It’s easier than ever to accept credit and debit cards in the UK. Forget the costly card machines of yore. Instead, check out these contactless card readers that process payments with a smartphone or tablet through easy-to-use, free point of sale (POS) apps.
In 2019, the race between the most popular mobile card readers in the UK is close. On our top three list, Square has replaced PayPal Here, as it simply offers more features at better rates. For cost-conscious start-ups, SumUp has the lowest card fee, while iZettle and Square have the most superior free payment apps.
|Solution type||Card reader + mobile app||Card reader + mobile app||Card reader + mobile app|
|Card reader price||£19 excl. VAT (offer)|
|Transaction fee, chip & contactless||1.75%||1.69%||1.75%|
|Transaction fee, card not present||Invoicing, payment links, ecommerce: 2.5%||Virtual terminal: 2.95% + 25p||Key-in, invoicing, virtual terminal, ecommerce: 2.5%|
|Min. sales volume?||None||None||None|
|Bank acc. settlement||1-3 working days||2-3 working days||1-2 working days|
|PIN pad||On card reader||On card reader||In app on phone/tablet screen|
|Compatible receipt printers||Star Micronics, AirPrint||Star Micronics, Bixolon, AirPrint, Google Cloud Print||Star Micronics, Epson|
|Text & email receipts|
|Accounting||CSV/Excel, Xero or Debitoor integration||Transaction and payout reports||CSV/Excel, Xero or Enterpryze integration|
|Card reader + mobile app||Card reader + mobile app||Card reader + mobile app|
|£19 excl. VAT (offer)|
|1.75% transaction fee||1.69% transaction fee||1.75% transaction fee|
|Invoicing, payment links, ecommerce: 2.5% card fee||Virtual terminal: 2.95% + 25p card fee||Key-in, invoice, virtual terminal, ecommerce: 2.5% card fee|
|No monthly fees||No monthly fees||No monthly fees|
|No min. sales volume required||No min. sales volume required||No min. sales volume required|
|Payouts 1-3 working days||Payouts 2-3 working days||Payouts 1-2 working days|
|PIN pad on card reader||PIN pad on card reader||PIN pad in app on mobile screen|
|Compatible receipt printers|
|Star Micronics, AirPrint||Star Micronics, Bixolon, AirPrint, Google Cloud Print||Star Micronics, Epson|
|Text & email receipts?|
|CSV/Excel, Xero or Debitoor||Transaction and payout reports||CSV/Excel, Xero or Enterpryze|
All three systems share characteristics that make them very attractive to small businesses. Setup costs are very low, and there are no fixed, monthly fees and no minimum transaction volume required.
SumUp Air, iZettle Reader (both 1st- and 2nd-generation) and Square Reader are therefore all suitable for infrequent use, and for processing many transactions daily as your primary POS solution.
Cards, payouts and charges
As opposed to traditional card machines, you purchase the card readers for a low price with no future rental charges or lock-in to worry about.
iZettle currently accepts the most payment cards. On top of Visa, Mastercard and American Express included by all three, iZettle can handle Diners Club, JCB, Discover and UnionPay. SumUp also accepts Diners Club, Discover and UnionPay, but not JCB.
iZettle and Square charge a fixed percentage (1.75%) for all chip and contactless card transactions, but SumUp offers the lowest card fee at a fixed 1.69%, beating iZettle and Square by 0.06 percentage points. All of these fees apply to any credit and debit card, including foreign-issued or premium brands like Amex.
|iZettle Reader||SumUp Air||Square Reader|
|Card reader price||£19 + VAT|
|Chip & contactless card fee||1.75%||1.69%||1.75%|
|Keyed-in card fee||2.5%||2.95% + 25p||2.5%|
|Minimum sales volume||None||None||None|
|Settlement||Free||Free||Regular free, 1% extra fee per transaction for Instant Deposits|
|Staff accounts||Free||Free||Basic free, £20/mo per location|
|£19 + VAT (offer)|
|Chip & contactless card fee|
|Keyed-in card fee|
|2.5%||2.95% + 25p||2.5%|
|Minimum sales volume required|
|Free||Free||Free, 1% extra fee for Instant Deposits|
|Free||Free||Basic free, £20/mo per location|
With SumUp, you are likely to get your funds after three working days. However, iZettle and Square will deposit funds in your bank account slightly faster – expect them to appear within one or two working days. In addition, Square offers Instant Deposits, a voluntary setting that clears transactions in your bank account within 20 minutes at an additional cost of 1% per transaction.
Apps and customer service
The iZettle and Square apps are ahead of the game, with more features than SumUp’s app. That said, SumUp is the only one with free customer support every day of the week – you can only phone Square and iZettle on weekdays.
All three card readers work with iPad, iPhone and Android tablets and phones. The product libraries in each app look modern, complete with images and details so you can sell different sizes or types of each item. Square’s app, called Point of Sale, beats iZettle and SumUp with additional features like gift cards, split bills and optional employee permissions (costing extra).
It is possible to use any of the card readers with more complex POS software, so you are not limited to the free apps included. iZettle and Square have their own fully integrated ecommerce platforms available at a monthly cost, but Square can also be used in conjunction with several ecommerce partners.