforward, and relatively self-explanatory, Zettle’s barcode scanner costs £219 (excl. VAT).
Remember cash? Well, on top of taking card payments, you can store your notes and coins here. Zettle’s stylish, compact cash drawer will set you back just £49 (excl. VAT).
As of January 2021, Zettle’s ecommerce service – which allowed its customers to supplement their store’s daily takings with online sales, too – has been discontinued.
However, this service is still available through an integration with ecommerce platform Selz – so there's not too much cause for alarm!
Zettle Go mobile app
Zettle Go is the mobile app you’ll use to connect to your card reader. Primarily, this app is where you’ll ring up transactions, and ensure you’re charging the correct amount for a sale. We say primarily, though, because Zettle Go has several more tricks up its sleeve.
This includes the ability to generate sales reports, and to crunch the figures behind the success or failure of specific items or categories. Handily, the Go app also lets you issue refunds, as well as apply discounts.
Basic staff management tools will help you keep things tight behind the counter, while the ability to generate gift cards will have your customers smiling in front of it.
Above all, though, the Zettle Go app is easy to use. Intuitive – with a clean UX (user experience), and everything where you’d expect it to be – you’ll have no problem getting to grips with it.
While we’re mainly focussing on Zettle’s card reader and core services for merchants, it’s worth mentioning a couple of its additional services.
PayPal QR codes
If you choose Zettle as your provider, you’ll be able to accept payments via QR codes generated by PayPal. While this won’t mean anything to customers who aren’t PayPal customers (PayPal is, of course, still nowhere near as big over here as it is in the US), it’s nice to be able to offer a quicker, easier, and now safer way to pay for PayPal enthusiasts.
What’s in it for you? Well, you’ll pay just 1% on each and every transaction you accept this way – for a limited time, at least!
While Zettle doesn’t offer a virtual terminal service, its payment links are a handy, hassle-free alternative to taking payments remotely.
Simply add products to the cart via your app, then send a link with the sale amount to the customer – whether that’s through WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger, or whatever messaging tool you’re most comfortable with.
With Zettle’s free app, you can generate and send invoices to your clients with ease.
Zettle then tracks the invoice, and follows up with automated reminders to your client until it's paid.
Another victim of the PayPal takeover, Zettle Advance – a form of revolving credit facility that allows you to borrow against your future sales – was recently discontinued.
As you’ll see below, this has caused some consternation among customers – particularly those who were promised finance prior to Zettle’s acquisition. That’s the bad news.
There’s good news too, though, and that’s that ‘PayPal Working Capital’ – a service similar to Zettle Advance – will be rolled out over the next few months. Watch this space!
What are Zettle’s features and benefits?
✔ Fast payments, faster payouts
Running a small business is rewarding. But it’s also stressful – especially when there are queues of people waiting to be served. That’s why you need to be able to take payments with maximum speed and minimal fuss.
The Zettle card reader takes just two seconds to power up, and processes contactless payments in five. No more fiddling around with handfuls of pennies, or worrying about a fake £20 note sneaking into the till – just quick, clean, seamless payments, within seconds.
Zettle also promises to release funds to your business account within one to two business days. That’s not just quicker than most other mobile card readers on the market – it means you’ll never have to wait too long to see your hard work reflected in your bank account.
✔ Do business, anywhere
Unlike many typical PDQ machines, you can take the Zettle mobile card reader anywhere. Sure, you’ll need to hook it up to an internet connection, but that doesn’t need to be wifi. It can be 3G or 4G – and these days, that’s available pretty much anywhere in the UK.
It’s true – the Zettle card reader is as mobile as your business is. Whether you’re a tradesperson settling invoices from the back of your van, or a vendor pulling pints at a country fair, Zettle has you covered.
The Zettle card reader also boasts a Herculean battery life, which enables it to last 30% longer than other mobile card readers – with not a cable in sight.
✔ Rest easy, with full PCI compliance
As a business owner, the safety of your customers’ card data is always at the forefront of your mind. But don’t fret – Zettle is not only completely PCI DSS compliant, but also meets the highest industry security standards.
On top of this, Zettle offers a ‘transaction protection’ feature, to safeguard your business from up to £250 per month in damaging chargebacks.
All payment data is encrypted, and the card reader’s design is fully tamper-proof, too. In fact, the Zettle card reader actually self-destructs if someone tries to mess with it. Boom!
How much does Zettle cost?
Zettle’s card reader comes with a one-off fee of £29 (excl. VAT). That’s the only upfront cost you’ll have to pay to start taking payments. However, we’d still recommend forking over the extra £39 Zettle requests for its charging dock, for convenience’s sake.
