The Trans-Tasman bubble has just opened to success. Aussie COVID-19 cases have been all but stamped out. Skies are blue, and all over the country people are opening their front doors and getting back out into the community – and back onto the high street.
But coronavirus concerns are still rife. People are still suspicious of cash's role in helping the virus spread, and contactless payments (like face masks) are fast becoming the ‘new norm'. Plus, credit and debit cards have been the most popular way to pay in Australia since way before anyone had even heard of COVID-19.
So what does all that mean for your business? Well, that it's finally the time to start accepting contactless payments. Which also means you'll need to start thinking about which credit card machine (also known as an EFTPOS terminal, or a ‘PDQ machine' in the UK) is right for your shop – and pronto. A really quick way to do this is to use our cost comparison tool for bespoke quotes. Or, read on to find out about our top picks.
What's the best credit card machine for small businesses?
We’ve explored the different types of card machines available, along with their key pros and cons.
As it turns out, Smartpay's portable card machine is the best for small Australian businesses. It's followed closely, however, by card readers from PayPal Here and Square, as well as the countertop model from Smartpay's slick set of card machines.
These credit card machines are Australia's very best. Let's find out why!
The best credit card machines for small Australian businesses are:
Best portable card machine
If you don’t have access to broadband, or plan to do most of your selling from on the road, Smartpay’s portable EFTPOS machine is for you. With a built-in SIM card, Herculean battery life, and sleek design, Smartpay’s card reader is about as flexible, reliable, and straightforward as it gets.
- Connects to your iPhone or iPad for a complete point of sale (POS) solution
- Highly user-friendly interface with colour touchscreen
- Advanced security features to protect cardholder data
- 24/7 technical support available
- Ideal for the retail and hospitality industries
Best mobile card machine
PayPal Here is a mobile credit card machine that integrates seamlessly with your PayPal account. By doing this, it allows merchants access to funds from card payments just seconds after approval. It’s highly compact, making it great for businesses on the move.
- Integrates with your PayPal account
- Gives access to funds from a transaction just seconds after approval
- Compatible with both Apple Pay and Android Pay
- No fixed monthly costs
- No fixed term contract
- PCI compliant
Most affordable card machine
You can be forgiven for thinking that Square's range of sleek, stylish card machines belong in a modern art museum, rather than on your countertop. With a range of versatile, mobile card machines, plus a sumptuous set of POS equipment, Square is well-suited to forward-thinking merchants – particularly those with an eye for aesthetics. It's also one of the cheapest card readers around, with a flat, transparent transaction fee of just 1.75%. Ideal for even the smallest businesses – particularly those with the biggest ambitions!
- No ongoing fees
- 24/7 customer support
- Quick, hassle-free setup
- Works with Square's own range of savvy POS equipment
- Completely PCI compliant
Best countertop card machine
If you want to keep things simple and accept card payments from across the counter only, don’t look past Smartpay’s countertop card machine. Ideal for retail businesses, this terminal brings a fresh look to your setup, with a colour screen and vibrant buttons. It works as a single device, but you can also add an extra PIN pad, for an even slicker customer experience. The best part, though? It costs just $1 per day. Smart!
- Quick, hassle-free setup
- 24/7 customer support
- 30% off when you choose to buy your card machine outright
- Durable, stylish design adds class to your shop
- Integrates with multiple POS systems
What is a credit card machine, and how does it work?
How you can accept card payments for your small business
You can’t just grab a device and start taking payments – there’s more to it than that! To start accepting card payments for your small business you’ll need an EPOS system, and a merchant account, too. And to take payments online and over the phone, you’ll also need a payment gateway and a virtual terminal.
To accept card payments for your small business you’ll need a combination of the following:
1. POS System
First up, if you serve customers face-to-face, you'll need a Point of Sale (POS) system to pair with the credit card reader. This is essentially the till: a cash drawer, user interface, receipt printer, and barcode scanner.
POS systems also come with handy features for stock and staff management, which makes them particularly important for hospitality businesses. Explore our guide to the best POS systems for Aussie restaurants to find out more.
