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Top credit card machines & readers for UK small businesses

A credit card machine, also known as PDQ machine, POS or credit card terminal, is a payment method that allows businesses to accept card payments electronically. Paying for goods or services with a credit or debit card is now a common behaviour – 82% of UK consumers are likely to avoid a shop if it doesn’t take card payments – A major loss for businesses that decline card payments.

Are you looking for a credit card payment machine for your business? This article explains everything you need to know about how to accept card payments, all the costs, and the different card readers and the best suppliers for your business requirements.

Inspired Quotes also allows you to compare tailored quotes from leading card terminal providers, and it’s 100% free!

Getting started: Small Business Credit Card Machine Requirements

With more than 100M EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) and contactless credit and debit cards in circulation in UK, small businesses are now required to have credit card machines that make the purchasing process even easier for their customers.

What do I need to get started?

Choosing a merchant services supplier and a credit card processing plan is your first step, and that’s a pretty big one! Sure, you can check with your bank and speak to your account manager but with more than 50 merchant account providers in the UK, t’d be best to compare card processing fees and card machine prices before signing with your bank You can look at our list of the best small business merchant account providers in the UK. Once you have selected the best merchant services plan, you’ll then choose the best credit card machine for your business and there are various card readers to choose from

Mobile Card Machines

Mobile credit card machines are great for small businesses that don’t require an expensive card terminal or want to accept card payments on the go. Mobile card machines process credit cards through a smartphone or tablet by using an add-on linked to your device via a wireless connection.

Mobile card readers require installing a mobile card reader app on their phone or tablet. You can then create your account with your business details which get passed to the account provider.

You can also add a swipe card facility on your mobile device.
The main benefits of using a mobile card machine are

Portable - Great for mobile small businesses like hairdressers, beauticians, electricians, plumbers, and many other businesses

Quick and easy set-up - It takes 10 minutes to get you started vs traditional card machines

No additional hardware required

No long-term contract required with some companies, like iZettle, Sumup, Paypal Here, Payleven, Square,...

Wireless/Bluetooth Portable Card Machines

Portable card machines are perfect for restaurants, pubs or bars, where card transactions can be processed at the table.
These terminals use bluetooth or wireless technology that can process card transactions within a 200ft radius from the charging point.

Benefits include:

Increased efficiencies for your restaurant, bar or pub with pay-at-the-table option

Built-in Wireless or Bluetooth technology

Ideal for hospitality small businesses

These card machines are not to be confused with mobile card machines. Transactions are processed via the base that is connected to your landline or internet connection.

Virtual Card Machines

Virtual terminals or MOTO are widely used to process telephone, fax or mail order payments. To accept card payments you will need one or multiple merchant accounts or merchant IDs. This will allow your card payments to be authorised and processed into your business account.

You can start taking payments over the phone securely using a web based interface. It is easy to use and install offering more options for your customers to pay.

Benefits of a virtual card terminal:

Accept card payments over the phone with a secure web interface

Quick and easy to use

Real-time reporting to help you keep track of your transactions

New customers can add it on to their card terminal package for a fraction of the cost

Payment Gateway

Payment Gateway often referred to an online payment solution allows your business to accept card payments on the internet. Widely used by online retailers or ecommerce sites, the payment gateway solution has become popular amongst travel agencies, hotel booking, car rentals…

To accept card payments you will need one or multiple merchant accounts. This will allow your card transactions to be authorised and processed into your business bank account.

Benefits of a payment gateway:

Checks and processes online transactions

Quick setup - can be used immediately with an online store

No need for your customers to jump between your website and a third party payment site like PayPal to make a purchase

Best Mobile Card Machines

Paypal Here

Paypal is one of the world’s largest internet payment companies. Leader in e-commerce application and payment gateway, Paypal has rapidly moved to traditional face-to-face card processing and offers now a complete card payments solutions for any type of business.

Paypal Here Card Machine Features

Accept chip & pin, contactless and magstripe card payments – including Apple Pay, Android Pay

Multiple users option - Add up to 200 users to one account

Integrated software solutions

Generate sales reports - Manage inventory

Card reader costs £75


The iZettle card reader has rapidly become one the most popular mobile credit card terminal options for UK small businesses. Below we outline the major benefits and downside of the iZettle card machine.

iZettle Credit Card Machine Features:

Accept chip & pin, contactless and magstripe card payments – including Apple Pay, Android Pay

Card payments processed through iZettle app

Built-in Bluetooth technology

Instant card transactions via contactless cards below £30

Card reader costs £59

Long lasting battery - up to 8 hours - 100 transactions

No set-up fees

Best Countertop Card Machines

Ingenico ICT series

Smart and compact countertop card machine designed for maximum efficiency.
The iCT series is the latest innovative payment solution from Ingenico which allows you to accept all types of card payments – including NFC/contactless, EMV, and magstripe – can operate with or without a cash register or EPOS system interface.

Best Ingenico Countertop Card Machine Features

Meets the highest security requirements

Equipped with high speed modem or Ethernet to streamline card transactions

Take all payment options - EMV chip & PIN, magstripe, and contactless technologies as well as coupons and gift cards

Multi-merchant facility available

Best Portable GPRS Card Machines

Ingenico IWL series

Ingenico IWL series has been specially designed for mobile businesses, and fits in your pocket. It’s the world’s smallest, lightest and most robust terminal. The IWL series offers a unique portfolio of simple and multiple wireless connectivity options GPRS, 3G, Bluetooth, and WIFI.

