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.

iZettleiZettleSumUpSumUpSquareSquare
iZettle Reader 2
Full review
SumUp Air small
Full review

Full review
Solution typeCard reader + mobile appCard reader + mobile appCard reader + mobile app
Card reader price£59 £19 excl. VAT (offer)£29 £19 excl. VAT (offer)£29 excl. VAT (offer)
Transaction fee, chip & contactless1.75%1.69%1.75%
Transaction fee, card not presentInvoicing, payment links, ecommerce: 2.5%Virtual terminal: 2.95% + 25pKey-in, invoicing, virtual terminal, ecommerce: 2.5%
Monthly feeNoneNoneNone
Min. sales volume?NoneNoneNone
Cards accepted  Visa Visa Electron V Pay Mastercard Maestro American Express Union PayDiners ClubJCBDiscover  Visa Visa Electron V Pay Mastercard Maestro American ExpressUnion PayDiners ClubDiscover Visa Visa ElectronV PayMastercard Maestro American Express
ContactlessContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung PayContactlessApple PayGoogle PayContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay
Bank acc. settlement1-3 working days2-3 working days1-2 working days
PIN padOn card readerOn card readerIn app on phone/tablet screen
Compatible receipt printersStar Micronics, Epson, AirPrintStar Micronics, Bixolon, AirPrint, Cloud Print ServiceStar Micronics, Epson
Text & email receipts
Staff accounts
Product library
Tipping
AccountingCSV/Excel, Xero or Debitoor integrationTransaction and payout reportsCSV/Excel, Xero or Enterpryze integration
Use abroad
iZettle logoSquare logo
iZettleiZettleSumUpSumUpSquareSquare
iZettle Reader 2
Full review
SumUp Air small
Full review

Full review
Card reader + mobile appCard reader + mobile appCard reader + mobile app
£59 £19 excl. VAT (offer)£29 £19 excl. VAT (offer)£29 excl. VAT (offer)
1.75% transaction fee1.69% transaction fee1.75% transaction fee
Invoicing, payment links, ecommerce: 2.5% card feeVirtual terminal: 2.95% + 25p card feeKey-in, invoice, virtual terminal, ecommerce: 2.5% card fee
No monthly feesNo monthly feesNo monthly fees
No min. sales volume requiredNo min. sales volume requiredNo min. sales volume required
  Visa Visa Electron V Pay Mastercard Maestro American Express Union PayDiners ClubJCBDiscover  Visa Visa Electron V Pay Mastercard Maestro American ExpressUnion PayDiners ClubDiscover Visa Visa ElectronV PayMastercard Maestro American Express
ContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung PayContactlessApple PayGoogle PayContactlessApple PayGoogle PaySamsung Pay
Payouts 1-3 working daysPayouts 2-3 working daysPayouts 1-2 working days
PIN pad on card readerPIN pad on card readerPIN pad in app on mobile screen
Compatible receipt printers
Star Micronics, Epson, AirPrintStar Micronics, Bixolon, AirPrint, Cloud Print ServiceStar Micronics, Epson
Text & email receipts?
Staff accounts?
Product library?
Tipping feature?
Accounting integration
CSV/Excel, Xero or DebitoorTransaction and payout reportsCSV/Excel, Xero or Enterpryze
Use abroad?
iZettle logoSquare logo

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.

iZettleiZettle ReaderSumUpSumUp AirSquareSquare Reader
Card reader price£59 £19 + VAT£29 £19 + VAT£29 + VAT
Chip & contactless card fee1.75%1.69%1.75%
Keyed-in card fee2.5%2.95% + 25p2.5%
Monthly feesNoneNoneNone
Minimum sales volumeNoneNoneNone
SettlementFreeFreeRegular free, 1% extra fee per transaction for Instant Deposits
Staff accountsFreeFreeBasic free, £3/mo per advanced staff account
iZettle
Reader
SumUp
Air
Square
Reader
£59 £19 + VAT (offer)£29 £19 + VAT (offer)£29 + VAT (offer)
Chip & contactless card fee
1.75%1.69%1.75%
Keyed-in card fee
2.5%2.95% + 25p2.5%
Monthly fees
NoneNoneNone
Minimum sales volume required
NoneNoneNone
Payouts
FreeFreeFree, 1% extra fee for Instant Deposits
Staff accounts
FreeFreeBasic free, £3/mo per advanced staff account
iZettle logoSquare logo

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 six days a week (Monday-Saturday) – 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.

For more information on these mobile card readers, read our comprehensive reviews of each: iZettle, Square and SumUp.