2. Merchant Account
Next, you’ll need a merchant account with a merchant bank. A merchant account is a type of credit account that allows your business to accept credit and debit card payments. It’s where the money sits while the bank checks that the customer has the sufficient funds to make payment. It also serves as protection against fraud.
Card machines are most commonly leased as part of a merchant account agreement. A merchant account can be setup with a dedicated merchant bank, or by special arrangement with a PSP (payment service provider) or other independent merchant services supplier, such as Smartpay.
Our guide to the best merchant account rates in Australia is essential reading for those looking to start accepting credit card payments.
3. Payment Gateway
To take card payments online (or, for that matter, in person, too) you’ll need a payment gateway.
Integrated with the shopping card your website, a payment gateway is a secure piece of software that encrypts the customer’s card details and transmits them to the merchant bank.
Take a closer look at how payment gateways authenticate transactions in the diagram below.
4. Virtual Terminal
And businesses that need to accept credit card payments over the phone or by email will require a virtual terminal.
Like a payment gateway, a virtual terminal secures sensitive payment details while the bank authorises the transaction. Unlike a payment gateway, card details are entered into the system by the merchant, rather than the customer. This type of transaction is also known as a MOTO transaction (Mail Order / Telephone Order).
Along with payment gateways, pay-by-link, and online invoicing, virtual terminals are a popular online payment method for small businesses.
5. Card Machine
Once you’ve got all that sorted, then you can go about choosing a credit card machine for your business.
The best card machine (or EFTPOS machine – same thing) for your small business will vary depending on your specific requirements as a merchant. What works for a static brick-and-mortar business such as a coffee shop, probably won’t suit a food vendor who trades in a different location each week.
Card machine costs can vary, so let’s take a look at the different types available. But first, why not compare tailored card machine quotes with us?
It's easy, and our quote-finding questionnaire takes less than a minute to complete. All quotes you receive are tailored to the specific requirements of your small business, from leading card machine providers.
The different types of credit card machine
Mobile card machines
Mobile credit card machines allow you to accept card payments anywhere with mobile network coverage. They offer users ultimate flexibility, and have opened the door to a whole host of remote businesses for which a card machine was previously out of the question.
Remember when you used to have to ask the taxi driver to stop at an ATM before dropping you off? Those days are over – and it's thanks to mobile card machines.
Most work via a pre-installed SIM card that connects your machine to a mobile network. Recently, though, more modern mobile card readers (such as iZettle and SumUp) have done away with the need for a SIM and instead connect to your phone via an app. You can read more about this type of card machine below.
The benefits of a mobile card reader are:
✔ Portability — great for merchants such as food vendors and market traders
✔ Minimum hardware required — with some models, all you need is the card reader and a smartphone or tablet to connect it to
✔ No long-term contract — most mobile card machine providers offer short-term contracts tailored specifically for small Australian businesses
Perfect for Australian businesses such as: food truck vendors, cab drivers, pop-up shops.
Wireless/portable card machines
A portable card machine allows merchants the flexibility to move around and take payments without relying on mobile network coverage. They’re the perfect choice for a restaurant or bar setting where the point-of-sale is often at the customer’s table.
Wireless terminals usually connect via wifi, but if you don’t have an internet connection they can be hooked up to a traditional landline too. Most will operate for around eight hours before needing to be recharged and work at a range of up to 200 ft.
Benefits of a portable card machine include:
✔ Improve customer service — bring the card terminal to your customer. Ideal for hospitality businesses
✔ Flexible with a stable connection — not reliant on mobile network coverage for connection
✔ Choice of wifi or Bluetooth connectivity — connect to the network via the internet or a traditional phoneline
Perfect for Australian small businesses such as: cafes, restaurants, bars.
Countertop card machines
Many small businesses choose to rely on countertop card machines to process payments. With a hardwired connection, they’re sturdy, reliable, and often the cheapest option in terms of upfront cost.
So for businesses like coffee shops, where the customer pays at the counter, a countertop card machine is often the best option.
The advantages of countertop card machines include:
✔ Reliable connection — you’re not reliant on wifi or mobile network coverage
✔ No charging — there’s no risk of the dreaded low battery warning
✔ Save on upfront costs — countertop card terminals are generally cheaper than portable and mobile card machines
Perfect for Australian small businesses such as: coffee shops, newsagents, beauty spars.