Ingenico Wireless GPRS Card Machine Features

Meets the highest security requirements

Enhanced network quality of service

Take all types of card payments

Long battery life - can be used up to several days making it ideal for exhibitions and mobile businesses

Benefits of Accepting Credit Cards

The Top 5 Benefits of Accepting Credit and Debit Card Payments

1 – Accepting card payments legitimises your business
By displaying logos such as Visa, Mastercard, Amex at your shop counter or on your website , you capture the cardholder’s attention. They trust their credit card issuer, and it then creates a sense of trust in your business.

2 – Accepting credit cards boosts sales.
When you accept card payments in your business, you reach out to more potential customers. The more customers you attract, the more sales you make.

3 – Accepting card payments encourage buying in general, and impulse buying particularly.
Shoppers like being able to purchase goods or services without having to run to a cash machine. Latest studies have shown that customers tend to spend more when the option to use their credit or debit card becomes available to them.

4 – Accepting card payments improves cash flow and security
Card transactions are processed quickly and funds are deposited directly into your bank account. No more waiting for cheques or BACS payments to clear and less cash to handle in your business.

5 – Taking credit and debit cards is to some extent an inexpensive expense for your business
Offering an additional payment method to your customeres shouldn’t be a business expense. Credit card processing is a competitive market, so you’re likely to find a suitable package that suits your budget making it an excellent return on investment for your small business.

Accepting Credit Cards Downside

Card Machine Costs and Fees
Despite being the preferred method of payment amongst UK consumers, implementing card payments in your business doesn’t come cheap. Hence why comparing merchant account providers and chosing the right one can be crucial for your small business. Inspired Quotes can help during this process.

Customers do have the right to dispute a charge incurred. Credit card companies can issue refunds. In addition, they can charge you an additional fee – a chargeback fee – which equates to a percentage of the original amount.

Any UK business that accept card payments face unfortunately risks to bear costs of a fraudulent transaction. Latest innovation from UK banks and raising public awareness are the key to beating fraud.

While you can weigh the benefits and downside of taking credit and debit cards before deciding if it ‘s right for your business, it is safe to say that the advantages of accepting cards payments outweighs considerably the disadvantages that are associated with it. This is especially true since customers tend to spend more money with businesses that accept credit and debit card payments.

What are the costs for a credit card machine?

When you receive a quote from a merchant service supplier, you will frequently get quoted for the card terminal and the card processing fees.

For most businesses, those costs are the bulk of their monthly statement but they are not the only costs a merchant service provider (card processor) can charge. Here’s what you should be keeping an eye out for.

1 – Card Terminal Lease/Rental

Processing card transactions can only be used with a card terminal which is linked to an acquirer for authorisation, and confirmation that payment has been successfully completed.

Businesses must pay a fee to rent a chip and pin terminal. Note, this cost is only applicable for merchants processing face-to-face and mail or telephone order transactions.

How much does it typically cost?
For a static countertop card terminal, prices typically range from £10 to £15 per month.

What to keep an eye on?
Terminal rental agreements tend to carry pretty long minimum term and pretty high early termination costs. A three or four-year rental term is typical but suppliers will often offer you a longer term for a lower price or may allow a shorter term for a higher price. However, few leading suppliers offer some form of cashback deal to cover the costs should you wish to switch your merchant account provider.

2 – Card Processing Fees

Also commonly known as Merchant Service Charge (MSC) is the cost incurred to merchants for processing card payments.

How much does it typically cost?
Unless you process low volume in card payments, the rates for processing debit and credit cards range between 0.3% to 1.2%.

Exactly how much you will charged will depend on your total average monthly card sales.

What to keep an eye on?
Merchant Account Providers usually quote you only for face-to-face card transactions for debit cards, which are the cheapest transactions.

Cardholder not present also known as CNP transactions have significantly higher fees. So, if you accept card payments online or over the phone, make sure to compare all payment gateway providers.

3 – Authorisation Fees

Some merchant service providers will charge an additional fee for every authorisation.

How much does it typically cost?
For those card processors who do charge, typical fees are around about 3p per authorisation.

What to keep an eye on?
Although not all of merchant account providers do, it would be prudent to ask whether authorisations are an additional charge or are included in the rates.

4 – PCI DSS Compliance Fees

A Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is effectively an administration charge.

How much does it typically cost?
Usually, your merchant account provider will arrange your PCI DSS certification for you, although you will still need to fill out some forms.

PCI compliance typically costs between £30 and £50 per year. The cost can be lowered if you arrange your certification yourself with a third party.

If you do not achieve PCI compliance, processing fees could higher. How much this fee is will vary between suppliers.

What to keep an eye on?
Charging for PCI DSS compliance is clearly a revenue stream for merchant account providers as their costs are lower than the charge. Not all providers charge for it but common experience tells us that those that don’t will quickly do so.

5 – Set Up Fees

The setup fees are admin fees for new merchant facilities

How much does it typically cost?
Set up fees typically cost between £75 and £200. The good news is that most suppliers will not charge a set-up fee because the market is too competitive.

What to keep an eye on?
Set up fees are the easiest charge merchant account providers can cancel if you are prepared to negotiate.

6 – Chargeback Fees

A fixed admin fee for a chargeback will vary per card processor

Chargebacks are disputed transactions between a cardholder and a merchant. This could happen if you have mistakenly overcharged a customer or if the transaction was processed with a stolen debit card or credit card. The transaction is reversed and the customer has the money returned to their bank account.

How much does it typically cost?
A Merchant is typically charged about £15 for each chargeback.

What to keep an eye on?
Since it’s a standard fee, there’s not really much to look out for.

Don’t forget to compare!

So, now you know all about what you are paying. All you need to do now is find the best merchant account provider with the lowest fees.

Looking for more information? We work 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.