The only recurring fees you’ll pay are transaction fees – a small percentage of the sale’s value, which Zettle takes each time money changes hands.
For in-person, or card-present transactions – i.e those made with the card reader – that fee is 1.75%.
As with most payment providers, card-not-present sales cost more to accept. With Zettle, it’s not much more, though – you’ll pay just 2.5% per transaction when you take payments via invoicing, or a payment link.
Oh, and it’s not only PayPal fans that will be thrilled with its acquisition of Zettle. Now, business owners using Zettle can accept payments with PayPal-generated QR codes – and it’ll cost a fee of just 1% per transaction. Sure, it’s a clear move by PayPal to get more people using its codes – but who’s complaining?
While there’s plenty to get excited about when it comes to Zettle’s low fees, hospitality businesses will want to consider ‘Zettle Food and Drink’, the company’s premium pricing plan.
Sales, staff, and waste tracking are all included, as is bill splitting. You’ll also be able to do everything you would with Zettle’s cheaper offering – take payments online and in-person, for instance, and crunch the numbers with sales reports – plus print orders to your bar or barista.
Zettle Food and Drink is free for a month, but it'll cost you £29 per month thereafter.
For one of Zettle’s POS setups, you’ll pay anywhere from £189 (excl. VAT) for the ‘Mini Kit’, up to £599 (excl. VAT) for Zettle’s ‘Retail Kit’ (which is basically the whole shebang).
Is Zettle right for my business?
“I run a bar in Hackney Wick, East London. Is Zettle right for me?”
Zettle and your bar sound like an excellent fit.
For starters, Zettle is extremely well-suited to the hospitality industry. Its ‘Food and Drink’ app will help you split bills, and send orders from the floor to the bartenders with ease.
Better still, Zettle Food and Drink’s ‘Store Kit’ – which includes the card reader and dock, plus an iPad stand and receipt printer – provides everything you’ll need to start taking payments across the bar.
For more info about the tools you need to streamline sales at your bar or restaurant, check out our guide to the best merchant services for hospitality.
“I want to take payments through my website. Should I choose Zettle?”
Mmmmm. The short answer is no – you shouldn’t.
As we’ve mentioned, Zettle’s ecommerce services are provided by a third-party platform called Selz. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Selz in and of itself. It’s just that, if you’re focussed mainly on accepting payments online, you’d be better off with a dedicated merchant account for ecommerce.
Stripe is also a great option here, and at just 1.4% + 20p per transaction, its rates are on a par with Zettle’s. Why not check out our Stripe Payments review, when you get a moment?
Oh, and for a solution that will help you take payments both online and in-person, Square is another excellent choice. But more on that later!
“I work for myself as a bricklayer. Is Zettle a good option?”
Of course! One of the things that makes Zettle so great is that – unlike with a traditional merchant account – you don’t need a fixed location or premises to start selling.
This, for obvious reasons, makes it well suited to tradespeople. Simply take Zettle’s card reader (along with your smartphone or tablet) with you in your van the next time you head to a job, and take payment on the spot.
“I sell preserves at a popup store at the local farmer’s market. Can Zettle help?”
Zettle’s perfect for these kinds of business models. In fact, it was built for these kinds of business models!
With Zettle, you’ll pay no monthly fees. That means no there’s no cost to maintain the account, pay for customer service, or rent your card machine. You’ll pay only per sale – which, when you’re only going to market on a weekly (or even monthly!) basis, is a godsend.
What’s Zettle’s customer support like?
Zettle offers live chat and email support, as well as a phone-based service for existing customers. You can reach Zettle’s team on 020 3984 8464 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
There’s also an impressive breadth of self-service help and support resources online. Zettle’s ‘Help Centre’ includes info about getting started, as well as how to use the card reader, app, and range of POS hardware involved.
What do Zettle’s customer reviews say?
With a ‘Great’ Trustpilot score of 4.0/5, from 2,741 reviews, Zettle is clearly doing plenty right. We’ve dug out a couple of particularly illuminating Zettle reviews below:
“The fact that it is highly mobile is also great, as I can now take my business anywhere, with just my iPhone and card reader. The transaction fees are really reasonable, and there are no high initial setup costs or monthly subscriptions.
“I would highly recommend Zettle for any business.”
- Samuel, Zettle customer, 27th November 2020
“It’s a must for any small business, and I couldn't recommend it enough!”
- Lee, Zettle customer, 4th September 2020
However, comparison with similar payment facilitators suggest that, perhaps, Zettle could be doing even more to improve its customer experience.