The pros and cons of card machines for small businesses
Advantages of accepting credit cards
✔ Credibility — the fact is, if your business doesn’t accept debit and credit card payments… well, you look amateur!
Around two-thirds (68%) of Australian adults own a credit card in 2021 – and when they walk into your store or come across your website, they’ll expect to be able to pay with one.
✔ Better end-to-end customer experience — a quick tap or swipe of a credit card is much more convenient for a customer than laboriously counting out cash. Streamline their shopping experience with a card reader. Remember: a satisfied customer is a loyal customer.
✔ Better cash flow — providers that specialise in making the best card machines for small businesses prioritise a speedy transfer of funds as part of their service. Cashflow can be a major problem, so having having quick access to the money from card payments is a major benefit.
✔ Security — handling large amounts of cash poses an obvious security risk to your business. Reduce this risk by accepting payments electronically. Plus, the EMV computer chip in modern cards makes them extremely difficult to clone, further reducing the chance of fraud.
Disadvantages of accepting credit cards
✗ Cost and transaction fees — you will be required to pay a transaction fee for every card payment processed. Fees vary depending on the volume of transactions; the more transactions you process, the lower your rates will be.
This poses an obvious problem to small businesses who tend to process a low-volume of card payments. Don’t worry, though – the providers reviewed on this page specialise in card machines for small-scale business operations, with fees to match.
✗ Chargebacks — dealing with chargebacks can be a long and arduous process for business owners. Customers have the right to challenge any card payments they see on their statement, which can sometimes mean business owners have to refund the transaction plus a chargeback fee.
✗ Fraud — fraudulent transactions may be few and far between, but when they do occur it is usually the merchant who loses out.
How do I get a credit card machine for my small business?
Well, there are a couple of ways. One is you could spend endless hours online, losing yourself in a sea of tabs, while trawling through site after site that thinks they have the answer to your business (but are truly just trying to make money off you).
The other way? Letting us help, and receiving tailored card machine quotes for your small business in the process. Here's how it works.
Simply provide us with a few details about your small business' card machine requirements. We'll ask whether you're currently accepting card payments (and if so, who your current provider is – we'll get you a better deal), as well as about your industry and monthly turnover. We'll also need your postcode (this is nothing sinister, either – it just allows us to match you with suppliers that cater to your area of Australia).
When that's done, all you need to do is sit tight, and have your phone handy – the card machine providers we match you with will be in touch directly to discuss next steps. Remember, there's absolutely no obligation to accept any of these quotes. The ball is firmly in your court.
So why not give it a go? It only takes 30 seconds after all, and you have nothing to lose.
Hit one of the buttons below to get started.
How we analyse and rate credit card machine providers
At Expert Market Australia, it’s our aim to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date, and transparent product and service reviews possible. So, to help you better understand the best merchant account options out there, we’ve conducted in-depth, extensive research into the payments industry and its top companies.
Here’s how we did it:
We worked with two independent researchers over 60+ hours to rate 13 different merchant services providers – eight traditional (dedicated) merchant account suppliers, and five payment facilitators.
Our project assessed four separate varieties of payment methods, as well as nine specific features. Using a bespoke, industry-style algorithm, we rated each provider across four key metrics.
- Help and support: we assessed the level of customer support (such as email, phone, or live chat), as well as its availability (24/7, or weekdays only?), to provide a weighted score for each merchant account supplier.
- Affordability: our affordability algorithm took into account the specific transaction and monthly fees for various transaction types, as well as any one-off costs. Our analysis also included contract length, package type, the flexibility of each providers’ pricing structures, plus the price of any hardware required.
- Features: we assessed each supplier on up to eight specific features. We then weighted these scores, and translated them into a point value system. This allowed us to form accurate ratings for each merchant account provider, and make specific recommendations to you.
- Customer approval: we assigned each provider a ‘customer score’, which involved seeking opinions from within the community, as well as feeding data aggregated from online sources into a unique algorithm. This allowed us to calculate overall customer approval scores for each merchant account supplier, in real time.
We take the integrity of our research seriously. If you’ve got any questions at all about our research process, feel free to get in touch with Rob Binns, our financial services specialist.