Both Square (4.3/5, from 1,586 reviews) and SumUp (4.2/5, from 2,663 reviews) are more highly rated on Trustpilot. And, as it happens, not all of Zettle’s reviews are particularly rosy.
Some of Zettle’s customers had issues with vague, less than responsive staff support, while another – certainly more peculiar – customer complaint suggested that one of Zettle’s team had stolen their business model, and created their own copycat venture off the back of it.
Aaron, this Zettle customer, said:
This review, written on the 6th February 2021, also highlights the extent of the teething issues caused by PayPal’s acquisition of Zettle – namely, that some services have been changed, and prior offers withdrawn:
“We hedged on this for our expansion, and now we’re having to accept outside investment – and give up shares in our company – to leave our competitors behind (competitors that, ironically, exist because of Zettle) and ensure that our brand moves in the right direction.”
Of course, Aaron’s complaint here has more to do with Zettle Advance – the company’s business finance product – rather than the card reader itself, which is the focus of our review. And, in that area, Zettle still excels:
“Many thanks, Zettle, for a stress-free payment system!”
- Charles, Zettle customer, 1st December 2020
The bottom line, here? Zettle is undergoing some changes. The names and statuses of its various ecommerce products and services – particularly its ancillary ones – are changing.
And, as the reviews suggest, this is (quite rightly) ticking some people off.
This notwithstanding, the price and nature of Zettle’s core offering – its flagship card reader – haven’t changed. This neat, nifty device is still Zettle’s bread and butter, and it’s doubtful that the head honchos at PayPal will be wanting to change that any time soon!
So, if you’re looking for a no-frills, no nonsense card reader that’s easy to set up and even easier to use, Zettle is still a strong contender.
What other payment facilitators should I consider?
There’s no sugar coating it here – Zettle won’t be for everyone.
In fact, our research suggests that – when it comes to payment facilitators, at least – SumUp is actually a stronger option. But only just.
SumUp’s help and support isn’t quite as extensive as Zettle’s, although the two are on a par in terms of features, as well as customer approval ratings. However, the Berlin-born payment facilitator offers in-person transaction fees of as low as 1.69%, meaning it’s slightly more affordable than Zettle.
To explore how these two rivals stack up against each other, find out more with our SumUp vs Zettle comparison. Alternatively, you can take a deep dive into whether SumUp is right for your business with our SumUp review.
Aside from SumUp, the only Zettle alternatives worth considering are Square – the brainchild of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey – and PayPal itself. The PayPal ‘Here’ card machine operates in a very similar space as Zettle’s card reader – so it’s unsurprising the former was keen to subsume the latter!
PayPal Here operates a sliding fee scale – and at 2.75% per chip or contactless transaction, it starts high. The more you take in card sales, though, the less you’ll pay. For businesses raking in more than £15,000 per month, that fee could be as low as 1.0% – the lowest rates of any payment facilitator in operation today.
Square is also a good option. Its fees are on a par with Zettle’s, and its card reader – not to mention its stylish suite of POS equipment and add-ons – is much nicer to look at. However, you won’t be scoring quite so many features as those promised by Zettle – particularly when it comes to stock and staff management for bars and restaurants.
For more info, check out our Square review.
To summarise, the best Zettle alternatives are SumUp, Square, and PayPal Here.
Want to know more about the best mobile card readers on the market? Our bumper guide has you covered!
There’s a reason that Zettle has seen such a meteoric rise in the eleven years it’s been around – it’s a safe, simple payment processing solution for small businesses.
It’ll take payments quickly and securely, and its pricing is as transparent as a piece of cling film. And, if you’re willing to spend more, you can take advantage of its intuitive POS add-ons and its integration with Selz, which opens your business up to a whole new world of expansive ecommerce services.
The bottom line, though, is that Zettle represents excellent value for small businesses. With a low, fixed transaction rate, it’s perfect for smaller sales volumes. However, as your business grows and sales start skyrocketing, you’ll have to consider the lower rates of a more traditional merchant account provider.
And here, we imagine, is where you’ll want to start comparing quotes.
Not just any old quotes, mind you – we only deal in tailored, no-obligation quotes that’ve been crafted to fit the unique needs and circumstances of your business.
To get started, simply click on one of the buttons below to begin our quote-finding questionnaire. It’s short, and won’t take you longer than a minute to fill in. What it does is furnish us with some information about your requirements, which we’ll use to match you with one or more of our trusted payment provider partners.
When you’re done, they’ll be in touch with you directly, to offer quotes and advice that are tailored to your business’s specific size, industry, and scalability goals.
It’s free for all UK-based businesses, and will pair you only with the country’s most trusted, reputable suppliers. Why Zettle for less?